Thursday, March 4, 2021

"What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong

Song#:  3423
Date:  02/20/1988
Debut:  67
Peak:  32
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, Standards

Pop Bits:  Released late in '87, the comedy-drama film Good Morning, Vietnam starring Robin Williams became a box office hit and earned Williams an Oscar nod for his performance. With Williams portraying Armed Forces Radio DJ Adrian Cronauer, who arrived in Vietnam in 1965, there were quite a few songs from the early 60s used in the movie. Several of these tracks, including old hits like "I Get Around" by The Beach Boys and "Nowhere to Run" by Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, were assembled into a soundtrack and surrounded by vocal snippets of Williams from the film. Also included in the movie and on the soundtrack was this now-classic song from jazz legend Louis Armstrong. Although technically Armstrong's 1967 original recording was two years older than the year the film was set in, the song seemed to be a perfect fit for the movie and was include. Its use had people rediscovering the song and to help promote the soundtrack it was issued out as a single. It would be a hit at AC reaching #7. Surprisingly, the song also caught on at pop radio and it ended up cracking the Pop Top 40. With both the single and the movie doing well, the soundtrack would end up being a #10 platinum seller. It would also, oddly, win the Grammy award for Best Comedy Album (due to Williams' vocal tracks). The record would be a posthumous hit for Armstrong who had died years earlier in 1971.

ReduxReview:  This song was basically the forerunner of John Lennon's "Imagine." Both are melodramatic pieces about humankind and how wonderful it is or could be. I never really bought into either one as this kind of gooey sentimentality just doesn't mesh with my cynical personality. However, the Armstrong standard is more palatable to me. The music and melody are lovely and I think Armstrong's gravely, sincere voice helped to lift the song's treacly lyrics. I never long to hear the tune, but I understand the universal appear of it and don't mind if I happen to hear it on occasion.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Armstrong was as popular as ever in the early 60s thanks to his cover version of the title song to the 1964 musical Hello, Dolly!, which hit #1 on the Pop chart. At the time, it made Armstrong the oldest person (62 years old) to have a #1 Pop hit - a record that still stands. A couple of years later, Armstrong signed on with ABC Records, who were hoping to secure a hit from Armstrong. After one of his performances, Armstrong went into the studio to record "What a Wonderful World," a song written by Bob Thiele and George Weiss. ABC president Larry Newton dropped by the session and apparently had a fit that Armstrong was recording the ballad instead of a hit-bound swing tune. Newton was tossed out of the session and Armstrong finished the recording. The single got released, but received nearly zero promotion because Newton hated it. Because of that, the record sold poorly and failed to make the Pop chart (it did get to #12 at AC). However, it was a different story in the UK where the song got to #1. Despite it not being in a hit in the US upon initial release, the song still became a popular standard that got used in TV shows, films, and ads. Thanks to its use in Good Morning, Vietnam, the song finally had its moment on the Pop chart. Although many artists have recorded the tune, Armstrong remains the only one to have reached the Pop chart with a version.


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

"Prove Your Love" by Taylor Dayne

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3422
Date:  02/20/1988
Debut:  73
Peak:  7
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Hi-NRG

Pop Bits:  Dayne scored her first major hit with her debut single "Tell It to My Heart." It became an unexpected gold seller that reached #7 Pop/#4 Dance. Its success prompted Dayne's label, Arista, to ask for a full album and she quickly delivered a debut that included the title track hit "Tell It to My Heart" along with this follow-up single. The song would become Dayne's second Pop Top 10 and her first #1 on the Dance chart. The two hits would help the album get to #21 and in the spring of '88 it would be certified gold.

