Outside of James Brown and the rest of his funky people (the J.B.s, Maceo & The Macks, Lyn Collins, etc), the Commodores might just be my favourite funk band. These first few albums, before Lionel Richie started writing ballads, are just so damn groovy.
My current jam is I’m Ready, the fourth cut from this, their second studio album. I’m partial to an instrumental (see Pick Up The Pieces and Machine Gun), and to a funky clavinet line (see Superstition), and this melds the two perfectly.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, but it’s such a shame that Lionel Richie was such a great songwriter. He turned a very funky band into a radio-friendly pop band by way of some nice piano tunes, and ultimately became a household name, bigger than the band that spawned him.
You can see the start of his balladry on side-one closer This Is Your Life. It isn’t Easy or Three Times A Lady, but it’s such a departure from the funk workout that precedes it, that you can definitely hear something change in the band. It’s almost like a switch is flicked. An A&R man somewhere suddenly raised his eyebrows.
I love the cover of this record too: six funky black guys with collars and lapels as big as their afros.
Hit: Slippery When Wet
Hidden Gem: I’m Ready