Wednesday, July 15, 2020

"Show Me the Way" by Regina Belle

Song#:  3195
Date:  07/18/1987
Debut:  88
Peak:  68
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  New Jersey-born Belle began singing in church as a child and her love of music grew throughout her school years. After graduating high school, Belle decided to study opera for a while before attending Rutgers where she began singing jazz. It was while singing with the college's jazz ensemble that she impressed a local DJ who then got her in touch with the manager of the R&B group The Manhattans. It seems they were looking for a female vocalist and Belle fit the bill. She began to tour with them and that led to her being featured on two of the group's tracks on their 1986 album Back to Basics, including the #42 R&B single "Where Did We Go Wrong." Her own recording contract followed and in 1987 she released her debut album All By Myself. This song was the LP's first single and it became a big hit at R&B reaching #2. It did well enough to cross over to the pop chart where it hung around for a couple of months. A second single, "So Many Tears," would get to #11 R&B, but miss the Pop chart. The album would sell well getting to #14 R&B/#85 Pop. It was a solid start to Belle's career.

ReduxReview:  Belle came along at the right time. Anita Baker had broken through with her more sophisticated jazz/R&B/pop hybrid sound and I think it helped give Belle and this track a chance. Indeed it made its way up to #2 at R&B and Belle was tagged as a rising star. The song was quite good and Belle sold it well with her remarkable voice. I'm guessing it leaned a little to much towards R&B for pop radio, but those that were able to discover it certainly got a treat.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  By the time Belle hooked up with The Manhattans, their career on the charts was in decline. They hadn't scored a Top 10 at R&B since 1983's #4 "Crazy" and their last big crossover hit was 1980's "Shining Star" (#4 R&B/#5 Pop). Following their Back to Basics album, which featured Belle, lead singer Gerald Alston left for a solo career. The group then found themselves off the Columbia Records roster. They would stay together and return with a new lead singer and an indie album three years later, but it didn't make much of an impression. The Manhattans would continue to tour over the years in various forms and line-ups including one with Alston. Alston's solo career was brief, but successful. Over the course of four albums between '88 and '94, he scored three R&B Top 10 hits.


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

"Say You Really Want Me" by Kim Wilde

Song#:  3194
Date:  07/18/1987
Debut:  89
Peak:  44
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Wilde scored her first and only US #1 hit with a cover of The Supremes' 1966 #1 "You Keep Me Hangin' On." The single was from her fifth album Another Step. For a follow-up, this next track was selected. The tune seemed to be shaping up as another Top 40 entry for Wilde, but then it suddenly stopped short of that mark. By this point in time the album had already peaked at #40 and this single didn't do much to further sales. A third single, "Another Step (Closer to You)", a duet with British R&B singer Junior ("Mama Used to Say"), was released but it failed to chart.

ReduxReview:  It wasn't necessarily a bad idea to give this song a second chance (see below) mainly because there wasn't another surefire hit on the album and it followed in the dance-pop footsteps of "You Keep Me Hangin' On." However, it still wasn't a very strong single contender. I think what might have helped would have been to get a big name remixer to step in and overhaul the track. That might have pushed the tune further up the chart. While I liked the track, it was a little weak for a single. I actually thought the title track was a far better contender, but as a third single it didn't get any consideration.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was originally recorded for the 1986 film Running Scared starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. The movie's soundtrack had already generated two hit singles, "Sweet Freedom" by Michael McDonald (#7) and "Man Size Love" by Klymaxx (#15), and this Wilde song was selected to be a third single. On initial release, the track was able to reach #32 on the Dance chart, but failed to reach the Pop chart. When it came time to follow-up "You Keep Me Hangin' On," this song was given a second chance. It did much better getting close to the Top 40, but it still failed to become a significant hit.


