Saturday, October 6, 2012

"Only a Lonely Heart Sees" by Felix Cavaliere

Song#:  0072
Date:  03/01/1980
Debut:  85
Peak:  36
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock



Pop Bits:  Felix Cavaliere is one of those names I see and think - I've never heard of this guy before. But then I find out I have, and most likely you have too. Cavaliere was in The Rascals and sang lead on hit songs like "Groovin'," "Good Lovin'," and "A Beautiful Morning." He was also a co-writer on most of their tracks as well. After The Rascals called it a day in 1972, Cavaliere started a solo career and in 1974 came out with his self-titled debut produced by Todd Rundgren. The album and its follow-up didn't make any waves, but he did finally reach the Top 40 with this single from his third album "Castles In the Air." He still tours as of this date as "Felix Cavaliere's Rascals."

ReduxReview:  I've heard the song (I have it on a compilation) but had no idea who Cavaliere was. It is really interesting to find the history of artists like this that were able to put something on the chart. The song is a nice enough AC fare, but a bit bland. However, I hadn't heard the song in a long while and I instantly recognized it, so I guess that is good.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In addition to being a songwriter/performer, Cavaliere also produced albums by other artists including Laura Nyro. He co-produced her "Christmas and the Beads of Sweat" album with Arif Mardin.

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Friday, October 5, 2012

"I Can't Tell You Why" by Eagles

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0071
Date:  02/23/1980
Debut:  60
Peak:  8
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock, Soft Rock



Pop Bits:  For a band whose album "Greatest Hits (1971-1975)" fights back and forth with Michael Jackson's "Thriller" for the title of all-time best selling album in the US, the Eagles prime period did not last that long nor did they did not have an extensive catalog - 8 years, 6 studio album. But they cemented a major music legacy that still sells albums and gets radio airplay today. Their album "The Long Run" was their final studio album before they went on a 14-years "hiatus" (they practically broke up on stage at an infamous concert in 1980). This song was the last single released from the album and their last Top 10 hit. They would reunite in 1994 with a successful album and tour, but it would never be the same as their prime 70s days.

ReduxReview:  Never was an Eagles fan and no intentions on being one. I've never had a connection with their music at all. I'm very familiar with all their hits and also the "Hotel California" album, but that Southern California country-rock was a flavor I just could not develop a taste for. I don't consider their music bad in anyway, it's just that I don't really care for it. I actually prefer when they did solo stuff after the breakup. Each one (especially Don Henley) offered up some quality tunes that, for the most part, weren't Eagle-ish at all. This song was one of their better offerings and it featured the vocals of their newest member.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Here's a good "All About Eve" story in rock. Randy Meisner was originally in the group Poco. He left that group and was replace by Timothy B. Schmit. Meisner went on to be a co-founder of the Eagles and when he left that band in 1977, guess who replace him?  Yup - Timothy B. Schmit. Unfortunately, Schmit joined them for "The Long Run" and it would another 14 years before they recorded again.

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"Fire Lake" by Bob Seger

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0070
Date:  02/23/1980
Debut:  65
Peak:  6
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  Beginning in the late 60s, Seger was a big deal in his home state of Michigan. He could pack Cobo Arena and the Silverdome, but then head to another major city and draw only minor crowds. It took until 1976 and his album "Night Moves" to finally break nationally. Then in 1980 he released "Against the Wind" and it became his first and only #1 album - and the one that knocked Pink Floyd's "The Wall" off the top spot. The lead single was "Fire Lake" and it was his third Top 10 hit.

ReduxReview:  Here's another artist I didn't care for until much later. This style of country-rock bar, driving a motorcycle (or horse) music was not my thing but it has grown on me over the years and I appreciate his songwriting skill and jams like "Hollywood Nights." There are times I get in a Seger mood and pop on his hits disc and I'm all about it. However, on the scale of favorite Seger songs "Fire Lake" is not among the best for me. It's got that heavy 1-2 country stomp feel that practically forces your head to move right, left, right, left, rinse and repeat - a lot. Bleh. I call these "dum-dum" songs because the bass heavily plods like dum...dum...dum...dut-dut-dum. When you hear it, you'll know what I mean.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Seger graduated from Ann Arbor High School (now Pioneer High School) in 1963. Later he met future Eagle Glenn Frey and the two worked together in the early years and continued to do so after both were successful. In fact, three of the Eagles do the backing vocals on "Fire Lake."

