Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown, is the 1986 Dancing On The Ceiling by soul legend, Lionel Richie. Will this album leave you on a high, or will it leave you hanging upside down? Read on…
Side One of the album opens with the title track and huge hit single Dancing On The Ceiling. This is such an uplifting song, and one that I love. Not only is it an amazing song, but the video of the ever-rotating room, in which Lionel seems to be having so much fun, no doubt helped it stand out in the charts. I love this song so much that I even requested it at my cousin’s wedding… and I don’t think I was alone in that. The track gave Lionel a #7 UK hit when it was released as the album’s second single, although I really think it should have gotten higher.
Se La follows this, and it’s a mid-tempo track that’s heavy with percussion. The track is one of moral content, ‘for the children’, with lyrics of unity, aptly joined by a magnificent choir. The choir give Lionel some great vocal contrast, although the track itself is not particularly that interesting. It stood as the album’s 5th and final single, and it stumbled at #43 in the UK singles chart.
A gentle ballad Ballerina Girl follows this. It gives us the classic smooth Lionel Richie ballad that we may be accustomed with, and the UK agreed with the track reaching #17 when it was released as the 4th single. The vocals are tender and sincere, and the flurries of acoustic guitars and strings give warmth to this slow number as they swirl around Lionel. It’s a lovely track.
Next track Don’t Stop begins quite dramatically, sounding almost horror, before switching to sounding like something like Michael Jackson’s Thriller meets one of his tracks from Bad. Lionel gets to show off some of his vocal power here, even if the song (despite its drama) doesn’t really evolve very far.
Side Two opens with Deep River Woman. This track sounds like you accidentally put a Kenny Rogers LP on instead (it’s actually a group called Alabama). It starts off very much like a country music song – with Alabama really shining here, and they keep returning through the chorus too. Lionel does turn up though and this gives the vocal harmonies great contrasting sounds. It’s a simple slow song, until the mid point where the drums kick in to give Lionel his big moment. It’s a nice song, but a little odd to open side two with. It was released with Ballerina Girl as a single.
Next is Love Will Conquer All, which gently fades in with heartfelt vocal harmonies between Lionel and backing singer Marva King. The beat drops in, alongside a wonderful bass. To say Marva is a backing singer seems unfair (it’s how she’s credited) as she does sing throughout, and the result is a lovely song but sadly when it was released as the third single, it got stuck at #45 in the UK.
That’s followed by Tonight Will Be Alright which is quite a nice pop rock song, reminding me a little of Rod Stewart or Sting. Again, the backing vocals work a treat here, giving Lionel plenty of contrast and harmonies. A guitar solo from Eric Clapton turns up towards the end to see the track to it’s inevitable closure.
The album closes with lead single Say You, Say Me, and this gave Lionel a #8 UK hit. It’s a gentle ballad, that really gets to show off his vocals over a simple track. The track was taken from the film White Nights (1985), and the video incorporates numerous clips from this. The song is a plodder, and definitely allows us to hear those familiar tender love song vocals that we know he can deliver with seemingly no effort at all, that is until a very strange upbeat section that jars with the rest of the song and could easily be mistaken musically for Ray Parker Jr’s chorus to Ghostbusters.
Over all, this album is a bit of mixed bag of styles. The inclusion of Alabama and a more country music styled track is an inspired choice, and it works well, it’s just weirdly placed as the opener to side two. Marva King really should have been allowed to take a duet properly with Lionel, as their vocals worked together wonderfully.
The title track is by far the high point here, with Don’t Stop being the low point – although probably because it has dated the most. It probably sounded really cutting edge in 1986.
This didn’t matter to the UK, who rewarded it in the charts.
- POP RESCUE 2021 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1986 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #2, certified 2x Platinum by the BPI.
- POP RESCUE COST: 50p from a Car Boot Sale.