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Commodores Make Tracks To Soul Summit

‘Hot On The Tracks’ became the group’s first No. 1 soul LP and included ‘Just To Be Close To You.’

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The roots of the Commodores trace back to their student days at Tuskegee University in Alabama in the late 1960s. Theirs was a slow and steady climb through the ranks, beginning with the modest success of their 1974 Motown debut Machine Gun.

The following year, they topped the R&B singles chart for the first time with ‘Slippery When Wet.’ Then, on 15 June 1976, they released the album that would become their first No. 1 soul LP and provide a second R&B singles chart-topper. Thus they lived up to the record’s title, Hot On The Tracks.

Co-produced by the Commodores with their regular collaborator and fellow Alabamian James Anthony Carmichael, the album served further notice that the group were truly a team of all the talents. All six members wrote for Hot On The Tracks, which opened with a track credited just to be close to youto the entire sextet, ‘Let’s Get Started.’ The jaunty funk workout, which Billboard pointed out sounded “a lot like Kool & the Gang with a Latin feel,” became a top three hit on the magazine’s dance chart.

The No. 1 single from the album was an early example of Lionel Richie‘s mastery of a soul ballad, ‘Just To Be Close To You,’ which also crossed over to No. 7 on the pop chart. He had four other co-writes, three with singer-guitarist Thomas McClary (‘Girl, I Think The World About You,’ ‘High On Sunshine’ and ‘Come Inside’) and one, the follow-up top ten R&B hit ‘Fancy Dancer,’ with bassist Ronald LaPread.

The second side of the album also offered trumpeter William King’s ‘Thumpin’ Music,’ keyboard player Milan Williams’ ‘Captain Quickdraw’ and a closing number by drummer Walter Orange, ‘Can’t Let You Tease Me.’

Hot On The Tracks entered the R&B chart at No. 32, and started its non-consecutive total of six weeks at No. 1 at the end of August; on the pop side, after a No. 97 start, it went as high as No. 12, the group’s first top 20 crossover album. Much more was to come.

Purchase Hot On The Tracks.


Follow the Best Motown Songs Ever playlist, which features both the Commodores and Lionel Richie.

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