Monday, March 18, 2019

"The Heat of Heat" by Patti Austin

Song#:  2711
Date:  05/03/1986
Debut:  83
Peak:  55
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  After her #1 hit duet with James Ingram, 1982's "Baby Come to Me," Austin had troubles getting another significant hit on the Pop chart. She'd get another Top 10 at R&B and one at Dance, but nothing clicked at a more mainstream level. For her sixth studio album, Gettin' Away with Murder, her label, Quincy Jones' Qwest Records, set her up with some of the day's top songwriters and producers including Russ Titelman, Michael Bolton, Terry Britten, Steve Porcaro, and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. The LP's first single, "Honey for the Bees," was a remake of a song originally co-written and recorded by Alison Moyet. It would be a #6 Dance hit, but would only get to #24 R&B while missing the Pop chart. The title track would be issued next, but it failed to do much of anything stalling at #72 R&B. Surprisingly, the label decided to push out a third single and selected this track written and produced by Jam & Lewis. Overall, it did better than the previous two singles by getting to #13 at R&B, #14 Dance, and nearly cracking the top half of the Pop chart. Yet it still wasn't the sizable hit needed to generate further interest in Austin or the LP. It would end up being Austin's last single to reach the Pop chart. She would go on to have one more Top 10 at both AC and Dance and that wrapped up her days on the mainstream singles charts.

ReduxReview:  The chorus of this song had a Jam & Lewis vibe, but the rest sounds like they were channeling a post-Disco style of Chic. It's fine, but I wouldn't count it among their best efforts. I think the problem is that Quincy Jones and the label were trying to make a big crossover dance/pop/R&B star out of Austin and it just wasn't working. There were too many cooks trying to make the album and it ended up over-seasoned and inconsistent. Austin can sing anything and make something from nothing, but when the majority of tracks are bland to begin with, there is only so much she can do. Luckily, she found her groove again when she returned to more jazz oriented material.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  By the end of the 80s, Austin would retreat back to her jazz roots and mainly record albums in that vein. She would end up with eight Top 20 albums on the Jazz chart including four Top 10's (her 1981 album Every Home Should Have One also made the Jazz Top 10). She would add three more Grammy nods to her credit for a total of six. Her one nomination in 2007 would net Austin her first Grammy win. Her LP Avant Gershwin would secure Austin a win for Best Jazz Vocal Album.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

"I Must Be Dreaming" by Giuffria

Song#:  2710
Date:  05/03/1986
Debut:  84
Peak:  52
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Gregg Giuffria and his band had a successful self-titled debut album in '84 that reached #26 thanks to the #15 Pop/#3 Rock single "Call to the Heart." Their label, MCA, was pleased enough with the results to call for a second album. The band retreated to the studio and came out with Silk + Steel. This first single was issued out and it got a little attention, but far less than their previous hit. The song got to #28 at Rock while stalling near the halfway mark at Pop. A second single failed to chart and that doomed the album. They recorded demos for a third album, but then the band left MCA and decided to split up. Gregg Giuffria would later have some minor success with his next band House of Lords.

