Friday, April 3, 2020

"Head to Toe" by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3092
Date:  04/11/1987
Debut:  83
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Dance-Pop, R&B, Freestyle



Pop Bits:  Along with the production/songwriting team of Full Force, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam scored a platinum self-titled debut album in 1985. It was boosted by two gold singles including the #8 Pop/#3 R&B hit "All Cried Out." Following the success, the band went back into the studio with Full Force to record a follow-up album. Spanish Fly would be produced and written (save for one co-write with Lisa Lisa) by Full Force with members of that team also performing on the LP. This first single was released and it became their first to reach #1 at both Pop and R&B. It was also their second song to top the Dance chart. The mass appeal of the song helped it become their third certified gold single. The album would reach #7 at both Pop and R&B and it would go platinum.

ReduxReview:  This Motown-influenced nugget pushed the band in a more mainstream pop direction and it worked well. Full Force really reined things in to make this a concise, hooky confection. Lisa Lisa's girlish voice sold the song perfectly and the freestyle production kept the track current. There was no doubt that this was going to be an across the board smash. Along with "All Cried Out," this song has lasted far beyond the 80s. While the band would only hang around for a few more years, these songs have kept the name Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam alive for decades.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  In addition to working with Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, the members of Full Force would also embark on a recording career of their own. In 1985, they would release their self-titled debut album. The LP's first single, "Girl If You Take Me Home," was an answer song to Lisa Lisa's first hit "I Wonder If I Take You Home" (#1 Dance/#6 R&B/#34 Pop). The response track wouldn't do as well only reaching #32 Dance and #79 R&B. Their next single, "Alice, I Want You Just for Me!" would do better getting to #16 R&B and #34 Dance. However, it was a much bigger hit in the UK where it got to #9. Full Force would continue to release albums over the years and along the way grab twelve more R&B single entries. Their biggest hit came in 1988 with "All in My Mind," which became their lone R&B Top 10 hit reaching #6. Besides the songwriting/production work that Full Force did for other artists, as a band they were never able to get a song on the Pop chart.

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Thursday, April 2, 2020

"Diamonds" by Herb Alpert

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3091
Date:  04/11/1987
Debut:  84
Peak:  5
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Dance-Pop, R&B



Pop Bits:  The famous trumpeter/label head (A&M) decided to modernize his sound and sought out the help of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, the songwriting/production team behind recent hits by Janet Jackson and The Human League (incidentally, both were A&M artists). The trio worked together on four tracks that would appear on Alpert's album Keep Your Eye on Me. The title track was the LP's first single and it did well at R&B getting to #3. It didn't do as well at Pop where it stalled at a minor #46. However, Alpert and Jam & Lewis had this second single ace up their sleeve. Featuring an assist from newly minted superstar Janet Jackson along with vocalist Lisa Keith, the hooky tune had more mainstream appeal and it ended up reaching the Pop Top 10 while hitting #1 at both R&B and Dance. It was Alpert's first (and only) #1 at R&B and his fifth Pop Top 10. The hit would help the album reach gold level sales.

