For the first time in many years folks are talking about Lionel Richie for reasons other than what is daughter Nicole is doing. The big factor is "I Call It Love," his first legitimate hit in years and one of the most infectious songs of Summer 2006. Written by the team that penned Ne-Yo's "So Sick" (for which "I Call It Love" bears more than a passing resemblance), the song strikes the difficult balance of allowing Richie's classic soul roots to shine in an entirely modern setting -- a problem with which Richie has grappled on his releases of the last decade and a half.
The rest of Coming Home isn't as successful in striking that balance, with much of it consisting of faceless modern R&B cuts ("What You Are," "Why") or 80s Richie retreads ("All Around the World" mimicking "All Night Long" and "I Love You" sounding like "Hello). However the disc does rise to the occasion when Richie does what he does best: sing earnest love songs. Best of the bunch are the attractive title cut, a loping midtempo, and the acoustic piano ballad "Out of My Head," which would have fit comfortably on any Richie album.
Hard core Lionel Richie fans always welcome his new releases, and Coming Home should find an audience. But "I Call It Love" raised hopes of that the album would be a big step forward artistically for Richie, and instead it is -- by far -- the highpoint on a collection that is listenable but not particularly distinctive.
by Chris Rizik