Lionel Richie: Can't Slow Down
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Review by Rick Kosmick - November 19, 2016
Lionel Richie hit it big with his sophomore release “Can’t Slow Down”. Released in October, 1983, this album was a massive hit reaching #1 with 10 million in sales and 59 consecutive weeks in the top 10 of Billboard’s album charts. It’s commercial success included five top 10 hit single releases — “All Night Long” #1; “Hello” #1; “Stuck on You” #3; “Running With the Night” #7; "Penny Lover” #8 — from the album’s eight songs. It won the Grammy Award for album of the year (1984). To say the least, it is a highly accomplished set of recordings led by top notch songwriting scattered amongst elements of catchy dance-pop and strong ballads.
As an album, “Can’t Slow Down” is, however, more than substantial song craft from Lionel Richie who wrote or co-wrote all the songs. Each track is notable for high production values under co-producers Richie and James Anthony Carmichael (Richie co-produced “The Only One” with David Foster). The recording sessions were supplemented by several top musicians who were brought in to record a specific song or set of songs. Mastering engineer was Bernie Grundman who is one of the best in the business. I say with a fair bit of confidence (although there is no specific reference stated in the liner notes), it is very likely a flat transfer of the original master tapes were utilized for the Blu-ray release in 24Bit 96kHz audio. The reason: the sound quality is absolutely superlative!
“All Night Long” is a composition persistent of Caribbean dance rhythms with anthem-like prowess as Richie’s lead vocals trade off against strong backing vocals in mumbo-jumbo consonance. The dynamic range is superb from the lower end (deep, rich bass and punchy drums) to horns blaring brightly in the upper range as they stretch out. You want to turn up the volume to hear the clarity in each musical note. It is a masterpiece of dance-pop.
The ballad “ Stuck on You” has a country tinged flavour in Richie’s vocal performance that may be polished but it is infused with a high degree of expressiveness. His vocals are prominently pushed up in the mix and all vocal details are present with clear tone. This is country sung with soul!
Richie moves to other pop styles on the album with a rock orientation in “Runnin’ With the Night”. Starting with shimmering symbols, the song is defined by the sprinkled and liberal use of synthesizer that is audible in excellent separation and detail of instruments in the background. But make no mistake: this track is defined by the menacing guitar solo from Steve Lukather (from the group Toto) whose playing sends it into another orbit. It ends up as a high energy number displayed in magnificent sound.
Although I found the Blu-ray release to be of outstanding audio quality, I decided to pull out a copy of the 2 CD Deluxe Edition of "Can’t Slow Down” released in the 2003 for comparison. This set included bonus material that was mastered by Kevin Reeves from the original first-generation analog tapes. The deluxe edition has a very warm sound and equalization appears to noticeably accentuate the bass. The bass is not only more pronounced but the overall audio is louder than the Blu-ray suggesting some compression may have been utilized. One point should be made clear: the audio on the deluxe edition for the original album is excellent. In comparing the two versions, the Blu-ray exhibits more clarity and better detail. The audio on the Blu-ray is more open with a quality of brightness that sounds wonderful. And I definitely prefer the original mastering from Bernie Grundman.
The Blu-ray release of “Can’t Slow Down” illustrates a very high standard in audio quality. The merits of the music on this classic album cannot be overstated. It certainly warrants consideration by anyone who appreciates the best in popular music.
Copyright © 2016 Rick Kosmick and HRAudio.net