Saturday, February 16, 2013

"Save Me" by Dave Mason (with Michael Jackson)

Song#:  0255
Date:  07/12/1980
Debut:  75
Peak:  71
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Mason was a founding member of the British group Traffic but he had an on/off relationship with the band and eventually left after a 1971 tour. His solo career didn't really amount to much until he released the AC radio staple "We Just Disagree" (#12, 1977). It ended up being his biggest solo hit. This lead single from his timely-titled album "Old Crest on a New Wave" probably caught some attention due to the fact that it was a duet with Michael Jackson, who was very hot at the time thanks to "Off the Wall." Unfortunately, it also ended up being Mason's last chart entry.

ReduxReview:  Well, this is a match-up that no one would have expected. Apparently, Michael Jackson was recording "Thriller" at the same studio building and he ended up on this song. He gives the tune some kick, but it's not really a great song and it actually sounds kind of awkward. It's like the three elements - Mason, Jackson, and the song - don't really fit together.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In addition to performing on famous recordings like Jimi Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower" and The Rolling Stones' "Beggars Banquet," Mason also had some brief tenures in groups like Derek & the Dominoes and Fleetwood Mac. He also formed a duo with Cass Elliot which resulted in a 1971 album release.


Friday, February 15, 2013

"You're the Only Woman (You & I)" by Ambrosia

Song#:  0254
Date:  07/12/1980
Debut:  76
Peak:  13
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  This follow-up to their hit "Biggest Part of Me" (#3) didn't do quite as well, but it was a significant single and probably just as recognizable. Both songs were from their album "One Eighty," which was named as such because they recorded the album in January, 1980. The group received three Grammy nods in 1981 including Best Pop Vocal Group.

ReduxReview:  This is a silky smooth tune that I actually like better than "Biggest Part of Me." I'm surprised this didn't make the Top 10 as I remember it on the radio quite a bit back in the day.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The group contributed to the soundtrack of the film "All This and World War II" in 1976. They covered The Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour" and it became a modest hit peaking at #39. The film was a documentary that showed World War II newsreel footage over music of The Beatles. The filmmakers intended to use the original Beatles songs, but discovered that they could capitalize on a soundtrack album by using cover versions instead. The move actually paid off as the film was a total bomb, but the soundtrack sold well. It included oddball covers like "Strawberry Fields Forever" by Peter Gabriel, "The Fool on the Hill" by Helen Reddy, "Help!" by Henry Gross, and "A Day in the Life" by Frankie Valli.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

"It Hurts Too Much" by Eric Carmen

Song#:  0253
Date:  07/12/1980
Debut:  77
Peak:  75
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  As leader of the power-pop group Raspberries, Carmen had some chart success with "Go All the Way" in 1972 (#5). But the band called it quits in 1975 leaving Carmen as a solo act. He had a major hit right off the bat with the #2 "All By Myself," but besides its follow up "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again" (#11), it was a steady decline in popularity through to this first single from his "Tonight You're Mine" album. After this album, Carmen basically dropped out of the business for a few years. But his chart fortunes would change later in the decade when he found himself back in the Top 10 with a couple of songs.

ReduxReview:  The beginning sounds like Billy Joel's "An Innocent Man," but it moves into a standard pop/rock song with an early-60s flare. Like a lot of Carmen's songs, it is pretty solid, but nothing I'd play on a regular basis.

Side Note:  I've seen my share of bad album covers and even have a couple of books devoted to them. I'm kind of shocked I've never seen the cover of Carmen's "Tonight You're Mine" album among the bunch. I mean, really. Look at it, think of the title, AND the title of this single. This was really an approved image? And more importantly, those pants were approved? Yeeesh....

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Maybe you have heard Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 2" at some point - at a symphony concert or someplace - and thought "that piano theme sounds familiar..." If so, then you also might be thinking of Carmen's "All By Myself." The concerto provided inspiration and is easily recognizable in the pop song's melody. Carmen also used another Rachmaninoff theme, a portion of "Symphony No. 2," as inspiration for "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again." It is far from the first time a pop star has used classical music as a basis for writing songs. Barry Manilow's 1975 "Could It Be Magic" (#6) was inspired by Chopin's "Prelude in C-Minor."


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Upside Down" by Diana Ross

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0252
Date:  07/12/1980
Debut:  82
Peak:  1 (4 weeks)
Weeks:  29
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  After seeing the group Chic (still hot after their two #1's "Le Freak" and "Good Times"), Ross recruited group leaders Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers to guide her next recording. The collaboration yielded "Diana" and it became her most successful album reaching #2 on the pop albums chart and achieving multi-platinum status. This first single with an updated, hipper sound set the tone for the success and became her fifth #1 solo single (and first in four years). It also got her a 1981 Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal.

