Ruben Studdard: Ruben Sings Luther

Posted March 15, 2018 by in r&b



3.5/ 5


Genre: ,
Genre: R&B, soul
Producer: John Jackson
Label: Seg Music
Format: Digital download
Time: 49:35
Release Date: 9 March 2018
Spin This: "A House Is Not a Home," "Don't You Know That," "Here and Now"


Ruben's voice is in good voice, tackling virtually every corner of Vandross; ballads in good condition


Some of the soul gets sucked out of the digital recording process; some arrangements are too over-the-top or too thin on Vandross's melodies

Ruben finally does what he was born to do. Pulling off a Luther tribute LP

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Ruben finally does what he was born to do. Pulling off a Luther tribute LP

rubenstuddard-01It’s a tall order to attempt to pull off a Luther Vandross tribute. For starters, his stuff is the gel of sophistication, a masterful R&B and soul that blends AC pop and pristine production to the mix. Then there are the gospel-trained backing vocals that connected listeners with the old school singing from Luther’s prized vocal groups, The Sweet Inspirations, Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles, the Supremes and The Blossoms. Generation X’ers can trace that same path in the groups of their day, like the Pointers and Chic.

But American Idol season 4 champ Ruben Studdard, who’ve withstood never-ending comparisons to the late R&B icon, is finally jumping on board to give one of his idols a full-length tribute of covers. The timing couldn’t have been better since Luther’s last must-have tributes — the all-star So Amazing collection and the 4-disc Love, Luther box set of hits, deep cuts, and rarities — have all surpassed the 10-year mark.

On the John Jackson-produced Ruben Sings Luther, Rube goes for the classics and mimics the vocal master with great precision. The close-to-perfect “A House Is Not a Home” almost traces every corner of Luther’s magical version. “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” dims the lights even lower than Luther did. And much later in the set, “Here and Now” and the satisfying “Power of Love,” despite having way too many guitar frills and falling to capture the Sunday morning soul of Luther’s original on the vamp, upholds the album’s backside.

The instrument out front, Ruben’s voice, does what it does. It’s sweeter, young at heart and pop-assertive when compared with the “So Amazing” crooner, but it sweeps and riffs in typical Luther fashion when duty calls. Where the collection, unfortunately, slips in its aspirations is when it tries too hard to reinvent the classics by using thin arrangements and sometimes going way too overboard with sappy symphony embellishments way outside the orbit of the Songs sessions. It’s almost as if the digital recording process of today is sapping portions of the soul out of the performances. “Til My Baby Comes Home” feels robotic, and yes, the closing moments of “Power of Love” leave you scrambling for the original vinyl. But the spirit of Studdard overcomes most setbacks. You can hear it on “Don’t You Know That,” where the thin drumming mostly gives off a plastic demo quality. But suddenly Studdard comes to the rescue, supplying smart backing vocals and buttery ad-libs on the song’s ageless funky groove. It helps the song cross the finish line.

So for Luther aficionados, you can look it at things this way: Ruben is trying to introduce the vocal legend to his generation of 30-somethings who prefer their “Big Luther” with a little urbaner AC glow. And the beautiful thing is that Studdard, a magna cum laude grad from American Idol university, is possibly the only voice that can honorably tackle Luther’s range and technique. So, go for the familiar big ballads, download “Having a Party” and “Power of Love,” and you can’t go wrong.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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