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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.

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

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