Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Shandi" by Kiss

Song#:  0220
Date:  06/21/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  47
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Kiss is one of those groups that has sold a bazillion albums since their debut in 1974, yet were never really successful at getting singles up the chart. In all their years they only managed one Top 10 hit - the ballad "Beth" (#7 in 1976). But their loyal following, relentless touring, infamous shows, and mega merchandising has kept them as one of the most successful rock bands of all time. However, much like other artists there comes a time when the party slows down and their 1980 album "Unmasked" signaled an end to their 70s heyday. The album would be the last to feature the four original members (at least until a reunion in the mid-90s) and it would be the first album to not go platinum since 1975. This lead single didn't make much of an impact in the US, but it did reach #5 in Australia.

ReduxReview:  I was never much of a Kiss fan, but there were certain songs I did like. This one is an oddity. It is so MOR and, well, kind of pretty. I would have never guessed in a million years that this was Kiss. This does not scream costumed, blood spitting, fire breathing rock. Not that everything that they do has to be like that, but the song is unexpectedly pop-oriented. I kind of dig it. But can't picture Gene Simmons busting this one out on stage.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Original member Peter Criss was on the outs with the band by this time. His erratic behavior was not sitting well with the other members and he was fired from the group. Although credited on the album, Criss did not even play drums during the sessions. All drumming was done by Anton Fig, who was experiencing a bit of success himself at the time with his group Spider and their Top 40 single "New Romance (It's a Mystery)" (Redux #0134).


Friday, January 18, 2013

"Old-Fashion Love" by The Commodores

Song#:  0219
Date:  06/21/1980
Debut:  89
Peak:  20
Weeks:  16
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  From '75-'79, The Commodores put seven songs in the pop Top 10 with their last one being the #1 "Still." They were at the top of their game when they released the album "Heroes" in 1980. However, it was met will a bit of a shrug and the best they could do on the chart was this barely-Top 20 tune (#8 R&B). They would return to the Top 10 in another year, but they would never fully get back to their hit making days of the 70s.

ReduxReview:  I'd probably have to agree with record buyers on this one. It's a good tune, but just not up to the standards that The Commodores set with their previous hits. Not everything can be a winner, but the lack of a solid lead single for this album kind of hurt them as the 80s started. Like the title, I just find it a little "old-fashioned" and not very interesting.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The group almost had an unfortunate name. When the group got together (formed from two other groups) while attending Tuskegee University, they needed a new name. One of the group members opened up a dictionary, flipped the pages and randomly pointed to an entry. The Commodores were born. However, the joke was that they got lucky because they just as easily could have been The Commodes.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Drivin' My Life Away" by Eddie Rabbitt

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0218
Date:  06/21/1980
Debut:  90
Peak:  5
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  Although he had already accumulated six #1 country hits, pop chart success still eluded him. His only Top 20 hit was the previous year's "Suspicions" (#13). But this song would change it all for him. Suddenly overnight, Rabbitt seemed to go from country star to crossover superstar. His album "Horizon" would be his biggest hit and this lead single (his seventh country #1) paved the way. The song was also featured in the film and on the soundtrack to the 1980 film "Roadie."

ReduxReview:  This is a big rig truck drivin' song. And a good one. You can practically feel the highway under your wheels, the bounce of the road, smell the grease at the diner, and look down the long strange road ahead. Honk! Honk! Get outta my damn way...

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Rabbitt drew inspiration for the song from his early lean-years when he was starting in music and worked as a truck driver around Nashville. The song got Rabbitt Grammy nominations for Best Country Song and Best Country Vocal Performance.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Dancing with the Mountains" by John Denver

Song#:  0217
Date:  06/21/1980
Debut:  99
Peak:  97
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Crossover Country

Pop Bits:  Denver's second single from his "Autograph" album didn't do much to revive his popularity. Although he would go on to have a couple Top 10 country chart hits, he would not return to the pop Top 10 again and by 1984 the pop chart entries would stop.

