Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Late at Night" by England Dan Seals

Song#:  0301
Date:  08/16/1980
Debut:  82
Peak:  57
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  As part of the duo England Dan & John Ford Coley, Seals racked up four Top 10 hits from 1976-1979. The duo had one final chart song earlier in 1980 with "In It for Love" (#75) and then disbanded. Seals pursued a solo career moving towards country-pop music and his first album "Stones" was released in 1980. This first single from the album failed to make the country chart, but made a minor dent in the pop chart. Although it would take another couple albums to get himself rooted in the country market, he would go on to have eleven #1 country hits (nine of them would be consecutive).

ReduxReview:  As a single, this is kind of a low-key snoozer. As a song, it's a nice tune that kind of breaks away from the pop that he put out with JFC. For a first single from a debut solo album, it doesn't necessarily scream "I'm here...listen to me!" But it is a pleasant listen, similar in nature to an early James Taylor song.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  After the duo broke up, Seals' first album was released as credited to "England Dan Seals," most likely to help associated his solo name with his former group and music. But the "England" was dropped for his subsequent releases.


Friday, March 29, 2013

"The Legend of Wooley Swamp" by The Charlie Daniels Band

Song#:  0300
Date:  08/16/1980
Debut:  84
Peak:  31
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Country, Southern Rock

Pop Bits:  The second single from Daniels' platinum album "Full Moon" tells a story of greed, robbery, and retribution from the grave. A good story song like "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" or "Ode to Billie Joe" seemed to be more welcome on the chart early on, but they dwindled throughout the 80s. This is one of the few to get some chart action. And although Daniels had more overall success in the country market, this song only made it as far as #80 on the country singles chart.

ReduxReview:  I do not count myself as a fan of Charlie Daniels, especially after his slightly scary previous hit "In America." But I can be a sucker for a story song if well done and I'd have to admit that this one is good, even though I wouldn't necessarily hit the replay button often. It starts off like a Southern rock jam, but when the story kicks in the song turns dark and mysterious. I'm still not a fan, but I'll always give props to a good song regardless of the artist.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Daniels has kind of been on Broadway. Although he didn't appear in the production, Daniels voice was used in certain passages of the epic 1999 musical "The Civil War." Even though the show was nominated for a Tony for Best Musical, it was considered a major flop at the time and only ran for 61 performances.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

"I Hear You Now" by Jon & Vangelis

Song#:  0299
Date:  08/16/1980
Debut:  85
Peak:  58
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Electronic

Pop Bits:  When US folks see the name Vangelis, the strains of "Chariots of Fire" start rumbling in their heads. For many here, it is really all he is known for. But long before that signature tune, Vangelis was an established solo artist and composer of scores with a focus on electronic music. At one point, he was considered for the keyboardist job in the band Yes but was not selected. However, he began to collaborate with Yes' lead singer Jon Anderson and the partnership yielded four popular albums. Vangelis wrote the music and Anderson provided the lyrics. Their first album, "Short Stories," caused a stir in the UK with the album hitting #4 and this single reaching #8. Their progressive, electronic, art-pop music didn't go over as well in the US, but they did get in the mid-chart range with this song.

ReduxReview:  I think folks will either like or loathe Jon & Vangelis. I happen to like them. Their songs have a certain theatrical 80s European sound that appeals to me. Not all of their songs work, but they are interesting nonetheless. This song is just pure early-80s electronica and even though it kind of sounds dated, especially with that farty "Popcorn"-like synth, there is still something pretty darn cool about it. It sounds like a less-funky Thomas Dolby.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In 1975, Vangelis released the solo album "Heaven and Hell." It featured the song "So Long Ago, So Clear" which was his first collaboration with Jon Anderson. Parts of the album also served as the theme music to the PBS series "Cosmos."


"True Love Ways" by Mickey Gilley

Song#:  0298
Date:  08/16/1980
Debut:  86
Peak:  66
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Country

Pop Bits:  Gilley was riding a peak during this time thanks to his biggest pop hit, "Stand By Me," featured in the "Urban Cowboy" film and on the soundtrack. He quickly followed that up with his album "That's All That Matters to Me" and this #1 country singled spilled over into the pop chart for a few weeks. This song was part of his streak of six #1 country hits in a row.