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

"Pilot of the Airwaves" by Charlie Dore

Song#:  0069
Date:  02/23/1980
Debut:  74
Peak:  13
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop



Pop Bits:  The UK's Charlie Dore studied acting and had been performing in theater before being asked to help out on a weekly music gig. More musicians got involved and soon a formal band called Hula Valley was formed mainly playing bluegrass and western songs. The band went through some name and personnel changes as they hit the club circuit and soon Dore was writing or co-writing originals for the band. Island Records came calling and signed her as a solo act. They shipped her off to Nashville where her debut "Where to Now" was recorded. Dore wrote (or co-wrote) all the songs including this lead single which became a US hit. Her follow-up album "Listen" came out two years later (with Toto as her backing band), but it didn't get much attention. She returned to acting and appeared on several TV shows in the UK and co-starred in the 1983 film "The Ploughman's Lunch." She did return in later years to recording albums with the last being released in 2011. "Pilot..." remains her only song to hit the chart. Not a one-hit wonder by my definition, but very close!

ReduxReview:  This one was a surprise. Never heard the song and never heard of her, which seems odd since it did just miss the Top 10. She's not a vocal powerhouse, but she does know how to write a song and I like this one. Now maybe if the Starland Vocal Band had gotten a-hold of this, their post-"Afternoon Delight" might have lasted a bit longer!

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although she didn't do much recording herself, she wrote/co-wrote songs for other artist such as "Strut" by Sheena Easton and songs done by Tina Turner, Celine Dion, Lisa Stansfield, and Barry Manilow. 2) For her second album, Dore recorded the song "You Should Hear." A year later, the title would get expanded and become a huge hit for Melissa Manchester - "You Should Hear How She Talks About You."

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"Set Me Free" by Utopia

Song#:  0068
Date:  02/23/1980
Debut:  76
Peak:  27
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Rock



Pop Bits:  Yet another example of a group that pretty much set aside their original musical direction and headed towards the mainstream. Utopia was formed as an experimental prog rock band born out an itch Todd Rundgren had after the success of his pop/rock opus "Something/Anything?." Their first album was a four-track instrumental that was light-years away from any of his pop tunes. But by the time Utopia's third album came out the sound had shifted to a more straight-ahead rock sound. The 14-minute experiments were replaced by 3-minute radio-friendly rock. As a result, their fourth (and best selling) album, "Adventures in Utopia," produced this chart song.

ReduxReview:  This is Billy Joel, right? It's not? Hmm. Could have sworn this was Billy Joel.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Rundgren wrote the song "Love Is the Answer" for Utopia's 1977 album "Oops! Wrong Planet." It was released as a single but didn't chart. In 1979, England Dan & John Ford Coley covered the song and took it to #10.

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"Fire In the Morning" by Melissa Manchester

Song#:  0067
Date:  02/23/1980
Debut:  81
Peak:  32
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary



Pop Bits:  Manchester had just come off of a Top 10 hit ("Don't Cry Out Loud") so expectations were fairly high for her next album. "Melissa Manchester" came out late 1979 and the lead track was her minor foray into disco territory with "Pretty Girls." It peaked at a disappointing #39, so the obvious thing to do was to go back to the silky smooth, big ballads that Manchester was becoming known for. "Fire In the Morning" did only slightly better on the chart but it did become a lasting standard in her catalog.

ReduxReview:  This is pretty basic schmalzy pop but what makes it outshine others is the solid arrangement and Manchester's voice. It's a nice entry and probably should have done a bit better on the chart. I always found it strange that she is such a good songwriter but a lot of her chart hits (like this one) were written by others. I don't think she ever got enough credit as a songwriter.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Okay, hang in there with me on this one: This song debuted one spot higher than another "fire" debut song, Kenny Loggins' "Keep the Fire" (see previous post) and they both stayed on the chart for 13 weeks and peaked within four spots of each other. Now, Loggins and Manchester co-wrote the song "Whenever I Call You Friend," which was a hit for Loggins the previous year. Manchester did her own version of the song and put it on the "Melissa Manchester" album which featured "Fire In the Morning." Phew! Not really great trivia, but kind of interesting.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"Keep the Fire" by Kenny Loggins

Song#:  0066
Date:  02/23/1980
Debut:  82
Peak:  36
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock



Pop Bits:  Although he had intentions on a solo career earlier in the 70s, he and Jim Messina formed an unexpected duo that proved successful. The association ended in 1976 and Loggins finally got started on his solo career. His first Top 10 hit was the duet with Stevie Nicks "Whenever I Call You Friend" and a year later just missed the Top 10 with "This Is It" (#11). This song was the follow-up single.

