The solo debut album from pop-soul ballad king Lionel Richie includes no less than five sugarcoated arias in the mode of "Lady" and "Endless Love." The appeal of these songs lies in their utter lack of sophistication: in "Truly," "You Mean More to Me," "My Love," "Just Put Some Love in Your Heart" and "Wandering Stranger," ardent declaration overrules any psychological subtlety.
In order not to sound trite, ballads this basic require a singer's absolute conviction, and Richie delivers them with an understated fervor that suggests a pop-soul equivalent of the late Nat "King" Cole. Like Cole in his "Ramblin' Rose" days and Ray Charles at around the same time, Richie reaffirms the deep affinity of black singers for country-flavored ballads. Richie's sweeter valentines are balanced by some spunky midtempo numbers that show off the tarter side of his singing. "Round and Round" and "Serves You Right" echo the snappy sass of recent Hall and Oates hits, and "You Are" cushions Richie's edgy tenor in rich Temptations-style harmonies. There's not a tune on the album, slow or fast, that doesn't pack melodic clout. (RS 384)
(Posted: Dec 9, 1982)
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