Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Smokey Mountain Rain" by Ronnie Milsap

Song#:  0422
Date:  11/29/1980
Debut:  83
Peak:  24
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  Although he would go on to become a country music superstar, few know that Milsap originally started his career in R&B. He signed with Scepter Records in 1965 and had #19 R&B hit with "Never Had It So Good," written by Ashford & Simpson. He recorded other songs but none made the charts except for a lone pop single in 1970 called "Loving You Is a Natural Thing" which reached #87. Milsap made a move to Nashville, changed his sound based on a conversation with country star Charley Pride, and signed with RCA Records. He issued his first country-based album for them in 1973 and scored immediately on the country chart with the #10 "I Hate You." The rest of the 70s saw him get 12 #1 country songs and the 80s were even better. This song from his "Greatest Hits" album caught him in the midst of a streak of 10 #1 country hits and it was his second biggest pop hit at the time.

ReduxReview:  It's funny that I really like Ronnie Milsap and I probably only have a couple songs of his. I really need to get a compilation of his stat! First, he has a great voice. If you have not heard him sing "It Was Almost Like a Song," you should. Second, Milsap wasn't a songwriter, but he got hold of some solid country/pop tunes over the years. This is one of those songs. Milsap really should have done better on pop radio than he did, getting only four Top 20 hits, but songs like this should always get folks interesting in his music.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In 2010, this was adopted as an official state song for Tennessee.  The state has a short list of official songs that also includes "Rocky Top" and "Tennessee Waltz."


Friday, June 21, 2013

"Love T.K.O." by Teddy Pendergrass

Song#:  0421
Date:  11/29/1980
Debut:  85
Peak:  44
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B, Quiet Storm

Pop Bits:  The second single from Pendergrass' "TP" album did better than its first "Can't We Try" (#52 pop, #3 R&B) by almost going Top 40 at pop and reaching #2 at R&B. Although it wasn't his biggest pop or R&B hit, it has become one of his most recognizable songs and one that has been covered by many artists including Hall & Oates, Bette Midler, Seal, and Michael McDonald.

ReduxReview:  I'm a little surprised this didn't peak higher. It just seems like one of those songs that at least went Top 20. It's a nice slow jam that sizzles right along. Pendergrass was a great singer, but I wasn't always in love with his material. This one is an exception and probably my favorite of his solo songs.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The original version of this song was done by soul singer David Oliver and came out in 1980 prior to Pendergrass' version. It appeared on Oliver's final album "Here's to You" (he passed away in 1982). His most well-known single was the #13 R&B hit "Ms." in 1978.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

"Miss Sun" by Boz Scaggs

Song#:  0420
Date:  11/29/1980
Debut:  87
Peak:  14
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Soft Rock, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Tying the peak of his previous single, "Look What You've Done to Me" from the "Urban Cowboy" soundtrack, this song became his fourth in a row to just miss the Top 10. The song was a new recording included on the compilation "Hits!" After this single and album, Scaggs took an extended break from the music business. His next single and album wouldn't come out until 1988.

ReduxReview:  There is just something about Boz Scaggs that makes my mind discard him. With the exception of a couple of songs, all these Top 20 hits he had I swear I've never heard before. And even after I have a few times, I have zero recollection of them. This is another one. It is pleasant enough, but this lite SoCal jazzy sound doesn't seem stick in my brain. And I'm a little boggled that it made is up the chart as far as it did.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was written by David Paich and recorded in 1977 as a demo by him and a few other musicians. This song plus some other demos led to these folks getting signed by Columbia Records and they went on to record as the group Toto. On the demo, part of the vocals were done by Lisa Dal Bello. When the song was revived for Scaggs, she was asked back to do her vocals again for the recording. The original demo version of the song appeared later on the compilation album "Toto XX" in 1998.


"Keep On Loving You" by REO Speedwagon

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0419
Date:  11/29/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  28
Genre:  Rock, Arena Rock

Pop Bits:  REO toned down the hard rock of their previous albums and shuffled a little closer to pop with their 1980 album "Hi Infidelity." The album reached #1 and stayed there for 15 weeks becoming their best-selling album. This first power ballad single certainly had a lot to do with the album's success as it became both their first Top 10 and #1 hit. The album would also get them a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Group.

