Classics: Commodores: Zoom (Motown)
Thomas McClary and Lionel Richie were probably far from figuring they would give birth to one of the most remembered groups in the history of Motown. This when meeting in the registration line at Tuskegee University in Alabama back in 1968.
They first created a local band by the likes of The Mystics. A name which they changed to the Commodores before signing with Berry Gordy‘s Motown label 4 years later.
From then, they would be responsible for a unique list of first class goodies. From ‘Machine Gun’ to ‘Easy’, ‘Brick House’ and ‘Three Times A Lady’. This in addition to ‘Too Hot Ta trot’, ‘Sail On’ and ‘Still’. If not ‘Zoom’ or ‘Nightshift’, to name but a few.
From their 1977 eponynous album, the mellow ‘Zoom’ most definitely stands among their highlights. Although, strangely enough, it didn’t manage to chart for some reason. Pretty much highlighting the obvious inclination of the group for quiet storm vibes. Meanwhile inspiring countless artists who either covered it like Maysa and Big Bub. Or sampled it like Tricky and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Not to mention Gladys Knight who gave it like a vibrant interpolation back in 2015 under the form of ‘Soon’.
– The Commodores originated back in 1969 while its members attended Tuskegee University, AL. As a matter of fact, they formed from the reunion of two groups by the likes of The Mystics and The Jays.
After establishing themselves locally, they went on to perform at NY’s Town Hall. There, they got hired by talent scout Benjamin Ashurn who soon after became their manager. He brought them to sign a deal with Motown. Altough originally as a support act for The Jackson 5.
The instrumental ‘Machine Gun’, the title track of their 1974 debut-album, opened their route to the glory. Further international chart success eluded though until 1977 and the release of their eponymous album. An album which featured the Funky ‘Brick House’ led by Walter Clyde Orange. But also ‘Easy’ which established Lionel Richie both as a songwriter and a first league singer. A smooth gem which, along with ‘Zoom’, opened the path to many follow-ups in that vein. And eventually set up a new direction for the group. Producer James Anthony Carmichael crafting classics such as ‘Three Times A Lady’ or ‘Still’. This, before going along with Richie when he went solo back in 1982.
It’s most likely fair to say his departure left some emptiness behind. With the Commodores failing to recapture their initial success without him. They briefly got back under the spotlights back in 1985 though. With the release of ‘Nightshift’ produced by Dennis Lambert, as a tribute to both Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye. A song which they eventually re-recorded adding a mention to Michael Jackson, following his death back in 2009.
McClary left the band back in 1984 to pursue a solo career and collaborate with other artists such as Klique or Michael Henderson, eventually rejoining the band back in 2014.
The Commodores have released a total of 19 albums between 1974 and 1998. This including a Live set and a Xmas package. They continue to perform around the world nowadays. Consisting of Walter ‘Clyde’ Orange, James Dean ‘J.D.’ Nicholas, and William ‘WAK’ King, along with their five-piece band, known as the Mean Machine…
– A native of Tuskegee, AL, Lionel Richie got introduced to music by his grandma who taught him classical piano. He ventually gave birth to various R&B groups during his college years. And by 1968, he became the lead singer and saxophonist of The Commodores with whom he would remain for 15 years. Most likely embodyin’ the softer side of the group. This while writing and singin’ ballads such as ‘Easy’, ‘Zoom’, ‘Three Times a Lady’, ‘Still’ and ‘Sail On’.
By the of the 70’s, he started writing songs for other artists. Eventually composing the memorable ‘Lady’ for Kenny Rogers which hit No. 1 back in 1980. Then sharing the vocal duties with Diana Ross the year after on the theme song of ‘Endless Love’. And makin’ his solo debut in 1982 with his eponymous album. With the latter propelling 3 US hit singles by the likes of ‘Truly’, ‘You Are’ and ‘My Love’, meanwhile selling 4 million copies worldwide. Its follow-up – Can’t Slow Down’ – selling over twice as many copies. With thanks to its concentration of masterpieces. From ‘All Night Long (All Night)’ to ‘Love Will Find A Way’. But also ‘Stuck On You’ and ‘Hello’. If not its title cut although it never saw the light as a single.
‘Dancing On The Ceiling’, his third album, brought another consistant series of high standard compositions. From ‘Ballerina Girl’ to ‘Say You, Say Me’. Not to mention ‘Sela’ and ‘Love Will Conquer All’. Meanwhile, that same year (in 1985) he co-wrote the charity single ‘We Are The World’ with Michael Jackson. All in all seeing Richie at his peak before progressively disappearing from the radars releasewise from then on…
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