Monday, January 21, 2019

"Whisper in the Dark" by Dionne Warwick

Song#:  2655
Date:  03/15/1986
Debut:  89
Peak:  72
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B, Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Warwick experienced the biggest hit of her career when she headed up the charity song "That's What Friends Are For." The song would spend four weeks at #1, go gold, and win a Grammy. The song also appeared on Warwick's appropriately titled Friends album that would be a #12 gold seller. Warwick would follow up her Dionne & Friends hit with this solo track from the LP. While the track would do well at AC getting to #7, Pop and R&B audiences just didn't take to the song and it stopped early on each chart (#72 Pop/#49 R&B). There would be no further singles released from the album, which would be her final one to reach gold level sales.

ReduxReview:  I've always loved this song. I thought it was well-written, sexy, and sophisticated. It was just perfect for Warwick and the production was top-notch. I knew AC would jump on board with the song but I was really hoping that Pop would make a hit out if it. Alas, it just wouldn't catch on. Maybe it was just too mature for pop radio. It's still one of my favorite tracks from Warwick.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was co-written by Bruce Roberts and Edgar Bronfman, Jr. Roberts was a prominent songwriter with many hits under his belt including ones by Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand. Bronfman isn't necessarily known for his songwriting. Most folks know Bronfman as a business man who had successes and tumultuous times heading up companies like Seagrams, Vivendi, and Warner Music Group. He was also famously found guilty of insider trading in a French court in 2011. He paid a hefty fine, but received a suspended sentence and did no jail time. Bronfman spent time in and out of the film and music industry throughout his career. In the 70s he began writing songs, some in collaboration with Roberts. Nothing much came from them until this composition was given to Warwick. Apparently, Bronfman had a connection with Warwick as he met his first wife Sherry via the star in the late 70s. Nearly a decade later, Bronfman would score another hit with a song he co-wrote with David Foster. Celine Dion recorded "To Love You More" in 1995 and it became a big #1 hit in Japan. Although the single would not be officially released in the US, radio stations picked it up for airplay and it would get to #1 at AC. (Due to it not being issued formally as a product, it was then not eligible for the Pop chart.) For that song, Bronfman used the alias of Junior Miles. He also used that name for "If I Didn't Love You," a song Bronfman wrote with Roberts that was recorded by Barbra Streisand for her 1999 album A Love Like Ours.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

"A Good Heart" by Feargal Sharkey

Song#:  2654
Date:  03/15/1986
Debut:  94
Peak:  74
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Sharkey first came to prominence as the lead singer of the Irish pop punk band The Undertones. The group had solid success in the UK from 1979 to 1983 issuing four albums that generated several charting singles. In the US, the band had trouble finding an audience and was unable to rise above cult status. Facing label pressures and internal struggles, the band broke up in 1983. Sharkey decided to step out on his own and pursue a solo career. He released two singles that made the UK Top 30 before working in collaboration with Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics fame) for a formal debut album. The LP saw Sharkey setting aside some of his punk roots for a more commercial friendly pop/rock sound and this first single announced the change. It was greeted with open arms in the UK where the song bolted to the #1 spot. With little name recognition in the US, the challenge to break through was more difficult and indeed the song couldn't get a leg up and stalled near the bottom quarter of the Pop chart. It would end up being Sharkey's only single to reach a US chart. Back home, his follow-up single, "You Little Thief," would be a #5 hit. Sharkey would release two more albums with varying results before leaving the spotlight for work on the business side of music.

ReduxReview:  Sharkey's debut LP was one that I bought on a whim. He had an odd name, the cover was interesting, he was produced by Dave Stewart, and although I hadn't heard it, I knew this song had topped the UK chart. To get ahead of the curve, I went ahead and purchased the album. At the time I didn't care for it all that much. I thought there were a couple of good songs including this one, but that was about it. I then set it aside and didn't think much about it until many years later when I happened to hear Maria McKee (see below) perform the song on a live album. In her dialog before playing the song she mentioned it was her biggest hit. I recognized the song immediately and then it all came together in my mind. I hadn't hooked into McKee yet when I bought Sharkey's album so I never realized she wrote this song. I became a big fan of McKee's later and that led me to this rediscovery. I then went back and listened to Sharkey's album again. To my surprise, I really enjoyed it. Of course, this song is a highlight. Sadly, it was one of those that just didn't connect with US listeners. It was a major hit in many countries (even Canada took it to #4), yet folks in the US ignored it. Perhaps listeners didn't care for Sharkey's vibrato-laced warble or just didn't like the tune. Whatever it was, it's a shame it didn't get further up the chart.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was written by American singer/songwriter Maria McKee, who was having some success at the time with her band Lone Justice. Around the time the band recorded their debut album, McKee began a brief affair with Benmont Tench (keyboardist for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers). Tench was lending his skills to the album and even co-wrote a couple of tunes for it with McKee. Their short-lived relationship came to an end and McKee then decided to channel her feelings into music and wrote "A Good Heart." Eurythmics' Dave Stewart knew Tench because Stewart had produced a few tracks for Petty's Southern Accents album and that connection most likely led to "A Good Heart" getting to Feargal Sharkey. However, along with McKee's song Tench sent Sharkey a song he had written called "You Little Thief." The story goes that Tench wrote the tune about McKee in response to "A Good Heart." Smartly, Sharkey recorded both songs, put them back-to-back on his album, and then released them as consecutive singles. Both songs hit the UK Top 10 and the song/response battle between two ex's became a juicy music legend. However, many years later in the days of social media, someone brought this story back up and Tench chimed in via Twitter to debunk the story. He said that they story was a myth and that his song was never about McKee. Perhaps that is the truth, but it is certainly late in coming (and it's much more fun to believe the legend).


