Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Let Me Love You Tonight" by Pure Prairie League

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0163
Date:  05/10/1980
Debut:  81
Peak:  10
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Country Rock



Pop Bits:  Pure Prairie League had their first official line-up in place in 1970, but through the years had numerous personnel. They had varying success in the 70s and early 80s with their peak being this song from their album "Firin' Up." Like other acts such as Captain & Tennille, they were on the Casablanca label when it started to fizzle. When the label went belly-up, they were without a contract and never really recovered. However, they remained a successful touring act and a version of the band performs currently.

ReduxReview:  This is just a nice reliable tune. Pleasant to listen too and it kind of makes you sway back and forth. It's nothing that I would rush out and buy, but it is always a pleasure to listen to when it comes up on the radio or in a playlist.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Part of the personnel changes mentioned above was bringing in a couple of new replacements in 1978. One of those happened to be Vince Gill. He joined the band and stayed with them for two albums, leaving in 1982 when the group lost their Casablanca contract. Gill is the lead singer on this single. It was his first major hit and he would have many more as a solo country artist.

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Friday, November 30, 2012

"Inside of You" by Ray, Goodman & Brown

Song#:  0162
Date:  05/10/1980
Debut:  84
Peak:  76
Weeks:  4
Genre:  R&B, Soul



Pop Bits:  The group just had a major success with the gold #5 "Special Lady" (Redux #0024) and their self-titled debut under this new moniker (they were previously The Moments) was in the process of going gold and hitting #17 on the pop album chart. They followed up with this second single which didn't make much of an impact on the pop chart, but did go Top 20 on the R&B chart.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't the biggest fan of "Special Lady" and this one is along the same lines but maybe a bit more on the pop side. They do have really nice vocals and I like the mini-vocal breakdown mid-song, but as I said of their previous song, good but bland. I think it is just me - I'm not keen on this style of R&B I guess.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Harry Ray passed away suddenly in 1992. The group continued on, keeping the name and replacing Ray with Kevin Owens. This line-up has appeared with Alicia Keys and provided vocal support on her second album, "The Diary of Alicia Keys" in 2003.

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"Happy Together (A Fantasy)" by the Captain & Tennille

Song#:  0161
Date:  05/10/1980
Debut:  85
Peak:  53
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop



Pop Bits:  This remake of The Turtles' 1967 #1 hit was the third single from C&T's gold album "Make Your Move." It was also the last song of their to hit the pop chart bringing a close to their peak era that saw them get seven Top 10 hits, including two #1's. This particular song was one that they performed in concert through the years expanding it to include a "fantasy" section that sounded like something from the Arabian Nights. It was popular with audiences and they recorded it for their album. C&T would go on to have one more album after this, but their label Casablanca was slowly disintegrating and it didn't get promoted and failed to generate any chart action. Toni Tennille had a fondness for vocal jazz and later in the 80s began releasing solo recordings of old standards. They are still together and perform on occasion.

ReduxReview:  I used to love, love, love this version of the song. All the keyboard sounds and the fantasy part really intrigued me. I still like it these days, but it is so over the top and strange that I can practically hear all The Turtles retreat to their shells to avoid it...but they can't. It's too gigantic. It's like "Lawrence of Arabia" meets Jim Steinman. It ain't quite right, but keeps your attention.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  During their peak years, Toni Tennille also worked as a session vocalist. She was featured on three Elton John albums including the hit "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." She also sang on Pink Floyd's "The Wall" album. There is a story that Tennille went to see a Floyd concert and the kid in front of her recognized who she was and said, "what are YOU doing here?" She told him she sang on the album. The kid didn't believe her and went to track down a friend who had the album with him. When he saw her name in the credits he came back, apologized, and asked for her autograph.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

"King of the Hill" by Rick Pinette and Oak

Redux Spotlight Alert!
Song#:  0160
Date:  05/10/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  36
Weeks:  14
Genre: Soft Rock, Pop



Pop Bits:  Here is a lost group that has very little reference that I can find. From what I can gather, the band Oak was from New Hampshire. They formed in 1969 and hit the bar band circuit. The band would split and reform several times before really setting sights on being a full-time successful group. They finally got their shot at the big time when they signed with Mercury. I believe their band name was originally Pinette (Rick Pinette was the lead singer/writer), but Mercury didn't like it and the band became Oak. Their first single, "This Is Love," hit the chart and peaked at #58 in 1979. Further singles would be credited to Rick Pinette and Oak. This song was their biggest chart hit and it would be followed up with one more album and chart single before the band would split.