ReduxReview:  This was another blistering dance track from Dayne and it easily became her second Top 10. Like her first single, it was a hooky track with a big 80s production, and another solid vocal performance from Dayne. I didn't like it as well as "Tell It to My Heart," but it was still an enjoyable dance track that played well on the radio.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was co-written by Seth Swirsky and Arnie Roman. It was Swirsky's second hit, his first being Dayne's "Tell It to My Heart," which he co-wrote with Ernie Gold. Swirsky's songwriting career got kicked off in the mid-80s with The Spinners and Air Supply both recording his songs, but it was the pair of hits by Dayne that really got him noticed. He would end up supplying songs for many artists including Olivia Newton-John, Celine Dion, Michael McDonald, Faith Evans, and Exposé. He also co-wrote the song "One of Those Love Songs," which was recorded in 1998 by the female R&B vocal group Xscape. In 2000, the song became the subject of a lawsuit in which Swirsky sued Mariah Carey for copyright infringement. It seems that the chorus of Carey's 1999 recording "Thank God I Found You" was very similar to Swirsky's song, which he co-wrote with Warryn Campbell. The songwriting credits on Carey's track listed Carey along with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. That recording would be released as a single and would be a #1 gold seller in 2000. Apparently, Swirsky heard the song on the radio and recognized that it was basically his song. He sued Carey and in the first trial, the judge found in favor of Carey siting insufficient proof. However, after an appeal another judge deemed there was enough evidence and a second trial was set. However, before the case could be heard a settlement was reached between the Swirsky and Carey.


Tuesday, March 2, 2021

"I Want You So Bad" by Heart

Song#:  3421
Date:  02/20/1988
Debut:  80
Peak:  49
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The third single from Heart's album Bad Animals, "There's the Girl," just missed out on the Pop Top 10 peaking at #12. With that song doing well, it was an easy call to squeak out a fourth single and this ballad was selected for release. Unfortunately, it seems it wasn't the right song for the job as it stopped short of the Pop Top 40 and failed to make the Rock and AC charts. Still, the album was a solid success for the band selling over three million copies. This song would be Heart's final one to reach the Pop chart in the 80s.

ReduxReview:  This song was written by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, the team behind Heart's #1 hit "Alone," and it was probably decided early on that this would be a single. Unfortunately, it wasn't one of their best compositions. It was an okay track and fine for the album, but it was not a good single. The song just wanders about and never really goes anywhere. It's quite dull and drab. Bad Animals wasn't as singles deep as their previous self-titled album, but you'd think that the band (or their label) would have gotten hold of one more sure-fire single. They had the resources at the time. Still, the first three singles did a good job in getting the album sold so it wasn't the end of the world that this tune tanked. Heart's next couple of albums didn't thrill me, but they came back sounding fresh as ever and more like themselves with 2004's Jupiter's Darling. It was a terrific return to form that was followed up by one of my fave Heart albums, 2010's Red Velvet Car.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Heart would return with another hit album in 1990. Brigade would follow in the footsteps of their previous two mainstream rock albums and featured a chunk of songs by outside writers including Diane Warren, Holly Knight, Kelly & Steinberg, and Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who wrote the first single "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You." That track would nearly become Heart's third #1. It stopped just shy at #2. The hit would help the album get to #3 and go double-platinum. After the trio of label/hit driven albums that pushed the band's popularity to a new peak, Ann and Nancy Wilson got back to writing more songs and doing things more their way. 1993's Desire Walks On was mostly all written by the sisters and although it would be gold seller, it was unable to secure a significant hit and with that, the band's days at Capital Records came to an end. Heart would continue to record over the years with their most successful being 2010's #10 Red Velvet Car.


Monday, March 1, 2021

"Fishnet" by Morris Day

Song#:  3420
Date:  02/20/1988
Debut:  81
Peak:  23
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  After his departure from The Time, Morris Day set out on a solo career and released his 1985 debut album Color of Success. It produced the #3 R&B/#63 Pop single "The Oak Tree." The LP would sell well getting to #7 R&B and #37 Pop. Two years later, he would return with his second solo disc Daydreaming. Day would produce and co-write most of the album, but for a couple of tracks he enlisted the help of his former Time bandmates Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Jam & Lewis had become a hitmaking writing/production team (Human League, Janet Jackson, and others) and it seemed like a good time to reunite with Day.  This first single was produced by Jam & Lewis and co-written by them with Day. It was a big success on the R&B chart reaching #1. It also got to #12 Dance while getting close to the Pop Top 20. It would end up being Day's most successful solo single. The album would do similar business as his debut peaking at #7 R&B/#41 Pop. His third solo album, 1992's Guaranteed, would take Day into New Jack Swing territory. It didn't fare well with fans and it failed to make any chart. He would not released another solo effort until 2004's It's About Time, which was a mix of hits recorded live along with a few new tracks. It got to #39 R&B/#197 Pop.

