Saturday, April 6, 2013

"My Guy/My Girl" by Amii Stewart and Johnny Bristol

Song#:  0312
Date:  08/30/1980
Debut:  89
Peak:  63
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Stewart had a massive hit in 1979 with her #1 discofied remake of "Knock on Wood" from her debut disc, but her second LP failed to generate any chart songs. Looking for a hit, she was pared with famous Motown songwriter/producer Bristol for this mash-up of two major Motown hits, "My Guy" (Mary Wells) and "My Girl" (The Temptations). Bristol had not been on the chart since the early 70s where his best effort was the lone Top 10 "Hang On In There Baby" (#8, 1974). The duet got them both back on the chart, but not in any significant way and it would be the last pop chart entry for both of them. Oddly, they both had some better chart success in Europe, but in the US they are often considered one-hit wonders despite a few other low charters.

ReduxReview:  This is just...odd. And I'm having a hard time figuring out if it is odd in a good way or bad. And for 1980, this has more of a mid-80s sound. Some of the effects like the keyboard synth pad (those one-beat big, almost orchestral swipes) I haven't heard on any songs prior to this. So this kind of seems progressive for the time. But it is kind of loud and overbearing too. It's like the arrangement has sucked the soul right out of both songs. Weird. I don't hate it (and I like Bristol's voice), but I don't love it either.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Stewart's birth name is Amy, but when she signed up with Actor's Equity, the name Amy Stewart was already being used, so she altered the spelling to Amii.  2) Besides co-producing classics like the Marvin Gaye/Tammy Terrell duet "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," Bristol has written/co-written major hits like "Someday We'll Be Together" (The Supremes).


Friday, April 5, 2013

"Look What You've Done to Me" by Boz Scaggs

Song#:  0311
Date:  08/23/1980
Debut:  69
Peak:  14
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  This song is the fifth single from the "Urban Cowboy" soundtrack to hit the chart. The ballad was written specifically for the film by Boz Scaggs and producer David Foster. Scaggs' other single at the time, "JoJo," was just peaking on the chart when this one debuted, so the timing was perfect. Unfortunately, like his previous two singles, this one finished just shy of the Top 10.

ReduxReview:  Although not as hip as some of his solid blue-eyed soul songs, I think this ballad is probably my favorite Boz Scaggs song. It's got that magic David Foster-pop touch to it that he was doing so well around this time and it really makes this song sing.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song actually came out in two versions with just minor variations. In the movie and on the soundtrack, the background vocals are from a female chorus, but on Scaggs' "Hits!" album released at this time (and probably the one mostly played now), the vocals were done by the Eagles. On this version, Scaggs added some vocals near the end of the song as well.


"I'm Almost Ready" by Pure Prairie League

Song#:  0310
Date:  08/23/1980
Debut:  79
Peak:  34
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Country Rock, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After grabbing their first (and only) Top 10 hit with "Let Me Love You Tonight," the group released this second single from their successful "Firin' Up" album. Although it didn't do as well as the previous single, it did make it into the Top 40 and also hit #10 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The song was written by group member Vince Gill.

ReduxReview:  Odd that this song didn't get on the country chart. It is definitely a country crossover/rock tune that would certainly hit these days. But it does almost border on Southern rock, which is not my favorite style (as mentioned on previous posts, if you are keeping up). It's a good jam, but nothing memorable for me. In fact, there is a song on the album called "Give It Up" that is far better and should have been the single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The unusual group name came courtesy of original member Tom McGrail. He happened to catch a late night showing of the 1939 film "Dodge City" starring Errol Flynn. In the film there is a women's temperance group and their name was the "Pure Prairie League."


Thursday, April 4, 2013

"My Prayer" by Ray, Goodman & Brown

Song#:  0309
Date:  08/23/1980
Debut:  83
Peak:  47
Weeks:  10
Genre:  R&B, Soul

Pop Bits:  The trio's second album came out on the heels of their highly successful debut LP which featured the hit "Special Lady" (#5, pop). The album didn't have the same success as the first, but it did get this minor entry on the pop and R&B charts. They would go on to have a few more R&B chart entries, but this would be their last time on the pop chart.

ReduxReview: I think it is the arrangement that kills it for me. It is like Meco (of the disco "Star Wars" fame) recorded this with them. For a terrific vocal group like this it seems like they would have focused more on doing a great vocal group arrangement, but that is not the case. It can be very hard to update a classic standard (see below) and I think this was just not the way to do this song. Do yourself a favor and listen to the classic Platters version.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  This song a remake of The Platters #1 hit from 1956. However, The Platter's version was also a remake of a song from a different era. The song was originally written in 1926 by violinist Georges Boulanger and then lyrics were added in 1939 by Jimmy Kennedy. Both Glenn Miller and The Ink Spots recorded the song and each had a Top 10 hit with it that same year. But it wasn't until The Platters version came out that the song charted in the rock era and reached the top rung.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"Girl, Don't Let It Get You Down" by The O'Jays

