Renowned for the R&B hits "Just to Be Close to You," "Easy," and "Brickhouse," to name but a few, Commodores were one of the top bands during their long tenure at Motown. The group is credited with seven number one songs and a host of other Top Ten hits on the Billboard charts, and their vast catalog includes more than 50 albums. The members of Commodores, all of whom attended Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, came together as a result of two groups disbanding: the Mystics and the Jays. Initially formed to simply play music as a pastime and to meet girls, the lineup consisted of William King (trumpet), Thomas McClary (guitar), Ronald LaPread (bass), Walter "Clyde" Orange (drums), Lionel Richie (saxophone), and Milan Williams (keyboards).
After leaving the Commodores, Lionel Richie became one of the most successful male solo artists of the '80s, arguably eclipsed during his 1981-1987 heyday only by Michael Jackson and Prince. Richie dominated the pop charts during that period with an incredible run of 13 consecutive Top Ten hits, five of them number ones. As his popularity skyrocketed, Richie moved further away from his R&B origins and concentrated more on adult contemporary balladry, which had been one of his strengths even as part of the Commodores.
For the Commodores, losing Lionel Richie in 1982 was a lot like L.T.D. losing Jeffrey Osborne and Rose Royce losing Gwen Dickey – it was a severe blow, although not a fatal one. In fact, the Commodores had a few major hits after Richie's departure, including 'Nightshift' (a number one R&B/number three pop smash) in 1984 and 'Goin' to the Bank' in 1986. Released in 1983, Commodores 13 was the band's first post-Richie album as well as its first album without producer James Carmichael (who had been working with the Commodores since 1974). This LP came out around the same time as Richie's second solo album, Can't Slow Down, which sold over eight million copies in the U.S. alone. Commodores 13 didn't do nearly that well, although it's a generally decent, if uneven, record that had a number 20 R&B hit in 'Only You.'
R&B purists have often argued that the Commodores did their most essential work before 1977. It was in 1977 that they crossed over to the pop/adult contemporary audience in a major way with "Easy," and subsequent hits like 1978's "Three Times a Lady" and 1979's "Still" (both of which reached number one on Billboard's pop singles charts) certainly weren't the work of R&B snobs. Of course, Lionel Richie never claimed to be an R&B purist, although it is safe to say that the Commodores were still a hardcore funk/soul band when their third album, Movin' On, came out in 1975. From an R&B standpoint (as opposed to a pop or adult contemporary standpoint), this is one of their most essential releases.
The year was 1977 - and this was the album that turned the Commodores into certifiable superstars in the crossover and commercial market. Not that they weren't popular before - they had a huge R&B following, consistently amazing albums, and some pop music success, but nothing like it was after this album was released. 1977 was the year that the group embarked upon a massive nationwide tour, and their audience grew and grew to monumental proportions. This album was flying off the shelves in the music stores. Three of the songs from it that would go on to be classics were responsible for that. Ad campaigns, movie and TV roles for the funk sextet from Alabama followed as a result.
In 1980 and 1981, many people in the music world suspected that Lionel Richie would soon be leaving the Commodores to pursue a solo career – and sure enough, he officially became a full-time solo artist in 1982. In the Pocket, released in 1981, turned out to be his final album with the group. Not surprisingly, Richie dominates the album, singing lead on everything from adult contemporary ballads like "Lucy" and "Oh No" (a number four pop/number five R&B smash) to the sophisticated funk of "Why You Wanna Try Me" and the Top Five R&B favorite "Lady (You Bring Me Up)." Walter Orange and Thomas McClary also contribute some lead vocals, but the album's best-known songs are the ones that feature Richie.
The Commodores are the premier R&B-pop group of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Natural High is their sixth studio recording and includes one of the most recognizable songs of the era, “Three Times A Lady.” The pivotal outing also includes the soulful standouts “X-Rated Movie,” “Such A Woman,” and “I Like What You Do.” Natural High reached #3 on the Billboard 200.
Early funk from The Commodores - a group that spent so much time sleeping later, it's hard to believe they could be so funky early on! There's plenty of that bass-heavy style that would later dominate many Motown combos at the end of the 70s - but the group's really in control of the groove on this one, without any of the cliches that such bassery could lead them into. Lionel Ritchie contributed one nice smooth soul number, «This Is Your Life», and the rest of the album includes «Let's Do It Right», «Wide Open», «The Bump», «Look What You've Done To Me», and the pop funk classic «Slippery When Wet».
When the Commodores' seventh studio album, Midnight Magic, came out in 1979, one could safely assume that the LP would contain at least one adult contemporary ballad. And sure enough, Midnight Magic contains the ballad "Still," which was a number one pop hit (as well as a number one R&B hit) and became a staple on adult contemporary radio. The sappy ballad (which features Lionel Richie) wasn't without its detractors, who felt that the Commodores had become too much of a slick crossover act. But even if "Still" doesn't excite you, the rest of the album isn't bad. "Wonderland" (a number 21 R&B hit) is an enjoyable R&B slow jam, and fans of sophisticated funk (as opposed to hardcore funk) should appreciate "You're Special," "Gettin' It," and the disco-minded title song.