Monday, August 19, 2019

"The Way It Is" by Bruce Hornsby & the Range

#1 Alert!
Song#:  2865
Date:  09/20/1986
Debut:  86
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Hornsby's debut album, The Way It Is, got off to a bit of a shaky start when its first single, "Every Little Kiss", topped out at a low #72 on the Pop chart (#18 Rock/#37 AC). The results could have doomed the album, but then this second single was issued out. The piano-driven track began to get attention and slowly it made its way up the charts. It would eventually make it to #1 at Pop and AC while getting to #3 at Rock. It was a much needed turnaround for the album. It would end up peaking at #3 and over time would sell three million copies. The hit turned Hornsby and his band into stars. The Grammy folks certainly noticed and handed them the award for Best New Artist.

ReduxReview:  This was not your typical pop single. In addition to being a message song (concerning social issues, rich vs. poor, racial segregation, civil rights, etc.), which is never really an easy sell for pop radio, it contained lengthy piano interludes and didn't necessarily have the standard chorus and hook found in pop radio tunes. Yet it may be those things that made the song stand out. Obviously it still had to be well-written and memorable and Hornsby checked those boxes as well. Despite some 80s production enhancements, the song still sounds good today and it has had a long life after being a #1 hit.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  When Hornsby started his band he tried to get signed to a label, but no one was biting. Even a famous friend of his, Huey Lewis, would try to use his influence to get Hornsby signed, but that didn't even work. Hornsby then tried a different approach. He made a sparse demo tape of songs he had written and then performed them himself using just piano, bass, drums and accordion. He then submitted the tape to the New Age music label Windham Hill. They found the tape interesting and began working up a deal to sign Hornsby. In the meantime, his lawyer decided to play the tape for a few major label folks. Suddenly, Hornsby was getting other offers. In the end, he chose to sign with RCA Records as they allowed him more creative freedom. When his debut album was first issued out, it featured a blurred, effects style photo of Hornsby playing accordion. It was most likely appropriate as the label was mainly going to market the LP to more adult markets like AC or even New Age. But then when this song began to take off on pop radio, the label quickly pushed out a reissue of the album that would be more suitable for a mainstream audience. It featured new cover art that contained a photo of the band along with new mixes of a couple tracks.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

"Midas Touch" by Midnight Star

Song#:  2864
Date:  09/20/1986
Debut:  88
Peak:  42
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Midnight Star's sixth studio album, Headlines, was another gold success thanks in part to the LP's first single, the #3 R&B title track. That song would also make an appearance on the Pop chart at #69. While that wasn't too bad of a result, it was a bit disappointing after their previous album spawned the band's first Pop Top 20 success with "Operator." Hoping for another hit and a chance to get further on the Pop chart, this second single was issued out. I would become their fifth Top 10 at R&B getting to #7. The tune would do better at Pop, but unfortunately it stopped just shy of the Top 40 mark. It would end up being the band's last single to reach the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  While this isn't as groovy or catchy as "Operator," it should have been the first single from the LP. This was the albums crossover tune and it might have done better had it been pushed out first. Instead, "Headlines" was and it didn't do well, which didn't help this track. It's a shame as this song is a quality piece of pop-leaning 80s R&B. It was certainly good enough to crack the Pop Top 20.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Due to tensions within the band, founding member Reggie Calloway and his brother Vincent decided to leave after the Headlines album. Midnight Star would continue on without the Calloways and issue out two albums. Yet even though they would score two more R&B Top 10's, their albums did not sell as well as their previous gold efforts and the band quietly went on hiatus as the 90s began. The Calloway brothers would go on to form a duo and would have a little success in 1990 with their #2 Pop/#5 R&B hit "I Wanna Be Rich."


Saturday, August 17, 2019

"I Feel the Magic" by Belinda Carlisle

Song#:  2863
Date:  09/20/1986
Debut:  90
Peak:  82
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Carlisle's first solo single after leaving The Go-Go's, "Mad About You," would be a solid success reaching #3 at Pop. It would also be a minor hit at AC (#25) and Dance (#21). For a follow-up, this Motown-inspired track was selected. Unfortunately, this one couldn't catch on and it stalled near the bottom of the chart. Still, Carlisle's debut solo album, Belinda, would be a gold seller that got to #13.

ReduxReview:  This somewhat blue-eyed soul tune was a good album track, but it wasn't the best choice for a single. It just didn't have that extra zest that made something like "Mad About You" stand out. In other words, it wasn't very memorable. I think "Band of Gold" (see below) might have done a bit better as a follow-up. Instead, it was the third single and after this one failed, no one at Pop radio was particularly interested in spinning the tune.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Carlisle's third single from her album was "Band of Gold," a remake of a song originally recorded by R&B singer Freda Payne. Written by Edythe Wayne (a pseudonym for the famous Holland-Dozier-Holland writing team) and Ron Dunbar, Payne's 1970 single would get to #3 Pop and #20 R&B. Carlisle's version would fail to chart at Pop, but a remix of the tune that featured Payne on background vocals would get to #26 Dance. Earlier in '86, another artist attempted to have a hit with the song. Bonnie Tyler released her remake as the third single from her album Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire. It also failed to chart at Pop. No other artist has been able to put a cover version of the song on the Pop chart. However, American Idol contestant Kimberley Locke released a version in 2007 that would get to #1 at Dance and #9 AC.