Monday, July 13, 2020

"Making Love in the Rain" by Herb Alpert

Song#:  3193
Date:  07/18/1987
Debut:  90
Peak:  35
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary, Quiet Storm

Pop Bits:  Alpert's second single from his album Keep Your Eye on Me, "Diamonds," became his first Pop Top 10 hit since his 1979 #1 instrumental "Rise." The song also got to #1 at both R&B and Dance. It helped that he had a bit of star power behind it with Jam & Lewis writing/producing and Janet Jackson supplying vocals along with Lisa Keith. For a follow-up, this quiet storm ballad was released. Like the previous single, it was a Jam & Lewis creation that also featured Jackson and Keith (this time around Keith took on lead vocals while Jackson did background vocals). While the track would do well at R&B reaching #7, it did only medium business at AC (#21) and Pop where it just eked out a Top 40 showing. Still, it helped sell a few more copies of the album, which had just reached the gold mark a month earlier. The song would be Alpert's last to reach the Pop and AC chart.

ReduxReview:  I think this quiet storm track was just a little too sleepy for pop radio, but it flourished at R&B where the moody tune was a fit for the format. Jam & Lewis created a nice 80s vibe with their production and Keith's vocals fit the song well. Of course all that Alpert had to do was put some tooting noises around in places and provide a solo section. He got sole top billing, but then again it was his project and his label (A&M). I like the track, but almost wish it would have gone to another Jam & Lewis produced artist. It might have turned out better. Still, this was a good selection for Alpert's foray into modern 80s music; however, I prefer Alpert's 60s LPs with his Tijuana Brass.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Alpert would continue to release albums over the years experimenting with various styles. His 1988 album Under a Spanish Moon would lean towards Latin music and even featured a trumpet concerto he commissioned. He returned to pop/R&B with 1989's My Abstract Heart and got a #59 R&B entry with the instrumental "3 O'Clock Jump." Hip-hop and techno was explored on 1991's North on South St., which generated another R&B chart instrumental with the Grammy-nominated title track (#40). In 1992, he recorded a jazz album called Midnight Sun. It was his last album on his own A&M label, which he had sold and finally left soon after releasing the LP. Alpert continued to push out albums and along the way added five more Grammy nominations to his total. He would win his eighth Grammy in 2013 for his album Steppin' Out, on which he collaborated with his wife, Brazil '66 vocalist Lani Hall. The LP won for Best Pop Instrumental Album.


Sunday, July 12, 2020

"Who's That Girl" by Madonna

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3192
Date:  07/11/1987
Debut:  43
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Right on the heels of three #1s and two Top 10s from her third album True Blue, Madonna was ready with new music for consumption. This time it was in the form of songs from a movie soundtrack. The screwball comedy Who's That Girl would be Madonna's third starring role in a film and of course it provided an opportunity to make more money for Madonna, the movie studio, and her label via a soundtrack album. Madonna would record four songs for the film, two co-written and co-produced with Stephen Bray and two with Patrick Leonard, which included this first single. The song debuted just outside the Pop Top 40 and then headed straight to #1. It would be Madonna's sixth single to top the chart and in doing so she took the lead in the 80s for most #1s in the decade. She also became the first female artist to score six #1s. Even though the album had five tracks by other artists, including Scritti Politti and Club Nouveau, the soundtrack was credited to Madonna. It reached #7 and would be a platinum seller. The song would get a Grammy nod for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song.