ReduxReview:  Alpert was certainly smart in taking advantage of Jam & Lewis, who had been working with several artists at A&M. Bringing along Janet Jackson was another brilliant move. Still, even though this was credited as by Herb Alpert, we all really know that this is basically a Janet Jackson track with Alpert noodling in the background. Jam & Lewis do a great job incorporating Alpert's trumpet, but I doubt this song was written with Alpert in mind. It was probably something they had already written and just adapted it for Alpert. It really should have been the first single from the LP as there was no doubt it was going to be a hit, but I think it was held off for release so that it wouldn't interfere with Jackson's run of singles. It was conveniently released just as Jackson's "Let's Wait Awhile" was peaking and before her next single "The Pleasure Principle" was issued out. It was a smart move that paid off for Alpert.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  When Alpert first began his recording career, it wasn't with his trumpet. He started out as a vocalist and in 1961 he issued out his first solo single under the name Dore Alpert. The songs on the single, "Dreamland" and "Gonna Get a Girl," were cute 60s pop tunes that ended up going nowhere. A second single also tanked. However, it was Alpert's negative experience working with a major label that prompted him to start his own indie label. Along with Jerry Moss, Alpert founded Carnival Records in 1962. Their first release, "Tell It to the Birds," was another vocal song credited to Dore Alpert. However, after its release Alpert and Moss found out that the Carnival name was already being used by another record company. So they changed it to A&M, which stood for Alpert and Moss. There would be two more singles released under the Dore Alpert name, but the label would get their first hit when Alpert developed his Tijuana Brass band and recorded the instrumental "The Lonely Bull." Release late in 1962, the song would make it to #6 the following year. The hit helped the emerging label and within a decade A&M would be one of the biggest indie labels in the world featuring an eclectic lineup of artists that included The Carpenters, Cheech & Chong, The Police, Suzanne Vega, Peter Frampton, Chuck Mangione, and Janet Jackson. Alpert maintained a recording career over the years with and without the Tijuana Brass. Just a couple short years after this single was released, Alpert and Moss decided to sell A&M to Polygram. The duo were to remain in charge of the label and run it as they wanted, but of course the conglomerate quickly stepped in and started making changes. Alpert and Moss hung around for three years, but finally bowed out. They eventually filed a lawsuit against Polygram for breach of an integrity clause. The suit was settled for $200 million. The A&M label lasted into the 90s and took on more hit artists like Sheryl Crow. In 1998, the label along with Polygram was merged with Universal Music. A lot of changes and fallout happened afterwards, but the A&M imprint still hung around and is still in use.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

"Endless Nights" by Eddie Money

Song#:  3090
Date:  04/11/1987
Debut:  88
Peak:  21
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Rock



Pop Bits:  After years of having mainly middling hits on the Pop chart, Money grabbed his first Top 10 with the #4 "Take Me Home Tonight" from his sixth album Can't Hold Back. He nearly got a second Top 10 with the follow up "I Wanna Go Back," which got to #14. The double dose of hits prompted the release of this third single. It would be Money's fourth Top 10 at Rock reaching #10. At Pop, the tune just missed out on the Top 20 stopping shy at #21. The album would reach #20 and become Money's fourth to go platinum.

ReduxReview:  This is the third gem in a row from Money. It was a well-written tune perfectly arranged and produced by Money with Richie Zito. Along with "I Wanna Go Back," this really should have been a Top 10 hit. It's an easy going track with a sweet, hooky chorus. I also like that little trill in the background at the end of the choruses. I think two other artists could have had a hit with this song - Bryan Adams and Corey Hart. It would have fit both of them well, however they wrote their own songs and would have never considered recording it. Luckily, Money got first crack at it and came up with a winner.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was written by John Cesario, Michele Collyer, and Steve Mullen. For all three writers, this would be their only song to reach the charts. Cesario and Mullen would co-write the tune "Everytime I Think of You" for the 1987 second album I'm Only Fooling Myself by future Mr. Big lead singer Eric Martin ("Information," 1985, #87 Pop). The track would be released as a single, but it would not chart. Cesario would set aside music aspirations to work with media and internet companies. In 2012, he would be a co-founder of Rocket Songs, a website/business that culls songs from professional writers and publishers and makes them available for licensing to music artists. Perhaps a singer who has been performing cover tunes wants to expand into originals, but they are not yet writing songs themselves. They can go on Rocket Songs, shop around for new tunes, license them, and then record/perform them.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

"Shy Girl" by Stacey Q

Song#:  3089
Date:  04/11/1987
Debut:  90
Peak:  89
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Synthpop



Pop Bits:  Stacey Q's full-length debut album Better Than Heaven would be a gold seller thanks to the #3 hit "Two of Hearts." A follow-up single, "We Connect," would crack the Top 40 at #35. Two other singles would be released, but neither would reach the Pop chart. She wouldn't reach the chart again with new material until March of '88. In the meantime, it seemed her previous record company, On the Spot, decided to capitalize on Stacey Q's newfound major label popularity and began to recirculate her very first single, "Shy Girl."  It was originally released in 1985 and although it didn't chart then, it did help her get signed to Atlantic Records. On its second go around, the indie single was able to reach the Pop chart and hung around the bottom for nearly three months. The length of time on the chart for a song peaking at #89 was highly unusual. It was most likely due to the indie nature of the single, its slow spread to various regions, and possibly a lack of product. Had it got reissued by Atlantic, the song might have done better on the chart.