Friday, August 16, 2019

"Runaway" by Luis Cardenas

Song#:  2862
Date:  09/20/1986
Debut:  92
Peak:  83
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This drummer first gained notice as a member of the Whittier, California, rock band Renegade. The band was notable for being among the first Hispanic rock bands to have some success. The young age of the members (teens/early twenties) got them tagged as teen heartthrobs and they appeared in magazines such as Tiger Beat in the early 80s. They would go on to release four albums beginning with 1983's Rock n' Roll Crazy, yet despite buzz, good press, and a solid L.A. following, the band didn't break through to the mainstream in the US. However, they did have success in Latin American countries where they were known as Los Renegados. As '86 came along, Cardenas set out to record a solo album. It was titled Animal Instinct and this first single was issued out. The remake (see below) gained a little attention, but not enough to push it far up the chart and it stalled in the bottom quarter. An original song by Cardenas, "Hungry for Your Love," was pushed out as the second single, but it failed to chart. Without a solid single to support it, the album came and went. Cardenas would then continue on with Renegade. Although they wouldn't be household names in the US, the band would rack up sales of over 30 million records worldwide.

ReduxReview:  Usually when a lead single is a cover song, that means the record company didn't hear a track good enough on the album to become a hit and requested (or demanded) one that might. That may or may not be the case here, but it was probably a good choice to do the cover. It's not a bad remake and Cardenas' more rock-oriented take with his drums leading the way was kind of interesting. If it had been promoted better, it might have had a shot at the Top 40.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Although Cardenas' single wasn't a major hit, its associated video got noticed. The expensive video, which featured cameos by Del Shannon and Donny Osmond, would garner a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video, Short Form.  2) As Cardenas drumming skills increased, so did the size of his drum kit. Eventually, it would grow to have anywhere from 70 to 100+ pieces and would nearly surround Cardenas. The set can be seen in the video for "Runaway." It was so large that in 1986 Cardenas was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as having the biggest drum kit being used by a professional musician.  3) This is a remake of a song originally co-written and recorded by Del Shannon. His version would reach #1 in 1961. Many other artist would cover the song and four others besides Cardenas would make it to the Pop chart with their versions. Bandleader Lawrence Welk would cover the tune in 1962 and get to #56. The trio Dawn featuring Tony Orlando would record the song in a medley with "Happy Together" and get to #79 in 1972. Pop singer Charlie Kulis would make it to #46 with a version in 1975. Finally, Bonnie Raitt would do a remake of the song in 1977. She would take it to #57.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

"California Dreamin'" by The Beach Boys

Song#:  2861
Date:  09/20/1986
Debut:  93
Peak:  57
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Back on Capitol Records, the Beach Boys' first album for the label would be a compilation titled Made in U.S.A. The double-LP featured their hits along with a couple of newly recorded tunes that would be issued out as singles. The first one, "Rock 'N' Roll to the Rescue," would be a minor Pop chart entry getting to #67. This second single would do slightly better at Pop (#57) and found favor at AC getting to #8. Former Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn plays guitar on the track. He also appears in the video for the song along with songwriters and former Mamas & the Papas members John Phillips and Michelle Phillips.

ReduxReview:  I'm not really sure about the song choice here. The Beach Boys are known for their sunny, sometimes quirky, hits and I would have thought that this darker classic wouldn't be a good fit for them. I don't think I'm necessarily wrong about that, but I will say that this remake isn't too bad. The arrangement is far, far better than the awful "Rock 'N' Roll to the Rescue," but the near staccato delivery doesn't fit the song very well. The vocals just sound stiff and nothing like the hazy, laid-back approach of the Mamas & the Papas. While it is an improvement over their previous single, it's still a forgettable entry in their catalog.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song that was a hit by The Mamas & the Papas. Their take was the group's first charting single and it reached #4 in 1966. It was also their first gold record. Despite it's #4 peak, the song would be listed as Billboard's #1 charting song of 1966. The song, written by members (and husband/wife at the time) John and Michelle Phillips, became a classic of the era and was ranked #89 on Rolling Stones' 2004 list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. However, The Mamas & the Papas were not the first to record the song. The Phillips' wrote the tune in 1963 and it was originally recorded by Barry McGuire for his fourth album, 1965's This Precious Time. Around the time of the recording, The Mamas & the Papas got signed to Dunhill Records and recorded their own version. The song has been covered by many artists, but only two others beside The Beach Boys have reached the Pop chart with their version. Soul singer Bobby Womack's take on the tune reaching #43 Pop/#20 R&B in 1969. Later in 1979, the soft rock band (reduced to a duo by this point) America got to #52 Pop with their version. They recorded it specifically for a film titled California Dreaming. The film starring Glynnis O'Connor and Dennis Christopher was a box office bomb upon release.