Saturday, January 19, 2019

"Call Me" by Dennis DeYoung

Song#:  2653
Date:  03/15/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  54
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The former Styx member scored a Top 10 hit in 1984 with the #10 "Desert Moon," taken from his debut solo album of the same name. Although the LP wouldn't be a huge seller like his works with Styx, it did well enough to call for a follow-up. In the spring of '86, DeYoung would issue out his second solo disc, Back to the World. This first single was pushed out ahead of the album and the song would be a hit at AC reaching #5 on that chart. It crossed over to Pop, but it couldn't attract a larger audience and the song sputtered out before it could get into the upper half of the chart. Without a solid Pop hit, the album then faltered and could only manage a very minor #108 peak.

ReduxReview:  I liked this song when it came out and especially dug the sax opening. It was definitely a DeYoung composition as it wasn't too dissimilar from some of the big ballads he penned for Styx. However, that may have been the problem. It seemed a bit stuck in the late 70s and the sound lended itself to an AC crowd. What might have made this song soar was a big production by someone like David Foster. If given the same treatment as some of the songs he did with Chicago around this time, DeYoung might have had a bigger hit. As-is, it's a lovely tune and a nice addition to DeYoung's catalog.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  It was DeYoung's theatrical side that certainly played a part in the dissolving of Styx, but for his solo efforts he kept things mainly in the soft rock arena. He would later feed his theatrical side when he took on the role of Pontius Pilate in a 1993 touring version of Jesus Christ Superstar. The experience spurred him to do two other projects. First up was an album of Broadway show tunes titled 10 on Broadway. Around the same time he began to write a musical based on the Victor Hugo novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He completed the show and in 1996 DeYoung issued out a concept album on which he and his sister-in-law performed all the parts. That same year, a production of the show debuted at the Polk Theater in Nashville. The response was positive and plans were developed to take the show to Broadway, but health issues sidelined DeYoung and progress of the show halted. In 2007, DeYoung got another production of the show up and running in his hometown of Chicago. The show would end up winning a Joseph Jefferson Award (for Chicago area theater) for best musical production.


Friday, January 18, 2019

"Right Between the Eyes" by Wax

Spotlight Alert!

Song#:  2652
Date:  03/15/1986
Debut:  97
Peak:  43
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Rock


Pop Bits:  When the British group 10cc was working on their 1981 album Ten Out of 10, their American label (Warner Bros.) thought there needed to be a couple of tracks that would be more in tune with US listeners (aka hits for US radio). The label though that if they co-wrote some tunes with an American songwriter it might help and they offered up the services of Andrew Gold. 10cc ended up liking the idea and brought in Gold. He co-wrote two songs with the band for the album and both were issued out as singles. Sadly, neither track charted and the album quickly disappeared. However, the relationship between 10cc and Gold was solid and Gold was even asked to join the band. He ended up declining due to other commitments. It was probably a good decision because 10cc split up in 1983. Yet 10cc's Graham Gouldman remained close with Gold and the pair spent time together working on music. It wasn't long before the duo had enough tracks for an album. They issued out a single under the name World in Action, but nothing came of it. They changed their name to Common Knowledge and pushed out another single that also went nowhere. Undeterred, they recorded more tracks, signed on with RCA and issued out a debut album titled Magnetic Heaven. The LP's first two singles failed, yet this third single finally got them noticed. It picked up enough airplay to reach #39 on the Rock chart while nearly making the Pop Top 40. While it wasn't a major hit, it was enough for the label to call for a second album and they released American English in 1987. The LP and its singles tanked in the US, but in the UK the song "Bridge to Your Heart" became a hit reaching #12. A third album did nothing and that was the end of Wax.