ReduxReview:  I don't mind this song too much. It almost comes off as Dan Fogelberg-lite. By this time I was not into Denver at all, but this tune was one of his better 80s efforts.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Denver's music was polarizing in the country community. Many thought him a lightweight and not truly a country artist. In 1975, Denver was a nominee for Entertainer of the Year at the annual Country Music Association awards (CMA's). Charlie Rich, who had won the previous year, was to present the award. However, when Rich opened the envelope and saw Denver's name, Rich (in apparent protest to Denver's win) pulled out a lighter and set fire to the envelope right on stage. Rich's career took a direct hit as a result and he was also blacklisted permanently from the CMAs.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Empire Strikes Back" by Meco

Song#:  0216
Date:  06/14/1980
Debut:  68
Peak:  18
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Disco, Pop, Instrumental

Pop Bits:  Producer, arranger, and trombonist Domenico Menardo and his friend Tony Bongiovi (second cousin to Jon Bon Jovi) created the production company Disco Corporation of America and went on to produce such disco hits as "Never Can Say Goodbye" by Gloria Gaynor. But when Menardi (Meco) saw "Star Wars," he set out on a project to do a disco version of the film's score. The result was the platinum single "Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band" (#1, 1977). He followed it up with other discofied themes from "Close Encounteres" and "The Wizard of Oz." As the 80s came in and disco was winding up its run, Meco was still putting out disco versions of movie themes. This single would be his second and last Top 20 hit.

ReduxReview:  Where the "Star Wars" single concentrated on the uplifting theme, this song's focus is more sinister sounding as it mainly uses what is considered to be Darth Vader's theme along with sounds of a light saber fight. As with the first song, it is pretty much disco-gone-wrong and a novelty tune. But with "Star Wars" at the time, most anything would sell. And this one did. Bleh. This ranks (and you can take that to mean "smells" too) right up there with Walter Murphy's "A Fifth of Beethoven" and the "Hooked on Classics" stuff. Dreck.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Meco was hired to arrange the horns for Diana Ross' 1980 album "Diana." He performed on the album as well and is featuring on the hit song "I'm Coming Out" playing a trombone solo (very rare in pop music).


Monday, January 14, 2013

"Let My Love Open the Door" by Pete Townshend

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0215
Date:  06/14/1980
Debut:  69
Peak:  9
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rock, Pop

Pop Bits:  Although Townshend already had two albums released that were credited to him (one a demos and oddities album and the other a collaboration with Ronnie Lane), "Empty Glass" is considered the first real solo album by lead guitarist/songwriter of The Who. This lead single was a chart hit and, like may Who songs, has become a rock radio staple.

ReduxReview:  Townshend was quoted in an interview saying this song is "just a ditty." I'd agree. When put up against some of the meaty songs he wrote for The Who, it does seem like a pop confection. Regardless, it is a really good one. I remember when it came out that I had no idea it was Townshend or anyone related to The Who. I thought it was some new pop guy. But really, after writing rock operas and massive rock classics, why not write a catchy pop tune?

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Two musicians on this album and song, bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki, would go on to have a big hit themselves as members of the group Big Country.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

"All Out of Love" by Air Supply

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0214
Date:  06/14/1980
Debut:  71
Peak:  2
Weeks:  27
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The second single from their US breakthrough album "Lost in Love" would be the biggest hit from the album. While their first single (the album's #3 title track) was a dreamy confection, "All Out of Love" began a streak of massive hit ballads that would became their signature sound.

ReduxReview:  Look, you are either a fan of Air Supply or you are not. You either revel in delight over their sweet sounds or you get sick from the saccharine. I happen to be a fan. During their peak years there was hardly anyone who could top them when it came to big-ass AC ballads. This is one of their best.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  In 2010, Air Supply's Graham Russell received a BMI Million-Air award for co-writing this song. The award signified that the song has been performed over three-million times. This is the first Air Supply song to reach this goal.