Friday, December 15, 2017

"Go Down Easy" by Dan Fogelberg

Song#:  2257
Date:  03/23/1985
Debut:  89
Peak:  85
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Country Crossover, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Fogelberg's eighth solo studio album, Windows and Walls, was a gold seller, but the only significant single to reach the Pop chart was the #13 "The Language of Love." It seemed by the mid-80s, Fogelberg's brand of adult pop was going to have a tough time on the charts. Instead of trying to keep up with the new sounds of the 80s and forcing himself to write songs with hit potential, Fogelberg decided to veer off in a new direction. He headed to Nashville, hooked up with some of the top names in country music and recorded High Country Snows, his first country/bluegrass-based album. This initial single introduced his new sound and it did well at AC getting to #6. Country picked up the tune and it peaked at a respectable #56 on that chart. However, it wasn't a match for Pop and it spent a quick month near the bottom of the chart. Regardless, the album sold well going gold and it got to #30 at Pop and #23 at Country. The results combined with good reviews validated Fogelberg's decision to experiment with a new sound.

ReduxReview:  Fogelberg's folk-rock sound was never that far away from country, so the move to contemporary bluegrass was not necessarily a major shift. He just made a more distinct line in the sand with this album. While a good chunk of it leans towards bluegrass, there are a couple of songs like this one that hark back to Fogelberg's AC/soft rock sound. Obviously, they were trying to get a crossover hit here and it pretty much worked at AC and Country. However, this just wasn't going to cut it at Pop. Back in the day I kind of lost interest in Fogelberg at this point. Although I appreciated this album, it just wasn't my thing and I preferred Fogelberg's pop/rock songs. This song wouldn't be too far out of place on any of his previous albums. It's a nice folk/soft rock tune, but it's a bit too subtle and I forget it soon after its done.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although this song would be a mid-charter at Country, another single from the album would do a bit better. The album opener "Down the Road / Mountain Pass" would end up getting to #33 at country. "Down the Road," which is the a cappella first thirty seconds of the single, was originally written by the legendary duo Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and first recorded by them around 1949. The balance of the song, "Mountain Pass," was written by Fogelberg.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

"Swear" by Sheena Easton

Song#:  2256
Date:  03/23/1985
Debut:  90
Peak:  80
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Easton's career revved up when her sixth studio album, A Private Heaven, spawned two Top 10 singles including the controversial Prince-penned song "Sugar Walls" (#9 Pop/#1 Dance/#3 R&B). The hits would send the album to #15 and it would eventually go platinum. It would be Easton's most successful LP in the US. To extend the album's life span, this third single was issued. Unfortunately, it did not catch on and the song floundered at the bottom of the Pop chart for a few weeks before disappearing.

ReduxReview:  This third single stuck with the upbeat flavor of the previous two songs, but this time it just didn't work out. The new wave track didn't connect as well and I can hear why. This rave-up wasn't all that pop radio friendly. The groove is great and production solid, but it just wasn't as memorable and hooky as something like "Strut." However, I like the bluesy, R&B slant to the song and thought it was a quality track on the album. It just didn't make a good single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of an original song written and recorded by Tim Scott (aka Tim Scott McConnell). Earlier in the 80s, Scott had written a set of songs that he put down on tape with the help of a little Casio keyboard. The demo ended up in the hands of Sire Records and they offered him a contract. Working with producer Richard Gottehrer (Blondie, The Go-Go's), the pair recorded Scott's self-titled mini-album. Among the five songs recorded was "Swear," which also served as Scott's debut single. The new wave-leaning song and EP didn't get anywhere, but then the song got picked up by Easton for her album. Scott would later dismiss his debut EP as a mistake because it really wasn't the type of music he wanted to do. He would then switch to a more rock/blues sound and release a couple of major label albums. Another song of his, "High Hopes," would get picked up and recorded by Bruce Springsteen in 1996 for his EP Blood Brothers. Springsteen would later re-record the song for his 2013 album High Hopes. The song would be the LP's first single. It was able to get to #15 on the Adult Alternative Songs chart. Scott then later recorded under the name Ledfoot and began recording albums in a genre he created called "Gothic blues."


"Injured in the Game of Love" by Donnie Iris

Song#:  2255
Date:  03/23/1985
Debut:  93
Peak:  91
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Iris' third album for MCA, 1983's Fortune 410, didn't sell so well thanks to its lone single "Do You Compute?" only getting to #64 Pop/#20 Rock. The label wasn't thrilled with the results and wanted to bring in a new producer and outside songwriters to lend a hand on Iris' next LP. That was something that Iris was not interested in, therefore the label said goodbye and dropped Iris. Luckily, he was able to sign on to the indie label HME and by the spring of '85 his new album, No Muss...No Fuss, was ready. This first single got things started. It was a mid-charter at Rock getting to #28, but there was little support at Pop and the song only managed a very short two-week stay on the chart. It would be Iris' last single to reach the charts. A year later, a couple of strokes of bad luck sidelined Iris' career. His next album got recorded, but then was blocked from being released due to a pending lawsuit from his old label, MCA (to this date, the LP has still not be released). Then, HME went belly up and that left Iris without a label once again. He wouldn't be able to record and release a new album until 1992. Since then, he has issued six studio and two live albums.

