Our Top 10 Commodores Songs looks at a popular funk and soul band from the 1970’s. They have sold over 70 million albums worldwide. Let’s get to know the band a little better. For those of you who don’t know, most of the members met at Tuskegee Institute in 1968. The band signed with Motown Records in 1972 after they opened up for the Jackson 5 while they were on tour. The band had their greatest success during the late 70’s early 80’s while Lionel Richie was a co-lead singer. The original lead singer was James Ingram. He didn’t stay in the band because he had to serve in Vietnam. He was replaced with Walter Clyde Orange. The other members of the band were Lionel Richie, Thomas McClary, William King, Andre Callahan, Michael Gilbert and Milan Williams. The band went through different member changes throughout their career.
The Commodores released their debut album Machine Gun in 1974. The album peaked at number 22 on the r&b charts. The album features the title track. It was the band’s first hit single. The album also features the single “I Feel Sanctified.” They released their second album Caught in the Act in 1975. It features the hit single “Slippery When Wet.” It also features the singles “Better Never Than Forever,” “Look What You’ve Done to Me,” “I’m Ready” and “The Bump.” The album peaked at number seven on the r&b charts.
The band released their third album Movin’ On in 1975. It reached number seven on the r&b charts. The album features the single “Sweet Love” which was their first top 10 hit. The band released their fourth album Hot on the Tracks in 1976. This album was the first album to make it to number one on the r&b charts. The album was number one for six non-consecutive weeks. It features the hit single “Just to Be Close to You.” It also features the singles “Let’s Get Started” and “Fancy Dancer.”
The band released their eponymous album in 1977. The album spent eight weeks at number one on the r&b charts. It was their first top five pop album. It features the massive hit single “Brick House.” It also features the hit singles “Easy” and “Zoom.” They released their sixth album Natural High in 1978. The album was number one on the r&b charts for eight non-consecutive weeks and number three on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the hugely successful single “Three Times A Lady.” This was the band’s first number one pop hit. The album went platinum.
They released their seventh album Midnight Magic in 1979. The album features the singles “Still” and “Sail On.” These singles debuted at number one and four respectively. It also features the single “Wonderland.” The band released their eighth album Heroes in 1980. It peaked at number three on the r&b charts and number seven on the pop charts. The album features the singles ‘Old-Fashion Love,” “Heroes” and “Jesus Is Love.”
The Commodores released their ninth album In the Pocket in 1981. It features the hit singles “Oh No” and “Lady (You Bring Me Up).” The album sold more than one million copies. This is the last album to feature Lionel Richie. He left the band to start a solo career. They released their tenth album Commodores 13 in 1983. The album peaked at number 26 on the r&b charts. They released their eleventh album Night Shift in 1985. This is the last album they recorded for Motown Records. This is the second album without Lionel Richie. He was replaced with J.D. Nicholas formerly of the group Heatwave. The album features the single “Night Shift.” The band received a Grammy Award for this single. It was number one on the r&b charts for one month. It peaked at number three on the pop charts. The album also features the singles “Animal Instinct” and “Janet.”
United was released in 1986. The album peaked at number 17 on the r&b charts. It features the singles “Going to the Bank,” “Take It From Me” and “United in Love.” They released their thirteenth album Rock Solid in 1988. It features the lukewarm single “Solitaire.” They released their fourteenth album No Tricks in 1993. The band was reduced to a trio at this point. The band consisted of members Walter Clyde Orange, William King and J.D. Nicholas. The album didn’t do well on the charts.
The Commodores were extremely successful during their run with Lionel Richie. They were compared to similar groups like Ohio Players and Earth, Wind and Fire, but the Commodores managed to make a name for themselves. The biggest challenge to the group was trying to be successful without Lionel Richie. They did manage to score one hit without Lionel Richie. With that being said, this Top 10 Commodores Songs list will focus on their hits featuring Lionel Richie with the exception of one song.
