Saturday, October 19, 2013

"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" by Phoebe Snow

Song#:  0584
Date:  05/02/1981
Debut:  90
Peak:  52
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Snow's rock-oriented album "Rock Away" already produced the minor single "Games" (#46) and this second single did about as well. It would be another eight years before Snow would return to recording and although she would get a couple of songs on the AC chart, this would be her final pop chart entry.

ReduxReview:  This is certainly more amped up when compared to the original (see below) and Snow sounds great on it. Rock doesn't fit her very well, however with the R&B twinge to this, it is a bit better. Not sure if it makes the best single, but it seemed to do okay.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was originally just called "Mercy Mercy" and was co-written and recorded by R&B artist Don Covay in 1964. The song only reached #35 on the pop chart (#1 R&B), but is now more famous for the guitarist who performed on the track - Jimi Hendrix.


Friday, October 18, 2013

"Shaddap You Face" by Joe Dolce

Song#:  0583
Date:  05/02/1981
Debut:  94
Peak:  53
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Novelty

Pop Bits:  Ohio-born musician Dolce moved to Australia after he hit 30 and has remained there since. Soon after his move he released his first solo recording, a protest tune about the treatment of Vietnamese refugees called "Boat People," and developed a one-man performance show. This second single he recorded was inspired by his Italian grandparents back in Ohio. He funded the single and a video for the song himself and it became an unexpected hit in Australia hitting #1 for eight weeks. The song became a hit in other countries like Germany, Canada, and New Zealand. In the US, it didn't seem to translate as well and it only made it about halfway up the chart. But it didn't matter as the single sold millions worldwide. It would be his only US chart entry and his only major hit outside of Australia. Dolce has continued to record music over the years, including setting many classic poems to music. He has also become a prize-winning poet and essayist.

ReduxReview:  I don't know if this song is considered offensive these days or enhancing a stereotype or what. I just know that I'm not a fan. Maybe certain folks can relate to it and I guess that is fine. I find it kind of annoying.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  While still in Ohio, Dolce was a member of the group Headstone Circus. Another member of the group was Jonathan Edwards who would go on to be a one hit wonder in 1971 with his #4 song "Sunshine."


Thursday, October 17, 2013

"This Little Girl" by Gary U.S. Bonds

Song#:  0582
Date:  04/25/1981
Debut:  67
Peak:  11
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Bonds was a star in the early days of rock 'n' roll with five Top 10 hits between 1960 and 1962. His biggest hit was the #1 "Quarter to Three" (1961), which has long been considered an influential song in rock history. Bonds also influenced a young Jersey guy named Bruce Springsteen and almost 20 years after Bonds' last chart entry, the two got together with Steven Van Zandt and recorded the album "Dedication." Springsteen contributed three song to the album that were originally meant for his hit album "The River," and dueted with Bonds on the Cajun traditional "Jole Blon." This first single, written by Springsteen, petered out in the unfortunate #11 spot, but the comeback of Bonds was considered a triumph.

ReduxReview:  Springsteen was super-hot at the time, so probably anything he did or worked on or promoted would do pretty well, and this one did. Back then, I wasn't a big fan of the song. But I wasn't really into that sound (or even Springsteen) those days. Now, it sounds good. I can't say it is one of The Boss' best tunes, but I like it much better than I did previously.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  When Bonds first got a recording deal, the label head decided to change Bonds' name (real name was Gary Anderson). The guy chose U.S. Bonds thinking that the confusion between artist and the advertised government bonds would result in airplay. But folks thought it was a group instead of a person, so his first name was tacked on as Gary (U.S.) Bonds.  When the Springsteen collaboration came long, the parentheses were taken out.


"America" by Neil Diamond

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0581
Date:  04/25/1981
Debut:  76
Peak:  8
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Diamond nabs another hit from his highly successful soundtrack to "The Jazz Singer." The album became his biggest US seller and it was the first and only time he had three song go Top 10 from one album. The patriotic song quickly became a favorite at his concerts.

ReduxReview:  For me, I think this is the last great classic Diamond song before he got tossed in the AC bucket and his music followed suit. It's an anthem with a solid melody and the big "today" shout that folks always did when hearing this song. It's exciting, has nice sentiment in the lyrics, and is just hard to resist.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although it sounds like it was recorded in concert, the song was recorded in the studio and crowd noises were added to make it seem like a live performance.  2) After the September 11 attacks, radio giant Clear Channel issued a list of song to their stations deemed insensitive or inappropriate for play at the time. Despite the song having a pro-America patriotic theme, this song was included on their list.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Just So Lonely" by Get Wet

Song#:  0580
Date:  04/25/1981
Debut:  80
Peak:  39
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  The duo of Sherri Beachfront and Zecca Esquibel met, fell in love, and formed a musical partnership that got them signed to Boardwalk Records. Their self-titled debut album was issued with this song being the first single. It just barely cracked the Top 40, which seemed to suggest that the group could go places. Unfortunately, the head of their label died and the label eventually folded. That left the duo without a contract and they ended things both professionally and personally. This would be their only chart entry.

