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Great Songs, Good Performances, Mixed Results
on April 15, 2012
First, there's the legendary Lionel Richie whose voice today is just as wonderful as it was in the beginning. Next, you have a group of country performers, some legends, some soon to be, who are just as successful in their own right. In the middle, you have a phenomenal Lionel Richie hit song. All together, this should have made for an exceptional collection. But the result was just ok. Much of it didn't mesh for me.
Richie as always sounded great. As he should have. It's pretty darn hard to mess up your own songs. And for the most part, the country performers did well. The different vocal styles they brought to the table were good. I just didn't feel that their vocal styles necessarily worked with Richie's. Richie sounded like this was all old hat for him. His performances were easy and comfortable. But when the other performers came in, the resulting song sometimes sounded a bit chaotic. (Interesting that Amazon's samples only have Ritchie's parts.)
On some songs, it sounded like a vocal competition (Darius Rucker, Kenny Rogers, Shania Twain). An attempt to see who could outdo the other. On others, honestly, the country performer just wasn't as strong of a singer as Richie. Their voices couldn't compete with the strength of his (Jason Aldean, Shania Twain (a wail is still a wail)). It was a competition lost from the start. Their performance on the song was like an after thought that could have been left out all together. And, finally, on a couple, the country performer sounded lost period, confused. It was like they didn't know what to do with the song. How to sing it. (Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts, Jimmy Buffett).
However, there are some notable performances. "Lady" with Kenny Rogers. Of course, both men had hits with the song. It, rightfully, should have been like an old comfortable shoe for them both. The ease of each with it shown through. The problem was it was too comfortable. When one sang a verse, it reminded so much of the recorded hit, that you temporarily forgot it was a duet.
Another exception was "Hello" with Jennifer Nettles. She could likely have a hit with it on her own. It was a very interesting arrangement, probably the most updated of them all. The problem with the duet was that her style is so upbeat, forceful where Richie's is so at ease. Each part just sounded like a completely different song. And this time, it sounded like Richie had a hard time keeping up.
Darius Rucker too could have a hit with "Stuck on You." He was probably the best vocal match to Richie, though maybe too similar. At times it sounded like he was trying to out Richie Lionel Richie.
Little Big Town probably had the best collaboration on the album with "Deep River Woman". Sounded like they had been singing that song for years.
I also enjoyed Tim McGraw on "Sail On". That collaboration was just as good as the one with Little Big Town. Though the funny thing on that one was if you weren't paying attention he sounded just like Richie. Their styles on the song were very, very similar. Not a bad thing, just unexpected.
"My Love" with Kenny Chesney was good. Like with McGraw their voices worked well together. But it didn't particularly stand out to me.
The duet with Billy Currington, "Just for You" was also good. Their voices also worked well together. I just hated the song. Good chorus, but bland overall. The kind of song you forget about while it's still playing. It was the one song on the album that I don't recall the original. Hmmm....that might explain it.
Then there is Willie Nelson on "Easy". It is easy to see why he's a legend himself. His style is so much his own, that he didn't need to bring Richie along for the ride. Here, Richie could have been left off.