Saturday, January 25, 2014

"Tempted" by Squeeze

Song#:  0693
Date:  08/01/1981
Debut:  83
Peak:  49
Weeks:  11
Genre:  New Wave, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Already successful in their native UK, the group was finally poised to get some attention in the US after their previous album produced the college radio hit "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)." Their fourth album, "East Side Story," was co-produced by Elvis Costello and this first single became the group's first US pop chart entry. Although it just missed the Top 40, the song far outlived its peak position and has become an 80s music favorite.

ReduxReview:  I remember their album "Argybargy" as a college roommate used to play it quite a bit. I didn't quite get it, but did like "Pulling Mussels." Now I get it and I appreciate that album along with "East Side Story." I've always been surprised this song didn't do better. It's a terrific song that takes their pop/new wave and incorporates a bit of blue-eyed soul. I like many of their songs, but this is probably their best single.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  After "Argybargy," the group's keyboardist, Jools Holland, left for a solo career. His replacement was Paul Carrack who was previously in the group Ace. They had a hit in 1975 with the #3 "How Long." It was Carrack who supplied the lead vocals for this song. He left the group after one album but would return years later for another short stint with the group.


Friday, January 24, 2014

"The Sensitive Kind" by Santana

Song#:  0692
Date:  08/01/1981
Debut:  85
Peak:  56
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Santana had returned to the Top 20 for the first time in 10 years with "Winning" (#17) from the album "Zebop!" This follow-up tune, sung by Alex Ligertwood, didn't do as well but did almost make it halfway up the chart. These singles helped the LP become their first Top 10 in four years and returned them to platinum status.

ReduxReview:   This is kind of a dull song for a single. It incorporates more of a blues flavor than the rock of "Winning," but I don't think it's something that would burn up any chart. It kind of sounds like a cut from an Eric Clapton disc (which, as you may know, is not very interesting to me). The vocals and Santana's solo are pretty sweet, but overall I find it kind of a snooze. I much prefer the original (see below) which is a dark, smooth ballad that features some tasty horns and strings.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This song was written by J.J. Cale who was one of the folks responsible for the "Tulsa Sound," a style of music based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma that was a combo of blues, rockabilly, and country. He had four chart singles the best of which was the #22  "Crazy Mama" in 1972. Cale is mainly famous for penning two major Eric Clapton songs, "Cocaine" and "After Midnight." This song was originally recorded by Cale on is 1979 album "5."


Thursday, January 23, 2014

"We Can Get Together" by Icehouse

Song#:  0691
Date:  08/01/1981
Debut:  86
Peak:  62
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This group became one of the most successful bands of the 80s in their homeland of Australia. Originally called Flowers and issuing their debut album titled "Icehouse," the band had immediate hits in Australia and began to expand worldwide. However, to avoid legal implications and confusion with other groups that had the same moniker, they changed their name to Icehouse and issued their debut album as a self-titled release in other countries including the US. This first single from the album got on the chart for a few weeks, but subsequent singles failed to make any headway. It would take another six years for the group to really breakthrough to the upper reaches of the US chart.

ReduxReview:  This song definitely skews towards that Euro-rock-synth sound that would become more popular as the decade wore on. This seemed to be one of the first of its type reaching the US chart in the 80s and one that has gotten lost. In fact, I didn't know Icehouse had this chart entry in '81. I only knew about them years later with "Electric Blue." It's a good tune and worthy of being in an 80s compilation.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Their debut album had the song "Icehouse," which was based on where group founder Iva Davies had lived and the old mansion across the road. The building was being used as a rehab center/halfway house for drug addicts and mental patients and Davies would often watch the inhabitants of the other building from his own freezing flat. The song became the title of the album and subsequently it was chosen as the new name of the group.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"We're in This Love Together" by Al Jarreau

Song#:  0690
Date:  08/01/1981
Debut:  88
Peak:  15
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Pop, Smooth Jazz, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Jarreau was a regular on the LA nightclub circuit beginning around 1969. His primary focus was jazz mixed with R&B and his 1975 debut album "We Got By" was a critical success. His next three albums did successively better on the pop, R&B, and jazz charts with his 1980 disc "This Time" hitting #1 jazz and #6 R&B. This set him up for his most successful album "Breakin' Away." Thanks in part to this breezy lead single (#6 R&B), the album hit #9 at pop and #1 on both the jazz and R&B charts. It also grabbed several Grammy nominations including Album of the Year and Jarreau won two of the awards for Pop Male Vocalist and Jazz Male Vocalist.

