Feb 232014
 

from UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

written by Burt Bacharach & Hal David

American Idol alumni Ruben Studdard recently released his new CD, “Unconditional Love.” This collection will put a big smile on the faces of all music lovers who have missed the smooth soul/R&B sounds of great performers including the late Luther Vandross, Peabo Bryson and Jeffrey Osborne. “Unconditional Love” is the brainchild of Studdard and Verve’s chairman, David Foster. Together, they selected the material to be included on the album. This incorporated some of the most romantic songs ever written plus a couple of new love ballads.

Besides supervising the whole project, Foster personally produced, with Jochem van der Saag, two of the songs, “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” a modern standard originally recorded by Bonnie Raitt in 1991 and “Hello Again,” a 1980 Neil Diamond hit. Both songs receive the refined, adult contemporary Foster treatment and are perfect vehicles to appreciate Studdard’s tender vocal.

Foster also appears on piano on a gorgeous remake of “(They Long To Be) Close To You.” The Burt Bacharach and Hal David evergreen delivers a rarefied arrangement sporting an enchanting vocal performance by the singer and a special guest appearance of Stevie Wonder on harmonica. “(They Long To Be) Close To You” and its refined setting follow the footsteps of Vandross’ timeless recordings of Bacharach/David standards like “A House Is Not A Home” and “Anyone Who Had A Heart.” Vandross’ musical heritage is a huge influence on both the singer and the overall mood of “Unconditional Love.” Listen to the ear-candy rendition of Paul McCartney’s “My Love.” The upbeat arrangement is a dead ringer for the Vandross’ production of the early eighties. “My Love” has a very catchy beat and screams for a single release. Studdard also does a remake of “If This World Were Mine,” the classic Marvin Gaye/Tammy Tarrell ballad covered in 1982 with great success by Vandross and Cheryl Lynn. It pairs Studdard with the talented Lalah Hathaway for a duet that’s absolutely phenomenal. Although respectful to the original, this new version contemporizes the atmosphere with incredible results. Both songs are perfectly produced by frequent Studdard collaborator, John Jackson.

R&B star Eric Benet with Demonte Posey, produced two of the many highlights of “Unconditional Love.” One is a rendition of the late Teddy Pendergrass’ signature tune, “Close The Door.” Again, it’s an effective update of that classic slow jam. Although impossible to match Pendergrass’ steamy original, Studdard does a very good job with his intense vocal performance that would have made the late R&B singer proud. Benet also produced a remake of Boz Scaggs’ “Look What You’ve Done To Me,” originally co-written and produced by Foster in 1980. This effective tribute to the Hitman is further evidence of Studdard’s superior talent.

There’s a lot more to enjoy on “Unconditional Love.” Studdard and Jackson made a spectacular remake of “The Nearness Of You” that’s transformed into an irresistible jazzy jam. A fantastic moment is the cover of Donny Hathaway’s “Love, Love, Love,” a personal favorite of Studdard’s. This track sounds a lot like a reinvention of the trademark Al Jarreau/Jay Graydon era. It has an irresistible groove, jazzy mood, superb vocal and instrumental performances enriched by muted rhythm guitars and swinging horns.

A few weeks back, we reviewed the first single, “Meant To Be,” from “Unconditional Love.” This Foster/Studdard collaboration is one of the two new compositions included on the album, the other being the romantic title track. Throughout “Unconditional Love,” Studdard reaffirms himself as one of the most personal and best voices in the business. Do yourself a favor. Look for this CD. You’ll savor a fine collection of love songs crafted with class and expertise. A must have!


Listen

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Lead Vocal: Ruben Studdard
Harmonica: Stevie Wonder
Piano: David Foster
Drum Programming: Jochem van der Saag
Drums: Gorden Campbell
Violin: Ginny Luke
Keyboards: Onreé Gill
Background Vocals: Aisha Morris Gill
String Arrangement: David Foster & Onreé Gill
Bass Guitar: Reggie Young

Produced by Onreé Gill


Lyrics

And the moment I can feel that you feel that way too
Is when I fall in love with you

Why do birds suddenly appear
Every time you are near?
Just like me
They long to be
Close to you

Why do stars fall down from the sky
Every time you walk by?
Just like me
They long to be
Close to you

On the day that you were born
And the angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true
So they sprinkled moon dust
In your hair of gold
And starlight in your eyes of blue

That is why
All the guys in town
Follow you all around
Just like me
They long to be
Close to you

On the day that you were born
And the angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true
So they sprinkled moon dust
In your hair of gold
And starlight in your eyes of blue

That is why
All the guys in town
Follow you all around
Just like me
They long to be
Close to you
Just like me
They long to be
Close to you