# 10 – Machine Gun
The first song on our Top 10 Commodores Songs list is the instrumental song “Machine Gun” from the album of the same name. This explosive song has a funk sound. The song has a lot of energy to get you out of your seat. There are no lyrics to the song so it gives you a chance to appreciate the funky music. It also gives you a chance to enjoy the band as they play the incredible music. Here is some trivia about the song. The instrumental song was meant to have lyrics. The producer wanted the song to be instrumental. The drums and synthesizer gives the song the funky edge that it needs. In addition to the funk sound, it has a disco sound. The beat is so phenomenal that it has been sampled throughout the years.
# 9 – Sweet Love
The next song on our Top 10 Commodores Songs list is the inspirational “Sweet Love” from the album Movin’ On. This ballad has an r&b sound. This moving song is about peace and harmony during tough times. It’s also about how love can be healing and powerful. Here is some trivia about the song. Lionel Richie borrowed lyrics from “River Deep Mountain High” to create this song. This song can have different meanings. It sounds as if it’s a love song. You have to pay attention to the lyrics to realize that it’s about peace and harmony. Melodically it sounds completely different from the funk song that started off our list. This was the band’s attempt at getting a pop hit. Lionel Richie sounds smooth as silk. His vocals sound amazing with the melodic music. The song is a little long, but it doesn’t hurt the song. It gives you more time to listen to it.
# 8 – Oh No
This emotional song is from the hit album In the Pocket. The song was featured in the movie Last American Virgin. This ballad has an r&b sound. This touching song is about breaking up with someone. The music is soft and gentle. It has an orchestral sound. The music sounds similar to Lionel Richie’s “Penny Lover.” The band supports the song well. The lyrics of the song are heartfelt without sounding cheesy. Lionel Richie manages to make this heartbreaking song sound romantic. You could easily forget that it is a song about breaking up with someone. Lionel Richie’s smooth vocals are flawless with the music. He didn’t hold notes, but they weren’t needed for the song in order to sound incredible. His smooth and velvety voice matched with the soft music perfectly.
# 7 – Sail On
This appealing song is from the Midnight Magic album. This ballad has an r&b and pop sound mixed with a country flavor. This anthemic song is about a man who knows his relationship is over and is tired of trying to make it work. This intriguing song has two different sounds. It starts off like a country and bluesy ballad in the verses. Once it gets to the chorus, the song becomes more popish/r&bish. Lionel Richie sings the song in a lower register, which went well with the country and bluesy sound. Lionel Richie sings in a upper register when the songs bursts into the pop/r&b sound. The music has smooth harmonies. It has an impressive horn section. The vibe is mellow. It has an excellent drum bass. Lionel Richie’s vocal melody in this song is amazing. He was destined to go solo after singing a song like this. He shows versatility by singing in both keys. The music is a departure from the Commodores signature funk/r&b sound. The music was designed to have crossover appeal.
# 6 – Brick House
This classic hit is from their eponymous album. This upbeat song has a funk sound. This song is about a woman with a good body. The musical production is heavy and full. The horn section is timeless and on point. The saxophone sells the music. The drums are funky and give it a disco sound. The music is similar in style to The Ohio Players. The lyrics may be offensive to women because of the way they describe the “perfect” woman. It’s odd that a woman co-wrote this song. Here is some trivia about the song. They wanted to give the song a funky sound so they let Orange sing lead on this track instead of Lionel Richie. It was probably the best decision because Orange’s voice was better suited for the funky song. Lionel Richie‘s vocals are more suited for their ballads. Orange’s tone isn’t as smooth as Lionel Richie’s but it fit with the beat.
