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A Time To Love - Press Release

Daily Orange

A Time to Love
19 October 2005

Genre: R&B
Score: 80 Decibels

A universal quirk of parents is to belittle their child's music selections, specifically by writing them off as a derivative of, or not quite as good as, the artists they liked as kids. A universal quirk of children is that they hate to admit when their parents are right.

Unfortunately for young R&B fans, such an admission is unavoidable. Today's rhythm and blues man simply isn't cut from the same finely woven cloth as the older guys.

Take Usher for example. He's a handsome man with a perfectly harmless voice, but he has the depth of a Triscuit. That made it supremely disappointing to see him unnaturally chosen to cover "Superstar" on the tribute album for the eternally classy Luther Vandross. If there is such a thing as an R&B caste system, Luther and Usher are separated by googols of strata.

No young lions of R&B are of a caliber high enough to cover Luther, but luckily there's an old one who is. Stevie Wonder also appeared on the tribute to Luther, covering "So Amazing" in homage to a fallen luminary who, cruelly, died before Stevie.

"A Time to Love," Stevie's first album in a decade, was in the works years before Luther's passing, but part of me wants to think that Stevie came back because he knew he was needed - because Usher covers of Luther Vandross songs simply should not be.

The phrase "return to form" is thrown around like so much confetti, but "A Time to Love" truly warrants it. Obviously, the production is glossier than his previous work, but underneath the de rigueur studio flourishes is the type of passionate, poetic, timeless song he was writing when Usher's cells were still multiplying.

As the album title implies, the record foregoes Stevie's skeptical, political side for his hopelessly romantic one. With the exception of the agitprop single, "So What's the Fuss," the album is comprised of seemingly-effortless wedding anthems so earnest they sound out of place in 2005.

Songs like "Can't Imagine Love without You," "Passionate Raindrops" and "How Will I Know," a gorgeous duet with newcomer Aisha Morris, are sappy, quite frankly. They are plaintive, selfless love songs devoid of any sarcasm, the type of song we imagine buried in a time capsule from an unrealistically romanticized yesteryear.

It's because "A Time to Love" sounds so different from other records that makes it such a refreshing listen. Without a doubt, Stevie is an outdated machine, but rather than fight it, he's embracing it, offering a reverent alternative to today's lackadaisical R&B. The Stevie Wonder legacy needs no polishing. Stevie made this record because we needed him to do it. The newer models may be shinier, but damned if they run as smoothly.