Saturday, November 3, 2012

"Can't Put a Price on Love" by The Knack

Song#:  0117
Date:  04/05/1980
Debut:  89
Peak:  62
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  The Knack were pretty much yesterday's leftover music dinner by the time their second album came out. The album did go gold, but that was far less than their debut. It didn't help that the inevitable backlash and lack of a hit single was contributing to their plummeting popularity. A good chunk of critics raked them over the coals considering the album a re-hash of the first and citing lyrics that are demeaning to women. They would pump out one more disc in the coming year before going on a long hiatus, but the writing was on the wall. This second single from the album didn't help matters.

ReduxReview:  Yikes - the whole opening and a chunk of the songs sounds like "Beast of Burden" on downers. I often enjoy an artist who adopts a retro-sound or pays tribute to a specific era of music, but there is just no inspiration or originality behind this.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  The cover of their second album "...But the Little Girls Understand" featurs a picture of Sharona Alperin - the inspiration for their major hit "My Sharona."


Friday, November 2, 2012

"Solitaire" by Peter McIan

Song#:  0116
Date:  04/05/1980
Debut:  90
Peak:  52
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  I wasn't able to locate much on this artist. It appears like he was signed to CBS Records and released one album, "Playing Near the Edge." This song was his one chart hit from the album. Although being a pop star seemed to not be in the cards for him, his second career as producer was far more successful. He produced the first two albums from Men at Work ("Business As Usual" and "Cargo") and Mr. Mister's "I Wear the Face." He also co-wrote songs recorded by Pat Benatar ("Looking For a Stranger") and Barbra Streisand ("Clear Sailing"). Apparently he also did some music for TV shows like "Starsky & Hutch" and "The Love Boat." Here is an oddity - this song about a card game peaked at #52, which is the number of cards in a deck. Huh. Was meant to be I guess.

ReduxReview:  I quite like this song. Had I heard it back in the day I might have bought this single. I think it is well-written and the recording/arrangement is pretty sweet. This actually sounds more like a mid-80s track, like in the vein of John Parr maybe. It might have done better during that time period. This is a nice find.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  After further research I discovered that McIan left the music business and ended up inventing a program called RapidReader, which is an accelerated reading program that increases the speed and understanding of your reading. He is now CEO of the company that produces the program SoftOlogy IdeaWorks.


"Don't Push It, Don't Force It" by Leon Haywood

Song#:  0115
Date:  04/05/1980
Debut:  93
Peak:  49
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  In his earlier career Haywood played piano and keyboards for several blues and R&B stars like Guitar Slim and Sam Cooke. He first hit the charts in 1965 and had a few minor hits throughout the rest of the 60s and into the 70s. His first major hit was "I Want'a Do Something Freaky to You" in 1975 (#15 Pop/#7 R&B). By this time he was combining soul and R&B with funk and disco and it served him well. He continued to have a few minor R&B chart songs through the remainder of the 70s, but didn't hit the pop chart again until this song, which ended up being his biggest R&B hit peaking at #2. It ended up being his last entry on the pop chart.

ReduxReview:  Gotta give points for the double entendre title and lyrics. Other than that, it has a pretty good funk groove but the song tends to go on too long. 

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Haywood's song "I Want'a Do..." remains his most popular hit and has been sampled many times by artists such as Dr. Dre, Redman, and Mariah Carey.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Scandal" by RCR

Redux Spotlight Alert!
Song#:  0114
Date:  04/05/1980
Debut:  94
Peak:  94
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Again, this is why I enjoy doing this - the unexpected. RCR is the trio of sisters Donna and Sandra Rhodes and Charles Chalmers (last name initials = RCR). The three formed a group that performed backing vocals on recordings by major artists like Elvis Presley, Al Green, Paul Anka, Andy Gibb, John Mellencamp, Neil Diamond, and Olivia Newton-John. In 1980, the trio finally recorded their own album titled "Scandal." The title track made it to the chart, but just for a couple of weeks. A follow-up single, "Give It to You," failed to chart. It appears this was the only album from the RCR trio.

