I know I've told (some of) you this before but it remains the truth - I love Lionel Richie. Well, specifically, I love one album; one compilation...I love Back To Front, the first Lionel Richie best-of.
It arrived in the early 1990s, introducing one of the biggest-selling artists of the 1980s to the next decade, I guess.
Lionel had released only three solo albums when Back To Front came out. The first three songs were brand new - exclusive to that compilation.
Since Back To Front, Richie has released quite a few albums - including more compilations and a live album. And at least half a dozen albums of original material...well I don't care about any of them. I only care about Back To Front. It's all I need... to get by...
I think I like Back To Front because it captures Richie's 1980s (and some late 1970s) achievements and it freezes them. The year 1992 was not that different to 1988. Back To Front could have been released then. It certainly could have been released in 1989 or 1990 - but it was 1992. And so there are three new songs - but they sound like they came from 1986 or any time around then.
Richie was one of the big sellers of the 1980s - alongside Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper he was one of the mega-selling solo artists of the decade. And he had the credibility of having been in The Commodores; of having become a breakout star. Many would argue that he lost that credibility with some of his solo material. Others probably don't care for The Commodores that much - or don't notice the difference because they are more aware of The Commodores of Easy or Three Times a Lady than The Commodores of Machine Gun or Zoom.
I guess I grew up with Lionel - my parents were often blasting The Commodores and from there I was introduced to all three of the solo albums that are drawn from and distilled to elements of Back To Front - 1982's Lionel Richie, 1983's Can't Slow Down and especially 1986's Dancing on the Ceiling. I have them all on vinyl now - and I'd pick Can't Slow Down over Dancing on the Ceiling any day - but back then mum and dad had the Dancing on the Ceiling gatefold LP: Lionel resplendent in a trenchcoat, the huge singles being the title track and then Say You, Say Me. Epic.
But nowadays I'm covered with Back To Front - and it covers Lionel well. You get a snatch of The Commodores - and the direction Lionel wanted to take the band: Easy, Three Times a Lady, Still, Sail On - and you get all of the big singles from those three solo albums: Hello, All Night Long, Running with the Night.
You'll also get the duet with Diana Ross - Endless Love.
It seems like Lionel Richie knew that he could always play to a black audience in the 1970s (with The Commodores) but by crossing over to a white audience in the 1980s he would really make some money. The black audience would enjoy his shows, would dance to his clips; the white audience would buy his records, would hand over money.
That move is what made Lionel. Or, it might be that you think that move is what ruined him.
I'm sure there are people who only care for The Commodores at their funky best and have no interest in Lionel Richie as a solo act. I like both. And I love Back To Front.
But what about you?
Can you enjoy Lionel Richie - or is he best left in the 1980s?
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