ReduxReview:  I just remember that this song and album were huge when I was in high school. I also had a typing teacher who loved this song, so of course the kids all thought she was hip and cool. I didn't latch on to it back in the day, but I actually own a copy now. This song is probably the best on the album and I appreciate it a lot more now than I did then. However, Kevin Cronin's vocals still irritate me a bit. Especially when he sings words that end in "er." Like when he sings "still I don't remembrrrrrr." The "bur" part is so pronounced. Most singers will sing it like "bah," which is preferable to me. It's just that emphasis he puts on pronouncing the syllable grinds in my ears. Ah, well. It's still a great song.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  When this song hit #1, it became the 500th song to do so on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"Gypsy Spirit" by Pendulum

Song#:  0418
Date:  11/29/1980
Debut:  98
Peak:  89
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  There is not a lot of information on this group but I've found that they were from Long Beach, California and were a trio. Two members were David Quintana and Paul Kenny. The group was signed to Venture Records and this single, written by Quintana, was issued. It seems Venture had some money problems and couldn't really promote the group. But it seemed to be enough to get this song on the chart. The group disbanded in 1982.

ReduxReview:  Wow. Where to begin. This is such an odd single. It's a strange mix of European-ish disco and something theatrical like "Phantom of the Opera" with a little Styx-ish arena rock tossed in. Frankly, it is pretty awful, but I'd have to saw awful in a good way. It is just so weird that I feel compelled to like it. I think it is one of those "so bad it is good" songs. Not sure what else the band came up with but I guess I'll find out - I found a vinyl copy of the album and ordered it. Hope it is just as cray-cray as this song.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  On a pressing of the 45, the label says the artist is "Pendulum" and it is from their album "Just Bitchin'," but I don't see any evidence that this album existed. However, it appears at some point there was a slight change to the name and an album did come out. "Pendullum" released the album "Don't Make Me Eat" which included this song and another called "Without You" that was a single issued under the "Pendullum" name.


"Tell It Like It Is" by Heart

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0417
Date:  11/22/1980
Debut:  41
Peak:  8
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After a very successful 70s that saw four consecutive platinum albums, Heart started to see a decline in their fortunes when the 1979 LP "Bebe le Strange" only went gold and produced the sole chart single "Even It Up" (#33). Their next release, "Greatest Hits/Live," was a double LP where disc one featured their hit songs and disc two contained mostly live recordings with three new studio tracks. One of them was this first single from the album. It bolstered sales a bit for them when the single reached the Top 10, but it would be just a momentary uptick as the early 80s would be their most difficult period.

ReduxReview:  The track is probably one of my least favorite Heart tracks. Not because they do a bad job with the tune (actually, they perform it quite well), but because I'm not a fan of the song to begin with. I didn't care for the original (see below) or any other version, so even having one of my favorite groups like Heart cover the tune doesn't do much to change my opinion. Solid performance, meh song.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song is a remake of Aaron Neville's 1967 #2 hit. It has been covered by many artists but has only hit the chart three times. Besides Neville's and Heart's Top 10 entries, singer Andy Williams (my former boss!) hit #72 in 1976 with the tune. The song also appears on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Passion" by Rod Stewart

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0416
Date:  11/22/1980
Debut:  50
Peak:  5
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  A year before, Stewart divided record buyers and critics with his discofied "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" single. The song hit #1 as did the album "Blonds Have More Fun," but critics were not kind to the album and loathed the dance tune. It was a far cry from his "Maggie May" days. His follow-up album wouldn't win them over either as Stewart moved away from disco and began to incorporate some new wave elements. This single scored well reaching #5, but the album broke his string of Top 10's peaking only at #12.

ReduxReview:  I didn't like the song back then and I haven't really warmed up to it much since. For a song called "Passion," it seems to kind of lack it. I don't hate it as much as I used to, but it is still just a bit of a boring groove with little going on. And his phrase "even the president needs" really kills the song for me. Not Rod's best moment by a longshot.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  In the early 60's when Stewart was finding his musical way, he was initially considered for the lead singing job in a band that comprised of a few guys with whom Stewart had known from school. However, opinions about musical direction and Stewart's voice quickly made things difficult and the potential job slipped away. The band he almost sang lead with turned out later to be The Kinks.


"One Step Closer" by The Doobie Brothers

Song#:  0415
Date:  11/22/1980
Debut:  54
Peak:  24
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Their previous single "Real Love" from the album "One Step Closer" didn't really set the charts a-fire even though peaking at #5. Considering the success of their Grammy-winning "Minute By Minute" album, this was a bit of a disappointment. The second single would be the title track of the album and it's failure to make the Top 20 didn't do much to push sales of the LP. Tensions in the band led to an agreed disbanding of the group later in 1981 with Michael McDonald off to pursue a solo career. It would be another eight years before a reunion with a new album would take place.