ReduxReview:  This certainly had that Jam & Lewis Minneapolis sound and the concept was in the same goofy realm as other Time/Morris Day tracks. While it did quite well on the charts, it wasn't a standout song for me. It was just okay. The tune came off as a shelved Prince track from years ago and the production sounded a little weak coming from Jam & Lewis. I had completely forgotten about this song and after hearing it again, I know why.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  After his second solo LP, Day would reunite with The Time and they would appear in Prince's Purple Rain sequel Graffiti Bridge. The film would be a box office dud, but the soundtrack was #6 gold seller. The Time would have three songs featured on the soundtrack album. The reunion was successful and it promoted the band to keep on recording material for a new album. Pandemonium would be released in 1990 and its first single, "Jerk Out," would get to #1 R&B and #9 Pop. It would end up being a gold seller. The album would get to #9 R&B/#18 Pop and also go gold. Not long after that success, old tensions in the band would resurface and they would once again split with Day going back to his solo career. The band would get back together again in 2008 and in 2011 they would record a new album, Condensate. However, the band would make a name change to The Original 7ven. It would get to #10 R&B/#58 Pop.


Sunday, February 28, 2021

"Pamela" by Toto

Song#:  3419
Date:  02/20/1988
Debut:  84
Peak:  22
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Toto did not have an easy time following up their #4 Grammy-winning 1982 album Toto IV. Although 1984's Isolation and 1986's Fahrenheit would be gold sellers, neither made the Top 10 and the only single to get near the Pop Top 10 was the #11 "I'll Be Over You" (from Fahrenheit). Undeterred, the band went into the studio to focus on a new album that would get them back into the game. They came up with their seventh album, appropriately titled The Seventh One, and this first single was released. It would do well over at AC reaching #9, but the song ended up stalling just short of the Pop Top 20. It would end up being Toto's final single to make the Pop chart. The results didn't do much for the album, which stopped at #64 to became their lowest peaking studio LP to-date. The band would not reach the Pop Album chart again until 2015.

ReduxReview:  Apparently, it was thought that since this song was reminiscent of the band's #1 classic "Roseanna," it would become a hit and draw fans back. It sort of worked. From what I've read, the band really put forth a concentrated effort to make the LP a hit and had full support of the label, including promotion. But not long after its release, changes took place at the label and those working towards making the LP and "Pamela" hits were gone and it left the band in the lurch. As a result (or so the thought goes), "Pamela" stalled, two other singles from the album failed to chart, and the album sold poorly. I can sort of see that. Certainly label push does help, but on the other hand, we already had "Roseanne," did we need another one? I just think by this time the corporate yacht rock that Toto had been dishing out was passé. It was like they were trying to recreate '82 at a time when other styles and genres had taken over the airwaves. In general, the song is not bad. Had it been released a few years earlier, it might have gone Top 10. It was a song that their album Isolation desperately needed. However, in '88 it just wasn't working and it ended up closing the Pop charting career of Toto.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  After The Seventh One, the band would go through several changes, especially the lead vocalist position. Joseph Williams, who had taken over lead vocal duties in '86, would be fired from the band after the supporting tour for the LP. The band wanted to hire back original lead vocalist Bobby Kimball, but their label pushed them to hire South African vocalist Jean-Michel Byron. Byron would record four songs for the 1990 compilation Past to Present 1977-1990 and go out on the supporting tour. However, his different style, odd onstage antics, and attitude clashed with the rest of the band (and fans as well) and it wasn't long before he was fired. Band member Steve Lukather would then handle most of the lead vocal work. Later on in 1998, Kimball would rejoin the band and stay until 2008. Then Williams would return in 2010. Toto would continue to release albums over the years, but the only one that got them back on the Pop chart came in 2015 with Toto XIV. As of 2020, the only true members of Toto left were Steve Lukather and Joseph Williams. They would go out on tour with a new backing band.