ReduxReview:  The original (see below) is a nice, dreamy late-50s tune nicely done by Holly. Gilley gets it all countrified and it is still a nice song, but it doesn't have that dream-pop feel that made Holly's original so lovely.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was co-written by Buddy Holly and was recorded by him about four months prior to his death. The song was a wedding gift from Holly to his wife. Released after his death, the song did not chart in the US, but it did reach #25 in the UK.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"Treasure" by The Brothers Johnson

Song#:  0297
Date:  08/16/1980
Debut:  87
Peak:  73
Weeks:  4
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The Brothers just had their third and last pop Top 10 hit with the excellent "Stomp!" when this second single from their "Light Up the Night" album came out. Mostly known for their funk and lite-jazz tunes, this R&B ballad couldn't find much of an audience; even peaking at a lackluster #36 on the R&B chart. But by this time the album had already become their best pop chart showing at #5 and was their third #1 R&B album.

ReduxReview: Ugh - "Stomp!" was so good as was a good chunk of the "Light Up the Night" album. But this song is a real letdown. It is sooo slow and dreary and it doesn't really go anywhere. It's low charting does not surprise me a bit. If you listen to this song, you may want to set an alarm to wake yourself up. Zzzzz.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  This song was written by frequent Quincy Jones cohort Rod Temperton. Temperton began his music career when he joined the UK disco/funk band Heatwave. They hit it big in 1976 with the #1 hit "Boogie Nights," written by Temperton. His first major gig for Quincy Jones was to write songs for a Michael Jackson album. That album was "Off the Wall" and Temperton had three of his songs recorded including the #1 "Rock With You."


"Who'll Be the Fool Tonight" by Larsen-Feiten Band

Song#:  0296
Date:  08/16/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  29
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  This band is mainly a collaboration of two studio musicians, keyboardist Neil Larsen and guitarist Buzz Feiten. As a 19-year-old kid, Feiten join the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1969 and became a top sessions player. His list of credits are extensive and includes top artists like Aretha Franklin, Rickie Lee Jones, and Stevie Wonder. Larsen himself also has a big list of credits and the two artists first joined forces in 1971 as Full Moon. Their self-titled disc of jazz-fusion has become a kind of cult classic in some jazz circles. Nine years later, the duo dabbled in West Coast pop and became the Larsen-Feiten Band. This first single from their self-titled debut did pretty well on the chart; enough so that a second album was released in 1982 called "Full Moon," not to be confused with the 1971 band's album. The second album did not produce any chart songs and so this tune became their lone chart entry. The Larsen-Feiten Band only produced those two album, but both musicians are still racking up their session credits in addition to recording their own project.

ReduxReview:  This slice of SoCal pop runs along the lines of a Boz Scaggs tune - a little jazzy, a little bluesy, a little pop sophistication. It's a nice tune and oddly still sounds fresh. The album is a mish-mash of pop, contemporary jazz, and even funk. It all kind of works together and is certainly worthy of a listen.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In 1992, Feiten developed and patented a more precise tuning system for guitars. The Buzz Feitin Tuning System may already come with specific guitars and basses, but it can also be applied to others.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Out Here on My Own" by Irene Cara

Song#:  0295
Date:  08/16/1980
Debut:  89
Peak:  19
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  This third single from the "Fame" soundtrack was the second one performed by Cara. She took the title track to #4 and although this song only managed to sneak in the Top 20, it has become a choir room standard. It is one of the rare piano-vocal-only songs to reach the upper levels of the chart. According to Billboard's Gary Trust, it appears that the only song to hit #1 that was strictly just piano and vocal only is Adele's 2011 #1 hit "Someone Like You." "Out Here" couldn't reach those heights, but it certainly has had longevity.

ReduxReview:  Okay, it would be easier to count the girls in choir who have NOT sung this song than the ones that did. Geezus, it was even done on "Glee" already. It's the sad-girl ballad that just won't go away. And that is okay as it is a good tune. Folks relate to the lyrics and Cara does a great job emoting through it without going overboard. But I'd prefer to stick to this version than to hear any choir geek sobbing through it for the millionth time...

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song along with "Fame" set a new first at the Academy Awards. It was the first time two songs from the same film, sung by the same artist, were nominated for Best Original Song. "Fame," of course, ended up winning that year.


"Games Without Frontiers" by Peter Gabriel

Song#:  0294
Date:  08/16/1980
Debut:  90
Peak:  48
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock, Art Rock

Pop Bits:  Gabriel embarked on a solo career when he left Genesis in 1975. His first of four self-titled albums came out in 1977 and did well, hitting the UK Top 10 and generating the UK #13 hit "Solsbury Hill" (#68 US). His follow-up second disc didn't fare as well, but 1980's "Peter Gabriel" (aka "Melt") became his first to really reach a sizable audience. Considered by many critics as his masterpiece, the album hit #1 in the UK and #22 in the US. It featured this lead single with guest vocals by Kate Bush.