ReduxReview:  I've read reviews of this album where it was said that this album just sounded tired. I'd have to agree. I think the magic was gone by this time and it just spilled over into this recording. It's not a bad song, but it just sounds so blasé and it lacks any spark or personality. I've heard bar bands that were more exciting and involved than this.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This song was co-written by Carlene Carter, the daugher of June Carter Cash (making her Johnny Cash's step-daughter). At the time she was working to get her solo career going, but it would be slow going as her first major country hit wouldn't arrive until 1990's "I Fell in Love" (#3). She would have two other Top 10 country hits, both of them also peaking at #3.


Monday, June 17, 2013

"I Made It Through the Rain" by Barry Manilow

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0414
Date:  11/22/1980
Debut:  61
Peak:  10
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The Manilow sound was going out of favor around this time as new wave and 80s pop starting taking over the radio. His tunes were now more associated with AC stations and getting shoved into the "easy listening" category. But before the hits really stopped for good, Manilow got out one last major hit. This single from his 1980 album "Barry" would just barely make it at #10, but it was his eleventh and final Top 10 hit. Although he would continue to put songs in the Top 40 for a few more years, this one closed a chapter in the superstar's career.

ReduxReview:  By this time, Manilow was really the king of big ballads. Besides "Copacabana," all his other Top 10 hits were ballads - most of them of the massive variety like this one. Out of all these, I'd have to say that this one would rank a bit lower than others. It's still prime quality Manilow, but when stacked up against biggies like "Looks Like We Made It" or "Weekend in New England," it kind of pales in comparison.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  On the album "Barry" is a song called "The Last Duet." This upbeat disco-ish tune is a duet between Manilow and Lily Tomlin. The comedic song is about a break-up of a singing duo and features lines that are takes on other duet songs of the day like "don't go breakin' my back," "with you I'm bored again," and "you're not the one that I want."


"Time Is Time" by Andy Gibb

Song#:  0413
Date:  11/22/1980
Debut:  65
Peak:  15
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Gibb's "After Dark" album signaled a decline in his output with only "Desire" cracking the Top 10 at #4. It was around this time that his drug habit was taking its toll on the singer and his career. He had one final album to fulfill his contract with RSO and the label decided to issue a greatest hits package that included three new recordings including this first single. The rockier tune couldn't break into the Top 10 and was his last to reach the Top 20. Due to his unfortunate drug habit that resulted in behavior issues, RSO dropped Gibb from the label. Although Gibb would record a few songs later in the 80s before his death in 1988, "Andy Gibbs' Greatest Hits" would prove to be his final solo album featuring new material.

ReduxReview:  Written by Barry and Andy Gibb, this showed a direction on where Andy could have taken his music. It was a nice change after his disco-ish past recordings. But unfortunately he just kind of killed his career and didn't have time to recover and return. I like this song and think it made a good single. I actually think the production could have been beefed up a bit more to really rock out, but as-is I think it is an underrated and forgotten tune in his short catalog.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Around this time, Gibb was expanding into other areas such as the stage and TV. He performed in the LA cast of "The Pirates of Penzance" and for a short time took over the lead on Broadway in "Joseph and the Amazing Technical Dreamcoat." As mentioned in another post, he also co-hosted the TV countdown show "Solid Gold." However, due to his drug use he ended up being let go from both "Joseph" and "Solid Gold."


Sunday, June 16, 2013

"You" by Earth, Wind & Fire

Song#:  0412
Date:  11/22/1980
Debut:  81
Peak:  48
Weeks:  12
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  After the lackluster single "Let Me Talk," the first from their "Faces" album, hit a disappointing #44, they shifted gears and released this ballad as a follow-up. Unfortunately, it did about the same and failed to get the group back into the Top 40. However, it did manage to reach #10 on the R&B chart.

ReduxReview:  The song is better than the previous single ("Let Me Talk"), but still nothing that really screams "hit single." It is a nice song with good pedigree - written by David Foster, Brenda Russell, and Maurice White - but for me it makes a better album track than single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In 1975, EWF was tapped to co-star in and write the music for the film "That's the Way of the World." The film, starring Harvey Keitel, was a look at the ugly side of the music business and EWF played the fictional group who were working on their debut album when things go downhill. The group was pretty sure the film would be a bomb, so to make sure the music got a chance they released the soundtrack album ahead of the film's premier. The film was not a hit, as predicted, but the album was a #1 smash featuring the chart-topping single "Shining Star" and the #12 title track.