# 5 – Night Shift
The next song on our Top 10 Commodores Songs list is the sentimental “Night Shift” from the album of the same name. This ballad has an r&b and soul sound. This song is a loving tribute to Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye. The song includes lyrics from their songs. They also say their names in the song. The music is soft and harmonious. The instrumentals are nothing short of extraordinary. The guitar riffs and bass line will blow you out of the water. Orange and Nicholas are the lead vocals on this track. They do a good job vocally. This is their only hit without Lionel Richie so it was a gamble to have another vocalist singing the ballads that Lionel Richie would have been singing. The gamble worked because they do a good job. The song is relatable because everyone has lost someone in their lives and could feel the pain that the group is discussing in the song.
# 4 – Still
This heart wrenching song is another song from the hit Midnight Magic album. This ballad has an r&b and soft rock sound. This song is about a couple deciding to end their marriage in order to save their friendship. This song isn’t a personal song to Lionel Richie, but he manages to make it sound personal. You would never know that he wasn’t the one going through this break up. Lionel Richie stays in character throughout the song. The band knew to give this song to Lionel Richie because he’s in his comfort zone. The piano is soft and melancholy. The opening piano and swelling of the strings will make anyone emotional. The melodies are simple and rhythmic. We dare you to sit through the music and not feel something. Lionel Richie’s smooth baritone vocals soar with the music. His voice will give you chills as you listen to him pour his heart out in the lyrics. This song is a masterpiece.
# 3 – Lady (You Bring Me Up)
This love song is from the successful In the Pocket album. This up-tempo song has a disco and soul sound. This song is about a woman helping a man get through hard times. This song will reel you in the second the catchy music starts. Lionel Richie showed that he could sing an up-tempo song. He was the balladeer in the band, but Lionel Richie would go on to sing up-tempo songs as a solo artist. Orange was usually the one singing the up-tempo songs so it was a great switch to hear Lionel Richie singing the up-tempo song. This song was tailor made for Lionel Richie’s voice. His voice is outstanding. The bridge in the song is the selling point. When they all sing the memorable ad libs, you can find yourself getting lost in the music as well as singing along with them. The music will have you on the dance floor. The melody sounds similar to Bruno Mars’ “Treasure,” or we should say Bruno Mars song “Treasure,” sounds similar to the Commodores song. This song is bittersweet because it was their last hit song with Lionel Richie. This song is flawless and could have easily been number one on this list. It was a coin toss for the top spot.
# 2 – Three Times A Lady
This romantic song is from the Natural High album. This ballad has a soul sound. This chart-topping song is about Lionel Richie’s mother standing by his father and his wife standing by him. This stunning song can help men got out of trouble with their women. The lyrics are romantic and meaningful. It is perfect for slow dancing with the person you love. This is a crossover song for the group because the music blends r&b, pop, soft rock and country. He croons the song and doesn’t push the song the way he has done before. He sings the song as if he’s telling a story. He sings the song simply and declaratively. He lets the song simmer. Here is some trivia about the song. Lionel Richie didn’t think this song was a Commodores song. He wanted to give it to Frank Sinatra. He was talked into giving it to the group. Lionel Richie may have given it to the band, but he sings the song alone, which was all it needed. The song is breathtaking.
# 1 – Easy
The number one song on our Top 10 Commodores Songs List is the liberating “Easy” from their eponymous album. This ballad has an r&b and soul sound. This song is about getting out of a relationship because it’s wearing him down. He feels free and easy like a Sunday morning. This stirring song can easily mislead you because it appears to be a love song based on the music. Once you listen to the lyrics, you can tell that it’s a song about heartbreak. The instrumentation is phenomenal. The guitar solo is fire. The bridge takes the song to another level. Lionel Richie’s vocals are soft in the beginning and then he belts in the bridge and towards the end of the fade out. The background singers support Richie well in the chorus. This song will reach you in your soul and awaken a lot of emotions. This song is truly amazing and deserves to have the top spot on this list.
Top 10 Commodores Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
Classicrockhistory.com claims ownership of all its original content and Intellectual property under United States Copyright laws and those of all other foreign countries. No one person, business or any organizations is allowed to republish any of our original content anywhere on the web or in print without our permission.