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Lionel Richie. Tuskegee


Lionel Richie─a name I wouldn't mind giving to my future son. In my opinion, his golden voice defined the 80s. Maybe not as much as Michael Jackson, but he did contribute a lot. If you ask someone to name an 80s African-American musician, chances are the name Lionel Richie would come a close second to Michael Jackson.

I learned about this new album while surfing the web (thanks, Internet!), and I decided to check it out. I was familiar with the album title, Tuskegee, but only in relation to the Tuskegee airmen. I had no idea that Tuskegee was a town in Alabama, nor that this was Lionel Richie's hometown. The album was being marketed as a country album, not a greatest hits collection, although that's what it looks like based on the song list. Well it seems that this is an album of country remakes of Richie's hits. Or is it?

1. "You Are" (with Blake Shelton)
Didn't know this song before. And I also didn't know who Blake Shelton is. I still don't.

"Are you really Blake Shelton?"

2. "Say You, Say Me" (with Jason Aldean)
This song is one of the very few songs in this album that actually sounds like country music. And no, I don't know who Jason Aldean is.

"But why do you remind me of Fred Durst?"

3. "Stuck on You" (with Darius Rucker)
Yes, that's Darius Rucker. The lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish.

"No, I am NOT Hootie."

Who would've known that Rucker's a country singer, eh? I didn't.

4. "Deep River Woman" (with Little Big Town)
Quite a lovely song. Which also has that country feel. Although I never heard the original version of this song.

LBT─Little Big Town. Not Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgenders.

5. "My Love" (with Kenny Chesney)
This is another nice song, although I've never heard the original version of this.

Is Kenny Chesney a person or a band?
If he's a person, which one is he?

6. "Dancing on the Ceiling" (with Rascal Flatts)
This is one of the livelier songs on the album, and even in the original version, this was quite a lively song. But it's given a country spin to it with the fiddling part in the middle.

All the other guys are hiding massive boners
from just being in Lionel Richie's presence.

7. "Hello" (with Jennifer Nettles)
The original "Hello" was not a duet. But maybe after Glee has shown the world that this ballad can be sung by a girl and a guy, the songwriter himself said, "Hey, it totally works as a duet!" And that is why it ended up on this album.

Also, Jennifer Nettles kind of sounds like a soul singer. She reminds me of Mary J. Blige.

Can't tell if she's cute from this angle.

8. "Sail On" (with Jill Johnson)
Okay, apparently, the version I listened to was the European edition, because it features Jill Johnson. The American edition features Tim McGraw instead. I haven't heard the McGraw version yet. But then again, I haven't heard the original version.

Can't tell if she's cute from this shot.

9. "Endless Love" (with Shania Twain)
Of course you've heard the original "Endless Love" version (especially after you've seen Happy Gilmore). Purists need not be alarmed, though. If you loved the original version with Diana Ross, then you'll love this one as well. Shania Twain has managed to give us an interpretation better than or equal to the original.

Why are they recording in a hotel room?
Did they have sex?

10. "Just For You" (with Billy Currington)
This song has the laid-back feel of country music, as well as the unmistakable country guitar sound. Again, I never heard the original version of this, nor do I know who Billy Currington is.

That's Billy Currington. Recognize.

11. "Lady" (with Kenny Rogers)
Yes, everyone knows Kenny Rogers. He's probably the most popular artist in this album, aside from Richie himself.

Thanks mostly to this.

You might also be wondering, "What's 'Lady' doing here? Isn't that a Kenny Rogers song?" Correct, it is a Kenny Rogers song. But it wasn't penned by Rogers, but by Richie. That's right. Lionel Richie wrote "Lady".

12. "Easy" (with Willie Nelson)
Willie Nelson is the perfect choice to sing this song with, particularly because Nelson's voice is literally easy like Sunday morning. Although it actually sounds more like the original version than a country remake (even with the smooth drawl of the harmonica), no one's complaining. Simply because of Willie Nelson's voice.

"Just how easy do you want it?"

13. "All Night Long" (with Jimmy Buffett and Coral Reefer Band)
Sorry, but any pretense of calling this a country album gets thrown out the window with this song, which is obviously not a country song. There are steel drums, come on. It still has that calypso/beach feel, just like the original song. The only link this song has to country music is Jimmy Buffett's vocals, which uses longer notes. Richie's vocals uses shorter notes, which is something most country singers don't have in their repertoire.

"Wait... Coral Reefer? Reefer?"

14. "Angel" (with Pixie Lott)
This song is in the European edition, but not in the American one. And I have no idea why. It's actually a nice song, and the only reason why I think Richie chose to use this as his final song was because it sounds country. Just to make sure the European audiences don't forget that this is a country album, after "All Night Long".

Okay, so Ms. Lott's kind of cute.

Also, do country artists usually have names ending in a double T? There's Rascal Flatts. Jimmy Buffett. And now Pixie Lott. I'm not missing anything here, am I?

All right. The entire line-up is actually composed of country artists, but Tuskegee doesn't sound like an entirely country album. Only a few songs have that distinct country feel. The others sound like... well, Lionel Richie. I'm guessing country music uses certain chord progressions which make it identifiable, and since these songs weren't written at all in the country music style, the country music sound will of course not come out. So no matter how many slide guitars you throw in there, it will still sound like soul and R&B.

By the way, Lionel Richie isn't the first artist to come up with a re-recorded greatest hits album. Sting did it first with All This Time, where he gave his old hits a jazzy twist. I'm not sure about the others who came before him. Anyway, I like this better than the artist releasing a straight-up greatest hits album. It shows that at least the artist exerted some effort for his fans.

One final note: Where is my favorite Lionel Richie song "The Only One"? That, in my opinion, would've sounded good as a country song.

Tuskegee. Lionel Richie. 2012.

Rating: Seven out of ten.


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