Picks and Pans Review: Can't Slow Down
No group could lose someone with Richie’s talent and not suffer, but the Commodores’ 13, their first album since he went solo (and 13th altogether), shows his five old buddies are still one of the smoothest, most elegant-sounding of pop acts. Original Commodores Walter “Clyde” Orange and Thomas McClary and the group’s former keyboard player, Harold Hudson, have taken over the lead vocals. Hudson is the strongest singer, with a deep, dark sound that always seems to have something in reserve. Over the years the Commodores made their basic R&B sound de-funked. They remain one of the least explicitly soulful of the all-black groups—the Orange-Michael Dunlap tune Touchdown has an almost Bee Gees splash to it—but their mainstreaming seems less a compromise than a natural style. Richie, meanwhile, is approaching the megastardom achieved by his clients Kenny Rogers and Diana Ross, who have used Richie as a producer. The tunes on Can’t Slow Down, which he either wrote by himself or in collaboration with such people as David Foster, Cynthia Weil and Mrs. Richie (Brenda Harvey), show some tinges of Caribbean influence. All Night Long (All Night) has an islander kind of effervescence. But Richie is still most impressive when he wraps himself around a quiet romantic tune. His own slightly melancholy Hello is proof enough that, as a pop balladeer, Richie is the equal of Cole and Sinatra.