Thursday, August 29, 2013

In case you missed it – Lionel Richie (1982), album review

In case you missed it – Lionel Richie

Lionel Richie (1982)
***** (out of 5)
Motown records

Friends, family - I have a confession to make. For the past year I have been battling an addiction. An addiction that has me thinking about getting an afro, a polo shirt and a Rolex.

Yes, it is that bad.

You see, my addiction is to Lionel Richie’s debut solo album.

The funny thing is I grew up listening to this album; I was there when this album was the hottest thing out there. This was the days of having a home stereo so while you could spin vinyl at home, you had to record said album onto a cassette to listen to it in the car. That is assuming you had a cassette deck in your car in the first place!

My Sister and Brother In-law would play this into the ground as we would cruise around Danbury, CT with the sunroof open. Hey, a sunroof was a pretty swanky option in ’82! So, there we were – the only Italians in the state of Connecticut driving a Mustang with tinted windows and an open sunroof blasting Lionel Richie! Good times.

And then, after two more albums, Lionel faded off my radar and by the late eighties, I was wondering what had happened to him. Well, he made a pretty big comeback in the mid-nineties and has been doing quite well for himself since them but that was still not enough to really bring Richie back into my consciousness. No, re-discovering this gem came down to simple randomness.

Did you ever have a song in your head that just will not leave? What about if that song was one that you haven’t heard in decades? And all you do is only remember a few lines of the chorus? That is the predicament I found myself in during early 2012 and I had to do something about it. So like any 13 year-old looking to find new music, I just went to YouTube and typed in the title of the song that had so dominated my obsessive-compulsive mind – You Are.

And the flood gates opened! I was once again ten-years old, sitting in the back seat of that Mustang!

I bought Lionel Richie, the album, not long after this and was astonished at not only how much I remembered but how incredibly great the entire record is! It plays more like a hits compilation rather than a debut album but that is hardly surprising as Richie by this point, was no stranger to upper ranges of the singles charts. Opening with the insanely catchy – and funky – Serves You Right, Lionel Richie never falters. Tell Me, Round and Round and the aforementioned You Are might be some of the peppiest tracks Richie ever penned.  

Lionel Richie is never shy when it comes to stunning ballads a fact that does not get lost here but with material this good the album never sinks into maudlin territory. From My Love, You Mean More To Me and the stunning Truly – when the tempos slow, Richie absolutely soars.

So, the 2003 remastered version of Lionel Richie sounds fantastic and has been getting plenty of attention on my iPod but it still makes me wonder… Does it sound even better when played in a 1981 Mustang? I’m going to grab a polo shirt, flip up the collar, throw a sweater over it and find out!

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