Saturday, February 8, 2014

"The Voice" by The Moody Blues

Song#:  0708
Date:  08/08/1981
Debut:  56
Peak:  15
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Thanks to the single "Gemini Dream" (#12), the Moodies returned to popularity and their album "Long Distance Voyager" became their second #1, nine years after "Seventh Sojourn" reached the top spot in 1972. The success of the album continued with this second single which also got into the Top 20. It would do even better at rock radio hitting #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart.

ReduxReview:  This was another awesome single from the LP and I've always like this one just a bit better. It is the album opener and the ominous intro and darker tone really attracted me. It was actually this single that made me buy the album, which remains a top favorite of mine.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The "Long Distance Voyager" featured on the album cover is most likely the little space vehicle near the top of the cover in the sky. This is one of the Voyager space probes that were launched in 1977 to explore the outer solar system. Voyager's initial mission was to observe both Jupiter and Saturn. Both Voyager 1 and 2 reached the Saturn system in 1980 and 1981. It was big news at the time and most likely provided inspiration for the LP.


Friday, February 7, 2014

"Draw of the Cards" by Kim Carnes

Song#:  0707
Date:  08/08/1981
Debut:  72
Peak:  28
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Carnes scored the biggest hit of 1981 with her rendition of "Bette Davis Eyes" (#1, 9 weeks) and her album "Mistaken Identity" also hit #1. It would be the high point of her career. The follow-up to that mega-hit was this second single from the LP. Unfortunately, it didn't connect with audiences and it petered out after barely getting into the Top 30.

ReduxReview:  Now, I will say that I really like this song and it was a good A-side closer on the LP. But why on earth this song would be selected as the follow-up single is beyond me. My guess is the record company wanted to keep with the dark, synth-y sound of "Bette Davis Eyes" and this was the only track on the album that was even close. I think it was a huge mistake. She had a couple of other songs on the album that would have been far better as singles and I think she could have easily had another Top 10 hit with one of them. This dark-synth theme would follow through to her next album and it almost brought her recording career to a screeching halt. Just judging the song, I'd rate this an easy 7. But as a single...

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  One song from the album that could have easily been a single was "Don't Call It Love." Written by hit-makers Tom Snow and Dean Pitchford, the song got covered by Dolly Parton in 1985 and it was released as a single. The song reached #3 on the country chart.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

"Super Freak" by Rick James

Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  0706
Date:  08/08/1981
Debut:  74
Peak:  16
Weeks:  24
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  James' LP "Street Songs" got off to a great start with his second Top 40 song (#1 R&B) "Give It to Me Baby" (#40). This second single would do even better reaching the Top 20 (oddly, only #3 R&B) and eventually it would become his signature song. Although the original 45 single would not even go gold back then, the song has been so popular over the years that it has been certified as selling over 500,000 digital downloads. The song would also get James a Grammy nomination for Best Male Rock Vocalist while "Street Songs" would get him a Grammy nom for Best R&B Vocals.

ReduxReview:  For pop radio, I think both they sexy lyrics and the R&B funk kind of limited airplay on this one. Pop radio was still resistant to a lot of R&B (and rap wasn't even present there yet) so this song should have done a lot better than its #16 peak. It's a real classic and all it takes is the four opening notes for anyone to recognize this song. It's awesome for me is the best thing James ever did.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) He calls them out in the song, but in case you haven't paid attention, The Temptations sing backup on this song. A member of the group, Melvin Franklin, is James' uncle.  2) The song was famously sampled in the MC Hammer hit "U Can't Touch This" (#8, 1990). This was back when sampling was becoming more prominent in dance and rap recordings and there were no clear laws on credits for the samples. Since this song was a mega hit and obviously used the "Super Freak" opening riff (without credit or consent), Rick James sued. The case was settled and James received writing credit on the track, which was a huge payoff since the MC Hammer LP "Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em" eventually sold over 18 million copies.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Straight from the Heart" by the Allman Brothers Band

Song#:  0705
Date:  08/08/1981
Debut:  79
Peak:  39
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Southern Rock

Pop Bits:  The early 80's were not a great time for the band. After splitting in 1976, they reformed and released an album in 1979. Along with inner-group turmoil and financial issues, their label collapsed. Arista picked up the band and their first album for the label, "Reach for the Sky," was a disappointment after their previous LP went Top 10 and gold. They fired original member Jaimoe Johanson (drums) and issued their last album for Arista "Brothers of the Road." Although this first single reached the Top 40 (their third to do so and their last chart single), the album sank and the group just called it quits. Nine years later they would return to recording (with Jaimoe back on board) and start another era of the group.

