Randy Wilson knows the peril of having a sound that reminds listeners of a famous vocalist. In Wilson's case, the famous vocalist is none other than Luther Vandross. Ultimately, you sound how you sound, and there's not a whole lot you can do about that. However, Luther Vandross was an R&B/soul crooner of iconic status. His fans, and especially his female fans loved him, and in the five years since Vandross died, nobody has stepped up to claim his mantle. Wilson certainly can claim the mantle because he sits in Vandross's vocal range. However, Wilson learned the hard way that the growth opportunities for Luther sound alikes are limited.
Wilson, an Oakland resident, received so much criticism for his vocal similarities to Vandross that he stepped away from the music business for a while. He got a job as a truck driver, which at one level is about as far away from the bright stage lights and glamorous lifestyle as one can get. Of course, life on the interstate and truck stops gives a man a lot of time to think. Wilson never stopped thinking about music. Wilson said he came up with a lot of song ideas, as well as ways to hone his sound. Eventually, Wilson decided to get back into the game, and he marks his return with his latest record Up Close and Personal.
Wilson decided that strong songwriting and providing good, solid vocals would help him distinguish himself. In short, Wilson makes this project of original songs his own by standing flat footed and singing. What sets Up Close and Personal apart is the one thing that Wilson does not try to do vocally: The listener won't hear Wilson attempt any of the note bending or extending runs that unfairly appear to be the one thing many fans remember about Vandross' vocal style. Vandross never employed those vocal acrobatics as often as many of his fans or lesser talented imitators think. However, Vandross - like his friend and mentor Patti Labelle - spawned a generation of over singers who neither have the chops nor material make anyone forget the original.
Wilson eschews the flash and opts for telling a good story like the one on the opening track "Life Goes On." Listener reaction will prove to be Wilson's reward. Up Close and Personal will remind listeners of Vandross in a good way - that being the honesty, clarity and passion of the vocals and the quality of the music. That judgment will prove to be the truest form of flattery. Recommended.
By Howard Dukes