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Unconditional Love (Deluxe Edition)

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Album Review

After the Shanachie release Letters from Birmingham managed to peak at only number 15 on Billboard's R&B Albums chart, Ruben Studdard's career could have been viewed as in decline. All four of the singer's previous albums had reached the Top Ten, and his recording budget, along with his exposure, was shrinking. However, he was swept up by Verve due to new label chairman David Foster, a longtime Studdard supporter. Adult contemporary giant Foster played a major role in the making of Unconditional Love, one most likely greater than the productions, arrangements, and keyboards for which he is credited here. (Who else would have thought to dig up his and Boz Scaggs' largely forgotten if successful collaboration from the Urban Cowboy soundtrack?) This is a pleasingly straightforward set, dominated by covers, that plays to Studdard's strength as a mature, romantic balladeer. Some of the song selections — "I Can't Make You Love Me" and "(They Long to Be) Close to You," for instance — are a tad obvious and plain, but there are several subtle surprises. Paul and Linda McCartney's "My Love" could have been done faithfully, but it sounds like a glistening and snappy dead ringer for something off an early-'80s Luther Vandross album. On Marvin Gaye's "If This World Were Mine," Studdard and Grammy winner Lalah Hathaway are more like Vandross and Cheryl Lynn than Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and the two sound just as natural with one another. There's another nod to the Hathaway family with a cover of "Love, Love, Love," the J.R. Bailey/Ken Williams composition popularized by Lalah's father Donny. This version has more of a lilt to it, and at no point does Studdard sound like he's bearing the weight of living up to a genius. An enjoyable, comfortable release from the singer, Unconditional Love is quite possibly his best work yet.

Customer Reviews

Grown Folks Music

Ruben is back! Yes! This Album (the samples) gaves me goose bumps. Well Done

TRUE Talent....

Ruben is true talent, with a voice of GOLD..... Luv the new single.


Another great one Ruben. Keep making real music! Also, congrats on your weight loss, such an inspiration...looking good brother! Genius PR timing this with the BL finale! Wishing you platinum success!


Born: July 14, 1978 in Birmingham, AL

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Partway through the second American Idol competition in early 2003, guest judge Gladys Knight christened corpulent crooner Ruben Studdard a "velvet teddy bear," a nod to his smooth, Luther Vandross-styled voice and his Barry White-sized girth. The nickname stuck, since it captured the persona of the 25-year-old native of Birmingham, Alabama, who had unexpectedly become the front-runner in the televised talent show. Surrounded by skinny kids emulating Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini, the two singers...
Full Bio
Unconditional Love (Deluxe Edition), Ruben Studdard
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Customer Ratings