Picks and Pans Review: Nightshift

updated 03/11/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/11/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

The Commodores

When Lionel Richie embarked on his solo career in 1982, the Commodores lost their taste of honey. Richie's subsequent successes indeed imply that the romanticism of such Commodores hits as Still, Three Times a Lady and Sail On stemmed from his contributions. It seemed likely that the quintet would turn more to the spunky spirit of such old hits as Brick House and Slippery When Wet. That's why this, the Commodores' second post-L.R. album, is a surprise. The LP's most soulful ballad, The Woman in My Life, is handsomely performed, while most of the heavy hitters seem mundane. Lightin' Up the Night, for instance, loses out in the horn-boosted, Caribbean-tinged song sweepstakes to Richie's All Night Long (All Night). Only Slip of the Tongue has the swagger that used to be the group's uptempo trademark. The title track, which has a stirring neogospel feel, is a memorial to Marvin Gaye (and Jackie Wilson) that outstrips Diana Ross' Missing You. Newcomer J.D. Nicholas, who, with drummer Walter "Clyde" Orange, handles most of the lead vocals, may help Commodores fans forget Richie one of these days. And producer Dennis Lambert gives Nightshift a nice polish. But nothing on the album forges a new identity for the Commodores. While they're certainly not a backup group, at this stage of their reformation a good deal of their material sounds like background music. (Motown)

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