Sunday, 1 September 2019

The Commodores - Caught In The Act (1975)

Slippery when wet....

 

Released in February 1975

Running time 37.55

This was The Commodores' second album and it featured more robust, pulsating funk of the type that characterised their early career. For the first time, though, some smooth soul ballads also appear to give a sign as to the group's later direction. There was something engagingly ebullient about these early funk/soul albums, however, that makes them eminently listenable. While their first album was full-on funk, there is a diversity on this follow-up that makes it an even better offering and a much underrated one.

TRACK LISTING

1. Wide Open
2. Slippery When Wet
3. The Bump
4. I'm Ready
5. This Is Your Life
6. Let's Do It Right
7. Better Never Than Forever
8. Look What You've Done To Me
9. You Don't Know That I Know
10. Wide Open (reprise)                                     

"Wide Open" totally cooks. It is a marvellous, hot slice of brassy, pounding funk with great vocals and a deeper than blue bass line. "Slippery When Wet" was an early well-known track for the group, that went on to appear on many of their "best of" compilations. It is a great funk rock track, and I am sure Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music" was based on it, to an extent. The horn/bass/percussion/guitar interplay is outstanding. A true early Commodores funky classic. The bubbly "The Bump", for some reason, was included on their debut album as well as this one. I was never quite sure why this happened. It did so quite a lot in the seventies, particularly on soul albums. I'm sure they weren't short of material. I guess maybe that albums were released so frequently that they could "plug" the latest single on two albums in the hope that it would sell more.

"I'm Ready" is an upbeat, clavinet-powered instrumental of the sort they were now specialising in. The first of the ballads to appear was Lionel Richie's magnificent "This Is Your Life" - a superbly orchestrated slow but grandiose ballad. Maybe Richie was on to something here... The song's dramatic feel at times reminds me of their later classic "Sweet Love", from the next album, particularly in its rise and fall near the end, Richie's impassioned vocals and his keyboard backing swirls.

"Let's Do It Right" is a most appealing number from Richie's pen, once again. It is soulful, smooth, enticing, yet funky at the same time. The bass line is sublime. Never mind The Commodores in the later, more successful period, this is them at their best, for me.

"Better Never Than Forever" is superb - an atmospheric slow burner of a soul song, with hints of Isaac Hayes and also The Temptations in it. Continuing the quality is the seductive, insistent, sensual soul/funk of "Look What You've Done To Me". Once again, this is a really impressive song, bubbling over with tasty funk flavour.

"You Don't Know That I Know" is another of the six-minute soul ballads that Lionel Richie was starting to make his own. Give me these over "Hello" any day. They are majestic pieces of velvety, yearning but effortless soul. Once more, Isaac Hayes's influence is there, Barry White too, but Richie had a knack for a catchy melody and hook that made his material different. The album ends with a brief reprise of "Wide Open". As with the other early Commodores albums, you simply won't be disappointed with this.

B+

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