Saturday, October 5, 2013

"One More Chance" by Diana Ross

Song#:  0562
Date:  04/11/1981
Debut:  85
Peak:  79
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Ross was in the process of leaving Motown for RCA and had a few more tracks she owed the label. These tracks were combined with a few previously released songs to create the semi-compilation album "To Love Again." Four of the tracks on side A were brand new including this first single from the album. It didn't really find a home on any of the charts and quietly went away after a few weeks. A follow-up single, "Cryin' My Heart Out for You," failed to get anywhere. The semi-compilation mustered up a #32 peak, but failed to even go gold.

ReduxReview:  I think this was just a desperation toss for cashing in on a single before Ross left Motown. It didn't work. The song is an okay slice of AC, but it's not even close to being single worthy. The end part of the song is probably the best, but it kind of drones on way too long. Pretty good for an album track, but not much here to make radio pay attention.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Ross also did films with her most famous role being her Oscar-nominated turn as Billie Holiday in "Lady Sings the Blues" (1972). As time and roles allowed, she would do films but they were not as well-received. At one point, she offered to be cast in a movie with Ryan O'Neal in which she would be a famous singer. The movie got scrapped and the script set on the sidelines. However, it did get revived in the 90s and eventually became a vehicle for Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner - "The Bodyguard."


Friday, October 4, 2013

"Lately" by Stevie Wonder

Song#:  0561
Date:  04/11/1981
Debut:  86
Peak:  64
Weeks:  7
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Wonder's third single from his "Hotter Than July" album peaked fairly low, but in the UK it reached #3. In the US, the song has grown in popularity over the years thanks to a remake (see below) and the fact that the song has been sung by six different "American Idol" contestants during the live shows over the many seasons.

ReduxReview:  This is a very pretty ballad from Wonder and I've always liked it. However, I can see where it may not have caught on at pop radio. It's a little too subdued and there is no real hook to it. A low-key tune like this that is kind of old-fashioned and jazzy in a way is not gonna storm the chart. No matter as it has lasted far beyond what the peak would indicate.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The R&B group Jodeci recorded a version of the song that became their biggest pop hit. It reached #4 in 1993 and was their only Top 10 pop single. The song reached #1 R&B and went gold.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

"Winning" by Santana

Song#:  0560
Date:  04/11/1981
Debut:  87
Peak:  17
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This Latin-rock band headed by Carlos Santana first came to prominence with their performance at Woodstock. Their debut album came out soon after and reach #4 thanks to the festival exposure and their #9 chart hit "Evil Ways." The band reached their initial peak of popularity in the following few years with two #1 albums and a second hit "Black Magic Woman" (#4, 1970). But the mid-to-late 70s found the group just in a steady pace with touring, gold albums, and minor singles on the chart. Their first LP effort of the 80s, "Zebop!," put a bit more focus on rock and this single became their first to reach the Top 20 since 1971.

ReduxReview:  Originally a bit of a jam-band, it seems Santana put those roots aside to gain more favor in the rock market, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But if you heard this for the first time without knowing the artist, would Santana even come to mind? Doubtful. But it's nice to know they can get all pop-rocky when they want (which would come in handy in the late 90s). This is one of those songs for me where the verse is stronger than the chorus. I really like the verse but once the hook part comes up, it's lacking and the payoff is not there. But I still like it.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was penned by ex-Argent Russ Ballard, who had just recently put a solo song on the chart, "On the Rebound" (#58, 1980). Oddly, it is a remake with the original version included as the first track on the debut album by Nona Hendryx (of Labelle) in 1977.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Seduced" by Leon Redbone

Song#:  0559
Date:  04/11/1981
Debut:  89
Peak:  72
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Blues, Pop

Pop Bits:  Although known for his distinctive voice and appearance (featuring a suit, fedora, sunglasses and mustache), not much is truly know about this performer. The Canadian (though not by birth apparently) was first recognized by Bob Dylan and that in-turn lead to a recording contract. He issued his first album of old-time vaudeville jazz and blues in 1975 and he became a bit of a musical fixture on the early years of "Saturday Night Live." If you don't recognize his music, you probably will recognize his voice as it has been used in many commercials. His music is not really the type to receive a lot of pop airplay, but his fourth album "From Branch to Branch" featured this lone chart single. His music and enigmatic persona has garnered him a sizable cult following and he has continued to tour and release albums sporadically over the years.