ReduxReview:  Looking this song up was a hoot. There isn't much out there but I found the names of the members and started to look them up. I found info on Chalmers and began reading. I thought he sounded familiar and then I found out why. In the early 90s, he moved to Branson, Missouri, to work with Mel Tillis at his theater. At the time, I was working for Andy Williams at his theater in Branson. Chalmers ended up opening a recording studio in town. A good friend of mine there, who is a terrific singer/songwriter, decided to record an album and hooked up with Chalmers who produced the album for him! I'm not sure if I ever met Chalmers (I might have either through business at the theater or an event), but this is something I never expected when doing this little blog project; finding someone on the chart that I have a weird connection with. In addition, Sandra Rhodes played on the album. As for the song, it is not what I expected from their history. It's pretty good. The song has a nice rock groove and a good guitar line. I'm actually surprised it didn't do better. I'm calling this out as a Spotlight pick both because it is an interesting song and this story behind the group. If you like this, I suggest looking up "Give It to You" on YouTube. The song has a totally different groove - almost disco, sounding very BeeGee-ish. Needless to say, I've ordered the LP and it is on it's way to me now!

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) The sisters were rooted in country and they recorded as a duo in the 60/70s as The Lonesome Rhodes. Chet Atkins produced them. Sandra was also a songwriter and at age fifteen, she wrote a song that became a country hit for Skeeter Davis, "How Much Can a Lonely Heart Stand" (#92 pop 1964). Sandra met Chalmers at Sun Studios and they eventually married (although they are divorced now). She still performs at a theater in Mountain View, Arkansas.  2)  Chalmers was also a sax player and has performed on many classic songs like Aretha Franklin's "Respect" and "Chain of Fools," Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally" and "Land of a Thousand Dances," and Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man."  3) He and Sandra co-wrote "The Clown" which was a #1 country hit for Conway Twitty in 1982.


"Don't Fall in Love With a Dreamer" by Kenny Rogers & Kim Carnes

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0113
Date:  03/29/1980
Debut:  56
Peak:  4
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Country Crossover, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Rogers was at the peak of his career when the 80s began. He was coming off of his fourth #1 country album and his seventh #1 country song, all done with producer Larry Butler. His previous single "Coward of the County" was his fourth Top 10 hit on the pop chart. As artists tend to do, Rogers decided to make a change and follow-up one of his best-selling LP's ("Kenny") with a concept album. "Gideon" is a song cycle that provides snapshots from the life of a Texas cowboy named Gideon Tanner. This duet would be the album's only chart hit, and the first Top 10 for Kim Carnes - helping her popularity which would lead to a major solo hit the following year.

ReduxReview:  This is a beautifully written and performed song. Carnes' gravelly voice is a perfect fit with Rogers' gruff tones. Carnes has written lots of great songs, but this is one that would be near the top of the list of her best. Many years later, I got to see them in concert together. Carnes opened for Rogers, but during his set she came out and they did this song. It was the best moment of his set.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  While still produced by Larry Butler, all songs for the album were written by Kim Carnes and her husband Dave Ellingson. Rogers and Carnes may seem like a bit of an odd combo, but they already had a history of performing together. Both joined the New Christy Minstrels in 1966 as replacement members. The following year, Rogers left the group with three other members and formed The First Edition. That group amassed ten pop chart songs including two Top 10 hits before the group disbanded and Rogers went solo in 1975.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"I Can't Help It" by Andy Gibb & Olivia Newton-John

Song#:  0112
Date:  03/29/1980
Debut:  63
Peak:  12
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Gibb's "Desire" was just peaking at #4 on the chart when this duet made its debut. It was his first single not to hit the Top 10. It wouldn't be realized until later that this would signal the end of his major hits. He never returned to the Top 10. Due to his erratic behavior and drug use, his label dropped him and the album from which this song is from ("After Dark") became his last studio album release.

ReduxReview:  As I've said before, great songwriters can have some lackluster efforts along the way. Barry Gibb is an amazing songwriter but I doubt this would rank anywhere on a list of his best compositions. It's very low-key, quiet, and kind of lazy. I practically drift off to sleep listening to it. And when Olivia Newton-John can't perk up a dreary song, you know it is not that good. Set an alarm when you listen to this as you may drift

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  In 1981, Gibb took on the role of TV show host when he and Marilyn McCoo took over Dionne Warwick's hosting gig on "Solid Gold" for its second season. He was only on the show for one season.


