Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Can't Slow Down - Lionel Richie - 1983

What late 60's through the 70's disco-funk artist went rogue in the 80's to make some of the most loved, mocked, and hated singles in the decade of excess only to later turn into an international Country musician?  Pro Tip: Read the title.  

In 1983 Lionel Richie, originally of the Commodores, (See Brick House if you're under the age of 30.) dropped his 2nd solo album Can't Slow Down to a reasonable amount of critical success.  If you recall from last weeks pick, Synchronicity, 1983 was a crowded year for music.  So check this out.  Quiet Riot ended Synchronicity's run on the Billboard charts in late November 1983.  For 1 week everybody "came to feel the noise" and Nu Glam Metal was given rise.  (More on that MUCH later this year)  The very next week we can safely say that it was Lionel Richie that ended Synchronicity's almost year long run on the Billboard charts with Can't Slow Down. That lasted for 3 weeks till Christmas only for MJ's Thriller to come back harder than a mother-fucker through late April solidifying it as one of the greatest albums of all time.  Then, Prince happened, but I'm saving both that and Thriller for a Monday soon.

This album was completely crazy in terms of production quality, rhythm, and accessibility.  At it's release nobody knew what to expect from Lionel having released Lionel Richie, (Self Titled album) in 1982.  It was such a departure from his funk roots that people had a difficult time making the transition to contemporary ballads.  Think going from Prince to Seal in a year and being the same person.  Weird right?  Of course if you're going to go that route, you may as well go big.  Enlisting a huge (57) studio crew of musicians and engineers to make an album kinda flies in the face of creating music and opened the doors to over produced studio albums.  That's not necessarily a bad thing in the least.  As a matter of fact, it opened up the doors to new methods and pioneered sounds never heard before on a studio album.  It also didn't hurt that a young Thomas Dolby cut some chops on this album as well.

So, what made this album special?  The first single for openers went pretty far....

All Night Long

Others like Penny Lover, and my favorite, Running With the Night remain classics to this day in the ballad arena, and of course:

All things said the biggest achievement of this album came in 1985.  After being the biggest selling album in 1984, by far, it won 2 Grammy's that year.  The biggest?  Album of the year beating out some epic albums released that year by Tina Turner, Prince, Whitney Houston, Springsteen, and Cyndi Lauper.  Like I said this album was crazy right!?  As usual, if you can find it this album is awesome on vinyl.  You really get a feel for how young Lionel was then.  The sounds are crisp and you'll wonder how it because so catchy.  Turn the bass down to take some of that over produced studio sound out of it.  You'll find it on vinyl fairly cheap depending on it's condition in any reasonable upscale record store.

Next week, hopefully spring comes.  It's still cold, but there's no jacket required to check back here.

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