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Indeed. Unbelievable as it may seem, "Coming Home" is actually only the ninth album by the multi-Grammy, Oscar and Golden Globe winner since he launched his globally successful star-studded solo career in 1982 after a decade of hit making with R&B, funk and pop super-group "The Commodores". Different tracks on his 2006 set echo Richie’s roots as an urban chart topper (think “Brick House”) and a transcendent songwriter capable of penning timeless classics (think “Easy,” “Sail On” or “Three Times A Lady”) that remain slow jam staples at quiet storm, adult contemporary, pop and R&B radio worldwide. “In an industry that is writer-producer driven, I asked myself how current writers would interpret Lionel Richie, especially when some of them weren’t even born when I was having those hits in the early ‘80s! Having (Island/Def Jam Chairman) L.A. Reid as the executive producer for this project meant that I had access to all of today’s writers and producers", Richie explains, "he put the word out and asked if they’d like to write or do something musically with me. My question was ‘how do we make this interesting and unique, how do we make a record where the ‘old’ sound is now the ‘new’ sound?”
The result is evident from the hit-bound first single, “I Call It Love,” written and produced by Taj and Stargate (known for hits with Ne-Yo, Rihanna and other current chart makers) to the edgy groove of “Up All Night,” a collaboration between Lionel, his musical director Chuckii Booker – known for his work with Janet Jackson, TLC and others – and Sean Garrett whose credits include hits with Usher and Beyonce. “That’s kinda like a spoof on ‘Brick House’! You know, an old man wishing for younger days”, Lionel laughs, "it was a wonderful musical marriage, the three of us, a mixture of old school and new school. And “I Call It Love”? That was the first song that
It’s perhaps no surprise that the musical union of legendary music man Richie with today’s hit makers worked so well given the props and respect for Lionel’s legacy of timeless recordings deservedly accorded him by producers like Dallas Austin (writer and producer of “Reason To Believe,” which has a potent and viable lyrical message in today’s ever-changing world), Raphael Saddiq (who contributed the summertime- flavored “Sweet Vacation”) and Jermaine Dupri (writer and producer of the plaintive standout “You Are” which Lionel recalls “Jermaine told me to just flat out s-a-a-n-g!”) The fusion of Lionel’s instantly-recognizable trademark vocal sound with current production values simply works: "I’m Coming Home" is clearly a Richie record but with a decidedly contemporary sound and feel.
A prime example: “Why,” another collaboration between Lionel, Booker and Garrett, a track that will satisfy longtime fans of Richie while having a lyrical appeal to a generation who are ‘discovering’ Lionel for the first time. “No matter which generation, there is one subject that is always the mystery! There are so many different stories for this one subject, love. You can write songs about discovery, when you first meet someone; there are about two hundred you can write once you’re in love and then a few thousand songs you can write when love falls apart”, says Richie, whose total worldwide record sales since 1974 top a staggering one hundred million copies. “There’s the confusion, the anxiety, the betrayal. You find yourself asking, ‘Why can’t it be like the first time?’ and that’s something we can all relate. The song “Why” deals with it in a simple, wonderful way.”
Likewise, “I Love You” is vintage Richie. Written by Lionel and produced by him with Chuckii Booker, the song’s elegant simplicity harkens back to favorites like “Hello,” “Truly,” ”Endless Love” and “Three Times A Lady,” recordings that have kept Lionel touring the world on an average of twice a year in recent times. “I’ve ‘married’ more people through my music than I can count”, Lionel smiles, "and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me, ‘I’ve made love to you many times’…and I always say, ‘please tell me you mean my records!’ Seriously, many people have asked me, ‘Just give me the words to say’ and those three words are it. “I love you” is something you want to say and you want said to you all the time when you’re in love. So if you’re lost for words, this song will do it for you”.
Of course, Richie fans the world over know that no live show is complete without “All Night Long”: for those who want an ’06 take on that unforgettable 1984 anthem, Lionel provides the upbeat, infectious aptly-named “All Around The World,” one of the key cuts on "I’m Coming Home", written and produced by Lionel with Quicksound, the Montreal-based production outfit responsible for some of the music created for the ‘Cirque du Soleil’ extravaganza. “As soon as I heard the track, I said, ‘what in the world is this?’ It’s the ‘cousin’ of “All Night Long” – it has that familiar sound yet it’s a brand new song".
With a nod to tunes he’s written that defied easy categorization – such as “Lady,” Still” and “Say You, Say Me,” all No. 1 hits for Lionel that appealed to pop, country and R&B listeners globally – there’s “Outta My Head,” produced by Lionel and Chuckii Booker. “Like many songs I’ve written, this is an example of what I call ‘personal’ writing, a song with a story that means something to me, that touches me – and I find that it’s something that everyone feels too”, reflects Lionel, "when a relationship is falling apart, you don’t know where you’re at. You’re devastated by the emotions and for those first three weeks, you smell her perfume in the house, her clothes are still there. I’ve been there…”.
It’s Lionel Richie’s innate ability to write and sing from his experience that has made his music so accessible for literally millions of people from one continent to another for nearly four decades. In 1967, Lionel co-founded "The Commodores" at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and after signing to Motown Records in 1971, the group became one of the most popular bands in the US, shaking dance floors with "Machine Gun" and "Brick House" and creating a slew of future slow jam classics with "Easy," "Three Times a Lady" and "Sail On."
Richie began stepping outside "The Commodores" in 1980, after Kenny Rogers’ hit version of "Lady" led to him producing the singer’s 1981 album "Share Your Love". "Endless Love," his 1981 chart-topping duet with Diana Ross (covered in 1994 by Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey), was Motown’s most successful single and further fueled Richie’s solo ambitions. In 1982, the release of his self-titled solo quadruple platinum Motown debut set Lionel on a record-breaking pathway to global superstardom: 1983’s ten-million-selling "Can’t Slow Down" — which won a Grammy for Album of the Year – was followed by 1986’s massively-successful "Dancing on the Ceiling."
After a period of reflection and personal growth, Lionel returned in 1992 with "Back to Front," followed by 1996’s "Louder Than Words," 1998’s "Time," 2001’s “Renaissance,” 2003’s “Encore” and the aptly-titled "The Definitive Collection," a worldwide multi-million-selling retrospective. The winner of five Grammy Awards, an Oscar, eleven American Music Awards, five People’s Choice Awards and a “World Music Lifetime Achievement Award” with a much-deserved Star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, Lionel’s continuing relevance as a multi-generational artist was evidenced by his inclusion as a celebrity judge of “American Idol” a couple of seasons back; the performance of his classic “Easy” by one of the finalists during the 2006 season of the show was another reminder of Lionel’s enduring presence on the contemporary music scene some thirty years after he first recorded the song with "The Commodores".
"Coming Home" effortlessly provides the bridge between Lionel’s rich musical legacy and now, with soul-satisfying performances that will evoke memories for some and create new ones for others. Lionel: “I am reminded of those times when I wrote with "The Commodores" when we bounced off one another creatively: they brought the R&B ‘thing,’ I had the pop and country flavor. I’ve missed that urban element which hasn’t been there to the extent that it is on this record, thanks to working with L.A. Reid who was overseeing the project and the exciting young writers and producers who collaborated with me on this album. "The song “I’m Coming Home” really says it for me because that’s what I’m doing – especially after being around the world twice year for the last few years! It’s been great seeing people pull out the welcoming mat for me with this record. With songs like “You Are” – which is very real, very earthy, “I Call It Love” and “I Love You” – people hear something ‘familiar,’ they hear Lionel Richie from back in the day…and everyone starts smiling".