Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Queen of Hearts" by Juice Newton

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0624
Date:  05/30/1981
Debut:  76
Peak:  2
Weeks:  27
Genre:  Pop, Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  Newton followed up her smash remake of Merrilee Rush's "Angel of the Morning" (#4) with this second single from her "Juice" album. This single even exceeded the previous one hitting #2 and becoming her biggest hit on the pop chart. It was also her second gold single in a row and her biggest hit to that point on the country chart (#14). Newton receive a Grammy nod for the song for Best Country & Western Vocal Performance, Female.

ReduxReview:  Here is another dorkily good song.  I say that because people kind of chuckle when the song is brought up or when it starts playing it is met with a few "oh man - stupid song" comments. But barely through the first chorus people are usually boppin' to it. Or you are grabbing a hairbrush like a mic and singing to the cat (not that I've done that...well...maybe). It's just a fun song and a bit of irresistible pop-country.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Like "Angel of the Morning," this song is a remake, but just not as well-known. The song was originally recorded by Dave Edmunds in 1979 and he had a hit with the song in the UK where it reached #11. It was also recorded by Rodney Crowell in 1980, but it was not issued as a single.


Friday, November 15, 2013

"Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through" by Jim Steinman

Song#:  0623
Date:  05/30/1981
Debut:  80
Peak:  32
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Steinman's background is in musical theater and he was writing shows in college in the late 60s. One of his shows from 1973 featured an actor named Marvin Lee Aday, aka Meat Loaf. The two hit it off and would work together on Meat Loaf's hugely successful debut album "Bat Out of Hell" (1977). While beginning production on that album's follow-up, Meat Loaf had voice issues and had to drop out of the project. Steinman decided to pick up the torch and finish the album himself singing most of the lead vocals (Rory Dodd picks up some lead work as well). It became his one and only solo album titled "Bad for Good" and this first single made it into the Top 40. The LP hit #63 here in the States, but was a hit in the UK where it reached the Top 10. This song would also be Steinman's one and only chart entry.

ReduxReview:  I really do like Steinman's epic, oddball songs but my nickname for him is The Great Recycler. He continually takes ideas/passages from stuff he already wrote/recorded and will use it in another "new" song. Or he will work on a project with an artist and instead of writing something new, he will use a song that another artist already recorded. A good example is the song "Stark Raving Love" from Steinman's "Bad for Good" LP. He took sections from that song and reworked it into "Holding Out for a Hero," done by Bonnie Tyler.  Meat Loaf was the intended singer for the "Bad for Good" songs and he did end up covering some of them on later LPs. Even the crazy-ass spoken word piece on the album, "Love and Death of An American Guitar," was used in other songs and itself was a spinoff of Meat Loaf's "Paradise By the Dashboard Lights." I think this particular single may be one of his originals that was truly original and for me it is one of his best. Steinman really does not have a good voice, so it helps that this song was actually sung by Rory Dodd instead of Steinman. Although still epic in a way, it is not so crazy-over-the-top as some of his hit songs would be like "Total Eclipse of the Heart" or "Making Love Out of Nothing at All."

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Originally intended for Meat Loaf, he did finally cover it in 1994 for his reunion album with Steinman "Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell." It served as the second single from the album, following the #1 "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)." The song reached #13 on the pop chart.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

"Slow Hand" by The Pointer Sisters

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0622
Date:  05/30/1981
Debut:  83
Peak:  2
Weeks:  24
Genre:  R&B, Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  With the success of "Fire" and "He's So Shy," the Sisters' would continue their new pop-oriented direction with producer Richard Perry and their third album together, "Black & White," featured this #2 single, which ultimately became their biggest pop chart hit. The success of this single drove the LP to #12, making it their best charting album at the time.

ReduxReview:  They went down the same sultry, smokey path of "Fire" and came out with another winner. The Pointers had a knack for taking songs like these and really making them simmer, but soon they would be all about the pop/dance and there wasn't much room for songs like this, which is too bad. This would be their last hit ballad.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This is one of those occasions where a pop hit was remade and turned into a country hit - and in this case, twice. First, country singer Del Reeves release a version of this song in 1981 which reached #53. Then country superstar Conway Twitty released his version in 1982 and it reached #1 - just one among his 40 country #1's


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Give It to Me Baby" by Rick James

Song#:  0621
Date:  05/30/1981
Debut:  84
Peak:  40
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  Funkster James only had some minor success on the pop chart with his debut single for the Gordy label, "You and I," doing the best by hitting #13 (and it remained his best charting pop single). His first three albums were solid hits, but his fourth was not well received and it even failed to hit the R&B Top 10. So James threw down the gauntlet and released the best LP of his career with "Street Songs." This lead-off track and first single was an immediate blast of funk and it soared to #1 R&B and returned him to the pop Top 40.

ReduxReview:  How on earth this did not go Top 10 pop is a mystery. Well, maybe not as pop radio was still resistant to a good chunk of rap/funk/R&B unless you were Stevie Wonder or Michael Jackson. It's too bad as this is about as good as it gets from James. Could he even top this song? Actually, yes and very soon. But this song comes very, very close to being his best. Just try to stand still and listen to this - I bet you can't. And if you can, you must be dead.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  After enlisting in the Navy, he eventually went AWOL and headed to Toronto in 1964. He worked on his music career there and ended up forming a group called the Mynah Birds. By 1966, the group had its lineup set which included soon-to-be famous rocker Neil Young. The group recorded tracks for an album for Motown, but issues with their manager killed the album and lead to Motown discovering James' AWOL status. He was forced to turn himself in and spent a year in naval prison. After his release, the group convened at Motown once again but eventually broke up.


