Sunday, January 24, 2021

"Coming Up You" by The Cars

Song#:  3384
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  80
Peak:  74
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Synthpop


Pop Bits:  The Cars' sixth studio album, Door to Door, did not perform according to expectations. Its first single, "You Are the Girl," failed to make the Pop Top 10 while a second single couldn't even reach the top half of the chart. The final blow came with this third single, which stalled near the bottom quarter of the Pop chart. The track failed to make the Rock chart, but did make a brief appearance on the AC chart at #37. Without a more significant hit to support the album, it would only be a gold seller and their lowest charting (#26) effort. The band was already a bit fractured at the time and the results probably didn't do much to entice them to stay together and in April of '88, the band did indeed called it quits.

ReduxReview:  This tinkling little confection was probably the best track from a lackluster album. It was a lovely little pop ditty written by Ric Ocasek and sung by Benjamin Orr. It wasn't something that ranked among their classics, but it was a nice track that got overlooked. The tune wasn't going to be a Top 10 contender, but it certainly deserved to get up into the Top 40. It would end up being the band's last song to reach the Pop chart and even though it didn't get far, it was a nice tune to go out on.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  After the band dissolved, the members went out and did their own projects. Ric Ocasek had perhaps the most high-profile post-Cars career issuing out five solo albums (following his two done while with The Cars) and doing production work for artists like Weezer and No Doubt. Benjamin Orr performed with his own band, ORR, along with a couple of other side bands. He attempted to record a second solo album, but it never came to fruition. Orr died in 2002 from pancreatic cancer. Two other members, Greg Hawks and Elliot Easton, got together with Todd Rundgren in 2005 and toured as The New Cars for a few years. The surviving members of The Cars got back together in 2011 and recorded the LP Move Like This. It would receive good notices and debut at #7. A tour would follow. They would reunite once more in 2018 to perform for their induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2019, Ric Ocasek would die of natural causes at age 75.

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Saturday, January 23, 2021

"Save Your Love" by Great White

Song#:  3383
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  81
Peak:  57
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Hard Rock


Pop Bits:  As they say, third time's the charm and that seemed to be the case for Great White. Their third album, Once Bitten, was their breakthrough hitting #23 and going platinum on the strength of its first single, the #9 Rock/#60 Pop track "Rock Me," along with this second single. The power ballad nearly replicated the results of their previous single by also hitting #9 at Rock and getting near the top half of the Pop chart. A third track, "Lady Red Light," would get to #47 at Rock. The success of the album set them up well for their next effort.

ReduxReview:  With other glam/hard rock bands scoring Top 40 hits with power ballads, I was surprised that this one didn't do better on the chart. It was quite popular, at least in my area, and it had all the trademark power ballad assets needed to get it over to pop radio, yet for some reason it didn't catch on in a bigger way. Perhaps it was a bit too languid for pop radio with its quiet opening and unhurried tempo. Regardless, it became a staple for the band and I thought it was quite well-done.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was written by lead singer Jack Russell along with Stephan John Williams. Williams, who went by Stephan Shawn, was a guitarist for the L.A. band Stormer. They were regulars on the Sunset Strip hard rock scene in the 70s and 80s along with other bands like Great White. Stormer was around for a long time, but never got the break that other bands of the era did. They came close once when they recorded a holiday single for the indie Rockwoodz label. Stephan Shawn wrote the a-side song "Yule Tide Fever." The single was released in 1981 and got some good buzz. An album was to follow, but then the label folded and the band was on their own again. Eventually the band would call it a day. At the time the single was recorded and released, Stormer's bassist was Tim Gaines. In 1983, Gaines would leave Stormer and join a newly formed Christian rock band called Stryper. They would grab their first mainstream hit with 1987's "Honestly" (#23 Pop).

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Friday, January 22, 2021

"Never Knew Love Like This" by Alexander O'Neal featuring Cherrelle

Song#:  3382
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  82
Peak:  28
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B


Pop Bits:  O'Neal's second album, Hearsay, became a #2 R&B/#29 Pop gold seller thanks in part to its first single, "Fake," which got to #1 R&B and #25 Pop. A second single, "Criticize," did well at R&B (#4), but couldn't break through at Pop (#70). Next up for release was this duet single. It was the second pairing of O'Neal and Cherrelle. The first time they teamed up was for "Saturday Love," a track from Cherrelle's 1986 LP High Priority. It would be released as a single and get to #2 R&B/#26 Pop. This second duet would nearly duplicate those results. It would also get to #2 R&B while cracking the Pop Top 30. It also got to #24 at Dance. Two more singles would be released from O'Neal's album, but neither were able to reach the R&B Top 40.

ReduxReview: O'Neal's "Criticize" was a solid tune that should have done better at Pop, but the label should have pushed this song as the second single. If they had, it might have done better. The tune itself was hooky and well-written and had that sleek Jam & Lewis production that was ripe for pop airplay. The strength of the song was on display since it overcame the underwhelming results on the Pop chart of "Criticize." This was an obvious hit that should have made or gotten close to the Pop Top 10.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Although O'Neal would record a holiday album in 1988 titled My Gift to You, his proper third album wouldn't arrive until after the turn of the decade. In 1991, he released All True Man. O'Neal would once again work with the Jam & Lewis team for the LP and the title track would be released as a single. It would become O'Neal's sixth and final R&B Top 10 (#5). However, he wasn't able to grab much crossover attention and the song stalled at #43 on the Pop chart. Still, the album would be a gold-seller. His career would cool off after that. He would continue to record albums over the years, but none would take him back to his hit making days with Jam & Lewis. While successful in the US, O'Neal was even more popular in the UK. He would secure one multi-platinum and four gold selling albums.