ReduxReview:  As I've said before, this is a big part of the reason why I'm doing this project. This song was a fun find. It is a big-ass ballad with everything but the kitchen sink. It scratched the Top 40, but it reminds me of one of those songs that wasn't big the first time around, but was rediscovered years later and went Top 10 - like the group Sheriff whose song "When I'm With You" peaked at #61 in 1983 and then reappeared in 1989 and went to #1. Unfortunately, this song didn't have a second life but I'm glad I discovered it. Yes, I know it is not a brilliant song, but I really love it - the opening piano riff, Pinette's big voice, the strings, the horn, the big last note. Totally awesome. The vinyl of their self-titled debut was slightly hard to find, but I got one coming my way! This is very deserving of a Spotlight mention.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  After the band split, Pinette formed the Rick Pinette Band and toured all around the northeast. It appears that he gave up the music business and is now a motivational speaker located in Florida. He does corporate events and also school assemblies where he incorporates music and goes by "Mr. Rick."

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"Ashes By Now" by Rodney Crowell

Song#:  0159
Date:  05/10/1980
Debut:  90
Peak:  37
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Country Crossover



Pop Bits:  It's quite surprising that this is Crowell's only pop chart song. With several hits on the country chart and accolades for his songwriting, his solo work seemed like it would have broken through a bit more in pop. The song is from his second solo album "But What Will the Neighbors Think." Over the course of eight years Crowell's country audience grew and in 1988 he released his most famous album "Diamonds & Dirt." Five singles were released from this album and all of them hit #1 on the country chart. Yet, all of them failed to hit the pop chart and even the album failed to make it. Very strange. However, other artists had success with Crowell's songs and even this one was remade in 2000 by Lee Ann Womack and became a #4 country hit and a #48 pop entry.

ReduxReview:  Crowell is an excellent songwriter. This one is no exception. It may take a couple of listens to really click, but when it does, you might find yourself hooked. It's a slow burner and has a nice late-70s country pop sound. Womack's version adds some percussion and kicks up the beat a bit. It's a good reading, but I actually prefer Crowell's simmering statement.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) On the same album that this song appears, Crowell included "Queen of Hearts," written by Hank DeVito who also plays guitar on the song. It was originally recorded by Dave Edmunds a year earlier, but the song would go on to be a big hit in 1981 by Juice Newton.  2) Crowell was married to Roseanne Cash and they often collaborated. He produced her first six album before their marriage ended in 1992.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Little Jeannie" by Elton John

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0158
Date:  05/03/1980
Debut:  65
Peak:  3
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock



Pop Bits:  The 70s belonged to Elton John. He was a superstar who set chart records and had sixteen Top 10 hits. But as the 70s started to close, he made changes and choices that sent his career in a downward spiral. In 1978 he release "A Single Man," his first album to not feature his longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin. It failed to generate a Top 20 hit. Then the following year he recorded the disco album "Victim of Love," which was his worst selling and charting album to that point. The 80s started out better with "21 at 33." The album had some Taupin collaborations and featured this first single which became his biggest chart hit in four years. Although he would have some success in the 80s and beyond, John's major hit making days of the 70s were now definitely in the past.

ReduxReview:  A solid chunk of John's hits were in collaboration with Bernie Taupin. Of the few that were not, most are not often counted among his best. However, this collab with Gary Osborne is one of my favorite non-Taupin hits. The music is pure John (and reminds me of "Daniel" in a way) and rolls along to a nice mid-tempo beat. In a period where he was struggling, this was a perfect song to keep him relevant and get him back in the Top 10.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Before Elton John started his own solo hit-making career, he would do work as a session musician, usually on piano or backing vocals. One of his (now) more famous appearances was on The Hollies' 1969 hit "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" (#7) on which he played piano.