ReduxReview:  I like the song, but I've heard it several times and it just isn't sticking with me. It definitely has that late 70s smooth rock sound and it is a solid tune. I think its final chart position basically tells the tale - good and radio friendly, but nothing special or real memorable.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Loggins and Michael McDonald had several collaborations, the most famous being "What a Fool Believes," which they co-wrote. Both recorded the song - Loggins as a solo song and McDonald with the Doobie Brothers. Loggins' version came out first on his album "Nightwatch," but it was the single by the Doobies that became the big hit and earned them both Grammys. McDonald also co-wrote and sang backup vocals on Loggins' "This Is It."

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"Girl With the Hungry Eyes" by Jefferson Starship

Song#:  0065
Date:  02/23/1980
Debut:  83
Peak:  55
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  It might be hard to find any band in rock that has gone through as many personnel changes as Jefferson Starship (previously Jefferson Airplane, postly Starship). It was such a revolving door that Wikipedia had to dedicate a separate page to document all the lineups. With the exception of the "Starship" incarnation (which was the result of a lawsuit), Paul Kantner is the longest continuous member as a co-founder of Airplane through to current tours as Jefferson Starship. Throughout all the changes and their problems, it is really amazing that the group soldiered on and managed to make gold albums and put songs on the chart. During this time period, Marty Balin had left the group, Grace Slick was ejected, and they picked up a new lead singer with Mickey Thomas. The first album after these changes was "Freedom At Point Zero," which spawned the #14 single "Jane." "Girl..." was the follow-up single.

ReduxReview:  This song is a little...odd. "Jane" was a great rock song and this sounds like it was done by a totally different group. I can forgive the cheezy keyboard at the beginning (because it probably sounded cool back then) but this odd sci-fi boy-meets-girl talking about getting "together on the killing floor" with "violent lightning" is kinda whacked. It quickly chugs like a synthpop song but then you are slammed into a rock n' roll jam. It's all very bizarre and doesn't quite make sense. I think the Starship gone crazy!

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  As Airplane was fizzling, Kantner recorded a project called "Blows Against the Empire." Although it did not have the lineup that would make up the band later, it was the first album to see the Jefferson Starship name. The concept album was a sci-fi vision about a group of Earth folk escaping in a hijacked starship. In 1971 the album was nominated for a Hugo Award, which are given out to the best sci-fi/fantasy works each year. The album was nominated in the "Best Dramatic Presentation" category and was one of the rare musical works nominated for a Hugo.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"Carrie" by Cliff Richard

Song#:  0064
Date:  02/23/1980
Debut:  84
Peak:  34
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop



Pop Bits:  Prior to 1976, Richard had very little chart success in the US. After he finally hit with "Devil Woman" (#6) he got a taste of some success here. But it could never rival what his career was like in his native UK. Beginning in the late 50s, the singer (with his backing group The Shadows in the 60s) amassed an amazing 69 Top 10 hits. He is the only singer in the UK to have a #1 song in each decade from the 50s to the 90s. So how could someone so gigantic in the UK only receive minor attention in the US? Could be the material, could be he wasn't in on the British Invasion, could be lack of promotion, could be...who knows? But it happens - just not usually on such a large scale. Richard was just coming off of his US Top 10 hit "We Don't Talk Anymore" when this follow-up was released. It scratched the Top 40, but far from the #4 peak in the UK.

ReduxReview:  This mysterious song has kind of a new wavy feel to it but might have been a bit too dark following the delicious smooth pop/rock of "We Don't Talk Anymore." Regardless, I kind of like the song and reminds me of something Rupert Holmes might have done. I also like how he pronounces the name "Cah-ree." Interesting track to check out.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was co-written by Terry Brittan who penned a lot of songs for Richard during this era including the aforementioned "Devil Woman." Brittan also wrote hits by Tina Turner ("What's Love Got to Do With It, "We Don't Need Another Hero") and songs for artists like Michael Jackson, Olivia Newton-John, and Bonnie Raitt.

