Richie, Lionel - 1986 Dancing On The Ceiling

edited August 2 in year-1986

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ARTIST: Richie, Lionel
ALBUM: Dancing On The Ceiling
LABEL: Motown
SERIAL: 6158ML (LP), MCDO6158MD (CD)
YEAR: 1986
CD REISSUE: 2003, Motown, 38300 (bonus tracks, remastered)

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

LINEUP: Lionel Richie - vocals

Additional Musicians: Carlos Rios, Tim May, Eric Clapton, David Cochrane, Vernon Black - guitars * Neil Steubenhaus, Randy Jackson, Abraham Laboriel, Joseph Chemay, Nathan East - bass * John Robinson, Paul Leim - drums * Greg Philligaines, Michael Boddicker, Preston Glass, Cory Lerios - keyboards * Paulinho Da Costa - percussion

TRACK LISTING: 01 Dancing On The Ceiling * 02 Se La * 03 Ballerina Girl * 04 Don't Stop * 05 Deep River Woman * 06 Love Will Conquer All * 07 Tonight Will Be Alright * 08 Say You, Say Me * 09 Night Train (Smooth Alligator)

Background

At his peak Lionel Richie was one of the most successful solo artists of the early to mid 80's, only Michael Jackson eclipsing him for sales and hits.

Richie mastered the softer side of the MOR/AOR genre with some first rate material. It may have been closer to mainstream pop, but hits like 'Running With The Night' and 'Hello' were commanding AOR, fully realising the promise of his 70's Commodores work.

'Dancing On The Ceiling' followed on the heels of 1982's 'Lionel Richie' and 1983's 'Can't Slow Down', and was a weaker seller, 'only' shifting four million copies.

There were hits, the title track, 'Se La' and 'Love Will Conquer All' making waves in the top ten. A number of satisfying synth dominated tracks abounded, and Richie assembled a first rate roster of seasoned session men.

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The Songs

The title track will be familiar to anyone who recalls the mainstream pop scene of 1986, a well crafted selection with barrel loads of melodic breaks, both in verse and chorus, with ever present slicing synthesizer work.

Typical of this three minute sub AOR was the inclusion of a nifty little guitar solo, brief but effective.

'Se La' is synthesized beyond comprehension, with artificial drums giving it away. This is standard keyboard pop, with one dominant melodic section running through the entire song.

As was his trait, Richie included teary eyed ballads of the most light variety, 'Ballerina Girl', the stand-out inclusion. Richie ensures it's stirring enough, with suitably aching vocals amidst a flurry of strings and yes, 'stabbing' keys.

A few weaker moments ensue, cue 'Don't Stop', 'Deep River Woman' and the soul influenced 'Love Will Conquer All.'

The main strength arrives with 'Tonight Will Be Alright', stunning guitar driven AOR with Eric Clapton providing some of his only worthwhile guitar work since Cream! It's more along the lines of Hall & Oates light AOR, but qualifies all the same.

'Say You Say Me' is another weeper, the theme to the hit 1985 film 'White Nights', and is a fine juxtaposition of sensitive moments and delves into an uptempo bridge. Sure to bring a lone tear to ones eye.

'Night Train (Smooth Alligator)' is a strong finisher, thankfully upbeat, and again, a melodic synth overload.

In Summary

Richie's career may have tailed off commercially following this, and who can forget his wife assaulting him? But he left a permanent mark on pop/AOR history.

Many of his fellow black musicians accused him of selling out his culture by catering to predominantly white audiences, but surely that was sour grapes.

His music was universally accepted, and AOR fans should have no trouble easing into his 80's albums.


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