Can't Slow Down

Lionel Richie

Motown Records, 1983

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan


Lionel Richie had made a smooth transition from leading The Commodores into life as a solo artist with the release of his first solo LP in 1982, simply entitled Lionel Richie. That record gave Richie some fine pop and R&B hits with the likes of ballads “Truly” and “My Love” and an up-tempo dance track “You Are,” which he co-wrote with his then wife Brenda Harvey Richie. But it was the release of this second LP the following year that Richie went from star to superstar and fully captured the attention of the mainstream. Richie produced the album with James Anthony Carmichael, and the pair managed to craft a finely tuned crossover soul/pop album that went on to sell millions and millions of copies the world over. The explosion of MTV the same year of this release also gave this album life as Richie came up with a few awesomely daft (even by 80’s standards) videos that were kept on heavy rotation.

Now when I say crossover, there is no more irrefutable proof than the fact that Richie scored a Top 40 hit on the country charts with the ballad “Stuck On You” on which he sported a cowboy hat on the cover shot for the single. That song also was a massive hit on singles charts all over the globe, and it’s most remarkable in my opinion due to Richie’s vocal performance on the track. Never before had he sounded so assured and soulful as he did here, a constant highlight throughout this set. In many ways, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Can’t Slow Down was the album that just kept on giving; it not only became the breakthrough album Richie had hoped, but it would it also became one of the decade’s biggest selling records. 

This was aided by the fact that in addition to the aforementioned country ballad, the album gave Richie four more massive worldwide hit singles. A pretty remarkable feat when we consider the fact that the album only consists of eight songs. “Penny Lover” was one of those hits and out of the love songs here; it is by far my favorite, again penned by Richie and his missus. The other ballad was the biggest hit, and although on record it is a quality pop song, nothing could have foreseen the mileage that Richie achieved with the amazingly daft video.

 Hello” still sports one of Richie’s most convincing vocal performances, and backed by a beautifully simple arrangement, it was always destined for greatness. The video is hysterical and has become the stuff of Internet legend when it comes to representing a decade in music that many lambast but many more laud as one of the greatest of times. I am unashamedly entrenched in the latter’s corner. Said video features Richie falling in love with a pretty blind girl, but the fact she then sculpts a Richie head out of clay made from facial recognition by way of lots of touching is more than most can bear. I’m actually more trouble by Lionel’s pastel wardrobe than anything else, but that’s just me.

With all of the balladry present here, it was a no-brainer to include some dance tracks to keep the club happy kids of the 80’s happy; once again Richie could do no wrong on this front either.  “Running With The Night” is a fine example of an R&B/pop dance track that hit the ground running and helped shift even more units, but it is the other popper that really sealed the deal and made this album immortal.  The six-plus minutes of the Caribbean flavored “All Night Long (All Night)” is one of the great moments in 1980’s pop music history. The slow-burning seductive groove, the laid back vocal delivery, and the exuberant choruses all make for an instant classic, and truth be told, I’m still up for some liming whenever and wherever I hear this gem.

Can’t Slow Down is an essential album for anyone who loves music from that era and even casual listeners would find it hard to refuse the infectious groves and soulful style of Lionel Richie at his best.

Rating: A

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