Saturday, January 12, 2013

"JoJo" by Boz Scaggs

Song#:  0213
Date:  06/14/1980
Debut:  74
Peak:  17
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock, Blue-Eyes Soul

Pop Bits:  Although this second single from his "Middle Man" album would not be his last chart hit, the album itself would be his last studio effort for eight years. This self-imposed exile from music put a damper on his career, but the legacy of his early albums still remain strong. "Middle Man" would be his third straight platinum album.

ReduxReview:  "JoJo" always reminded me of Steely Dan. It has the same R&B/Smooth Jazz feel as a lot of Steely songs from that era. I really like the groove and it's a good listen, but it is just lacking a more substantial chorus or hook to draw attention. Makes for good background music though.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Scaggs and his wife own the Scaggs Vinyard in California. They have been producing wines since 2000.


Friday, January 11, 2013

"Sailing" by Christopher Cross

#1 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  0212
Date:  06/14/1980
Debut:  77
Peak:  1 (1 Week)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Cross followed-up his #2 hit "Ride Like the Wind" (Redux #0057) with this soft ballad that got him to #1. The song was not initially intended to be a single, but it ended up being the perfect follow-up to the upbeat "Ride" as it appealed to a wide range of music listeners. It was based on sailing trips he would take with a friend each summer.

ReduxReview:  Dreamy, sleepy, breezy, relaxing, and carefree. This song comes close to being pop/new age/AC nirvana. My only quibble with the song is Cross himself. I've always found him to be a lazy vocalist. When you have a high, thin voice, you have to enunciate more than normal in order to understand the lyrics. But even with top-notch studio folk, it seemed no one told Cross to sing clearer. So you get a bunch of vowels mumbled together. I hate that. So when I listen to this, here is what I am hearing (with correct lyrics next to them):

Well it's not far down to paradise, at least it's not for me. And if the wind is right, you can sail away, find verility (tranqility). Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see.  Eeeee oo ee (Believe me).  It's not far to never never land, (no) reason to pretend, and if the wind is right you can find a joy, with any sense again (the joy and innocence again). Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you want and see.  Eeeee im me (Believe me).  Sailing takes me away to where I'm go ways to buh doo wee (I've always heard it could be).

Lord, man, speak up! Despite his mumbling, it's a classic song of the era and I've always loved it.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song won three Grammy awards in 1981 - Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Arrangement with Vocals.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

"Into the Night" by Benny Mardones

Song#:  0211
Date:  06/14/1980
Debut:  78
Peak:  11
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  This is one of those rare songs that hit the pop chart twice with the same exact artist and recording. Mardones's second album featured this single and upon release it peaked just outside of the Top 10. His follow-up singles and album failed to make the chart and that, along with an increasing cocaine and alcohol issues, forced his label to drop him and he basically disappeared. Mardones was fortunate enough to get clean a few years later and it was just in time. Based on a "Where Are They Now?" radio segment, "Into the Night" got picked up into rotation by famous DJ Scott Shannon and soon other stations followed suit. The results was the song getting back on the pop chart in 1989 and resurrecting Mardones' career. Unfortunately, he was unable to follow-up the song for a second time, but he continued to record and perform.

ReduxReview:  I had not heard of this song until it's re-issue in 1989. I immediately bought it. It's a solid song with a great (but over-dramatic) vocal.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was inspired by a family Mardones knew where the father abandoned the mother and three kids - one of them a 16-year-old girl. Some folks at pop radio stations thought the song was about an actual relationship with a 16-year-old and refused to play it. His label had to send out a mass mailing to radio stations explaining what the song was really about. After that, it started to get added. Over on R&B stations, they initially though Mardones was black, based on his voice. When they discovered he wasn't, they stopped playing the song. It was a tough climb for this track, but despite the problems it manged to make it up the chart - twice.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"Sweet Sensation" by Stephanie Mills

Song#:  0210
Date:  06/14/1980
Debut:  83
Peak:  52
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Like the previously covered Irene Cara (Redux #0207), Mills was a showbiz vet before the 80s arrived. In fact, Cara and Mills performed together as children in the Broadway musical "Maggie Flynn" in 1968. But it wasn't until 1975 that she hit the big time when she was selected to play Dorothy in the original Broadway cast of "The Wiz." However, music success was difficult to establish and it took three labels and three albums before she started to see some action on the pop and R&B charts. This lead title-track from her second successful album was a minor pop entry, but did reach #3 R&B.

