Quick spin: Lionel Richie’s ‘Tuskegee’

March 26, 2012
Lionel Richie
Tuskegee

All-star duet albums and genre crossover discs are practically guaranteed career revivers. Throw in a greatest hits makeover, and you’ve got an Icons of a Certain Age trifecta. “Tuskegee” pairs Lionel Richie with superstar country artists for modestly twangy versions of his classic hits. The result is a blissful cheese fest, ridiculously listenable even at its worst.

For every track like “Endless Love,” which is more a triumph of marketing (it signals Shania Twain’s comeback) than artistry (it’s pretty bad), there are a handful that are just right. A moderately faithful version of “Stuck on You” pairs Richie with Darius Rucker, another M.O.R. rock star turned Nashville refugee; it’s pretty terrific.

Many of Richie’s best songs are R&B down to their very bones. They stubbornly resist attempts at genre reassignment, refusing to be coaxed into either straightforward country numbers (let us never speak of the Rascal Flatts version of “Dancing on the Ceiling” again) or generic Caribbean romps (such as the Jimmy Buffett-assisted “All Night Long”).

Richie is a generous host throughout, sometimes doing little more than stopping by mid-song to drawl out a verse or two. He doesn’t seem to mind being out-sung by Blake Shelton (“You Are”) or out-mellowed by Kenny Chesney (“My Love”). He even tolerates an overwrought Jennifer Nettles, who doesn’t sing “Hello” so much as maul it and leave it for dead.

Allison Stewart


Lionel Richie's “Tuskegee.”

Recommended Tracks

“Sail On,” “My Love,” “Stuck on You”

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