ReduxReview:  I'm familiar with the Mink DeVille version of this song (see below) and I have to say that Giuffria really rocks this one out. I like Mink DeVille's original, but I actually prefer this remake. The beefed up production sends the song to arena rock territory and David Glen Eisley's lead vocal is just killer. It's a shame this song didn't catch on more. It deserved to go further up the chart. It doesn't necessarily have a hooky chorus, but I don't think it needed one. For me it even outshines their lone Pop hit "Call to the Heart." It's kind of a lost gem.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1)  This is a remake of a song originally written by Willie DeVille and recorded by his band Mink DeVille. It was done for their 1985 album Sportin' Life. It was issued as a single, but it did not chart. The album was Mink DeVille's final one. After that, Willie DeVille moved forward with a solo career releasing albums under his own name.  2) Giuffria recorded two songs for the soundtrack to the 1985 film Gotcha!. The comedy-action film, which starred Anthony Edwards and Linda Fiorentino, was not a critical or box office success. Gregg Giuffria and lead singer David Glen Eisley also recorded a third song for the film that was credited to Camelflage. The main theme, "Gotcha!," was written specifically for the film and was recorded by Thereza Bazar. It was issued out as a single, but it failed to chart. Bazar was one-half of the UK duo known as Dollar. While they would only have one charting song in the US (1979's #74 "Shooting Star"), they were stars in the UK getting nine Top 20 hits including five Top 10's. Along with the song from the film, Bazar would also record a solo album with producer Arif Mardin. Titled "The Big Kiss," it was a highly anticipated release in the UK. However, release date and distribution issues stymied promotional efforts and the album disappeared quickly.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

"Chain Reaction" by Diana Ross

Song#:  2709
Date:  05/03/1986
Debut:  88
Peak:  65
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, R&B

Pop Bits:  This second single from Ross' Eaten Alive album was basically a non-starter when it was first released back in November of '85. It stayed on the Pop chart for a short three weeks peaking at a lowly #95. However, the fate of the song was far, far better in Europe where it reached the Top 10 in several countries including a three week stay at #1 in the UK. In late January of '86, Ross was tapped to host the American Music Awards and during the show she sang "Eaten Alive" and this song. Her performance reignited interest in the tune. That along with its European success prompted Ross' label to give the song a second chance. A "special new" mix of the song was put together and issued out as a single. On its second go-around, the tune did better but it was far from being a hit as it still couldn't get near the top half of the Pop chart. With that result, the cost of the reissue probably wasn't worth the effort.

ReduxReview:  There is not much more I can say than what I did in the original post for this song. The Gibb brothers did a nice job creating this for Ross, but it just wasn't what US listeners wanted, especially after the failed "Eaten Alive."

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The American Music Awards were developed by Dick Clark and began in 1973. Clark was still hosting American Bandstand at the time, which was famous for having performers lip sync their songs on the show. At the time, it wasn't that unusual for some acts to lip sync due to logistics or heavily choreographed routines. Unlike the Grammys where everyone is to perform live (or live plus backing track enhancements in the case of dance-heavy performances), the AMA's sometimes opted for lip syncing. For Ross in '86, it was half n' half. She opened the show with a live performance of "Eaten Alive." But for "Chain Reaction," which featured a cast of male dancers and Ross involved in the routine, Ross opted to lip sync. At one point near the end, she seemed to forget where she was in the song and missed a cue, but she quickly recovered. Yet no one said anything about it at the time. People kind of forget now, but when Michael Jackson did his famous moonwalk routine on Motown 25, he was lip syncing. No one seemed to care and he moonwalked his way to an Emmy nomination for his performance. These days, you can't do that. Artists are being called out all the time for lip syncing. The Milli Vanilli scandal certainly played a role and scrutiny has gotten worse since. Several artists have been accused of lip syncing at the AMA's including superstar Mariah Carey in 2018. She hadn't appeared on the show in a decade and she debuted an upcoming single "With You." While many fans applauded her performance, others called her out for lip syncing. These days, that's what a singer can expect - is it live for Memorex? If Memorex, don't look at your Twitter feed...


Friday, March 15, 2019

"Digging Your Scene" by The Blow Monkeys

Song#:  2708
Date:  05/03/1986
Debut:  89
Peak:  14
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Blue-Eyed Soul, Sophisti-Pop