ReduxReview:  I know folks slam the post-Gabriel Genesis, but when he left, I liked Genesis a lot more - well, up until they when totally Philly (Collins) pop. But I can say the same for Gabriel. His solo output has had some brilliant moments and in a lot of ways, artistically trumps most anything Genesis put out. He's theatrical, experimental and dark, yet he can retain a sense of pop music and not go overboard. This song is excellent and one of my favorites of his. If all you know is "Sledgehammer," you are missing out.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Each of Gabriel's first four albums were simple titled "Peter Gabriel." To distinguish between the albums, nicknames were given to each based on the cover image. "Peter Gabriel" #1 is usually referred to as "Car," then #2 as "Scratch," and #3 as "Melt." When #4 arrived it remained a self-titled album in the UK and elsewhere, but his US record company (Geffen) demanded it have a title, so it was released as "Security" in the US, which is now what it is commonly referred to worldwide.  2) This song's title is a translation of a European game show name. Originally in French, it was "Jeux Sans Frontières" and it revolved around teams competing at unusual skill games dressed in unusual costumes. Kate Bush's background vocals repeat the show title in French throughout the song, however it is often misheard as "She's So Popular."


Monday, March 25, 2013

"Late In the Evening" by Paul Simon

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0293
Date:  08/09/1980
Debut:  46
Peak:  6
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Even though he snuck in the #5 "Slip Slidin' Away" from a 1977 hits disc, Simon had not recorded a full new studio album since 1975's "Still Crazy After All These Years." One of the reasons was his foray into film as the writer/star of 1980's "One-Trick Pony." Said to be loosely based on his own experiences, the film features Simon as a one-time popular folk singer who is trying to record a new album while trying to repair relationships with his son and his ex-wife. Critic Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review, but the box office returns were not outstanding and the film seems to have been forgotten. But Simon's album that contained some of the movie's music proved quite popular and this first single from it shuffled right into the Top 10 - and would be the last Simon song to do so.

ReduxReview:  I've never been a big fan of the solo Simon. He definitely has some great and classic tunes, but overall I don't find his music alluring. This song is very rhythmic and almost foreshadows some of the work he did later on with "Graceland." I think it is one of his better solo singles, but still nothing that I'd have pop up when shufflin' my iTunes.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Simon grabbed two Grammy award nominations in 1981. The first was for Best Pop Male Vocal for this song and the second was for the album as Best Album of Original Score Written for Motion Picture or Television Special. Simon also served as host for the awards show.


"Xanadu" by Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0292
Date:  08/09/1980
Debut:  79
Peak:  8
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  This fourth single from the "Xanadu" soundtrack was a combined effort between the two main contributors to the album, ELO and ONJ. Written by Jeff Lynne, it is basically an ELO track sung by ONJ. The pairing worked and it became the second Top 10 hit from the bombed movie's soundtrack. For the British band ELO, this song ended up being their one and only #1 UK chart hit.

ReduxReview:  This was an inspired pairing. ONJ's voice fits so perfectly with ELO's sound and style. It's too bad this was their only collaboration. They should have done a full album together - or at least have Jeff Lynne produce an ONJ album. I think that was a missed opportunity. But then had that happen, we might have never gotten ONJ's next solo mega-smash, "Physical."

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was the very first to hit the chart where the title began with the letter "X." It remained the only "X"-letter song to make the chart until 2000 when rapper Xzibit's song "X" debuted and peaked at #76. However, "Xanadu" still remains the only "X"-letter song to hit the Top 10.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

"How Do I Survive" by Amy Holland

Song#:  0291
Date:  08/09/1980
Debut:  80
Peak:  22
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop

How Do I Survive by Amy Holland on Grooveshark

Pop Bits:  As the daughter of a country singer (Esmereldy) and an opera singer (Harry Boersma), Holland was basically born into music. Of Dutch descent, she changed her last name from Boersma to Holland and moved to LA to kick off a career as a singer/songwriter. An encounter with the soon-to-be Doobie Brother Michael McDonald would eventually result in him producing her self-titled debut. Although this first single from the album didn't necessarily burn up the chart, it did well enough to bring attention her way and help to get her a 1981 Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. However, this would be her only solo song to hit the chart.

ReduxReview:  This is a good song and probably one of those that has been forgotten about over the years. Although it is a solid song, it's not really strong enough to have staying power. It's odd that I remember her name and even the album cover, but I don't remember this song one bit. I like and appreciate the song, but it probably won't stay in my memory for very long.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Three years after the release of her debut album, Holland and McDonald were married and remain so currently.  2) This song was written by Paul Bliss and originally appeared on the 1979 album "Neon Smiles" by The Bliss Band. He has written songs for other artists including Celine Dion and Olivia Newton-John, who took his song "Heart Attack" to #3 in 1982.