One of the greatest voices in R&B in Luther Vandross plain and simple. Even before his tenor became the voice of the quiet storm, he was in high demand as a session singer. Having worked with artist as diverse as David Bowie to Todd Rundgren and Utopia. His first official band appearance would be a short stint under the name Luther in the late ’70s then eventually with the studio created R&B act Change.
After helming two hits including ‘The Glow of Love’ for Change in 1980, Vandross would step out on his own the following year with the debut Never Too Much. Never Too Much was one of those albums that featured boundless positive energy, a kind of joy about life found on early music by Stephanie Mills. Polished and sophisticated, beautiful horn and string arrangements gave the album a kind of permanence not usually associated with R&B music.
Like Mills, Vandross was well-groomed for success on his own. Never Too Much had the seasoned production of a fully matured artist. After all, Vandross had been singing professionally since the late ’60s and used his experience to co produce his own debut.
Like many soul artist, Vandross depended on the writing of others. Never Too Much was written almost completely by the talented team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, a team best known for work with Dionne Warick. Like Warick, Vandross exceptional voice made each song he sang his own, even ones formally associated by other others. ‘A House Is Not a Home’ was a 1964 hit by Dionne Warwick, but her version was nearly forgotten as Vandross’ rendition quickly became his signature croon. Soon the ‘A House Without a Home’ with Vandross behind the mic became the voice that “birth a million ghetto babies”.
Vandross would not be just a ghetto staple. After reaching #1 on the R&B chart with ‘Never Too Much’ , the song would crack the pop top 40. For me and many others, it would become the song I most associate most with the album. Although it may have been the biggest concession to disco on the album, it remains the most recognized song beyond the quiet storm set. Its popularity grew slowly, as Vandross began to make a name for himself on black radio.
The polish of this release would follow Vandross throughout his career. Being a bit outside the styles of the time is one of the reasons ‘Never To Much’ still resonates with audiences today. Also, current R&B has become as jaded and sarcastic as the rest of pop culture, making playful optimistic songs like ‘Sugar and Spice’ all the more special.
Vandross music has become a timeless aphrodisiac for couples everywhere without resorting to the direct suggestion that would dominate the end of the ’80s and 90s R&B. ‘Never Too Much’ finds a young Vandross at the beginning of a enormously successful career cut way short by his death in 2005.