Musician Review: Lionel Richie

Even though Lionel Richie had started out as the lead singer for the Commodores, my knowledge of his work didn’t occur until the early 1980s, after he’d left the group to pursue a solo career.  I would’ve been in the third or fourth grade when I first remember hearing Lionel’s music.

My earliest memories of Lionel’s music are some of the singles from the Can’t Slow Down album, as well as “You Are,” from Lionel’s debut solo album in 1982.  From Can’t Slow Down, I specifically remember hearing “All Night Long (All Night),” “Penny Lover,” and “Hello” on the radio and seeing the music videos on MTV.  Of these three songs, “Hello” has always been my favorite.  To me, it’s such a beautiful song, and the music video that went along with it was very touching.  Of the three songs, I do believe that “Hello” is the easiest one for most people to identify with.  I also like “All Night Long (All Night),” because it’s a fun and upbeat song; however, I like “Hello” more.  “Penny Lover” isn’t a bad song, but it can be a little on the boring side.

In 1985, Lionel released the song “Say You, Say Me” from the White Nights soundtrack.  However, the song didn’t appear on the actual soundtrack album, because his record label didn’t want the song to appear on an album released by another label.  “Say You, Say Me” appeared on Lionel’s next album, Dancing on the Ceiling, which came out in 1986.  “Say You, Say Me” is a beautiful ballad, and it ranks up there as one of my all-time favorite Lionel Richie songs.  I think I like it just as much as I do “Hello.”  However, I have to admit that “Say You, Say Me” is the only song that I truly remember from the Dancing on the Ceiling album.

Lionel disappeared from the music scene for a few years after Dancing on the Ceiling, until he released the Back to Front greatest hits album in 1992.  During those intervening years, I finally heard “Endless Love,” Lionel’s 1981 duet with Diana Ross, and found that I liked it.  When Lionel released Back to Front, the new song “Do it to Me” was released as a single.  It’s not a bad song, and I do enjoy listening to it, but it’s not quite as strong as some of his earlier material.  When I got the Back to Front CD, I was able to hear some of Lionel’s work with the Commodores, along with a couple of other songs from his debut solo album.  Admittedly, the main song of the Commodores that interested me was “Easy”; this was probably due to the fact that the band Faith No More had done a cover of the song and released it by the time I had purchased Back to Front.  As for the other songs I hadn’t heard before, “Running With the Night,” from Can’t Slow Down, wasn’t too bad, but I thought that “Truly” was a little boring.  I’ve always been a little disappointed that “You Are” never made the tracklist for Back to Front.

Since Back to Front, Lionel has recorded and released some other albums, but I have to admit that I haven’t heard anything from them, so I can’t comment on the material.  For me personally, I believe that Lionel’s best material came out between 1983 and 1985, and I still enjoy listening to those songs now as an adult.


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