Lionel Richie

Lionel Richie

Motown Records, 1982

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Lionel Richie was already a music veteran when he launched his solo career with this eponymous debut album in 1982. As a member of the Commodores, Richie and company brought both funky tunes and quiet storm ballads to the masses in the 1970s. The first song on Lionel Richie is “Serves You Right,” a danceable, yet substantial slice of funk in its own right. The best thing about this album is the fact that any of the tracks could have ended up as radio-friendly singles. So a proper salute should go in the direction of Richie’s co-producer James Anthony Carmichael for knowing hits when he hears them.

Can we just discuss the ballads for a hot second? From the grand, sweeping “Wandering Stranger” to the delicate, yet powerful two-fer “You Mean More To Me / Just Put Some Love In Your Heart,” nobody delivers a slow song quite like Mr. Lionel Richie. And if you think those are good, wait until you hear the hit singles, the #1 smash “Truly” and the timeless “My Love,” a song that could’ve been played on country radio and no one would blink an eye. Guess it’s no wonder that Richie would release a compilation of tunes re-recorded as duets for exactly that purpose (the recent my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Tuskegee, which surprisingly went to #1).

Where the album falters is in the redundancy of upbeat, synth driven fare like the extremely dated “Tell Me.” The remainder of Richie’s solo career will be filled with nothing but songs like this one, duplicated endlessly to an excruciating level. Personally, I’ve always felt songs like “All Night Long” and “Running With The Night” were overrated and sounded too obviously phoned in to deserve all the accolades they’ve received. Consider them broken records, literally and figuratively.

Yes, Lionel Richie was as ubiquitous and predictable as Phil Collins in the ‘80s. Whether that’s what made them great or boring is open to debate, though I’d feel cheated of so many memories from that time if they weren’t there. These days, their music always seems to come in waves for me. Sometimes I’m sick to death of them, while at other times, I can’t get enough. However, seeing Lionel Richie perform live helped me like him even more. He was every bit as equal in entertainment value as the headliner, Tina Turner, and that is saying something. Even during his quieter moments, he clearly had stage presence and high energy. If was something of a passing fan before, that night I became a real one…even if he didn’t do my favorite songs from this album “You Are” or “Truly.”

If there’s any song that takes me right back to 1982, it’s “You Are.” Those opening notes still gives me chills. I just want to take a moment to remember my late middle school music teacher Mr. Webber. His passion for popular music was absolutely infectious. He taught music the way it should be taught. He used to bring in the biggest hit 45’s of the day, including this one. He’d switch on the overhead projector and show us the lyrics so that we all could follow along. Sometimes we’d have to research our favorite bands (it was the Bee Gees for me), or have us sing out loud in pairs (“Xanadu” anyone?). He was a great music critic too, so I’d like to think I’m carrying the torch for him. Here’s to you, Mr. Webber, I hope I’ve made you proud.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A



© 2014 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Motown Records, and is used for informational purposes only.