ReduxReview:  How this oddball song got on the chart is beyond me. It borders on novelty, so maybe that did the trick. It is a fun little song, but I can't imagine listening to the radio back in the day and having this come on. I like Redbone's voice and the material he covers, but it is more fringe/cult area than pop-ular. If you find this interesting, look up some of his early albums. These types of albums rarely come about these days.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Redbone sang the opening credits song for the TV show "Mr. Belvedere," which ran from 1985-1990 on ABC.  2) This song's writer is Gary Tigerman. In addition to songwriting, Tigerman dabbled in acting as well. "Lost in Space" fans may know him from an episode where he played Oggo the Cave Boy.


"Heaven in Your Arms" by Dan Hartman

Song#:  0558
Date:  04/11/1981
Debut:  93
Peak:  86
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop

Heaven in Your Arms by Dan Hartman on Grooveshark

Pop Bits:   Before beginning his solo career, Hartman spent time in both the Johnny Winter Band and the Edgar Winter Group. By 1976 he had issued is first official solo disc with "Images" (earlier he did issue a solo compilation of tunes call "Who Is Dan Hartman"). The disc went nowhere but his second LP "Instant Replay" supplied him with the #1 dance title track which crossed over onto the pop chart reaching #29 (1978). Another #1 title-track dance hit came along with his next album "Relight My Fire," but it didn't reach the pop chart. This ballad from his third album got him back on the pop chart, but just slightly. He would have better luck with his next album.

ReduxReview:  It's so strange to go from the rock of the Winter bands to dance music and then to straight pop music with this ballad. The song is nothing really great, but it is a well-done slice of pop. It could have done a little better on the chart, but I don't hear a Top 10-er out of this one.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  When Hartman was with the Edgar Winter Group, he wrote their second biggest hit, the #14 "Free Ride." The group's final three chart singles were all also written (or co-written) by Hartman.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Find Your Way Back" by Jefferson Starship

Song#:  0557
Date:  04/04/1981
Debut:  81
Peak:  29
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock, Arena Rock

Pop Bits:  The Starship's last album, "Freedom At Point Zero," featured the #13 single "Jane" (1979), but it marked a bit of a downturn in sales as the LP only reached gold-level (their previous three as Jefferson Starship all were platinum sellers). This first single from "Modern Times" seemed to be the right one to generate some momentum and it was a #3 Modern Rock track. But it just made it into the pop Top 30 and it didn't really help improve things on the album side. Although it reach gold, the LP was their lowest peaking at the time for this iteration of the group. It did, however, mark the return of Grace Slick who came back to the group near the end of the recording sessions. She had basically been asked to leave the group in '78 due to her growing alcoholism and erratic behavior.

ReduxReview:  It was a strange period for the group during the late 70s and into the early 80s. Personnel changes, sound changes, etc. kind of found the group floundering a bit and their albums were jumble affairs. But along the way they had a few terrific singles that kept them going. This is one of them. I'm surprised that it did not do better. I thought it had about everything you needed for a hit single - nice verse, anthematic chorus, rockin' production, etc. But it seemed to have been met with an "ehh" feeling. Too bad as it is one of their best mid-career singles.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The "Modern Times" album contains the song "Stairway to Cleveland." The humorous album closer was written in response to a particularly bad review given to their previous album in Rolling Stone magazine and addresses the group changes throughout the years.