"Breakdown Dead Ahead" by Boz Scaggs

Song#:  0111
Date:  03/29/1980
Debut:  65
Peak:  15
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Scaggs had hit it big a few years earlier with his album "Silk Degrees" and its #3 single "Lowdown." His follow-up album "Down Two Then Left" was far less successful and failed to produce a Top 40 hit. He returned to form with "Middle Man" and was able to score two Top 20 hits. This rock-oriented tune was the first of them.

ReduxReview:  Scaggs' music is strange for me. I'm familiar with it and know song titles, but if you asked me to sing something from one of them I think the only one I could do is "Lido Shuffle." The others I have to re-listen to in order to remember what they sound like. From his biggest hit "Lowdown" I can only remember the flute line. It's all good music - either blue-eyed soul or soft rock - but it is not incredibly memorable for me. This song is rockier than some of his other songs, but I still couldn't remember it until I heard it. I think if Billy Joel's music had a baby with a Van Morrison tune, this might be the result.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  His real name is William Royce Scaggs. When he attended school in Dallas, one of his classmates gave him the nickname of Bosley. This eventually got shortened by a syllable and he became known as Boz.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Borrowed Time" by Styx

Song#:  0110
Date:  03/29/1980
Debut:  81
Peak:  64
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock, Arena Rock

Pop Bits:  Styx's career was in high-gear when they released the album "Cornerstone." It's lead single, "Babe," became their only #1 chart hit. Initially the song was not intended to be on the album as it was a birthday gift that Dennis DeYoung wrote for his wife. But at the urging of other band members, the demo was included on the album and put out as a single. However, its popularity started some dissent within the group; specifically between DeYoung and Tommy Shaw. It's the point where DeYoung began to veer off into a more melodic, theatrical approach versus the hard rock direction Shaw wanted to go. This disagreement would continue and come to a bitter end in a few short years. In the meantime, this Shaw/DeYoung collaboration would be the third single from "Cornerstone."

ReduxReview:  As a Styx fan who wore out two cassette copies of "The Grand Illusion" album, I can say that "Cornerstone" is probably their weakest album in this period. It still had some good songs but no true standouts except for "Babe." This song is a good chugging rocker, but not the best selection for a single. I always thought the album opener "Lights" would have made a better single. But they were having issues selecting singles so no wonder this one dudded out...

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The DeYoung/Shaw feud was initially over the choice of second single from the album. The success of "Babe" started to lead DeYoung down the theatrical path and his other ballad on the album "First Night" was already getting airplay - so that would be the obvious single. But objections from Shaw and his rock direction lead to the upbeat "Why Me?" (#26) and "Borrowed Time" being released instead. So intense was the argument at the time that it lead to DeYoung being fired from the band for a brief period of time. But issues were resolved (for the time being) and the group set out to make their next album - which proved to be their biggest hit.


"Let's Get Serious" by Jermaine Jackson

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0109
Date:  03/29/1980
Debut:  83
Peak:  9
Weeks:  23
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Jermaine is the fourth-born child in the Jackson clan and prior to hitting it big with his brothers as the Jackson 5, he was the sole lead singer for the early incarnation of the group. When brother Michael came in, the lead vocal duties were shared by the pair. Jermaine started his solo career while still part of the family group (as did Michael) and had a hit with his second single "Daddy's Home" (#9 in 1972), a cover of Shep & the Limelites' #2 hit in 1961. His follow-up albums and singles made little impact on the charts, but the lead single from his "Let's Get Serious" album put him back in the pop Top 10 and garnered him his first solo #1 R&B song.

ReduxReview:  Jackson's career certainly needed a boost and this song provides it. The song has a groovy dance feel that is reflective of its writer/producer (see below). Radio friendly and hooky, it is not surprising this became a hit. Plus, having a big name attached who was hot-hot-hot at the time helps a great deal.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song (and the album) was co-written and produced by Stevie Wonder. He also provides some backing vocals for the tracks.