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"It's Like We Never Said Goodbye" by Crystal Gayle

Song#:  0063
Date:  02/23/1980
Debut:  86
Peak:  63
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Country, Pop



Pop Bits:  Inspired by her older sister (Loretta Lynn), Gayle stepped into the music business at an early age. She signed with Decca who wanted to keep her in the same vein as Loretta - with Loretta even writing the songs. But it just wasn't the right path for her and after separating from Decca she found some freedom with United Artists (and later Columbia). Her sound changed from straight country to country crossover and it was the right combination resulting in 18 #1 country chart hits. She hit it big on the pop chart in 1977 with the #2 "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue." It was her only solo Top 10 pop hit, but she continued to put songs on the chart like this one.

ReduxReview:  Gayle often had some good material to work with. Her chart single before this one, "Half the Way," I always loved. This one is a good crossover song as well. It has a solid hook and a nice arrangement, which can be a killer of these pop/country tunes. Sometimes the arrangements are just awful and border on the old Muzak elevator stuff or they are completely cheesy. This one hits it just right. I'm surprised it didn't do a little better.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  When this song hit #1 on the country chart, it was part of a history making record. On that week, the Top 5 songs on the chart were all by female artists, which was a first. The other artists on that Top 5 were Dottie West, Debby Boone, Emmylou Harris, and Tammy Wynette.

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"The Spirit of Radio" by Rush

Song#:  0062
Date:  02/23/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  51
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock, Hard Rock, Prog Rock



Pop Bits:  Rush was never a singles band and a good chunk of their earlier albums were dedicated to lengthy themed epics like "2112." But 1980 saw "Permanent Waves" come out and it was a definite shift towards something more focused and radio-friendly - well, rock radio friendly. And it proved to be the right move as the album was their first US Top 10 (#4) and they have not had an album peak outside of the Top 20 since. This lead track and first single was their first chart entry in three years and has become a rock radio classic.

ReduxReview:  How much do I like prog rock? About zero. And back in the day I just did not get Rush at all. You know, I had to read books like "Fahrenheit 451" and "A Tale of Two Cities" for classes and I enjoyed them. But it doesn't mean I want to hear them combined and put to some crazy-ass rock music. But times and ears change and at some point a few years ago I suddenly found myself really liking Rush. I prefer their rock radio staples like this one, but they can have some very tasty album cuts. In fact, I think it might have been "Red Barchetta" from their next album "Moving Pictures" that changed my mind. This particular song hooks you from the wild opening lick to the reggae influence mid-section. Pretty tasty and fun for prog rock.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The title of the song was inspired by a slogan used by Toronto radio station CFNY.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

"Loving You With My Eyes" by Starland Vocal Band

Song#:  0061
Date:  02/23/1980
Debut:  89
Peak:  71
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Easy Listening



Pop Bits:  Famous (or infamous) for unleashing the wink-wink, deliciously cheesy #1 "Afternoon Delight," the Band suffered a massive flame-out and are considered by some to be a one-hit wonder. But actually they had three other chart songs though none would reach the upper half of the chart or were as memorable as their signature tune. "Afternoon Delight" got them two Grammy awards including (cursed!) Best New Artist - over Boston. Their fourth and last album, "4x4," allowed them to get this one last song on the chart before breaking up.

ReduxReview:  Not as horrible as you might think, but not great either. It's just kind of a languid 70s ballad, but I will say that they do have nice vocals - well, they should if that is part of the band name...

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  During the summer of '77, the Band headlined their own TV variety show on CBS. One of the writers (and sometimes performer) on the show had a pretty good career in later years...David Letterman.

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"Autograph" by John Denver

Song#:  0060
Date:  02/23/1980
Debut:  90
Peak:  52
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop



Pop Bits:  After being on a "Rocky Mountain High" for most of the 70s, the 80s found John Denver on the low side of the charts. Coming off of the box office hit movie "Oh, God!," he returned to the chart with the title song to his first album of the 80s. He got quite a chilly reception with this middling chart song and it was his first album not to reach gold status since 1970. He was one of the biggest stars of the 70s, but it was probably a combination of his hippy-dippy good guy persona, gentle songs, and changing musical landscape that made him more of a punchline than a continuing musical force into the 80s. Even today his name can elicit groans, but people forget he had a rich catalog of pop/folk/country songs and, if they were around during the 70s, were probably singing along to them.