ReduxReview:  They have a cool retro-rock, power pop sound and the song is kind of catchy. Apparently Beachfront had a kind of day-glo/retro/thrift shop look and has come just short of saying that Cyndi Lauper took her look (but will say she was the better singer!). She does have a solid voice and sells this song well (and really knocks out one off the album called "It's You It's Me"). It's a shame this group didn't go further. They are fun.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Esquibel was in the punk band Cherry Vanilla in the late 70s. Sting and Stewart Copeland of The Police played in the band for a stretch in exchange for their group (The Police) getting the opening slot on the tour.  2) Beachfront had an unfortunate dive into drugs after Get Wet split and was even destitute and homeless for a point. She sought help and went into recovery. However, years later when taking a blood test for a marriage license, she tested HIV-positive. Since then she has been very pro-active in support for folks with HIV and has a podcast called "Straight Girl in a Queer World" that interviews activists and others in the fight against HIV/AIDS.


"Give a Little Bit More" by Cliff Richard

Song#:  0579
Date:  04/25/1981
Debut:  81
Peak:  41
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  After many years of success in the UK, Richard finally found some love from the US and was having a mini-steak of hits. His "I'm No Hero" album already featured two hits including the #10 "Dreamin'" and this third single also got on the chart peaking in the dreaded #41 spot.

ReduxReview:  Although not quite as catchy as his previous singles from the album, this is still a solid single and could have done a bit better on the chart. For me, his album "I'm No Hero" was a terrific pop disc and I think the album had at least one other song that would have made a better single. But this one is a tasty tidbit.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Co-writer of this tune, Andy Hill, wrote an entry for the Eurovision Song Contest and needed a group to sing it. So he assembled a vocal group dubbed Bucks Fizz and they represented the UK in 1981 with Hill's song "Make Up Your Mind." The song ended up winning the contest and Bucks Fizz went on to have a successful career throughout the 80s with Hill producing and writing. Cliff Richard is no stranger to Eurovision as his "Congratulations" placed second in 1968.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"I Can Take Care of Myself" by Billy & the Beaters

Song#:  0578
Date:  04/25/1981
Debut:  82
Peak:  39
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, R&B

Pop Bits:  Band leader Billy Vera would eventually become known for the #1 single "At This Moment" (1986), but long before that, Vera put three singles on the chart in 1967 and 1968. His first two were duets with R&B artist Judy Clay with "Country Girl - City Man" doing the best at #36. He then had a solo entry with Bobby Goldsboro's "With Pen in Hand" (#43). But as the 70s came in, Vera focused his music efforts on songwriting and even got a #1 country hit with Dolly Parton recording his "I Really Got the Feeling" (1979). Vera developed The Beaters to play the club's around L.A. and their shows caught the attention of Alfa Records who signed the group. The resulting album, "Billy & the Beaters," was recorded live and this first single just scratched the Top 40.

ReduxReview:  Again, I'm not a fan of live recordings. But in this case the album contained songs not previously released in studio versions. So these, in effect, are the originals. Vera and the band sound great and the song is a nice throwback to some old-school rock 'n' soul. With Bruce Springsteen hitting with "Hungry Heart" around this time, this fits right in there and it did pretty well on the chart.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Vera is also a Grammy winner, but not for music. He wrote the liner notes to the Ray Charles compilation set "Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles" (2011) and nabbed a Grammy for Best Album Notes.


"Say What" by Jesse Winchester

Song#:  0577
Date:  04/25/1981
Debut:  87
Peak:  32
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Musician Winchester was one of many who took off to Canada when they received their draft notice during the Vietnam era. He moved to Quebec and started his music career there. His self-titled debut came out in 1970 and featured the Top 20 Canadian hit "Yankee Lady." Winchester continued to put out albums throughout the 70s, but because he couldn't support his albums with tours in the US, he had to rely on songwriting to move his career along. Many artists, from Patti Page to Elvis Costello, covered his tunes. When President Carter granted amnesty to draft evaders in the late 70s, Winchester finally came back to the US to perform. Although hits remained elusive (his only other US chart entry was 1977's "Nothing But a Breeze," #86), he finally did reach the Top 40 with this single from his "Talk Memphis" album. It would be his last chart entry.