Monday, October 29, 2012

"Starting Over Again" by Dolly Parton

Song#:  0108
Date:  03/29/1980
Debut:  84
Peak:  36
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop, Country

Pop Bits:  Well, what is there to say about Dolly Parton? I'd probably say that if you don't know Dolly, you don't know music. She has had the most #1 country hits (tied with Reba McEntire at 25) of any female recording artist and the most Top 10 country albums (41). She has written many of these including "I Will Always Love You," which she took to the top of the country chart twice (!) and loaned to Whitney Houston for her #1 pop hit. Parton had only minor success on the pop chart early in her career, but when she focused on crossover material, she was able to grab Top 10 his like "Here You Come Again" and "9 to 5." She was still flirting with pop when this single was released. It was a #1 country hit.

ReduxReview:  This is really a very good pop/country tune. The lyrics tell a story and it suits Parton very well. No matter what she sings, Parton can make anything seem very personal and real. Plus it has a nice arrangement that is not too over the top or sappy like songs of this time period had. The real surprise is who wrote this (see below).

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot! 1) The song was written by Donna Summer and her husband Bruce Sudano. Summer never recorded the song but has done it in live performances.  2) Parton's big all-time chart competitor Reba McEntire recorded the song in 1995, but it only peaked at #19 on the country chart.


"The Seduction (Love Theme)" by James Last Band

Song#:  0107
Date:  03/29/1980
Debut:  85
Peak:  28
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Instrumental, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  James Last was a very successful German composer and big band leader. He has recorded and/or produced hundreds of albums including a series of "Non-Stop Dancing" albums where he would record short versions of populars songs all tied together with beats and crowd noises. These party albums made him a star in Europe. Although he released albums in the US, he was nowhere near as popular here. This song is his best singles effort in the States. It served as the love theme from the film "American Gigolo," whose soundtrack at the time was a best-seller thanks to Blondie's mega-hit "Call Me."

ReduxReview:  This is a gooey sax-strumental only made "modern" by the incessant, farty synth pattern. The sax player gets his groove on just fine, but the balance is basic background music with no real melody or hook.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Last also wrote songs that became hits for other artists. His most famous is "Happy Heart" which was made famous in versions by Andy Williams and Petula Clark. Williams also recorded a version of "Music from Across the Way," a popular AC radio song in 1972. The song also served as Last's only other solo chart song in the US (#84 in 1972).


Sunday, October 28, 2012

"After You" by Dionne Warwick

Song#:  0106
Date:  03/29/1980
Debut:  86
Peak:  65
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Warwick had a very successful run in the 60s, mainly with the writing team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. A big chunk of her Top 10 hits were written by the pair including classics like "I Say a Little Prayer" and "Walk on By." In 1971, she signed a contract with Warner Bros. for $5 million - the highest paid to female vocalist at the time. Bacharach and David would be on board to write and produce her albums. They got one album out the door but a year later the writing duo had a fall-out and split leaving Warwick in the lurch. She had obligations to Warner, so she continued on recording albums with other producers to little success. She then sued the writing due for breach of contract and settled. Her only success during this period was her first #1 pop chart hit "Then Came You," a duet with the Spinners. Once she fulfilled her Warner contract, she got picked up by Clive Davis and moved to Arista, which was also the home of Barry Manilow. Davis put the two together and the result was the best selling album of her career. Anchored by the singles "I'll Never Love This Way Again" (#5, gold) and "Deja Vu" (#15), Warwick was hot once again. This song was the third single from the very successful "Dionne" album.

ReduxReview:  In the 80s, Warwick would have several singles in this pop/AC vein. Some work and some are just not memorable - like this one. Putting Manilow and Warwick was a terrific idea and it paid off with two great singles and a couple of other good album tracks, but this big ballad is just a pleasant AC tune that doesn't resonate for very long.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Warwick was the first female artist to win both Pop Vocal and R&B Vocal Grammys in the same year. She won pop vocal for "I'll Never Love..." and R&B vocal for "Deja Vu" (which incidentally was co-written by Isaac Hayes).