"It's Now or Never" by John Schneider

Song#:  0620
Date:  05/30/1981
Debut:  85
Peak:  14
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  The TV show "The Dukes of Hazzard" was in it's third and most popular season in 1981 with the show ranking #2 in viewers. Co-star Schneider, who did have some experience singing on stage and with groups, decided to strike while the iron was hot and got signed to do an album for Scotti Brothers. His debut album "Now or Never" featured this title track that found its way into the Top 20, thanks in part to his popularity on the "Dukes." It would be his highest peaking pop entry, but later in the 80s Schneider would prove that it was no fluke and he continued a successful country music career that got him four #1 hits.

ReduxReview:  I have to say that this is just...awful. If you choose to cover Elvis, it had better be damn good. This is so weak that if Elvis had heard it, he'd probably choke on his fried peanut butter/banana sandwich. Now, Schneider does have a voice and he would do so much better later on with solid country material and even on Broadway, but he just can't compete with Elvis. The arrangement is so old-fashioned that is sounds like what a karaoke backing track does now. How bad is it? I loved "Dukes" and watched it all the time back then and even had a crush on Schneider. Yet I couldn't even go out and buy this dud.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  This song was originally a huge #1 hit for Elvis Presley in 1960. The song is based on the popular Italian song "O Solo Mio," as was another hit from 1949, "There's No Tomorrow" by Tony Martin. At the point where Presley was in the military and stationed overseas, he heard the Tony Martin song and got the idea to do something similar. Songwriters Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold were recruited to do the song and "Now or Never" was born.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Come to Me" by Aretha Franklin

Song#:  0619
Date:  05/30/1981
Debut:  86
Peak:  84
Weeks:  3
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  For her first LP for Arista, Franklin scored the #3 R&B hit "United Together" (#56 pop). The "Aretha" album also contained the #17 R&B single "What a Fool Believes," a remake of The Doobie Brothers' hit that failed to reach the pop chart. But this third single sat for a minor few weeks on the pop chart while going to #39 R&B.

ReduxReview:  This is an okay R&B ballad. It's kind of average so I don't think it was really necessary to revive it (see below). As usual, Aretha sounds pretty darn good and lifts the song higher that what it really deserves. But it's not quite enough to overcome the bland tune.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Franklin may have thought there was more mileage to get out of this song. She remade it herself and placed it on her 1989 album "Through the Storm." It wasn't the only recycled song from her catalog on that album. She did an updated version of her 1968 smash "Think."


Monday, November 11, 2013

"Sign of the Gypsy Queen" by April Wine

Song#:  0618
Date:  05/30/1981
Debut:  87
Peak:  57
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The group followed up their best-ever US chart entry "Just Between You and Me" (#21) with this second single from their "The Nature of the Beast" LP. The song didn't click as well as the previous ballad and couldn't get into the top half of the chart. On their home turf of Canada, the single would only reach #40.

ReduxReview:  This starts off almost like Charlie Daniels meets Blue Oyster Cult. Not necessarily something I would like, but once the tune gets going it chugs along pretty good. I can't say it is something I'd seek out and it's probably not the greatest song for a single, but I can kind of dig it.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song is a remake of an early 70s chart entry. Songwriter Lorence Hud took the song to #16 on the Canadian chart in 1972.


"In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins

Gold Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  0617
Date:  05/30/1981
Debut:  89
Peak:  19
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This second single from the LP "Face Value" did the same as the first, "I Missed Again," peaking at #19. However, in many other countries the song reached the Top 10 and even #1. But despite it's peak it has become one of Collins' most recognizable songs and has lived far past it's initial release. The single eventually went gold, most likely due to its later inclusion in the pilot for the hit TV show "Miami Vice" in 1984.

ReduxReview:  Solo, Genesis, or whatever, for me this is Collins' best song. The dark tone, the cryptic lyrics, and the intense production all meshed for a perfect moment. And the louder, the better. I played this so much that my 45 started to wear out. If I had a list of favorite songs of all-time, this song would definitely be on it. I find it strange the song couldn't go Top 10 in the States when it did about everywhere else. However, in many other countries, this was the first single where in the US, "I Missed Again" was issued first.


Trivia:  An urban legend still exists about this song. The story goes that the lyrics reflect an event in Collins' life where someone was drowning and another person nearby refused to help them while Collins witnessed it from a distance. However, that never happened and that was not the story in the lyrics. At the time he wrote the song, Collins was going through a rough divorce and the song is basically a reflection of that event. He improvised almost all of the lyrics on the spot when writing the song, letting out whatever he was feeling. With minor adjustments, he kept the improv lyrics. So in reality, there is no exact meaning to them or story. Just gut feelings tossed against ominous music. But it's more fun to think about the urban legend when listening.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

"It Didn't Take Long" by Spider

Song#:  0616
Date:  05/30/1981
Debut:  90
Peak:  43
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Spider gained a little traction on the charts with their #39 "New Romance (It's a Mystery)," so a new album was called for and they issued "Between the Lines." This first single from the LP almost got into the Top 40, but fell just shy. The group went two-and-out disbanding after the lackluster showing of the second album.

ReduxReview:  Although not as good as "New Romance," this is a nice retro-rock tune. I don't think it was quite strong enough to really become a major hit, but it's well-done and a good listen.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  "Between the Lines" contained two songs that would become hits for other artists. "Change" would be recorded by John Waite for his first solo album. It missed the pop chart on initial release, but when later included on the "Vision Quest" soundtrack, it was reissued and reach #54 on the pop chart in 1985. "Better Be Good to Me" was covered by Tina Turner and that version reached #5 in 1984.