The overwhelming talent of the late Luther Vandross (1951-2005), eight-time Grammy Award®-winning singer extraordinaire, songwriter, producer, arranger, and soul music visionary, are the focus of ‘Hidden Gems’. This new collection of 15 seldom-heard deep album tracks and movie soundtrack songs will arrive in stores on April 17, just three day’s prior to Luther’s birthday on April 20. The collection is released by Epic Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment.
In the liner notes written by Luther’s life-long collaborator Fonzi Thornton, ‘Hidden Gems’ is described as “a deeper dig into the musical treasure trove of Luther Vandross, uncovering lesser known songs and performances that he endowed with the same passion and love as his well known repertoire”. The album was compiled and produced in association with Luther’s family, his niece Seveda Williams and cousin Brenda Shields, in order to present “an album compilation with a different theme his fans might enjoy, a collection which highlights Luther’s ideas of song selection and how they complement That Voice. ‘Hidden Gems’ will allow casual listeners to discover songs they never heard, and devoted fans the opportunity to re-live what they loved about Luther Vandross.
Luther has 15 RIAA platinum and multi-platinum albums to his credit in the U.S. and worldwide sales of more than 30 million records. In 2010, National Public Radio included Luther in its ’50 Great Voices’ series.
‘Hidden Gems’ spans the timeline of Luther’s major label recording career, from 1981 to the new millennium. These range from a track from his ‘Never Too Much’ solo album for Epic in 1981 (‘You Stopped Loving Me’); to a pair of tracks from ‘Dance With MyFather’, his final studio album in 2003 (which received four Grammy Awards), namely ‘Once Were Lovers’, with a harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder, and ‘Buy Me A Rose’. The latter was sung by Luther for Oprah Winfrey when she visited him for his final television performance.
The bulk of ‘Hidden Gems’is devoted to Luther’s 15-year tenure at Epic Records from 1981 to 1996, which produced nearly a dozen original studio albums, six of which are represented here:
- Never Too Much (1981, ‘You Stopped Loving Me’);
- Forever, For Always, For Love (1982, ‘Once You Know How’);
- Any Love (1988, ‘I Know You Want To’);
- Power Of Love (1991, ‘I (Who Have Nothing)’, a duet with Martha Wash a former Weather Girls, a remake of the 1963 Leiber & Stoller-penned classic by Ben E. King, and by Sylvester with Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes, in the late 70’s, and that was made into a duet by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway also in the 70’s.
- Songs (1994, ‘The Impossible Dream’, the timeless standard from Broadway’s Man Of La Mancha);
- Your Secret Love (1996, ‘Goin’ Out Of My Head’, with its swirling string arrangement by Nat Adderley, a remake of the 1964 pop hit by Little Anthony & the Imperials, written by Teddy Randazzo); and also:
- One Night With You: The Best Of Love, Volume 2 (1997, ‘When You Call On Me (Baby That’s When I Come Runnin’)’, written and produced by R. Kelly).
Two of the tracks on ‘Hidden Gems’ are songs that Luther recorded for original motion picture soundtracks, whose albums are long out-of-print:
- ‘Heart Of A Hero’ (from 1992’s Hero, starring Dustin Hoffman), and
- ‘The Thrill I’m In’ (from 1995’s Money Train, starring Wesley Snipes).
‘Are You Using Me?’ is an exciting dance floor track that Luther co-wrote with Thornton, ‘Little’ Louie Vega, and Kenny ‘Dope’ Gonzalez, which originally appeared on ‘I Know’, an album released by Luther on Virgin Records in 1998.
Luther’s self-titled debut album for Clive Davis‘ J Records in 2001 was a #2 R&B and #6 pop success and is represented on ‘Hidden Gems’ by ‘I’d Rather’ (composed by longtime collaborator Shep Crawford), and ‘Like I’m Invisible’ (co-written with Thornton). From the Japanese version of ‘I Know’ comes ‘You Really Started Something’ (co-written with Denise Rich and Junior Vasquez).
Luther’s final studio album became a classic for every generation. ‘Dance With My Father’, released in 2003 on J Records, was honored with four Grammy Awards® spanning 2003 and 2004. They comprised ‘Best R&B Album’, ‘Song Of the Year’ and ‘Best R&B Song’ for its title tune ‘Dance With My Father’, and ‘Best R&B Vocal’ by a Duo/Group for Luther’s duet with Beyonce on ‘The Closer I Get to You’, (a cover of the Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway classic). From ‘Dance With My Father’, ‘Hidden Gems’ reprises ‘Once Were Lovers’ (co-written with Thornton).
“When he hit the world stage he wasn’t trying to be the next Sam Cooke, or Peabo Bryson or Frank Sinatra,” Thornton’s liner notes to ‘Hidden Gems’ conclude. “He was just brilliantly intuitive about what songs showcased the dynamics of his vocal ability and radiated soul in a way that has not been heard in R&B and pop music before or since. He didn’t have to sweat or shout or do splits – he opened his heart and left us beautiful Diamonds, Rubies and Emeralds of Music”.
‘Hidden Gems’ by Luther Vandross (Epic/Legacy 88699 19682 9 2 2) Selections:
1. When You Call On Me (Baby That’s When I Come Runnin’), 2. Once You Know How, 3. I Know You Want To, 4. Once Were Lovers, 5. You Stopped Loving Me, 6. The Impossible Dream, 7. Are You Using Me?, 8. Goin’ Out Of My Head, 9. The Thrill I’m In, 10. Heart Of A Hero, 11. Buy Me A Rose, 12. I (Who Have Nothing) (duet with Martha Wash), 13. I’d Rather, 14. Like I’m Invisible, 15. You Really Started Something.
Come into the world of Luther Vandross.