ReduxReview:  Although the band and the song title didn't bring anything to mind, once I started to play the tune I got that "oh yeah - I remember this song!" I'm not sure where I would have heard the track, but it was familiar to me right away. I also don't know why I didn't seek out the single. This was right up my alley. Perhaps it wasn't stocked at the local record store, which did happen on occasion. This was a really nice surprise. The song is great and I love the punchy 80s Motown-via-London production. It's a shame this didn't do better. When it comes down to it, it's not all that different from some of the stuff bands like Go West or Mike + the Mechanics were doing, but it was delicious pop that was well done. I think it is worthy of being the first song from 1986 to get a Spotlight mention. I may have to dip into the Wax catalog now.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Most folks are familiar with Andrew Gold thanks to two solo hits he had in the 70s. First was 1977's #7 "Lonely Boy." Then the following year he scored with the song "Thank You for Being a Friend." Although that song would only reach #25 on the Pop chart, it would later be forever known as the theme song to the classic TV show The Golden Girls (1985-1992). Although Gold's solo career would be short-lived, he remained an in-demand session musician and occasionally wrote songs for other artists. One of his songs, "I Saw the Light," was recorded by Wynnona Judd for her debut solo album in 1992. The song would be her second single and it would reach #1 on the Country chart. Gold could also be heard singing the theme song to the hit TV show Mad About You. The song, titled "Final Frontier," was written by Don Was and Paul Reiser and Gold's vocal version was used during the show's first five season.  2) Gold's mother was a famous singer who wasn't really famous during a good chunk of her career. Marni Nixon was a singer/performer who did ghost work supplying the singing voice to famous actresses in many big films. Her most famous dubs were supplying the vocals for Natalie Wood in West Side Story and for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. Most of the time Nixon would not receive credit for her work as the studios didn't want audiences to know the actresses didn't sing the songs. The ruse would come out later and despite having an extensive singing and acting career (winning four local Emmys and nominated for two Grammys), her biggest claim to fame would be as the ghost singer for some of Hollywood's biggest leading ladies.


Thursday, January 17, 2019

"I Do What I Do... (Theme for 9 1/2 Weeks)" by John Taylor

Song#:  2651
Date:  03/08/1986
Debut:  73
Peak:  23
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Around the time Michael Des Barres took over lead vocal duties for the Duran Duran off-shoot band Power Station (replacing Robert Palmer), he was asked to supply a song for the upcoming erotic drama film 9 1/2 Weeks. With his bandmate John Taylor (Duran Duran and Power Station's bassist) and the film's score composer Jonathan Elias, Des Barres came up with this theme song. Taylor then took the song and got it recorded for the film. It was then issued out as the first single from the soundtrack album. Interest was high in the single thanks to the movie and the fact that this was the first solo effort put out by a member of Duran Duran. The song was able to crack the Pop Top 30, but stalled soon after. The album was not a major success but did reach #59. Afterwards, John Taylor would join back up with Duran Duran. He wouldn't issue out another solo effort until 1997 with the album Feelings Are Good And Other Lies.

ReduxReview:  I had totally forgotten about this song. I didn't even recognize the title, but when the opening chorus started, it came back to mind. It really must have been the power of Duran Duran that made a minor hit out of this. Other than the hooky chorus line, there is not much of anything going on with this song. It doesn't help that Taylor is not a good lead vocalist. He kind of talk/sings through what I assume are verses. And then there is the weird break section. Other than being an oddity in the Duran Duran family catalog, the song doesn't offer much.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Apparently, Taylor was not supposed to sing this song. It was originally offered to Canadian singer/songwriter Dalbello (aka Lisa dal Bello). She ended up passing on the song and with little time to secure another vocalist, Taylor was basically coerced into singing the song. Some folks were not all that kind to Taylor's performance or even the song itself. It ended up being nominated for a Golden Raspberry award for Worst Song. However, Taylor's Duran Duran connection gave the song a boost and it ended up being a middling hit.  2) Although Dalbello bailed on lead vocals for this song (she did provide backing vocals), she did record one of her own compositions for the soundtrack titled "Black on Black." That song would be picked up in 1993 by Heart and altered by Ann and Nancy Wilson to become "Black on Black II." As a teenager, Lisa dal Bello recorded three pop-oriented albums with her 1977 self-titled debut earning hear a Juno award for Most Promising Female Vocalist. By 1982, she retreated from music and pursued other ventures, yet she was lured back to recording by famed David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson. The pair came up with her rock-oriented fourth album, 1984's whomanfoursays. The LP was well-received and one tune from it, "Wait for an Answer," would be picked up and recorded by Heart for their 1987 album Bad Animals. She would record two more albums before leaving the spotlight to work in other mediums like television and film.