Song#:  0308
Date:  08/23/1980
Debut:  84
Peak:  55
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Soul

Girl, Don't Let It Get You Down by ojay on Grooveshark

Pop Bits:  As a quintet, the O'Jays first hit the pop chart in 1963 and through to 1970 had an unremarkable run of chart songs with none of them ever reaching the pop Top 40. They fared a bit better on the R&B chart, but still only managed one Top 10 hit in that time. As the 70s started, the group was about to call it a day. Two members left and the future seemed bleak. But as a trio, the group worked with the team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and joined their Philadelphia International label - a rival of Motown. Together, they created recordings that became a part of the Philly soul movement with their first release "Back Stabbers" hitting #3 and going gold. Over the next decade, the group would go on to have five more pop Top 10's including the 1973 #1 smash "Love Train." This streak included ten R&B #1's as well. Although they would continue to put songs on the R&B chart throughout the 80s, this song ended up being their last pop chart entry (and a #3 R&B hit).

ReduxReview:  The O'Jays are terrific. I think they kind of get overlooked with Motown groups like The Temptations and the Miracles getting more attention. So if you haven't heard their brand of Philly soul from their prime 70s era, look it up and listen. This song is not one of their prime time best, but it is a very pretty mid-tempo selection with a solid arrangement and great vocals.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) There was no one in the group with the name of O'Jay. The name was chosen as a tribute to Cleveland radio DJ Eddie O'Jay.  2) Group member Eddie Levert's two sons, Gerald and Sean, had successful music careers as well. The two were part of the group LeVert who had five R&B #1 hits including their #5 pop hit "Casanova" in 1987. Gerald would have further success as a solo artist and as a part of the R&B supergroup LSG (with Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill). Gerald and his dad would record together as well and they topped the R&B chart in 1992 with "Baby Hold On to Me."


"Thunder and Lightning" by Chicago

Song#:  0307
Date:  08/23/1980
Debut:  86
Peak:  56
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  This was pretty much the last gasp of the old Chicago. Throughout the 70s, the group had twelve Top 10 hits that spanned genres like prog-rock, soft rock, and even jazz. The emphasis was on great songs and arrangements, most featuring their famous horn section. But their sound started to seem outdated as the 80s approached and by the time their 1980 album "Chicago XIV" came out, they were at the lowest point of their career. This first single failed to even crack the Top 40 and a follow-up single didn't even chart. The album failed to sell as well and was their first not to reach at least gold status. As a result, Columbia records deemed them no longer commercial and dropped the group. It seemed like the end was near, but a new era for the group would begin soon enough with their best selling album yet to come.

ReduxReview:  I have to say, for old Chicago, this is a good effort. While not as catchy or memorable as some of their major hits, it has that Chicago sound and feel. But it does sound stuck in the 70s. The song doesn't take Chicago into the new era at all, therefore it ends up sounding a bit stale.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Chicago's album titles were typically numbered with Roman numerals, such as "Chicago V." They broke that streak with their twelfth album by titling it "Hot Streets." It ended up being their first album to miss the Top 10 since their debut. They returned using Arabic numbers with "Chicago 13" and continued the numbering pattern for most of their future albums, either with Roman or Arabic numbers.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Good Morning Girl/Stay Awhile" by Journey

Song#:  0306
Date:  08/23/1980
Debut:  87
Peak:  55
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This third single from their "Departure" album was not a double-sided song, but two consecutive tracks on the album released as one song. On the album there is actually a further prelude with the title track of the album, kind of making this a mini-suite of song. But adding that extra 40 seconds or so was not optimal for a single, so these two were issued together.

ReduxReview:  This was an interesting choice for a single. "Good Morning Girl" is a pretty tune with Steve Perry's voice soaring above strings, but "Stay Awhile" is more of a rock ballad that probably sounded good on the radio. I think they should have just stuck with that song for the single. It's a quick three minute power ballad that hits the right marks.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  While in Japan on tour, the band recorded the soundtrack to the Japanese film "Yumi, Yumi No Ato." The subsequent album "Dream, After Dream" came out in December, 1980. The album moves away from their arena rock sound back towards their prog-rock days and only features three vocal tracks. Although it was mainly a Japanese release and didn't see any chart action, the album is seen as an undiscovered gem in their catalog.


"I Got You" by Split Enz

Song#:  0305
Date:  08/23/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  53
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  This New Zealand group had been together almost a decade before finally getting this lone single on the US chart. They began to forma as a group in 1971 and after a few years they obtained a solid following in New Zealand, finally issuing their debut album "Mental Notes" in 1974. At the time, the band's prog-rock sound and theatrical stage shows made them unique, but breaking in to other countries was difficult as many people and critics just didn't get them. By 1980 their struggles and personnel changes gave them an opportunity to update the group and direction. The prog-rock took a backseat to new wave and they issued the "True Colours" album in 1980. This poppy first single brought them a significant hit and finally broke them to a larger audience, including the US. The next couple of years would be their peak commercial success, but by 1984 there were more personnel changes and the last iteration of the group issued one more LP and then called it quits.

