Bill Wyman
May 15, 1992 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Back to Front

Current Status
In Season
Lionel Richie
Motown Records

We gave it a B-

Lionel Richie, the man who once led the Commodores through their raunchy paces in ”Brick House” (”She’s mighty mighty/ Just lettin’ it all hang out”), is now a supremely angstless, almost sexless super-duper star — 13 top 10 singles as a solo artist alone. On the occasion of the release of this greatest-hits album titled Back to Front (with three new songs, including ”Do It to Me,” a pallid single that has recently edged up the charts), all one can do is offer some observations: 1) Richie has never equaled the relaxed vocal textures of ”Easy,” his first balladic hit with the Commodores, though the end-of-song ululations on ”Endless Love,” with Diana Ross helping out, still pack some punch. 2) Compensating for this failing, he tends to play with melodrama — ”Hello,” ”Say You, Say Me,” ”Still” — with mixed results. 3) One can’t help noticing that the last big hit was in 1987, five long years ago. In short, Back to Front is an album for fans only — but for them it’s probably a necessity. B-

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