Saturday, September 8, 2012

"On the Radio" by Donna Summer

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0009
Date:  01/12/1980
Debut:  86
Peak:  5
Weeks:  17
Genre: Pop, Disco

Pop Bits: Oddly debuting the same week as Streisand's follow-up to "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)," Summer trumped Streisand's ballad (see previous post) by staying with her classic disco sound and getting a Top 10 hit.

ReduxReview: I've called this song "lazy disco." Although I love most of Ms. Summer's oeuvre, this is not one of my favorites. To me it just sounds a little too slow and not as celebratory or urgent as some of her other hits. Need proof that disco had run its course? This would be the song.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia: In 1978, Streisand had the #1 duet "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" with Neil Diamond. In their competing albums that contained the song, Streisand hit #1 with hers (a greatest hits package) while Diamond had to settle for #4. When she hit #1 with Summer, it was Summer's album (a greatest hits package!) that topped the album chart and Streisand settled for #7. Reversal of fortune...


"Kiss Me In the Rain" by Barbra Streisand

Song#:  0008
Date:  01/12/1980
Debut:  90
Peak:  37
Weeks:  11
Genre: Pop, Vocal

Pop Bits: La Streisand's first chart hit of the 80s is a big ballad that was her follow-up to the #1 duet with Donna Summer "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)." Luckily (and thankfully), that song closed her book on disco and this next single brought her back to more familiar territory.

ReduxReview: Oh, c'mon. Babs and a big song. What's not to love? She sings the shizzle out of this MOR ballad and I fell for it right away. She's done better songs, but I think it is the vocal that takes it to a higher level. Several female vocalists I went to college with loved trying to sing this song - with little success. I remember one girl named Jill who actually knocked this out of the park.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia: This song was from her album "Wet" which was a kind of concept album where every song had some reference to water. It was a strange album that had the disco of "No More Tears," a bizarre rock arrangement of "Splish Splash," and a standard ("Come Rain or Come Shine").


"Trust Me" by Cindy Bullens

Song#:  0007
Date:  01/12/1980
Debut:  93
Peak:  90
Weeks:  3
Genre: Rock

Pop Bits: Bullens had two well-received albums in the late 70s that somehow didn't really catch fire; even though her debut disc "Desire Wire" garnered her a Grammy nom for Best Rock Vocal Performance. She is still recording and getting great reviews, but from what I have read her first two LPs should have made her a star.

ReduxReview: Well, it was bound to happen. This is the first song I've come across that I can't find a full version to hear. Seems almost strange. The best I could do was the above YouTube video that features a snippet of the song at the 2:16 mark. From what I could tell, I like this and may even try to search out her first to discs. I actually bought one of her later discs, the 2001 "Neverland," but at that time she was more into roots rock than the pop/rock heard here. I can only rate by what I hear, but my expectations would be...  (Note:  A reader brought to my attention that the full song is available now. Also, after this post I ended up buying the vinyl album, which is terrific. This song has a minor epic kind of feel that's kind of like Benatar crossed with Springsteen. I like it a lot and my rating still stands.)

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia: Bullens got a second Grammy nomination for her lead vocals on the "Grease" soundtrack where she performed "Freddy, My Love," "It's Raining on Prom Night," and "Mooning."


"Takin' It Back" by Breathless

Song#:  0006
Date:  01/12/1980
Debut:  96
Peak:  92
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits: Breathless' lone chart hit was just a minor blip nationally, but the band enjoy local success in their hometown of Cleveland. They released two albums and then went their separate ways. A few of them went on to play with Donnie Iris & the Cruisers.

ReduxReview: I'm surprised this didn't get more national support from EMI and/or it didn't catch on. It's really a good pop/rock song that grows on you with repeated listenings. It is well produced by Don Gehman (John Mellencamp, REM, Hootie & the Blowfish) and has a nice late-70s-early 80s rock feel. Should've been a bigger hit.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia: The founder of the group, Jonah Koslen, was a member of the Michael Stanley Band and formed Breathless after he left that group.


Friday, September 7, 2012

"I'm Alive" by Gamma

Song#:  0005
Date:  01/05/1980
Debut: 81
Peak: 60
Weeks: 6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits: Gamma was formed by Ronnie Montrose a couple years after his group Montrose called it a day. This song was their first single and was a remake of the Hollies first UK #1 hit in 1965. Gamma's first three albums sold moderately well, but without much push from the record label they kind of faded to the side (and gave it one more go in 2000 with little success).

