Saturday, November 22, 2014

Commodores, The #48 Artist of the Seventies*

Students, mostly freshmen, at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama had formed two groups, the Mystics and the Jays, and the Commodores came about as a result of the merging of those two groups.  The original lineup was:  Lionel Richie (saxophone and lead vocals), guitarist Thomas McClary, keyboardist Milan Williams, William King on trumpet, drummer Andre Callahan, and Michael Gilbert on bass.  Walter "Clyde" Orange replaced Callahan on drums and Ronald La Pread took over for Gilbert. 

The band had the good fortune of opening for the Jackson 5 on tour, which helped them secure a recording contract with Motown Records in 1972.  Three years later, they released their debut album.  The instrumental title song "Machine Gun" hit #22 for them.

In 1975, the Commodores released the album Caught in the Act.  The single "Slippery When Wet" only went to #19, but did earn them a spot at #1 on the R&B chart.

So the group released another album, Movin' On, later in the year, and the single "Sweet Love" was the one that made them known.  The great song was probably even a bit underrated at #5, but it scored a #2 on the R&B chart.

The Commodores earned another Top 10 with "Just To Be Close To You" (#7 overall and #1 R&B) from their album Hot on the Tracks.

Easy by Commodores on Grooveshark
In 1977, the Commodores released their self-titled album, which spawned the monster hit "Easy".  It soared high to #4 in the U.S. (#1 R&B), and caused folks across the Atlantic Ocean to take notice too, as evidenced by the group's first Top 10 hit in the U.K. (#9).


Although the Commodores excelled at ballads, but they could also crank out the funk, as they proved with the #5 song "Brickhouse".


Zoom by Commodores on Grooveshark
Another song on the album is a favorite among fans--"Zoom".

Too Hot Ta Trot by The Commodores on Grooveshark
The group released The Commodores Live!, which contained the #1 R&B song "Too Hot Ta' Trot".


The band was gearing up for the 1978 album Natural High, which contained their biggest career hit.  "Three Times A Lady" gave them a "triple #1"--#1 Popular, #1 Adult Contemporary, and #1 R&B, that was also #1 in the U.K. and Ireland.


"Flying High" is another nice track from the album.


In 1979, the Commodores released the album Midnight Magic.  The single "Sail On" led the way, breezing to #4 in the U.S. and #4 in the U.K.


Still by Commodores on Grooveshark
"Still" was another monster ballad, #1 both overall and R&B in the United States and #4 in the U.K.

The Commodores were riding high at the end of the decade, securing their place as one of the top acts of the Seventies.  Leader Lionel Richie left after two more albums for a highly successful solo career, but the group continued on well into the 80's. A few of the original members still tour with new faces.

The group scored 13 hits in the Seventies, with seven going Top 10 and two #1 songs.

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