"But You Know I Love You" by Dolly Parton

Song#:  0556
Date:  04/04/1981
Debut:  82
Peak:  41
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  Parton's follow-up to her first and only solo #1 pop single, "9 to 5," just missed the Top 40 by a single position. However, it did become another #1 country hit for her and reached #14 at AC.

ReduxReview:  Parton does a great job with the song (as usual), and I'm sure it worked well for country. I'm not sure it was the best follow-up choice for pop though. There were a couple of other songs on that album that might have been better. But it's still a good song.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song is a remake of tune originally done by The First Edition (Kenny Rogers). Their version reached #19 on the pop chart in 1969. The same year, Bill Anderson reached #2 on the country chart. Parton's version couldn't beat The First Edition's original on the pop chart, but she did surpass Anderson's version and got the song to #1 at country.


Monday, September 30, 2013

"I Don't Need You" by Rupert Holmes

Song#:  0555
Date:  04/04/1981
Debut:  84
Peak:  56
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

I Don't Need You by Rupert Holmes on Grooveshark

Pop Bits:  Holmes' 1980 album "Adventure" started slow with the #68 "Morning Man." The albums second single, "Blackjack," failed to get anywhere but this third single drummed up a little more business (and reached #21 AC). It was enough for him to get one more album out, but it basically sank on release. It would be the last album from his prime era and this single would be his last to hit the chart.

ReduxReview:  With Holmes, it is always interesting. This is kind of an odd single. It's like a throwback to early 70s songwriter stuff like Randy Newman or Nilsson or even McCartney, but a little updated. It is certainly interesting and I like it, but seems like a strange choice for a single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In addition to his Tony Award winning musical, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," Holmes also wrote a cable television show called "Remember WENN." Airing on the AMC channel for four season beginning in 1996, the fictional show centered around a Pittsburgh radio station in the early 40s. In addition to writing all the episodes, Holmes also composed the music for the show.


"Super Trouper" by ABBA

Song#:  0554
Date:  04/04/1981
Debut:  88
Peak:  45
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  After getting their last US Top 10 hit with "The Winner Takes It All" (#8), this second title-track single from their album almost reached the Top 40. The song would be their ninth and last to reach #1 in the UK.

ReduxReview:  In some ways, I think maybe the simplistic, nursery rhyme-style melody just didn't connect to folks in the US. It's too bad because this is another solid ABBA song. The vocal arrangement is strong (as usual) and it just makes me wanna bop all around. I find it a bit hard to resist. I probably wouldn't put it among their greatest songs, but it is certainly a quality tune.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) A super trouper is a type of followspot used to highlight stage performers. The song conveys the feeling that the group preferred to be at home in the recording studio rather that touring.  2) The video for this song was directed by Lasse Hallström. He directed the vast majority of ABBA's videos throughout their career. Later, he directed several famous films such as "My Life As a Dog," "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?," and "The Cider House Rules." He was nominated for two Academy Awards as director for "My Life" and "Cider House." Both "Cider House" and another film he directed, "Chocolat," were nominated for Best Picture in their respective years.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Playing with Lightning" by Shot in the Dark

Song#:  0553
Date:  04/04/1981
Debut:  90
Peak:  71
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Guitarist Peter White began playing with Al Stewart on his hit album "Year of the Cat" in 1976. By the next album, White was co-writing with Stewart (specifically on the hit title track "Time Passages," #7) followed by White's band fully backing Stewart on his "24 Carrots" album. The backing band was called Shot in the Dark and they got their own chance to record and issued a self-titled album in 1981. This first single eked onto the chart for a few weeks, but that would be it for the band. They would not record again and White, in addition to other gigs, remained with Stewart through out the next couple of decades.

ReduxReview:  This is a slick, soft rock tune that shuffles along with that polished SoCal sound that was around at the time. Almost Fleetwood Mac-y in a way. It's a good tune but there is not much to grab on to in order to keep it playing in my head.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  White later went on to play with other artists like Basia ("Time and Tide," #26, 1988). He also turned to jazz and recorded several solo albums that were Top 10 hits on the jazz chart.