ReduxReview:  Following the trend of jazz artist crossing over to pop and R&B, Jarreau's LP really set a new standard. Its blend of genres went down as smooth as this song and its combo of originals and jazz standards, such as the Grammy-winning "(Round, Round, Round) Blue Rondo a la Turk," lured in listeners like me. I loved this song and at a time when I was just discovering jazz, this crossover approach was a perfect introduction. It's one of the reasons why I joined the jazz band in high school.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Music was not Jarreau's initial career choice. He performed music on the side for fun while he earned a Bachelor's degree in psychology and a masters in vocal rehab. He began working as a rehab councelor while still moonlighting as a performer. At some point he decided to quit his job and pursue music full-time. By 1975 he was signed to Warner Bros. Records and found himself as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live followed by the release of his debut album.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" by Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Top 10 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  0689
Date:  07/25/1981
Debut:  57
Peak:  3
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Although several Nicks songs were featured on Fleetwood Mac albums, she had plenty more written with nowhere to go. During the sessions for Mac's epic "Tusk" album and the subsequent tour, Nicks recorded demos for a solo project. Several of these would make it onto her debut album "Bella Donna," including this lead single which featured Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. The single and album were huge successes with the LP hitting #1 - her first and only album chart topper. The song received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Group.

ReduxReview:  When all the musical stars align just right for a song, you get this kind of perfection. Everything about this is top-notch - the song, the band, the production, and the two vocal forces of Nicks and Petty. I practically wore out this single when I bought it back in the day. And the song sounds just as good now as it did then. A classic.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Nicks wrote or co-wrote all songs on "Bella Donna" except this one. Written by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell, it was originally to be just a Heartbreaker's song but producer Jimmy Iovine (who was working with both artists) brought in Nicks and it ended up on her album.  2) Sometimes the pop chart will get clogged with major hits at the top and this prevents some songs from potentially reaching #1. This song was a victim of that and set a record in doing so. The song reached #3 and thanks to the 9-week #1 run of "Endless Love" and three other songs that bounced in and out at #2, it stayed at the #3 spot for six consecutive weeks. Despite not being able to reach the top spot, it ended up being Nicks' biggest solo chart hit.


Monday, January 20, 2014

"Step By Step" by Eddie Rabbitt

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0688
Date:  07/25/1981
Debut:  65
Peak:  5
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  Rabbitt's previous album "Horizons" yielded two pop Top 10's including the #1 "I Love a Rainy Night." His success continued with the LP "Step By Step" with this first title-track single reaching the pop Top 10. It became his ninth #1 country single and the album also reached #1 at country. Although not quite as successful as "Horizons," the album reached gold level. It would be his last to do so and also his final #1 country album. The song would earn Rabbitt a Grammy nod for Best Country & Western Vocal Performance, Male.

ReduxReview:  This midtempo tune continues Rabbitt's streak of quality pop/country songs. Both "I Love a Rainy Night" and "Drivin' My Life Away" kind of hog the spotlight in his hits catalog while this one tends to get overlooked. It's unfortunate because it's in the same league as the others.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  During his early days as a Nashville songwriter, Rabbitt owned a pet monkey named Jo-Jo. Apparently Jo-Jo liked the country show "Hee-Haw" and would go crazy whenever it was about to come on and then sit and watch it. Friends would come over on a Saturday night just to watch the show and the monkey. Rabbitt had the monkey for a 6-year period.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

"Hold on Tight" by ELO

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0687
Date:  07/25/1981
Debut:  67
Peak:  10
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Now primarily billing themselves as ELO instead of the full Electric Light Orchestra, the group returned with a new album after the great success of their contributions to the "Xanadu" soundtrack. The shortened name was not the only new thing about the LP "Time." It also marked their return to a full concept album and, with minor exceptions, they replaced their orchestrated sound with a wall of synthesizers. This first single was a hit but unfortunately it would be their last Top 10 entry in the US. The album went gold in the US, but it was a far cry from the platinum levels their previous albums reached. However, the LP was a success in many other countries and it would be one of the worldwide top-sellers of the year.

ReduxReview:  I actually didn't like this song when it first came out. Perhaps a year later, I saw the album in a cut-out bin and was intrigued by the cover and concept. I bought it and totally fell in love with the LP. It began my addiction to ELO. Once I understood the group better, I got into this song and it eventually won me over. These days I probably wouldn't put "Time" high on my all-time favorite albums list, but I still love it and if I'd kept a running tally over the years on how many time I played an album, I would venture that this one would still rank in the top 10.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The sound and concept of "Time" (in which a man gets transported to the year 2095) would be very influential with many other artists. The Christian rock band Brave Saint Saturn was heavily influenced by the album and coined the term "astro-rock" to describe their music. The Flaming Lips, Steve Winwood, and Ladyhawke have also mentioned the LP when discussing influences.