Saturday, April 27, 2013

"I Believe in You" by Don Williams

Song#:  0344
Date:  09/27/1980
Debut:  92
Peak:  24
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Country

Pop Bits:  Williams' solo career began in 1971 and since that time he has amassed seventeen #1 country hits. In addition, the vast majority of all his singles released reached the Top 10. But not all country superstars can crossover to pop and that was the case with Williams. This was his lone pop chart entry and this title-track success gave him is only gold studio album. In 2006, Williams retired from music and did a farewell tour, but like a lot of musicians who "retire," they end up coming back and he returned with a new album and tour in 2012. His last country Top 10 was in 1991.

ReduxReview:  I imagine that this song might have been caught up in the Urban Cowboy craze, even though it was not on the soundtrack. The song is quite country for a pop chart entry and it did very well going Top 25. I've always thought this old-style country tune was very sweet and Williams' voice is so comforting. You don't hear songs like this on the radio any longer - worse yet, you don't really hear it on country radio. Kind of sad.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) His soft baritone and demeanor combined with an imposing presence garnered him the nickname "gentle giant."  2) Williams' first group was a duo with Lofton Kline called The Strangers Two. Later, they added Susan Taylor and became the Pozo-Seco Singers. This folk-pop group went on to have six chart songs between 1966-67 with their best showing being two songs that peaked at #32 in 1966 - "I Can Make It with You" and "Look What You've Done." (Extra! Pozo-Seco is a geological term that translated means "dry well." Why they called themselves a dry well, I can't say.)


Friday, April 26, 2013

"The Wanderer" by Donna Summer

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0343
Date:  09/20/1980
Debut:  43
Peak:  3
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Feeling creatively and professionally stifled by her label, Casablanca, she left during her peak power years and moved over to the newly established Geffen label. With more control over her music, Summer wanted to move away from disco and into the newer rock/new wave movement. With her previous producers/co-writers on-board (Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte), Summer released the album "The Wanderer" and this title track (not to be confused with Dion's 1961 #2 hit of the same name) became another sizable hit in her catalog. However, it would be the only Top 10 hit from the album and that, along with Summer still being recognized as the "queen of disco," likely contributed to the album only reaching #13 and stopping her platinum streak by only going gold.

ReduxReview:  This was never one of my favorite Summer tracks. It was good that she was leaving disco behind, but I just wasn't thrilled with this quirky song. Even back in the day I thought the keyboard line was pure cheese in a can. You know, this keyboard sound was used in a very similar line later in Olivia Newton-John's "Make a Move on Me," and it sounds right for that sophisticated pop song. I think "The Wanderer" is just an odd transition tune between Summer's disco days and her solid pop 80s songs.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Having more artistic control allowed Summer to bring her newly rediscovered faith to her music. She wrote "I Believe in Jesus" and it was the last track on the album. This resulted in a Grammy nomination for Best Inspirational Performance.


"Dreamer" by Supertramp

Song#:  0342
Date:  09/20/1980
Debut:  67
Peak:  15
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Prog Rock

Pop Bits:  Supertramp's album "Breakfast in America" was a #1 smash and their biggest selling album. Featuring the Top 10 hits "The Logical Song" (#6) and "Take the Long Way Home" (#10), the LP found the group moving towards a slicker pop sound than their more prog rock/art rock roots. But like many groups that would hit it big, during their peak period there would be inner turmoil. The relationship of the group's two main members/songwriters, Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson, grew cold and their creative partnership had pretty much dissolved. But they soldiered on through a massive tour and while the band took a break, the live album "Paris" was released. This first single from the album was the live version of the 1974 song from their "Crime of the Century" album. The original 1974 single didn't reach the chart in the US, but it was a #13 hit in the UK.

Weird Connection Alert! A vocalist that I knew back in my Branson theater days is currently a background vocalist for Supertramp when they go on tour.

ReduxReview:  Another lackluster live version of a terrific song. Yeah, as I've mentioned previously I'm not a big fan of live recordings. Unless the artist highlights the song in a new way or adds something interesting like a terrific solo, they just end up being remakes of the studio versions. And as much as I like this song, this live version on record is just bland. Could be different if you were actually there...and therein lies the problem with most live recording. I'd just rather be there than pretending I was.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The group's original name was Daddy. But to avoid confusion with another band, they became Supertramp, a nod to the book "The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp" by William Henry Davies. The book was the author's autobiography that focuses on his days of living as a tramp in the UK and US. It was published in 1908. For the title of their first greatest hits LP, the group used the title "The Autobiography of Supertramp" (1986).


Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Let Me Talk" by Earth, Wind & Fire

Song#:  0341
Date:  09/20/1980
Debut:  75
Peak:  44
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  EWF were tremendously successful in the 70s with eight platinum (or multi-platinum) albums and six Top 10 pop hits, including 1975's #1 "Shining Star." Their first album of the 80s, "Faces," managed to hit #10 and go gold, but it wouldn't come close to their mega-selling previous albums. Signs of decline were apparent when this first single couldn't get inside the Top 40. Although the group was R&B, they were kind of in the same boat as Chicago at the time - a successful 70s band whose sound was getting dated when the 80s rolled in. EWF would make changes, but it would only result in a slight resurgence as their last Top 40 hit would come in 1983.

ReduxReview:  The song kind of starts out like a Quincy Jones/Michael Jackson-type jam that really doesn't go anywhere. Then there is a shift that goes into a kind of smooth-jazz section. I also had to listen to this three times before actually finding a melody line and some type of chorus.  For me, this song is a mess.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Group founder Maurice White originally called his Chicago-based band Salty Peppers when they got their first contract with Capital Records in 1969. After a move to the West Coast and a new contract with Warner, White changed the band name to Earth, Wind & Fire. The name comes from the four classical elements (earth, air, fire, water). White's astrological sign is Sagittarius, which is devoid of the water element. Therefore, White turned the other three elements into the group's name.


"Master Blaster (Jammin')" by Stevie Wonder

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0340
Date:  09/20/1980
Debut:  78
Peak:  5
Weeks:  23
Genre:  R&B, Reggae

Pop Bits:  After the diminished returns and confused reception of Wonder's soundtrack to "Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants," he returned to form with this single from his first certified platinum album, "Hotter Than July." Inspired by his love of reggae music and meeting Bob Marley, Wonder wrote this tune as an ode to Marley. It also got Wonder another Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male.

ReduxReview:  Ah, yes. Much better! After a couple years of blah stuff from Wonder, this sounded refreshing. I wouldn't say this is one of my all-time faves of his, but it is hard to not groove to this. Looking back, I'd probably say that this may have been the first reggae-style song that I heard. Reggae and artist like Bob Marley were not on anyone's radar in my small Michigan hometown, so it wasn't until years later that I discovered the music. It's not one of my favorite genres, but I do appreciate many of the great songs.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Another track on the album, "Happy Birthday," was instrumental in the quest to have Martin Luther King's birthday recognized as a national holiday. The song was released as a single, but it failed to make the pop chart. It did, however, reach #17 R&B and was a surprise #2 hit in the UK.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"That Girl Can Sing" by Jackson Browne

Song#:  0339
Date:  09/20/1980
Debut:  82
Peak:  22
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Browne's first #1 album "Hold Out" started off with the #19 single "Boulevard." This follow-up single did just about as well. Although the singles were not major hits, it didn't really matter. After the mega-success of his last album, "Running on Empty," he probably could have released a door stop and it would have hit #1.

ReduxReview:  Yawn. Jackson Browne. Again, another song that seemed to get fairly high on the chart and I've never heard it. This one is a bit better than "Boulevard," but again nothing that I'd really choose to put in my shuffle. He does have a couple of songs I do like, but overall, if I don't get him by now, I never will.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Kind of like Carly Simon with "You're So Vain," there has been speculation about who this song is really about. Some say it might have been about Laura Nyro or even Linda Ronstadt. But it seems the inspiration for the song most likely came from Valerie Carter, a singer who had worked as a back-up singer for Browne. Carter is a singer/songwriter and has had much success working with artists like Ronstadt, Christopher Cross, Don Henley, James Taylor, and others. One of the songs she co-wrote ended up on Browne's "Running on Empty" album - "Love Needs a Heart."

Note:  I found out about Valerie Carter ages ago when I ran across her debut LP "Just a Stone's Throw Away" (1977). It is a terrific album from that era and kind of an undiscovered gem. Check out her version of "Ooh Child."


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Heroes" by The Commodores

Song#:  0338
Date:  09/20/1980
Debut:  85
Peak:  54
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  After the lackluster showing of "Old-Fashion Love" (#20), The Commodores released this second title-track single from their album "Heroes." Although it barely made it halfway up the pop chart, it did a little better on the R&B chart making it to #27. The group received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group, for this song.

ReduxReview:  This is a nicely written ballad complete with inspirational lyrics. But I see it more as an album closer rather than a single. I had not heard this song before and after the bland "Old-Fashion Love," this is certainly far better, if just not a great single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The third single from the "Heroes" album was "Jesus Is Love," one of three gospel/inspirational songs on the album. The group was not really known for doing gospel songs on their albums, so the inclusion of these tunes were a bit unusual. The single did not hit the pop chart and was just a minor entry at R&B (#34). But it did get the group another Grammy nomination for Best Inspirational Performance.