ReduxReview:  This mid-tempo jam is a bit lackluster. Mills has a terrific voice and this song just does not come up to that level. Not bad, not great. Shrug.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although the facts are a bit of a mystery, while Mills was performing in "The Wiz," Michael Jackson would often see the show and they struck up a friendship. It has been said that the pair did have a brief relationship, but then it has been written that Jackson indicated it was only a friendship.  2) Cara's "Fame" debuted on the chart the same week as this Mills song. In addition to performing on Broadway together in "Maggie Flynn," in 1980 Cara briefly took over the role of Dorothy in "The Wiz" on Broadway, the role originated by Mills.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"I'm Happy Just to Dance with You" by Anne Murray

Song#:  0209
Date:  06/14/1980
Debut:  85
Peak:  64
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  This second single from Murray's "Somebody's Waiting" album was a remake of the Beatles song included on the "A Hard Day's Night" soundtrack. Whereas the Beatles original is a jangly, upbeat tune (a Lennon/McCartney composition with George Harrison on lead vocal), Murray transforms it into a ballad and it turned into a minor pop chart entry, with the song doing slightly better on the country chart peaking at #23 (although it did reach #10 on the Canadian country chart).

ReduxReview:  Okay, this is weird. I had to go back and refresh my ears on the Beatles original and then I listened to this one. Wow - I never would have guessed it was a Lennon/McCartney song. For me, it is an okay Beatles tune, so Murray's version comes as a bit of a surprise. I think it kind of works in an AC environment. I wouldn't say it is an improvement at all, but it does put a pleasant, listenable spin on the song. Plus, Murray's voice is alto heaven.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Murray had chart success with two other Beatles songs. In 1974, her version of "You Won't See Me" hit #8 (from "Rubber Soul," this song was not released as a Beatles single). Later that year, Murray's version of "Day Tripper" was a minor entry peaking at #59 (the Beatles' single hit #5).


Monday, January 7, 2013

"Landlord" by Gladys Knight & the Pips

Song#:  0208
Date:  06/14/1980
Debut:  87
Peak:  46
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The group featuring Knight and her brother and two cousins were one of the top R&B/pop groups of the 60s and 70s. With eight Top 10 pop hits including the #1 classic "Midnight Train to Georgia," the group remained a solid unit until 1988. The only blip in the road was when legal issues with their label forced Knight and the Pips to record separately from 1978 to 1980. Their first album after the imposed block was a collaboration with songwriters Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson that yielded this #3 R&B hit.

ReduxReview:  Oh how I loves me Miss Gladys! Fabulous Gladys! I'm not sure how she is in real life, but she always appeared to be nice, classy, fun, and beautiful. And a terrific voice. The group was fortunate to get some choice material during the heydays, but with minor exceptions, song quality lacked in the 80s. This Ashford & Simpson tune is one of the better ones, but still not top-notch material.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The Pips was the original name of the group that initially included Knight, her brother, sister, and two cousins. The name came from another cousin, James "Pip" Woods.  2)  The group's real breakthrough hit was "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (#2, 1967). They had the first chart hit with this song, however Marvin Gaye had recorded it first. But his version wasn't released until a year after Knight's version. Gaye's classic version eventually hit #1  in 1968 and became one of his signature songs.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

"Fame" by Irene Cara

Top 10 Alert!
Academy Award Alert!
Song#:  0207
Date:  06/14/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  4
Weeks:  26
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Cara was practically a 10-year veteran in showbiz by the time she starred in the movie "Fame." She had already done film, theater, and TV work such as "The Electric Company," the soap "Love of Life," and "Roots: The Next Generation." But it was "Fame" that pushed her towards stardom and the title track became her first major hit. The song won the 1981 Oscar for Best Original Song as well as the Golden Globe.

ReduxReview:  "Remember my name! Fame!" Oh how I heard this a thousand times down the high school hallways by the choir geeks. Hearing it now, the production sounds like a can of spray cheez, but it is hard to not get caught up in the rousing chorus.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Cara's role in the movie originally called for her to be a dancer, but after producers heard her sing, they rewrote the part of Coco Hernandez to incorporate her vocals. Although she was offered to reprise the roll in the NBC TV series, she turned it down to continue her music career.