Gold: Lionel Richie / Commodores
Lionel Richie is the definition of a crossover artist. His songwriting and singing is as informed by James Taylor as it is James Brown, and he could write hits for Motown then turn around and pen “Lady” for Kenny Rogers. Soft, dramatic ballads like “Hello” and “Say You, Say Me” brought a whole new look to R&B in the Eighties, and had a huge influence on the adult-contemporary R&B of Luther Vandross, Stephanie Mills, and Peabo Bryson. Meanwhile, Richie mastered a kind of lightweight pop soul with “Dancing On the Ceiling” and “All Night Long,” songs that appealed to Michael Jackson fans and Toto fans alike. Amazingly, Richie released just three LPs in the Eighties, a decade in which he seemed to release hit singles by the month. The sequencing of Gold is strangely anti-chronological, with Richie’s early Commodores hits coming at the end and the first disc bouncing from year to year, but thematically it is the perfect summation of Richie’s dominance between 1974 ad 1986. The sterling hits are all here, but don’t overlook lesser-known gems like “Zoom,” “Sweet Love,” and “Don’t Wanna Lose You,” a wonderful piece of gospel-soul from Richie’s overlooked 1996 album Louder Than Words.