Forever, For Always, For Luther (Volume II) picks up right where the first one left off. There is a great mix of artists, songs and collaborations to make everyone happy. You can feel the love for Luther as each song is cued up and the artist takes the stage. The thread that holds it all together is producers Rex Rideout and Bud Haner. They do an awesome job keeping the flow interesting and consistent.
Kirk Whalum kicks things off with the 1988 classic “Give Me The Reason.” The backbeat is driving and plays well with Kirk’s tenor, alto and soprano. The background horns of Brandon Fields (sax), Lee Thornburg (trumpet) and Nick Lane (trombone) offer a nice effect while adding depth. “Til My Baby Comes Home” is one of my favorites and features Norman and Everette Harp. This begins solely with Brown with some “fat” guitar riffs where there are usually vocals. He’s accompanied by Rideout’s keyboard throughout. Harp gets into the act as they both play off each other. Everette is at ease with Rideout at the controls (he produced his disc earlier this year.) The eerie vocals you hear on “There’s Nothing Better Than Love” is that of Kevin Whalum as well as Maysa. His voice here sounds strikingly similar to Luther’s. The two sound great together.
The piano of Jeff Lorber is featured on “For You To Love.” There’s enough background funk to lay a solid foundation to Lorber’s ivories. Add in a little bit of background vocals and that horn section again and you have a remake that both writers Marcus Miller and Luther would be proud of. We reach way back to the mid-sixties for Gerald Albright’s soulful “If This World Were Mine.” His take on the Marvin Gaye tune is pure Gerald throughout. His sax croons the lower soulful beginning while giving way to the rich upper register on the chorus. Wayman Tisdale and his piccolo bass get things hopping on “The Glow of Love.” This version is upbeat and really feels good. The horn section makes a nice blend throughout while Darryl Crooks plays off of Wayman with his guitar. Let’s hit the repeat button on this one.
There are people who simply “play” their voice with accurate jumps of thirds, fifths, and octaves that we find it “So Amazing.” The producers were fortunate to find such a person in Patti Austin who masters these jumps with ease before launching into a layered chorus of this Vandross classic so aptly named. You can’t help but be amazed at this one when it’s finished. Najee’s soprano sax is featured on “The Night I Fell In Love.” There’s a nice clean bassline that keeps this one moving along all the while a touch of vocals that recites the title. “Don’t Want To Be A Fool” features the acoustic guitar and vocals of Jonathan Butler. His guitar replaces Luther’s vocals here while sounding clear and inspiring. We’re treated to Jonathan’s vocals on the last stanza. Will Downing finishes up on the tenth cut with “Superstar” from Luther’s Soul Symphony album from 1970. The mood here is subdued as if paying homage to the superstar this disc is dedicated to.
This disc stands on it’s own as being a great collection of songs from a man who left us much to early due to complications from a stroke. There is a full page of information on the signs of strokes as well as web sites for more information. This was a labor of love, for Luther.
- Harvey Cline