The Commodores, Nightshift
Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Second Listen Sunday: The Commodores, Nightshift

No matter the music genre, every group has a standout member who is destined for solo stardom. Lionel Richie was already three years into a successful solo career when his former band, The Commodores, released its eleventh album, Nightshift.

The album was the second without Richie after 1983’s Commodores 13. The 13 album indeed showed there was still life in the band after the loss of Richie. However, the band still needed a monster hit. With the Nightshift album, J.D. Nicholas took over the lead singer duties, while Dennis Lambert took over the production duties from the recently departed James Anthony Carmichael.

Nightshift was led by the same-titled single, which would go on to win a Grammy. Walter Orange, the group’s drummer, wrote the song along with Dennis Lambert and Franne Golde as a tribute to soul/R&B singers Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye, both of whom passed away in 1984. During the first verse, there is a reference to Gaye’s song “What’s Going On,” while in the second verse, there is a reference to Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops,” “Say you will,” and “Baby Workout” as well as “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher.” 

The song also features another lead vocal from Orange, who, music historians know, had sung the lead on “Brick House” years earlier. Lionel Richie’s replacement, J.D. Nicholas, sings the second verse, with Orange and Nicholas sharing lead vocals on the remaining choruses. I don’t think I had heard this album from start to finish since I was a kid. 

Revisiting Nightshift at age 41, I can respect the group’s effort at trying synth-pop and new wave. “Animal Instinct,” “I Keep Running,” “Layback,” and “Slip of the Tounge” would all have me sporting an Italian sports coat, T-shirt, white linen pants, and slip-on sockless loafers if I was clubbing in the eighties. 

On the one hand, the sound can get repetitive, but I was grooving so much while listening I’ll allow it. The only ballad on the CD is a cover of Steve Woods’s “The Woman In My Life,” which is a weak attempt to duplicate the success of the Richie-led ballads. The song feels out of place, and the vocals are tired. 

Similarly, the legend Ms. Diane Warren pens the album’s closer “Lightin Up The Night,” which is overly similar to her penned “Rhythm of the Night” by Debarge. I wasn’t feeling this song for the group, and with its vocal arrangements, it would’ve been better suited for New Edition or even Debarge.

While the title may be the only song from may be the only one we talk about in 2022, overall, it’s a decent project from a group that lost their star member. 

 

Final Grade: B-

Nightshift is available on all streaming platforms.

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