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Can't Slow Down - Deluxe Edition

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Album Review

On Can't Slow Down, his second solo album, Lionel Richie ran with the sound and success of his eponymous debut, creating an album that was designed to be bigger and better. It's entirely possible that he took a cue from Michael Jackson's Thriller, which set out to win over listeners of every corner of the mainstream pop audience, because Richie does a similar thing with Can't Slow Down — he plays to the MOR adult contemporary audience, to be sure, but he ups the ante on his dance numbers, creating grooves that are funkier, and he even adds a bit of rock with the sleek nocturnal menace of "Running With the Night," one of the best songs here. He doesn't swing for the fences like Michael did in 1982; he makes safe bets, which is more in his character. But safe bets do pay off, and with Can't Slow Down Richie reaped enormous dividends, earning not just his biggest hit, but his best album. He has less compunction about appearing as a pop singer this time around, which gives the preponderance of smooth ballads — particularly "Penny Lover," "Hello," and the country-ish "Stuck on You" — conviction, and the dance songs roll smooth and easy, never pushing the beats too hard and relying more on Richie's melodic hooks than the grooves, which is what helped make "All Night Long (All Night)" a massive hit. Indeed, five of these songs (all the aforementioned tunes) were huge hits, and since the record ran only eight songs, that's an astonishing ration. The short running time does suggest the record's main weakness, one that it shares with many early-'80s LPs — the songs themselves run on a bit too long, padding out the running length of the entire album. This is only a problem on album tracks like "Love Will Find a Way," which are pleasant but a little tedious at their length, but since there are only three songs that aren't hits, it's a minor problem. All the hits showcase Lionel Richie at his best, as does Can't Slow Down as a whole. [In 2003, Can't Slow Down was reissued as part of Universal Chronicles' Deluxe Edition series, expanded to a full two-disc set. The first disc contains the 12" version of "All Night Long (All Night)" (but, curiously, not the single edit that was on the radio), the "Penny Lover" 7" single remix (not a notable difference), and 12" instrumental versions of "All Night Long" and "Running With the Night." Disc two is devoted to "demos, alternates, working masters and session jams," with alternate takes of every one of the eight songs, plus "Tell Me" from Lionel Richie, the unreleased "Ain't Sayin' No," and "Can't Find Love," which are the best things here, because they are solid unheard tunes. The rest are most decidedly working versions — for instance, "All Night Long (All Night)" doesn't have finished lyrics, apart from the chorus, so it often sounds as if he's singing nonsense words and gibberish so he can just get the melody in place. They're interesting on one level, but they're not compelling, even for one listen, though they do serve a historical purpose for Lionel Richie collectors. Even if this second disc is rather monotonous, the package overall is very nicely done — typical of Deluxe Edition reissues — and will certainly please fans.]


Born: 20 June 1949 in Tuskegee, AL

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

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...
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Can't Slow Down - Deluxe Edition, Lionel Richie
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