ReduxReview:  I complete forgot about this song! I remember the group name but thought that I didn't know this song, but I do. It has a chorus that is kind of hard to forget if you are into 80's new wave. I may have gotten this mixed up and thought Squeeze did this. Regardless, I like this song a lot and it just screams 80s music. Love the dark verse vs. the bright chorus too. I'm gonna have to dig back into this period of Split Enz and see if there are other gems.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) One founding member of the group was Tim Finn. His brother Neil joined the group in the late 70s. If the brothers sound familiar, they each have had success separately and together after Split Enz. Neil went on to form Crowded House, who had a couple of hits later in the 80s. Tim went on to a solo career and had great success in New Zealand and Australia. He also joined Crowded House for one album before resuming his solo work. The pair has also recorded together as The Finn Brothers.  2)  The group was original called Split Ends, but in a not to their native New Zealand, they altered the spelling to "nz" in Enz.


Monday, April 1, 2013

"You Can Call Me Blue" by Michael Johnson

Song#:  0304
Date:  08/23/1980
Debut:  89
Peak:  86
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Before venturing off into a full-fledged solo career, Johnson joined the Chad Mitchell Trio in 1967, which featured another soon-to-be-famous singer, John Denver. But with none of the original members left in the group, they changed the name to Denver, Boise, and Johnson and continued on for a short time. A few years later, Johnson issued his first solo album, "There Is a Breeze," which didn't make much of an impact. A couple of self-produced albums didn't fare much better, but when his demo of the Randy Goodrum song "Bluer Than Blue" made its way to EMI, they signed him and issued "The Michael Johnson Album" in 1978 featuring that #12 hit. He returned to the Top 20 the following year with "This Night Won't Last Forever," but it would be his last one to get that far up the chart. This single from the album of the same name became his last pop chart entry. However, he would have success later in the 80s on the country chart capturing five Top 10 hits including two #1's.

ReduxReview:  This is a nicely written song that leans toward the country-crossover sound. I'm not sure it is a tune that might stand out on pop (or country) radio, but it is worthy of a listen for anyone who likes this soft-rock-folk-country ala James Taylor-type of music. Plus, his two Top 20 hits mentioned above are pretty terrific.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  After the Denver, Boise, and Johnson trio disbanded, Johnson switched gears and landed a part in the off-Broadway and touring production of "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris."


"Switchin' to Glide/This Beat Goes On" by The Kings

Song#:  0303
Date:  08/23/1980
Debut:  90
Peak:  43
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Rock, Power Pop

Pop Bits:  This Canadian rock band got picked up by Elektra Records and with the help of producer Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd), their debut LP "The Kings Are Here" came out in 1980. This first single actually peaked twice on the chart (see below) and finally came close to cracking the Top 40. It was solid enough for a second LP, "Amazon Beach," to get released the following year, but it was not as successful as their debut. Consequently, the group was dropped by Elektra. The Kings continued to tour and release a few recordings on their own label, but this lone chart hit remains their most recognizable tune.

ReduxReview:  I've chatted with a few folks about this song and it's odd that most have the same feeling - they don't know why the two songs are combined (see below) and they prefer just listening to "Switchin' to Glide." On one of the YouTube versions of this song there was a rather crude, but funny comment regarding the two songs that said: "Why the fuck doesn't anyone have 'Glide' separate from the shitty first part?" A bit harsh, yes. But it seems to be the sentiment. However, I wonder why then the single did better when it was released as two songs?  Hmmm. Interesting. Anyway, I kind of agree. "This Beat" is okay and sounds a bit like an Elvis Costello/Joe Jackson knock-off, but "Glide" is much more interesting. Based on that song, I'd definitely check out more of their tunes.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Their debut album begins with the song "This Beat Goes On" which then segues directly into "Switchin' to Glide." The intent was for the songs to remain matched together. However, the obvious single to Elektra was "Switchin' to Glide," so they elected to just release that song only as a single. It entered the chart and made it as far as #56 before heading back down. At some point, Elektra was pressured into releasing the two songs together and just as the initial single was about to go off the chart, the combined single started to get attention and it began moving up again and ended up peaking higher than the original single.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen

#1 Alert!
Platinum Alert!
Song#:  0302
Date:  08/16/1980
Debut:  67
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  31
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After the second single, "Play the Game," from their album "The Game" kind of tanked (#42), this third single caught fire and became another signature tune for them and their second #1 (their first being "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" from the same album).

ReduxReview:  Oh c'mon now. If you haven't heard this song then you just don't know any music at all or you live in a cave. This thing has never stopped playing since it was released. And rightly so. It's a thumping, ballsy anthem with a great vocal by Freddie Mercury that has been played at about any sporting or competitive event for decades now. Killer Queen!

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Queen received a 1981 Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal for this song, but lost out to Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band.  2) It has been said that after seeing Queen in concert, Michael Jackson was the one who suggested this song be released as a single.