ReduxReview:  This tune takes a little bit to get going, but once it does it's not too bad. It has a little Madonna smell to it, yet there is enough Stacey Q here to keep it from being a flat out imitation. The guitar is a nice add and for an 80s indie recording, the production is slightly above par. It was definitely not as hooky as "Two of Hearts," but it might have gained a bigger audience if she had re-recorded it for Atlantic and pushed it out as a one-off single. It did well in certain parts of the US since it hung out on the chart for eleven weeks.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was from Stacey Q's 1985 self-titled debut EP. The release consisted of five songs and was only available on cassette. In addition to this single, the EP featured her first version of "Two of Hearts." That song and another track on the EP, "Dancing Nowhere," would be re-recorded for her Atlantic debut LP. The EP track "Hard Machine" would later be re-recorded and serve as the title track to her second Atlantic album. Also on the EP was "Dancing in the Dark." It was a remake of a Kim Wilde song that appeared on her 1983 album Catch As Catch Can. Wilde's original version was released as a single in Europe and it made the Top 10 in a few countries including Denmark and Finland.

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Monday, March 30, 2020

"Should I See" by Frozen Ghost

Song#:  3088
Date:  04/11/1987
Debut:  95
Peak:  69
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock, Pop



Pop Bits:  After the breakup of the Canadian band Sheriff ("When I'm with You") in 1985, two of its members, Arnold Lanni and Wolf Hassel, went off and started their own band Frozen Ghost. They got signed to WEA (Atlantic in the US) and proceeded to record their self-titled debut album. This first single was issued out and it did well at Rock reaching #4. The attention there helped the song cross over to the Pop chart where it hung around for two and half months. It did better in Canada getting to #27. The album was able to chart in the US, but at a low #107.

ReduxReview:  This song about censorship was relevant at the time coming on the heels of the PMRC Senate hearings and the whole parental advisory sticker thing. I'm sure that event served as inspiration for this tune that yells "tell me what should I see? Make my mind up for me!" The lyrics were spot-on and they were framed in catchy pop/rock. I remember that I had planned on getting the single, but ended up with the album thanks to a record store promotion. I had gone to the local record shop and a radio station was there doing promotions and they were giving away some albums. For some reason I was given the choice to take the Frozen Ghost LP or Jennifer Warnes' Famous Blue Raincoat. Due to this song, I chose Frozen Ghost. It was probably the right choice at the time, even though the album quickly ended up in the back of my collection. The Warnes album was her covering Leonard Cohen songs. I didn't know anything about Cohen and little about Warnes at the time so I probably wouldn't have appreciated the album then, but years later I regretted my choice as I later became a fan of Cohen's music. Of course I have the LP now and it is obviously far superior to the Frozen Ghost effort. However, this single of theirs is still a standout and a solid listen.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Frozen Ghost, which was mainly just Lanni and Hassel, would release a second album in 1988. While it would spawn three charting singles in Canada, the only song to do anything in the US was the #44 Rock entry "Round and Round." It would be their last song to chart in the US. Also in 1988, the Sheriff single "When I'm With You" would get an unexpected revival and the song would end up reaching #1 in the US. That band had already been broken up for three years, but the sudden hit had folks wondering if the band would reform. A reunion ended up being a no-go so Lanni and Hassel continued on with Frozen Ghost. For their third (and final) album, the pair brought on board three new members to make the group a quintet. They released Shake Your Spirit in 1992. Three of the LP's songs reached the Canadian chart including what would end up being their biggest hit, the #16 "Head Over Heels." Yet despite the good results the band broke up in '93.

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