ReduxReview:  Madonna's previous single, "La Isla Bonita," had a bit of a Spanish influence to it, so it was a bit surprising that she would continue that on this next single, especially when it had nothing to do with the movie. I guess it was just one of the many phases that Madonna went through. I wasn't the biggest fan of "La Isla Bonita," but it was far better than this track. I'd easily put this last on a list that ranked Madonna's #1s. It would most likely be last for Top 10s as well. It is definitely one of her most forgettable hits. It played like an extension of "Bonita," but less interesting or even committed. It sounded like a tossed together one-off track, which it basically was - "hey, I need a couple songs for a movie, bring something to the studio and we'll figure it out." It ended up being a hit thanks to Madonna's star power at the time and associated tour (and most likely not due to the film...), but when was the last time you heard this song? Or even wanted to? Musically, it was a dip in the road for Madonna and it would take her over two years before she would set aside all the movie and other fame crap and return with music that was profound and passionate.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Madonna's film track record was 50/50 with 1985's Desperately Seeking Susan being a hit and 1986's Shanghai Surprise tanking. She needed to rebound with something good to help better establish her viability as a box office draw. Who's That Girl seemed like the ticket with Madonna capitalizing on her comedic acting skills. Unfortunately, both critics and film goers weren't impressed and the movie became Madonna's second bomb in a row. She would end up "winning" the Golden Raspberry award for Worst Actress. Madonna's next film was in the 1989 ensemble comedy Bloodhounds of Broadway. It barely eked out any money at the box office. However, she would finally dig herself out of the acting hole with 1990's Dick Tracy.


Saturday, July 11, 2020

"Love Power" by Dionne Warwick & Jeffrey Osborne

Song#:  3191
Date:  07/11/1987
Debut:  66
Peak:  12
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Warwick's 1985 album Friends was a gold-selling #12 hit mainly thanks to the Grammy-winning #1 charity single "That's What Friends Are For." The album helped to repair and reignite her working relationship with Burt Bacharach, who (along with Hal David) wrote and produced many of her earlier hits. This time around Bacharach was working with his wife Carole Bayer Sager and they wrote/produced half of Warwick's Friends album. The trio then decided to continue their work together on Warwick's next LP Reservations for Two. Bacharach and Sager would contribute three songs to the album including this first single. The duet with Jeffrey Osborne hit all the right notes at AC and it easily topped that chart. It also got to #5 at R&B while just missing out on the Pop Top 10. While it was a solid hit, it didn't necessarily translate to sales of the album, which topped out at #32 R&B/#56 Pop. Unfortunately, it would prove to be Warwick's last single to make the Pop Top 40 and last album to crack the Pop Top 100. Oddly, this song would also be Osborne's last to hit the Pop Top 40.

ReduxReview:  Even though I liked this song when it came out, I was quite surprised it did so well on the Pop chart. It was a sophisticated track that was perfect for AC radio, but I didn't think it was current or "hip" enough to lure in younger listeners at pop radio. Let's face it; Bacharach wrote hits in the 50s, Warwick had her big streak of hits in the 60s, and Osborne's music attracted a more mature crowd. How the heck were they gonna get airtime next to Madonna and Bon Jovi? But sometimes a good song is a good song and if it was meant to be, it will break through. This one has a lot of latter-day Bacharach touches with the odd phrasing and added measures, but he always seemed to make it work. I always kind of chuckled at the first line of this song, "Saw s psychic in L.A.," because only a couple years later Warwick would be hawking the Psychic Friends Network. I'm guessing Bacharach/Bayer Sager wrote that line with Warwick in mind since Warwick had been seeking advice/readings from psychics and astrologists since at least the early 70s.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  While not necessarily a concept album, several tracks on Warwick's Reservations for Two did feature a second vocalist. In addition to Jeffrey Osborne on this single, Warwick recorded tracks with Kashif, Smokey Robinson, Howard Hewitt, and June Pointer. There would be three singles released from the album and all three were duet tracks. Also on the album was the song "No One in the World." Warwick had originally recorded the track for her 1985 album Finder of Lost Loves. Although it was the lead off track on the LP, it was not issued out as a single. The following year the song was picked up by Anita Baker. She recorded it for her LP Rapture. Perhaps seeing that Baker's album was shaping up to be a major hit, Warwick chose to include her version of the song on Reservations for Two. Whether or not she had intentions of trying to release it as a single is unknown, but she was beaten to the punch anyway by Baker who released it in August of '87. It would #5 R&B/#9 AC/#44 Pop.