Lionel Richie - Just For You (Album)

Lionel has had a fair crack at success and when everyone who set eyes on him didn't perish with laughter even when he was dressed in the most ludicrous stage garb whilst still a member of The Commodores - check out some archive footage of the band if you're in need of convincing - he must have imagined that blessed was he. He's even had years in which he's struggled to put out anything of worth and yet, thanks to a few classic tunes, the world still has time for him.

Annoyingly, however, having plucked it out of the song for special mention, the awful lyrics from the first track on the album and lead single, Just For You, have been buzzing about my head for days. They're actually so poor that they're worth recalling, "God was God, Dreams were dreams / Life was all cake and ice-cream" but these words are the key to the whole album. Having recorded such songs as Dancing On The Ceiling and Three Times A Lady, which were Lionel's big party and romantic songs, respectively, it sounds as though Lionel as spent his last few years stroking his beard in quiet contemplation. Sure, there's still the occasional party moment - She's Amazing, the obviously named The World Is A Party - but for the most, this is Lionel's reflective album.

Still, if you can take the thought of a man who used to wear a white, sparkling, flared jumpsuit and who once sported an afro the size of the average hatchback thinking things over then Just For You may just the album...err...for you. As well as Just For You, there's also Dance For The World, which pulls in a trusty Native American rhythm to drive home environmental awareness as well as the last track but one, One Love, in which Lionel asks, "We've got so much pain and confusion / Are we living for the truth or an illusion?" He's never been a great lyricist - and what's been quoted here should bear that out - but he does have a knack of pairing words and melody to produce songs that, like Hello, can be forgiven when a set of lyrics fail to shine.

Then again, all too often during these songs, Lionel sounds as though he doesn't have much of a grasp on anything in the modern world. If these lyrics were to be borne out in his private life, a picture is painted of Lionel walking around his house and driving across LA grumbling in a manner befitting his age about everything that has gone wrong in the world, of gadgets he can't work and of kids who have no respect for their elders, Lionel included.

'Course, being Lionel, there's only so much thinking you can do before it's time for him to stroll into the boudoir for a little lovin' and he doesn't disappoint. From the man who wrote Three Times A Lady and Hello, there's a better chance of Lionel delivering than not and with Just To Be With You Again, a quite lovely duet with Lenny Kravitz, Time Of Our Life and In My Dreams, Just For You does better with the love songs than it does elsewhere.

That Just For You ends up sounding patchy shouldn't necessarily be a surprise - Lionel Richie is a good twenty years past his artistic peak - but with this album he's produced something better than many of the soul stars who followed him. Compare Just For You to recent releases from Michael Jackson, Prince or Whitney Houston and Lionel Richie, if not up there with Alicia Keys' The Diary Of..., is at least partially successful in keeping his sound up to date. Whether it will be a success is dependent on how steady his existing fanbase is holding - it's unlikely that Lionel Richie will pick up many teenage fans with this release - but he's more deserving of success than many who followed his path of pop/soul.



out of 10

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