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"Theme from New York, New York" by Frank Sinatra

Song#:  0157
Date:  05/03/1980
Debut:  76
Peak:  32
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Easy Listening



Pop Bits:  Here he is - Francis Albert Sinatra, the Chairman of the Board. What more can be said about one of the greatest pop singers in history? Yes, by this time his voice was flagging but the timing and nuance was still there and he could carry a tune from here to the moon. As mentioned in previous posts, the 80s signaled the end of the real pop vocalist on the chart. Those who had hits in the 50s, 60s and even 70s were struggling against the changing tides of music. Sinatra succumbed to this as well and this song was his final pop chart entry. It represented another one of his "comebacks" and even though it was his last hit, the song became another signature tune in his career. It was the first single from his triple-LP "Trilogy," where each disc had a past, present, and future theme. "Past" featured Sinatra re-recording a set of standards, "Present" had him singing more modern pop songs (which is where this song appeared), and "Future" was a freeform suite of songs almost experimental in nature. The album was nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year in 1981 with Sinatra being nominated for Pop Vocal for this song. The song itself was nominated for Song of the Year.

ReduxReview:  This song was originally written for the Martin Scorsese film "New York, New York" (1977) and performed by Liza Minnelli. The song is associated with her and Sinatra, but he got the hit. When performed by either of them, this is really a classic. But I've heard it so many times by others where they drain every ounce of Velveeta out of it. Those are the times I really think this is an awful song. But then I hear Sinatra's or Minnelli's versions and I enjoy it. I prefer Minnelli's more Broadway-ish version, but Sinatra goes for the gusto and it was terrific he got one last hit with the song.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Sinatra is famous (or infamous) for his connections and power of persuasion. Radio personality Jonathan Schwarts, an expert on Sinatra, experienced this first-hand when discussing the "Trilogy" album on his radio show. Schwarts, who was considered very opinionated and of massive ego himself, stated that he enjoyed the first two discs of the project but the third ("Future") was "a shocking embarrassment." His assessment infuriated Sinatra and two days later, Schwarts found himself off the air. He returned a few months later and when asked what happened he has said "you had best ask Sinatra." However, Schwarts is not one to hold a grudge and he continued to play Sinatra's music and has even appeared on Sirius XM radio's "Siriusly Sinatra" channel.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Answering Machine" by Rupert Holmes

Song#:  0156
Date:  05/03/1980
Debut:  82
Peak:  32
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary



Pop Bits:  After double Top 10 success with "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" and "Him," Holmes eked out one more Top 40 song from his album "Partners in Crime." He wouldn't return to the Top 40 again, but he would go on to have other successes on Broadway and in TV.

ReduxReview:  If you write a song where an integral part of is deals with current technology, you better make it really good because that technology will soon evolve or disappear. At the time it may seem really clever, but it's 50/50 many years later whether it remains a clever curiosity or a dated misfire. Because Holmes is a solid songwriter, I would still call this a clever reminder of the time period. Just in the same way he used the personal ads in "Escape," he applies a story to answering machine tag. It's not an awesome song, but I think it still works. However, I doubt kids these days would even get that an answering machine would cut you off with a beep if you went too long - or that a machine can actually fill up. Oh, technology...

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Holmes' debut album, "Widescreen" (1974) gained a major fan - Barbra Streisand. She wanted to record songs from the album and Holmes ended up co-produced her 1975 "Lazy Afternoon" album, which featured four Holmes written or co-written songs. She also recorded two of his songs for "The Star Is Born" soundtrack (1976).

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"It's Not a Wonder" by Little River Band

Song#:  0155
Date:  05/03/1980
Debut:  84
Peak:  51
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Country Rock, Soft Rock



Pop Bits:  Little River Band was one of the first acts from Australia to break through in the US and remain continually successful for a long period of time. Beginning in 1976 they put songs on the chart for almost a decade. They hit the Top 10 in 1978 with "Reminiscing" (#3) and put three other songs there before this single from their live album "Backstage Pass" clipped their streak. But they would turn around and grab two more Top 10's the following year with their next studio album. (Note: the clip above is the studio version from their "First Under the Wire" album.)