"Hold On" by Kansas

Song#:  0337
Date:  09/20/1980
Debut:  90
Peak:  40
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock, Arena Rock, Prog Rock

Pop Bits:  After two giant hit albums, "Leftoverture" and "Point of Know Return," Kansas returned with "Monolith," an album that started to see changes for the group. It was a lackluster affair with fans not really latching on to the new songs and by the end of that tour, only about half of the song from the album remained on the set list. All would be eliminated on their next tour. The band was going through changes both musically and personally as founding member Kerry Lievgren became a born-again Christian and this began to be reflected in his music. This first single from the album "Audio-Visions" was written by Livegren in hopes it would help to get his wife to turn to Christianity. The song would be the last Top 40 hit for the group in its original line-up.

ReduxReview:  My reference to Kansas is when I'm serving last night's meal all over again - I commonly refer to the dinner as "leftovertures." Other than that, I wasn't big into Kansas. "Point of No Return" was my favorite song of theirs, but that was about it. This song doesn't change my mind any. Slightly Celtic Kansas. It doesn't sounds very single-worthy to me either.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  While still in Kansas, Livgren recorded a solo album that was released in 1980. "Seeds of Change" was basically a contemporary Christian recording and it featured some of the other members of Kansas along with David Pack (Ambrosia) and Ronnie James Dio. The appearance of Dio was a bit controversial for Livgren's Christian following due to Dio's bands (Black Sabbath and Dio) being considered "satanic" at the time.


Monday, April 22, 2013

"The Part of Me That Needs You Most" by Jay Black

Song#:  0336
Date:  09/20/1980
Debut:  98
Peak:  98
Weeks: 4
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Black was best known as the lead singer of Jay and the Americans beginning in 1963 when original Jay, John "Jay" Traynor, left the group. Black's given name is David Blatt, but in order to join the group he had to change his name to fit the group and became Jay Black. With Black on lead, the group had three Top 10 hits including 1968's gold record "This Magic Moment" (#6) - originally a #16 hit in 1960 for The Drifters. The group's popularity declined and they split in 1973. However, Black continued performing as Jay and the Americans for the next several years while also recording as a solo artist. This song barely made the chart and was his only solo entry.

ReduxReview:  This just kind of sounds...old-fashioned. And not in a good way. I don't care for the song and I'm not a fan of Black's voice. Obviously, he can sing and has a good voice, but there is just something about the tone and singing style that I'm just not liking. I'm not connecting with any of this. I mean, just by comparison, the previous song I covered was Cliff Richard's "Dreamin'." Richards was from the same rock 'n' roll era as Black and his song/voice sounded fresh and updated. It is an interesting contrast between the two.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) In 2006, Black had to file for bankruptcy due to gambling and tax debts. He had to sell his ownership of the name "Jay and the Americans" to another former member. He almost lost his right to even use "Jay Black," but he was able to retain the use of that name. He now performs as Jay Black and the Alley Cats.  2) Early on as Black was touring with his own Jay and the Americans, he hired two musicians that worked in the group for over a year - Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, aka Steely Dan.  3) This song was already recorded by the group Exile ("Kiss You All Over") in 1979 for their album "All There Is," but it was not released as a single.


"Dreamin'" by Cliff Richard

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0335
Date:  09/13/1980
Debut:  77
Peak:  10
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  After a couple of decades of virtually being ignored in the US, Richard was finally on a solid streak of chart tunes that gave him five Top 40 hits beginning in 1979 with the #7 "We Don't Talk Anymore." His next album kept up the pop/rock feel of that hit and this first single from his LP "I'm No Hero" got him is third Top 10 hit.

ReduxReview:  Okay, so how did I miss this song the first time around? I mean, I know the song but for some reason didn't pay much attention to it back in the day. Listening to it now many years later, I feel crazy for not loving this song on initial release. This is just a terrific single. And the album this is from, "I'm No Hero," is an underrated pop gem.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The album "I'm No Hero" hit the US pop album chart and reach #80. Richard only had five albums get on the chart with 1976's "I'm Nearly Famous" (featuring his first US Top 10 "Devil Woman") going the highest at #76. So how does that compare with his UK chart albums? Richard has hit the UK album chart more than 50 times with 30+ of them hitting the Top 10.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

"Without Your Love" by Roger Daltrey

Song#:  0334
Date:  09/13/1980
Debut:  81
Peak:  20
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  This second single from Daltrey's "McVicar" soundtrack became his highest peaking single on the US chart. Although the song didn't do well on the UK singles chart (#55), it was a major hit in the Netherlands reaching #2.

ReduxReview:  This is a very pretty ballad that I had totally forgotten about. It seemed to do okay on the chart, but not as well as I would have expected. Maybe it was just too poppy and schmaltzy for a member of The Who to be doing. Not really sure. But I like it.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song's writer, Billy Nicholls, has had his songs covered by other artists. In 1978, Leo Sayer had a big UK hit with Nicholls' "I Can't Stop Loving You (Though I Try)" (#7). This song was again covered by Phil Collins and was the lead single from his 2002 album "Testify." Although it peaked at a lowly #76 on the US pop chart, it was a #1 AC chart hit.