ReduxReview:  This is a breezy tune that goes down easy. It almost sounds like an oldie redone by Jimmy Buffett - but better. It's not the most memorable song to come along, but it shuffles along so pleasantly that it's hard to resist jammin' along.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Of the artists who have covered Winchester's songs, arguably the oddest might be the dance/R&B duo The Weather Girls ("It's Raining Men") doing a version of Winchester's "Well-A-Wiggy." Their recording reached #76 on the R&B chart in 1985. It was the last chart song for the original Weather Girls, Martha Wash and Izora Armstead.


Monday, October 14, 2013

"Make That Move" by Shalamar

Song#:  0576
Date:  04/25/1981
Debut:  88
Peak:  60
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The group's second pop chart single from their "Three for Love" album did about as well as the first one, "Full of Fire" (#55, #24 R&B). However, its performance on the R&B chart was significantly improved as it landed at #6, which helped the album achieve gold status - their second.

ReduxReview:  Like the previous single, this is a good slice of dance/R&B. However, I think this one is a little bit stronger and feels more engaging. This is the classic sound of the group and it helped define the sound of SOLAR Records.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The group's debut album featuring the #25 title-track medley song "Uptown Festival," was recorded with studio vocalists. It wasn't until the record's success that producers Dick Griffey and Don Cornelius decided to create a real group. The second Shalamar album, "Disco Gardens," featured the real group consisting of Jody Watley, Jeffrey Daniel, and Gerry Brown. Brown dropped out of the group afterwards and was replaced by Howard Hewitt, which created the classic Shalamar lineup.


"Seven Year Ache" by Rosanne Cash

Song#:  0575
Date:  04/25/1981
Debut:  89
Peak:  22
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  As the eldest daughter of music legend Johnny Cash, it had to be difficult to make the choice to go into the family business as there would be a lot to live up to. But before Cash even put out her first LP, she had already been on tour with her dad singing background and doing some lead vocals. Her second LP got her on the map with three Top 30 country songs, but it was her third release "Seven Year Ache" that made her a legit star. This title-track single became one of three #1 country songs from the album and it even crossed over onto the pop chart. The LP was also #1 country and went gold. Eventually, Cash would get 11 #1 country songs and a second #1 gold album and a Grammy for Best Country Performance, Female in 1986. Although the hits stopped coming when she moved towards a contemporary folk sound with 1990's deeply personal "Interiors," her successive albums have garnered critical acclaim and Grammy nominations. This would be her only pop chart entry.

ReduxReview:  I remember liking this song back in the day but didn't really think much of Cash until her excellent LP "King's Record Shop" in 1987. And then "Interiors" bowled me over. I've been hooked ever since. She's an excellent songwriter (she wrote this single) and I think her voice is sadly beautiful. This was a solid single and still holds up very well.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Cash's first album was never issued in the US. Her self-titled debut was mostly recorded in Germany and released in Europe on Ariola Records. It got the attention of Columbia Records and her US debut "Right or Wrong" came out in 1979.  2) A few of the tracks on her debut album were done in Nashville and produced by Rodney Crowell. They continued their work together and ended up married in 1979. They divorced in 1992. Her tumultuous relationship with Crowell provided inspiration for her intimate "Interiors" album in 1990.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

"Is It You" by Lee Ritenour

Song#:  0574
Date:  04/25/1981
Debut:  90
Peak:  15
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Jazz guitarist Ritenour had become one of the top session players around L.A. during the 70s appearing on hundreds of recordings by everyone from Streisand to Pink Floyd. He started his own solo career in 1976 with the crossover jazz LP "First Course." He would continue releasing jazz-oriented discs through the rest of the 70s, but by 1981 he moved to incorporate more pop/rock into his tunes and brought on ΓΌber-producer David Foster and vocalist co-writer Eric Tagg. The result was the well-crafted LP "Rit" and this first single got him into the Top 20 of the pop chart.

ReduxReview:  The title and artist I knew, but for the life of me could not remember the tune. A few seconds in, I knew exactly what it was. I haven't heard this in mega-years. I think it is a lovely piece of SoCal jazzy pop. It was kind of in-fashion at the time and with other jazz-based folks crossing over onto the pop chart, the timing was perfect.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Ritenour was given the nickname Captain Fingers due to his dexterity on the guitar. Eventually he would name his third album "Captain Fingers" in 1977.