July 1st was the 6th anniversary of the passing of Luther Vandross; given that, I thought it made sense to start for “favorite albums” series with 1982’s Forever, For Always, For Love.
I love this album for two reasons. First off, it’s probably Luther’s best album1. I still get goose bumps every time I hear the opening sequence to “Bad Boy/Having A Party” (sing it with me – “Ahh Yeah… scooboody, dooboody, dee dee…”). It’s amazing what Luther and frequent collaborator Marcus Miller did with this Sam Cooke track; it doesn’t sound anything like the original. Luther does another masterful cover of the Temptations “Since I Last My Baby”.
The gems of the album, however, are the mid-tempo “Promise Me” and themagnificent title track (see below)… which gets me to the second reason for my love of this album. Years ago, when I was a child, my dad would play this LP all the time… usually after my brother and I were supposed to be asleep. I loved “Promise Me”; the stings sounded so “grown up”, the bass “thump” set a nice groove, and the quirky echo effect in the chorus was unlike anything I’d ever heard before.My love affair with “Forever, For Always, For Love” actually came after I was in high school. By then, I had entered my “golden age” of music discovery (more on that later)… but for some reason I had forgotten how great this track was. It wasn’t until I heard it on the radio (during 3rd period, when I was an student assistant in the Guidance Counselor’s office) that I realized what I’d lost. There’s a waltz-like beauty to the song– probably due to the ¾ time measure. Luther kicks off the track with the old school talking intro (“I sing this song, to remind myself…”), before breaking into a harp-backed vamp about loneliness(“…There was a time when I didn’t have no one, didn’t have no love”) . There’s so much sadness in the song; but somehow, Luther changes direction and guides the song towards hope and second chances with the greatest musical bridge I’ve ever heard in popular music (starting at the 2:38 mark).
- It slightly edges out The Night I Fell In Love and I’m excluding The Best of Luther Vandross… The Best of Love from consideration (since it’s a compilation album with a murderer’s row of hits). Quick aside – I bought this double LP in 1989. My parents asked to borrow it (they were headed to a 7 day cruise, and wanted music to listen to in their cabin). Someone, those tapes never made it back into my collection.