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After over a decade at Motown, the Commodores moved to Mercury/PolyGram with 1986's United. By that time, the group's lineup consisted of British singer J.D. Nicholas (a Heatwave graduate who came on board in 1984) and original members Walter Orange (lead vocals, drums), William King (percussion, trumpet, synthesizers), and Milan Williams (keyboards). Lionel Richie (who was selling millions of records as a solo artist), Thomas McClary, and Ronald LaPread were all gone. An abundance of studio musicians and outside songwriters are employed on this high-tech, pop-minded urban contemporary outing, and not surprisingly, the Commodores no longer sound distinctive. Orange (who shares the lead vocals with Nicholas) is still recognizable, but even so, United doesn't really sound like a Commodores album. Although wildly uneven, the record has its moments. "Goin' to the Bank" (which climbed to number two on Billboard's R&B singles chart) and "Take It From Me" (both of which feature Orange) are infectious synth-funk items, and Nicholas has a pleasant spot on the adult contemporary ballad "United in Love." But most of the material (which was produced by Dennis Lambert, James Carmichael, and others) is forgettable. Again, United has its moments, but it pales in comparison to 1970s classics like Movin' On, Caught in the Act, and Hot on the Tracks.

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