ReduxReview:  Little River Band is one of those odd artists that I really like their hit songs but I just have not gotten around to getting a hits disc into my collection. Beyond the hits, I don't connect much with their music. Like this song, it's good but just nothing that really catches my ear. However, I have to like a group that has a member named Beeb Birtles - awesome name. Before LRB, he was in the group Zoot which featured a soon-to-be TV/pop star - Rick Springfield.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The band's name comes from a township in Australia. Apparently, they were on their way to a gig and saw a sign that pointed the way towards Little River and the name took hold.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

"Midnight Rendezvous" by The Babys

Song#:  0154
Date:  05/03/1980
Debut:  87
Peak:  72
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  Their previous single "Back On My Feet Again" (Redux #0016) was a great radio song, but peaked well short of expectations at #33. The new Babys line-up that now included Jonathan Cain seemed destined to ignite with their "Union Jacks" album, but ended up fizzling. This John Waite/Jonathan Cain co-written song would be the second single from the album.

ReduxReview:  While not as strong as "Back On My Feet Again," this song does have some good qualities to it and is one of their better tracks. There is one section of the song that really reminds me of a similar section in 38 Special's "Hold On Loosely," which would be released in 1981.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The punched up and glossier sound came courtesy of producer Keith Olsen who had just finished up work on Pat Benatar's "Crimes of Passion." In addition to producing Fleetwood Mac's self-titled 1975 album, Olsen has produced works for artists like Rick Springfield, REO Speedwagon, Kim Carnes, Foreigner, Journey, Santana, and many others.

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"Gone Too Far" by Eddie Rabbitt

Song#:  0153
Date:  05/03/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  82
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Country Crossover



Pop Bits:  Although firmly based in country music, Rabbitt was one of the prime players in the 70s and 80s country crossover boom. Having toiled around Nashville as a stock songwriter and performer, he got his big solo break in 1974 with a self-titled debut that landed him three country chart songs. By the time he issued his first "best of" album in 1979 he already had four #4 country hits and got his first major pop hit with "Every Which Way But Loose" (#30). His next album pushed him further with its lead song "Suspicions" hitting #13. This third single from the album was a blip on the pop chart, but was his sixth #1 country hit.

ReduxReview:  This chuggin' tune is pretty nice. It is not outstanding or as memorable when compared to some of Rabbitt's big pop hits, but its a pleasant, well-written song that kinda makes you wanna bop right along. It's a little bit of pop/country sunshine with some tasty guitar as well.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Rabbitt's first big break came in 1970 when his co-written tune "Kentucky Rain" was recorded by Elvis Presley (#16). A then-unknown Ronnie Milsap played piano on the song. Milsap would soon go on to his own successful career and had his first #1 country hit with the Rabbitt-written "Pure Love" in 1974.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Just For the Moment" by Ray Kennedy

Song#:  0152
Date:  05/03/1980
Debut:  89
Peak:  82
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary



Pop Bits:  As a tenor sax player, Kennedy got his first steady gigs with famous jazz musicians such as Gerry Mulligan and Dizzy Gillespie. But by 1962 he was done with the jazz lifestyle and moved to playing with rock n' roll artists like Fats Domino and Wilson Pickett. His first solo album in 1970 didn't go anywhere and in the mid-70s he found himself part of a mini rock "supergroup" called KGB, which featured Mike Bloomfield and Carmine Appice. The group called it quits after two unsuccessful albums and Kennedy returned to solo work releasing a self-titled album in 1980. The album failed to chart but this single made a brief appearance.

ReduxReview:  I had never heard of Kennedy and was kind of jazzed by his background, especially his co-writing credits (see below). So I looked forward to hearing his own chart song. Oh, what a disappointment. This huge slice of AC cheese, made worse by a horrible arrangement, plays like the closing credit theme to a bad 80s rom-com. That kind of makes sense since David Foster produced the album. He is obviously a talented musician with the ability to write a good tune, but this one ain't it.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Kennedy co-wrote "Sail On, Sailor" (#79 in 1973 and #49 in 1975) along with two hits by The Babys, "Isn't It Time" (#13 in 1977) and "Every Time I Think of You" (#13 in 1979).  2) Around 1960, Kennedy was a dancing regular on American Bandstand. Dick Clark would go on to pay him to mimic playing sax for artists that would perform on the show.

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