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Thursday, January 21, 2021

"I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by The California Raisins

Song#:  3381
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  84
Peak:  84
Weeks:  4
Genre:  R&B, Novelty


Pop Bits:  In the early/mid 80s, the sales of love 'em or loathe 'em raisins were steadily declining. The California Raisin Advisory Board (CALRAB) was hunting for a way to promote raisins. Ad man Seth Werner and his writing partner Dexter Fedor came up with an offbeat idea for the board. The concept was actually simple. A group of raisins dancing to the Marvin Gaye hit "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." Apparently, when it came time for his presentation to CALRAB, Werner simply started a tape player with the song and began dancing around the room. Werner wanted to do a claymation commercial that gave a quartet of raisins identities and personalities. Then have them perform "Grapevine." Although the board had wanted a celebrity spokesperson, they liked the idea and Werner's pitch enough to give it a go. It took over a month to film the commercial, which first aired on September 26, 1986. It was a success, but more than that the ad spurred a pop culture phenomenon. The claymation raisin group became known as The California Raisins and not only did it help boost the sales of raisins, but other merchandise would follow such as plush toys, lunch boxes, clothing, and costumes. Then there was an appearance on the Emmy award winning TV special A Claymation Christmas Celebration. With the Raisins' popularity still growing, it was inevitable that an album would be recorded. Produced and arranged by Ross Vannelli (brother of singer Gino Vannelli), Sing the Hit Song by The California Raisins was released late in '87 on Priority Records. This first single was released and it spent a quick month near the bottom of the Pop chart. The album, however, did very well getting to #36 and selling over a million copies. Three more albums would follow quickly along with a mockumentary TV special Meet the Raisins! and a Saturday morning cartoon series. However, like most pop culture phenoms, the Raisins' days in the sun faded and by 1990 it was becoming too expensive for CALRAB to keep up the promotions and the campaign came to an end.

ReduxReview:  These commercials were all over TV in the late 80s. They were memorable and kind of fun. I think the MJ one (see below) was pretty funny and well done. However, I really didn't think we needed the whole commercialism of a commercial-based group (is that double commercializing?). Because they were everywhere, the Raisins wore out their welcome quick with me. I certainly didn't need an album of remade old hits by "raisins" either. Yet, it seems other people did (apparently over a million). The only good thing from it is that perhaps a few people who heard the songs went back and bought the originals. Usually, this promotional, novelty-style of single I would abhor as they are, for the most part, poorly done and are just cashing in on a moment. While the latter is a true statement with this single, I have to say that the actual recording is not all that bad. Producer Ross Vannelli did a solid job taking a cheesy, promotional gimmick and turning it into a solid track. The lead vocals (see below) were also well done. Would I buy this? No. Do I ever need to hear it again? No. Still, as the touchstone for a pop culture moment, it certainly wasn't bad.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) So who provided the main vocal for The California Raisins? The lead vocal done for the original commercial was handled by singer/drummer Buddy Miles. Miles was known for being a member of the blues rock band The Electric Flag and for his work with Jimi Hendrix. He also recorded several solo albums along with works by his band Buddy Miles Express. Miles would be the lead vocalist for three of the California Raisins albums. For the fourth one that was tied to the TV special Meet the Raisins, other vocalists were used with Andy Stokes taking over the character that was voiced by Miles.  2) How hot were the Raisins? So much so that celebrities got involved. A claymation version of Ray Charles was created and he sings "Grapevine" with the Raisins (in the style of the Gladys Knight version, not Marvin Gaye's). However, the big endorsement came when Michael Jackson came on board. Jackson worked with the animators to come up with claymation versions of him as a raisin (complete with top hat and white glove) and as himself. Jackson performs a "Bad"-ish style version of "Grapevine" for the commercial.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

"All I Want Is You" by Carly Simon

Song#:  3380
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  85
Peak:  54
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary


Pop Bits:  Simon's comeback album, the platinum-selling Coming Around Again, featured two songs that reached the Pop chart including the #18 title track (#5 AC). However, its third single, "The Stuff That Dreams are Made Of," failed to reach the Pop chart despite getting to #8 at AC. Still, her label, Arista, decided to push out a fourth single and selected this song. Unsurprisingly, it was another winner at AC getting to #7. This time around, the single was able to get on the Pop chart where it got close to the halfway mark. It would be the last single released from the album. Simon would have one more single reach the Pop chart before the decade would be out, but she wouldn't release a new album until 1990.

ReduxReview:  I was so disappointed when "The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of" failed to make the Pop chart. It's such a great song and it deserved more attention. But it seems that pop radio preferred something more upbeat and, well...poppy. So the label gave this one a go. It was a solid choice and while it wasn't quite as good as the previous three singles, it was still a nice tune.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Simon and Jacob Brackman. The two had been good friends since meeting at a summer camp in 1968 where they worked as counselors. Brackman, who had worked as a journalist, would collaborate with Simon over the years writing lyrics to music that she wrote. All except one of Simon's albums from her 1971 debut through to Coming Around Again featured a song by the pair. Two of their collaborations became Top 20 hits. Simon's debut single, "That's the Way I Always Heard It Should Be," reached #10 in 1971 while "Haven't Got Time for the Pain" made it to #14 in 1974.

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