ReduxReview:  To be frank, I don't think Diana Ross is a great singer. She's got a really good, recognizable voice, but it's not strong nor great. So if she doesn't have the right material, it just ain't gonna work. In this case, it worked in spades. It was the perfect storm of a diva on the slide coming together with hot, current producers that knew what to do for her. Regardless of the situation outlined below, this was an inspired match up that was perfect for the time. A classic.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  After the album was completed, Ross was not really satisfied with the final results. In addition, a prominent New York DJ had heard it and told Ross if she released the LP as-is, it would be the end of her career. Rodgers and Edwards' disco-Chic leaning sounds were not in favor at the time with the disco-backlash in full swing. So Ross retreated to the studio and with the help of a Motown engineer proceeded to remix and edit the album. When Rodgers and Edwards heard the revamped album, they were not pleased and even considered removing their names from the album. But they came to an understanding and the new version was released - and became Ross' biggest hit album. The Chic version of the album was later included on a deluxe edition of the album in 2003.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Just Can't Wait" by The J. Geils Band

Song#:  0251
Date:  07/12/1980
Debut:  83
Peak:  78
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  With the success of the title track single from "Love Stinks," this third single was issued from the album. Although it couldn't get very far on the chart, it helped to push the album to gold status and get it to #18 on the album chart - their highest peak position since "Bloodshot" hit #10 in 1973.

ReduxReview:   This is a pretty solid song that opens the "Love Stinks" album. It is not identifiable as that classic title tune, but definitely good and single-worthy. I'm not sure why it didn't cruise up the chart a bit further. It deserved a better fate.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  J. Geils secondary career after music was repairing sports cars. He created his own company called KTR Motorsports and serviced vintage foreign sports cars. He also participated in races at the famous Watkins Glen track. He sold his company in 1996 but still remains active with the business.


Monday, February 11, 2013

"You're Supposed to Keep Your Love For Me" by Jermaine Jackson

Song#:  0250
Date:  07/12/1980
Debut:  86
Peak:  34
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, R&B

Pop Bits:  Jackson had just hit big with the Stevie Wonder co-written "Let's Get Serious" (#9), so the obvious follow-up would be another Wonder-written song. This more melodic mid-tempo tune falls in line with the sweet pop side of some Wonder hits, but it only managed to peak just inside the Top 40.

ReduxReview:  Stevie Wonder is a musical genius. But not everything can be a winner and this song proves that for me. Schmaltzy Wonder is not my favorite style from him and a bland vocal from Jackson doesn't help.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  In 1975, the Jackson 5 made the move from Motown to CBS Records (and became just "The Jacksons" due to Motown retaining rights to the original name). But Jermaine, who was married to Berry Gordy's daughter at the time, decided to leave the group and stay with Motown. He had little luck with his first three post-Jackson 5 solo albums, but finally got a jump start with "Let's Get Serious."


Sunday, February 10, 2013

"When Things Go Wrong" by Robin Lane & the Chartbusters

Redux Spotlight Alert!
Song#:  0249
Date:  07/12/1980
Debut:  87
Peak:  87
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Lane was originally writing and performing on the folk-rock scene in the 70s but turned her tastes toward the rock/new wave sounds coming up in the late 70s and formed the Chartbusters in 1978. They initially had a deal with Private Stock Records, but then the label went out of business. Thanks to Jerry Wexler seeing them, they were signed to Warner Bros. and issued their self-titled debut album in 1980. This lead single briefly got on the chart and it ended up being their only song to get that far. They would go on to release one more studio album for Warner before breaking up. Lane would continue to write and perform as a solo act, but reunited with some of the Chartbusters  in 2001, eventually issuing a new album two years later.

ReduxReview:  You can hear how she dialed right into that punk-ish/new wave sound. She reminds me a teeny bit of Patti Smith in both voice and sound. I kind of dig it. Her voice is really interesting and is the attraction here for me along with the dark jangly guitar. I'm not sure if it is hit single material, but it's a quality tune.

Okay - another one of my weird-ass connections. So I had heard of Robin Lane, especially since I live in Boston around 1983. However, I don't remember hearing her records or seeing her perform. So now, I have this single to hear and research and lo-and-behold if I don't have a strange connection to her. In 2011, I got the wonderful opportunity to record one of my songs with the awesome Bleu and Ducky Carlisle at Ducky's studio in Boston. Well, it seems Ducky and Robin were married for a time and he produced her 1995 solo album "Catbird Seat." I had no idea! Another cool oddity that has sprung up from doing this project! Due to this connection and the music, I'm calling this out as a Spotlight.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The video of this song was the 11th video shown on the first broadcast day of MTV on August 1, 1981.  2) Lane was married to future Police guitarist Andy Summers for a couple of years beginning in 1968.