ReduxReview:  Really? This is the legendary Southern rock jam band that did such classics as "Ramblin' Man" and "Whipping Post" (live)? Whoo boy. Signing with Arista may have been a major mistake as I'm sure Clive Davis was pushing them to get a pop-sounding hit. Frankly, if some new pop/rock group came along and pushed this out on their debut disc, I'd think it not too bad of a song. But since it is from ABB with Dickey Betts co-writing, it just makes me cringe. Fish out of water.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Gregg Allman famously married Cher in 1975. Their up-and-down relationship ended in 1979. They had one child together Elijah Blue, who went on to form his own late-90s band Deadsy. In 1977, the couple recorded and released an album called "Two the Hard Way." They were credited as Allman and Woman. The album was critically reviled and it failed to even chart. It's never been reissued on CD and since Cher holds the rights, it is probably not likely to see the light of day again.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"In Your Letter" by REO Speedwagon

Song#:  0704
Date:  08/08/1981
Debut:  82
Peak:  20
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  REO's mega-hit album "Hi Infidelity" already had two Top 10's (including a #1) and another Top 30 entry, so they kept the streak from the LP going and released this fourth single. It did slightly better than the previous single just hitting the Top 20. It would be the last single released from the album to reach the chart, but less than a year later the group would be back on the charts with their follow-up single and LP.

ReduxReview:  This tune would be better suited for pop than their rockier tunes and probably should have been their third single. It did well at pop, but rock radio ignored it and it didn't even hit that chart. This retro-rock song was not one of my favorites off the album and it still isn't. After their big rock ballads and ballsy songs, this one plays like a piece of comic relief, which was not necessary. For me, it's a completely toss-away song that could have been left on the editing floor.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Two other tracks on the album received significant rock radio airplay during the LP's run. Both songs reached the Mainstream Rock chart with "Tough Guys" hitting #25 and "Out of Season" getting to #59.


Monday, February 3, 2014

"A Heart in New York" by Art Garfunkel

Song#:  0703
Date:  08/08/1981
Debut:  83
Peak:  66
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Adult Contemporary, Singer/Songwriter

Pop Bits:  The other half of Simon & Garfunkel maintained a solo career post-breakup, but it just wasn't as prolific as Simon's hit-making output. Garfunkel's best solo outing was the #9 "All I Know" in 1973. He would occasionally put a song on the chart with five of them reaching the Top 40. His first three albums did quite well, but his fourth effort "Scissors Cut" was not well-received. This first single from the LP couldn't even reach mid-chart (although it did reach #10 AC) and both it and the album sank. The song would be his last solo single to get on the chart.

ReduxReview:  I can't say this is a great single, but it is a good tune with a nice late-70s singer/songwriter feel. It just seems a little out of place against the music styles of the day on the chart. I doubt this song will stick in my memory, but it's certainly a pleasant song to hear.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This album was Garfunkel's first following the suicide of his girlfriend Laurie Bird while he was in Europe doing a film. The loss devastated Garfunkel and he spent much of the 80s reclusive and depressed. He would not released a new solo album until 1988's "Lefty."  2) The song was written by the Scottish duo Gallagher and Lyle, who had a couple of chart entries in the mid-70s. Garfunkel would go on to sing the song at Simon & Garfunkel's 1981 concert in Central Park. Later in 1997, Garth Brooks would also perform the song at his own Central Park concert.


"Falling in Love Again" by Michael Stanley Band

Song#:  0702
Date:  08/08/1981
Debut:  84
Peak:  64
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The growing success of the band outside of their Midwest region resulted in their most successful album "Heartland," which featured their highest ranking pop chart song "He Can't Love You" (#33). Their follow-up album, "North Coast," got off to a good start with this first single getting some airplay. It wasn't as good of a start as what their last album had, but it was enough to send the LP into the Top 100 peaking at #79.

ReduxReview:  This heartland rock ballad still sounds pretty good and it wasn't a bad choice to send to radio. It starts out really well, but the chorus is just not that exciting and for me doesn't meet the setup from the intro and verse. If you are into this type of midwest rock, you will probably enjoy the song. If not, you may be left just saying - meh.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  While still in college, Stanley (billed with his surname Gee - Stanley is his middle name) was just beginning his music career as part of a Cleveland band called Silk. They were signed to ABC Records and in 1969 they released their one and only album "Smooth As Raw." It didn't really get very far (it hit #191 on the LP chart), but it got Stanley's foot in the door and in 1972 his first self-titled solo album was issued.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

"It's Just the Sun" by Don McLean

Song#:  0701
Date:  08/08/1981
Debut:  85
Peak:  83
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  McLean's LP "Chain Lightning" was a late bloomer getting released in the US two years after it was recorded thanks to the unexpected #5 hit "Crying" and it's #23 follow-up "Since I Don't Have You." This third single couldn't muster up much support and it made a very quick 2-week appearance.

ReduxReview:  This is certainly a pleasant enough song, but it is just very slight. It's a sliver of a ditty and really doesn't have the power to be a great radio single. It is well-done and lovely to hear, but ultimately forgettable.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The "Chain Lightning" album was recorded in Nashville and it featured The Jordanaires, best known as Elvis Presley's backing group. On their own, their main genre was gospel music and they have many recordings of their own including a streak of six albums with The Light Crust Dough Boys that all received Grammy nominations (with one win).