ReduxReview: As a huge Hollies fan, I've always loved this song. Gamma moves the song into the 80s with a futuristic feel featuring spacey synth swirls and vocoder backing vocals. It's still a good song, but Gamma's updated space-rock version still can't touch the Hollies' great harmonies.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  For their third album, Gamma replaced one of their band members with Mitchell Froom, who went on to become an ├╝ber-producer in the 90s with Suzanne Vega, Los Lobos, Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, etc.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Flirtin' with Disaster" by Molly Hatchet

Song#:  0004
Date:  01/05/1980
Debut:  83
Peak:  42
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock, Hard Rock

Pop Bits: This is one of those songs you'd swear was a big chart hit because it was played all over place. Surprisingly, this Southern boogie didn't even crack the Top 40 and was the apex of the group's success. They had a relatively short "hot" period, but continued to be a top concert draw - even when there wasn't a single original band member in the group during the 90s.

ReduxReview: This was definitely not my style back in the day and I didn't like it. Plus, when I would DJ at the skating rink there were kids who always requested the song. But these days it sounds pretty good and makes me wanna get my redneck shuffle on.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia: The name Molly Hatchet was taken from a 17th century prostitute whose name was Molly. She apparently would take rich clients off to a location and proceed to rob and murder them...with a hatchet. Hence, she became known as Molly Hatchet.


"Make Believe It's Your First Time" by Bobby Vinton

Song#:  0003
Date:  01/05/1980
Debut: 85
Peak: 78
Weeks: 4
Genre: Pop, Easy Listening, Country, Vocal

Pop Bits: Almost 18 years after his first chart hit - the #1 "Roses Are Red (My Love)" - Vinton scraped the bottom rungs of the chart for his final entry. Although it fared much better on the AC chart, the lack of support for this single was getting to be the norm for vocalists like him who had great success in the 60s and 70s. The 80s pretty much signaled the end of an era for true pop vocalists.

ReduxReview: Although kind of a languid reading of the song, it's a true AC song that seemed like it would please anyone who was a fan of Vinton. It starts with a "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" feel and ends on a high note, giving it a nice late-60s feel. Unfortunately, it was 1980 and it probably sounded dated even then. Could be a case of the right song in the wrong decade.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia: The Carpenters covered this song and it was the first single released after Karen Carpenter's death in 1983. Although it failed to reach the pop chart, the song's classic Carpenter sound helped it hit #7 on the AC chart.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"Goodnight My Love" by Mike Pinera

Song#:  0002
Date:  01/05/80
Debut:  86
Peak:  70
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop

PopBits:  Second song into the 80s and already something interesting. Pinera wrote and had a hit with Blues Image in 1970 with "Ride Captain Ride" and then moved over to Iron Butterfly in 1971. Along the way he helped discover Black Oak Arkansas and later worked with Alice Cooper on "Special Forces" and "Zipper Catches Skin." I mention all this because the groups and artists Pinera worked with are pretty rockin'. So one would expect the solo material to be along those lines...

ReduxReview:  ...not quite. Pinera's only solo chart hit is a sweet ballad that has more in common with 70s smooth pop from the likes of Bread rather than the previously mentioned rockers. It's not a bad little song but gets dated by the sappy background "aaahh's." Take those out and country-up the arrangement a bit and I could hear this as an Eagles track.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  According to Pinera's website, Alice Cooper is quoted as saying that "Mike Pinera is the Mr. Rodgers of rock and roll."


"Bad Times" by Tavares

Song#:  0001
Date:  01/05/80
Debut:  93
Peak:  47
Weeks:  10
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  Tavares had a run of pop and R&B hits for a decade beginning in 1973. Their biggest pop hit came in 1975 with the excellent Top 10 "It Only Takes a Minute." They were also included on the Grammy-winning soundtrack to "Saturday Night Fever" performing "More Than a Woman." Tavares consisted of five brothers and they started out the 80s with this Top 10 R&B hit. The song was originally in a film called "Defiance" starring Jan-Michael Vincent, but performed by the composer Gerald McMahon.

ReduxReview:  A nice mid-tempo groove with some good horn lines and a slinky opening that conjures up images of a tough NYC neighborhood. A few "can you dig it" lines thrown in the chorus completes the pictures. This is a solid entry from an underrated group

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Tavares had a #1 R&B hit with a remake of Hall & Oates' "She's Gone."


Welcome to PopRedux80!

Today begins my journey through every pop hit from 1980 through 1989. It was a wonderful and odd decade for music that began with the decline of disco and the first mainstream rap track ("Rapper's Delight") creeping up the pop chart. Soon, new wave would be gaining ground and there would be bigger hair and louder colors. The MTV generation was about to be born and I was transfixed by it all. Along the way I listened to and purchased a ton of music, but on occasion I still will discover an artist or song that I had missed. So I thought why not listen to them all? And that is what I intend to do; listen to all the chart hits of the 80s and post some information and personal reviews on them in the hopes that a few folks who love this era of music will connect and follow along. Expectations for myself and for anyone who follows is to rediscover and enjoy great music from the era and perhaps uncover some lost gems along the way. Information about the blog can be found on the page links at the top. Coming up next will be the inaugural post for PopRedux80. So grab your hair mousse and put on your parachute pants - it is time to get back to the 80s!