ReduxReview:  Here's another solid rock tune from Iris. It's not quite as infectious as some of his other singles, but it's got a big sing-along chorus and Iris' personality certainly shines through. At the time, I didn't know much about Iris or his music so he kind of slipped through the cracks. I discovered more about him many years later and now realize how underrated he and his music was. If you like this style of rock, I highly suggest at least checking out Iris' Best of LP. It's full of gems that should have made him a bigger star.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Around this same time, two members of Iris' band decided to leave for a new hard rock band called The Innocent. That band released one album in 1985 titled Livin' on the Street. The band and the album didn't get anywhere, but it has one claim to fame. A pre-Nine Inch Nails Trent Reznor was a member of the band. Reznor would then join the band Exotic Birds before launching his own Nine Inch Nails in 1988.  2) Also around this time, Iris' longtime producer/co-writer Mark Avsec had a bunch of demos that got shopped around and CBS Associated though they were good enough to release. Avsec signed on and under the name Cellarful of Noise released an album in the summer of '85. Three years later, Avsec worked on a follow-up album titled Magnificent Obsession. With Iris' career on hold, Avsec brought him in to co-write a couple of tunes and perform lead vocals some tracks. The album ended up selling a few copies thanks to the single, "Samantha (What You Gonna Do?)," reaching #69 on the Pop chart in 1988.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"Forever Young" by Alphaville

Song#:  2254
Date:  03/23/1985
Debut:  95
Peak:  93
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  The German band's first single, "Big in Japan," did quite well in Europe and on the US Dance chart where it got to #1. However, it didn't catch on at Pop and stalled at #66. Their next charting song in the US would be the title-track to their debut album Forever Young. As before, the single would reach the Top 10's of several European countries, but then fizzled in the US. It made a slight impression at Dance getting to #32 and spent a month near the very bottom of the Pop chart. However, that would not be the end of the song's story. Before the end of '85 the song would be reissued and do a bit better on the chart.

ReduxReview:  This is one of those songs that perhaps you think you may not know, but once you hear it, you'll recognize it. Over the years, the track has been heard in commercials, TV shows, and films. Many artists have covered the song in their concerts as well. It's a shame it never really caught on in the US. It's one of those songs that has a big sing-a-long chorus and seems to relay an important message. Usually, the pop audience will hook into these songs but for some reason this one got ignored. I think if a more prominent artist did the song in a big, orchestrated arrangement, it might have been a hit (Laura Branigan did a version on her fourth album, but more on that in a future post). Even though it sounds so dated now, the song is still a winner.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  When they hit with "Big in Japan," which went Top 10 or #1 in many European countries, their plan was to then issue "Forever Young" next as that song was completed and set to go. However, with their debut album still in the works, the record company wanted to save "Forever Young" for later and asked the band to quickly write and record something new specifically for single release. They reluctantly did so and within a two-day span they had recorded "Sounds Like a Melody." It quickly got issued as a single and ended up doing well going Top 10 in many countries. However, the band was left with a bad taste in their mouths regarding the pressure to write the song and despite it being a hit, they apparently refused to play the song for nearly a decade.


"That Was Yesterday" by Foreigner

Song#:  2253
Date:  03/16/1985
Debut:  47
Peak:  12
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Foreigner just had the biggest hit of their career with the #1 "I Want to Know What Love Is," which was the first single from their album Agent Provocateur. To follow it up, the band released this mid-tempo rock tune. It was another hit for them at Rock, getting to #4, but it stopped just shy of reaching the Pop Top 10. It also got to #24 at AC. The hits would help the album get to #4 and eventually it would be certified triple-platinum, but that was quite a sharp drop from their previous LP, 4, which hit #1 and sold over six-million copies. That album had more to promote sales since four of its singles made the Pop Top 40 with two of them going Top 10. In fact, all four of their studio albums prior to Agent Provocateur would sell more copies. It would also be their last studio album to go multi-platinum.

ReduxReview:  I didn't care all that much for "I Want to Know What Love Is," but I thought it would be interesting to see what they picked out for a follow up to that big hit. It ended up being this near-soft rocker and I have to say it was a pretty good choice. It's a solid pop song that nicely bridged the gap between the big balladry of "I Want to Know" and the band's more harder rocking tunes. I liked the song, but have always thought that it had a weird ending. The outro chorus is chuggin' along quite well and then it just kind of abruptly stops. I think a fade out would have been better or just even a more definitive and stronger end to the song. Regardless, I've always liked this tune.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Although the majority of the band were from England, they had more success on the US charts than they did in the UK. While they had a succession of five multi-platinum studio albums in the US along with nine Top 10 singles, in the UK they could only manage two Top 10 albums and two Top 10 singles. Their best effort there would be Agent Provocateur, which would hit #1 as did "I Want to Know What Love Is."