The year was 1982, and Lionel Richie had spent fourteen years with The Commodores when he decided to embark on a solo career. Similar to most solo artists, Richie took the route of self-titling his solo debut. “Truly” was the first single from this album and found Richie renewing his flirtation with D-flat major tunes. If you are deep into music, you recognize the D-flat style from Richie’s Commodores hits, “Sail On” and “Still.”
While the song hasn’t aged particularly well, in my opinion, the pleading that Richie croons to his lady love is undeniable. Richie flipped it on audiences for the second single, “You Are.” The song is still a ballad but it features an infectious groove that’s more upbeat and features a killer horn section.
“My Love” was the third and final single from Riche’s self-titled debut. Soulful on so many levels with a bit of country twang, this is Lionel at his best. In addition, it gave Richie a chance to reunite with country superstar Kenny Rogers, who had a massive hit which Richie penned “Lady.” Rogers returned the favor by providing harmony backing vocals on “My Love.”
Lionel opened his debut with disco-funk Esque “Serves You Right,” which began his relationship with famous musical director Greg Phillingane. The collaborations on Richie’s debut continued with “Wandering Stranger,” which features a guitar solo by Joe Walsh. “Tell Me” is another excellent party jam that I’m surprised wasn’t a single. While “Round and Round” is a tremendous mid-tempo number that reminded me of family road trips.
Richie closes out his debut with two safe ballads that are a bit too hokey for their own in the form of “You Mean More To Me” and “Just Put Some Love in Your Heart.” They aren’t bad songs, and quite honestly, if another artist had these songs, I’m sure they would’ve been massive hits. However, given the strength of Richie’s pen, the songs are just too safe for his solo album.
Nevertheless, Lionel Richie went on to sell 4 million copies in the US alone. Originally intended as a one-time side project at the suggestion of Motown, the record took on a life of its own. Lionel Richie was recorded and released while Richie was still actively working with The Commodores, and it’s no surprise he left the group shortly after the album’s release. Lionel Richie is a solid solo debut and a great appetizer to Richie’s next solo album, the massively successful Can’t Slow Down.
Final Grade: B
Top Songs: “Round and Round,” “You Are,” and “Tell Me”
Lionel Richie is available on all streaming platforms.