ReduxReview:  Well, he certainly was infatuated with mountains. The "Autograph" album had four songs with "mountain" in the title. By this time in his career he seemed to just be running out of gas in regards to good singles material while others like Dan Fogelberg were taking over with their strong brand of mountain pop. This is a nice enough song, but it is just too subtle to make a lasting radio impression.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Denver was born Henry John Deutschendorf in (of all places) Roswell, New Mexico. He was in an Air Force family, which meant moving all around the country for most of his younger years. His favorite state was Colorado, so when it was suggested his last name would not fit on a marquee, he opted to change it to Denver.

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"Somewhere In America" by Survivor

Song#:  0059
Date:  02/23/1980
Debut:  95
Peak:  70
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock, Arena Rock



Pop Bits:  Survivor formed in 1978 but it took a few years and a couple albums before they hit it big - with the help of Sylvester Stallone. Their self-titled debut album didn't make much of an impact but thanks to some local Chicago support, this first single managed to get on the chart. What is interesting with the song is it stayed on the chart for 12 weeks but only peaked at 70. Typically these low-charting singles drop off after a few weeks.

ReduxReview:  After a quiet opening the song goes into a straight-forward mid-tempo rock jam, then a dreamy mid-section, then crunchy guitar solo, then back to the beginning, then jamming again. Somehow it does all pull together, but it is a chaotic 5 minutes. Nice cowbell though.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Lead singer Jim Peterik had chart success before Survivor. He was lead singer of The Ides of March who had a #2 hit in 1970 with "Vehicle."

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Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Off the Wall" by Michael Jackson

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0058
Date:  02/16/1980
Debut:  53
Peak:  10
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Dance



Pop Bits:  The title track from Jackson's album was its third single following the #1's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Rock With You." After working with Quincy Jones on the movie misstep "The Wiz," Jackson got Jones to co-produce the album with him. This successful collaboration would last through his next two giant successes. Jackson wrote three songs on the album which featured songs written by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. The album was considered a departure for Jackson and the direction he was going was well received. But Jackson thought it should have had more impact than it did (even though it was a major hit) and set out to improve and top it.

ReduxReview:  I've always thought of this as "Thriller"-lite. It has a similar sound and groove and some crazy sounds (like the laugh at the beginning). Both songs were written by Rod Temperton, so it is not surprising. It is less memorable than the other singles from the album (or the ones yet to come) and in his catalog I think it is one of the songs that people have forgotten about, which is too bad. It's actually very good.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Jackson won his first Grammy in 1980 for Best R&B Male Vocal Performace for "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." But as successful as the album and songs were, none were nominated in the main categories.

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"Ride Like the Wind" by Christopher Cross

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0057
Date:  02/16/1980
Debut:  61
Peak:  2
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock



Pop Bits:  There is a running legend about the curse of the Grammys where winner of "Best New Artist" fails to fully follow-up their initial success. While some do go on to huge careers (The Beatles, Natalie Cole, Bette Midler, The Carpenters, Mariah Carey) others seems to flame out soon after (Starland Vocal Band, Arrested Development, Men at Work, Jody Watley). But out of any New Artist winner, none had a more spectacular decline than Christopher Cross. His self-title album was a big hit and spawned four Top 20 song and he cleaned up at the 1981 Grammys winning five. But whether it was the changing musical landscape of the 80s or just a lack of material that matched his debut, his next album briefly flickered and faded. After that, he was never able to put an album on the chart again. "Ride Like the Wind" was his debut single and it featured Michael McDonald on backing vocals.

ReduxReview:  My main connection with this song is that in my senior year of high school our band was going to play this during our spring concert. Our director allowed me to rehearse the band and then I conducted the song during the concert. It was so cool to do and I've always appreciated that I had that opportunity. So I may be a little bias in my love of the song, but it really is a soft rock classic (although on most of his songs I can barely understand what Cross is singing...is it just me?).

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Cross is the only artist to win the four general categories of the Grammys in the same year - Album, Record, and Song of the year plus New Artist. One other artist has won all four, but not in the same year. Adele won New Artist in 2009 and then cleaned up with the rest in 2012.

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