Pop Bits:  This UK band was headed up by singer/songwriter Robert Howard, aka Dr. Robert. They formed in 1981 and after a couple of years gigging and gaining a following, they were signed to RCA Records. A debut album in 1984, Limping for a Generation, wasn't a hit, but RCA saw potential in the band and asked for a follow-up. They recorded Animal Magic and pushed out a first single titled "Forbidden Fruit." The song was barely a blip on the UK chart, which didn't bode well for the band. But then this second single was released and things turned around. It became their first hit in the UK reaching #12. The US branch of RCA got the single out and it too did well hitting the Pop Top 20 while getting to #7 at Dance. Follow-up singles were middling affairs in the UK and didn't make any chart in the US, but this song set them up well for their next LP, She Was Only a Grocer's Daughter. In the UK, the album did well getting to #20 thanks to the #5 hit "It Doesn't Have to Be This Way." In the US, it seems label politics may have doomed the song and it failed to chart. The Blow Monkeys would never chart again in the US. They continued to be mildly successful in the UK until their break up in 1990.

ReduxReview:  I liked this smooth groovin' tune when it first came out and bought the single. I ended up getting a little tired of it because I had a boss at the time that loved this song and played it all the time. It's one that you don't hear too often any more and it is kind of refreshing when it does get played. The band had some other good tunes to offer including "It Doesn't Have to Be This Way," but besides this track they failed to fully catch on in the US.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Dr. Robert is not a real doctor, obviously. It came about when on the band's first single, Robert Howard got credited as Dr. Robert. It was just a lark at at the time, but it ended up sticking. The name came from the 1966 Beatles song "Doctor Robert," which originally appeared on the UK version of Rubber Soul (in the US it appeared on Yesterday and Today).  2) Although the band would only get one song on the US charts, a cover tune they recorded was featured on one of the biggest soundtrack albums in music history. RCA Records was in charge of the soundtrack to the film Dirty Dancing, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. The label tapped The Blow Monkeys to supply a track for the album and given limited time to record one, the band selected to do a cover of Lesley Gore's 1963 #2 hit "You Don't Own Me." The film became a big box office success and the soundtrack did even better spending 18 weeks at #1 and selling over 32 million copies worldwide making the fourth biggest selling soundtrack of all time after The Bodyguard, Saturday Night Fever, and Grease.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

"A Different Corner" by George Michael

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2707
Date:  04/26/1986
Debut:  57
Peak:  7
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The spring of '86 was both good and not so good for the duo known as Wham! George Michael and Andrew Ridgely had just scored their fifth Top 10 hit in a row with "I'm Your Man," yet Michael wanted to move on from the teen pop sounds of Wham! into something more mature. To do that, he needed to go solo so the duo decided to split. But before going their separate ways, they decided to record a few more songs and issue out a last album. In the UK and other territories, the duo assembled a more compilation-like double album titled The Final. For the US and a couple other countries, a single album called Music from the Edge of Heaven was released. "I'm Your Man" was included on the disc as well as this single, which was solely credited to George Michael. The plaintive ballad made it into the Pop Top 10 while also reaching #6 at AC. It would help push the album to #10 and go platinum.

ReduxReview:  I was a little taken aback when I first heard this track. Coming off the goofy "I'm Your Man," this lovely tune was so unexpected. I think folks knew that George Michael had some skills going on, especially after "Careless Whisper," but this song confirmed that he had the chops to carry a solo career with something more than the bubblegum pop of Wham. This is an elegant track with a new maturity and a terrific vocal. Sadly, I rarely hear this song anymore. It comes up in my playlists, but it has kind of taken a back seat to Michael's bigger hits out in the world. Although his Faith album would be the one to cement his solo career, this is the song that really signaled the beginning.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was George Michael's first solo hit in the US. Elsewhere in the world it was his second. When the song "Careless Whisper" was first released as a single in 1984, it was credit only to George Michael except for in the US. Apparently, his US label wasn't sure Michael's sole name could carry the single so they decided to credit it to Wham! featuring George Michael. Therefore it's not been considered a Michael solo song in the US. In the UK it was considered a solo effort and credited as such. The song reached #1 as did "A Different Corner." That made Michael the first solo act in the UK to hit #1 with their first two singles.