Saturday, February 15, 2014

"All I Have to Do Is Dream" by Andy Gibb and Victoria Principal

Song#:  0715
Date:  08/15/1981
Debut:  81
Peak:  51
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  By this time, Gibb's contract with RSO was finished, but he was still working on TV ("Solid Gold") and in the theater. He was also dating actress Victoria Principal who was a hot star at the time playing Pam Ewing on the TV soap "Dallas." Drugs were still a major part of Gibb's life and when Principal told him to choose between her and the drugs, the relationship folded. Before that happened, Gibb overheard Principal singing in the shower one day and thought a duet would be great. He got her in the studio and they recorded this song, which ended up being Gibb's final release and last chart song. Later in the 80s he did seek help for his addiction and began working on a new album. Unfortunately, damage to his system from the drug days caught up with him and contributed to his death in 1988, just 5 days after his 30th birthday.

ReduxReview:  With Principal's whisp of a voice and Gibb wearing down from the drug use and depression, it just makes this single very sad. There is just no joy in it. The production borders on karaoke and everything else is just lifeless. Gibb had great talent but by this time he was in a battle with himself and there was just nothing left to give. Another cautionary tale of how drugs can totally ruin a career. Do yourself a favor and skip this and just listen to his Greatest Hits disc and enjoy the solid work he left behind.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  This song was originally made famous by The Everly Brothers who took it to #1 in 1958. It was their second song to reach #1 at pop, country, and R&B. In addition to the Gibb/Principal duet, three other artist reached the chart with their versions including actor Richard Chamberlain (#14, 1963), the duo of Glen Campbell and Bobbie Gentry (#27 1970 and #6 Country), and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (#66, 1975).


Friday, February 14, 2014

"Just Once" by Quincy Jones with James Ingram

Song#:  0714
Date:  08/15/1981
Debut:  84
Peak:  17
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Adult Contemporary, Pop, R&B

Pop Bits:  Jones' Grammy-winning album "The Dude" got off to an okay start with the #28 single "Ai No Corrida." This second single would do much better by reaching the Top 20 (#11 R&B and #7 AC). Sung by James Ingram, it was his first hit and he received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Male Vocalist in addition to a nod for Best New Artist. Of the singles released from "The Dude," this one seems to have had the most impact as it has become an AC standard, thanks in part to Ingram's vocal work.

ReduxReview:  I totally fell for this song when it came out. It is a terrific ballad and Ingram just knocks it out of the park with his vocals. It's one of those recording where the vocals are so strong, that I just hate it when someone else tries to sing it. Ingram owned it and this is the way it was meant to be heard.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Ingram had not stepped out as a solo artist prior to his association with Quincy Jones. He did play piano and sing backup on some Ray Charles recordings in addition to vocal work on songs by Marvin Gaye. At one point, Ingram did a quick $50 demo of this song by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil for a publishing company. Quincy Jones happened to hear it and not only got the song for his album, but wanted Ingram to sing it as well. That lucky break got Ingram started on a successful solo career.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

"When She Was My Girl" by The Four Tops

Song#:  0713
Date:  08/15/1981
Debut:  85
Peak:  11
Weeks:  22
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  When Motown was at the top of their game in the 60s, The Four Tops were the second most successful male act behind The Temptations. Through to 1972 the group had 15 Top 10 R&B hits with five of those crossing over to the pop Top 10 (including two #1's on each chart). Then Motown made the decision to shift focus to their newer acts and also move headquarters to California from their Detroit home. Artists like the Tops were given a choice to move with the company or be dropped. The Tops took a chance to leave the label and remain in Detroit. Signing with ABC they got seven more R&B Top 10's (two at pop), but as the 80s approached the hits stopped coming. They secured a deal with Casablanca and returned with the LP "Tonight!," which featured this comeback single that became their third R&B #1 and reached the unfortunate #11 position at pop. It would be their last R&B Top 10 and final pop Top 20. The song also scored a Grammy nod for Best R&B Song.

ReduxReview:  This tune kind of ended up as their swan song and what a way to go out. With an updated Motown feel, the song was a fresh blast of pop/R&B that sounded both new and old at the same time. It showed that after 20+ years in the biz, they still had something special going on.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The group was originally called The Four Aims, but when signed to Chess Records in 1956, they changed it to The Four Tops. This was to avoid any confusion with the popular vocal group the Ames Brothers. Their initial recordings went nowhere and they hopped labels for several years with no success. When signed to Motown, they were singing standards for the label until hit songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland brought them in to record "Baby I Need Your Loving." The single was issued in 1964 and it reached #11. The classic tune began their streak of hits for Motown.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Burnin' for You" by Blue Öyster Cult

Song#:  0712
Date:  08/15/1981
Debut:  87
Peak:  40
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Formed in 1967 as Soft White Underbelly, this group from Long Island floundered around and won/lost deals with record companies until Clive Davis took them on at Columbia Records. They finalized their name as Blue Öyster Cult and issued their self-titled debut album in 1972. It did well and each successive album topped the last culminating in their platinum hit "Agents of Fortune" (1976) which featured their classic #12 song "(Don't Fear) The Reaper." They had difficulty following up that major success, but this single from "Fire of Unknown Origin" gave them another rock radio classic and their second (and last) Top 40 entry.

ReduxReview:  BÖC were a strange group with their odd poetic, science-fictiony lyrics and oddball comedic songs like "Joan Crawford," in which the actress comes out of the grave to haunt her daughter Christina. It can be a hoot n' a holler on occasion, but I never really connected with them. Except for "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" (cowbell!!) and this song. Both are excellent rock radio jams and find the band at its most focused best.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  BÖC's manager, Sandy Pearlman, provided the group with lyrics to several of their songs through his poetry. One of his poems, "Imaginos," featured the Blue Oyster Cult, which was a group of aliens that were secretly guiding Earth's history. The poem would also be the basis of the group's 1988 album of the same name.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Silly" by Deniece Williams

Song#:  0711
Date:  08/15/1981
Debut:  88
Peak:  53
Weeks:  10
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Williams gained experience and connections in the early 70s touring with Stevie Wonder in his backup vocal group called Wonderlove. She then signed with Columbia in 1975 and a year later her first single, "Free," reached #2 at R&B (#25 pop). This helped her debut album reach gold status. After an unsuccessful second LP, she teamed with Johnny Mathis for an album that yielded her first #1 pop and R&B hit, "Too Much Too Little Too Late." After another minor album, Williams returned with the LP "My Melody" and this single from it got almost halfway up the chart while reaching #11 at R&B. The album would be her third to go gold.

ReduxReview:  I don't know why I don't get into R&B ballads. There are a few I do like, but for the most part they just seem to meander and provide little to remember. This one is a cut above the norm and is quite well-done, but I listened to this three times and about 10 minutes after doing that, I couldn't even hum a single bar of it. Williams sounds great and the tune is lovely, but it just doesn't stay with me.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Back in the late 60s, Williams got her first break as an artist when she recorded for the small Lock Records label. At the time she used her real surname and was billed as Deniece Chandler. Her recordings didn't get anywhere at the time but later on when the UK's Northern Soul scene took off, one of her singles, "I'm Walking Away," became a popular favorite at the clubs.


Monday, February 10, 2014

"La-Di-Da" by Sad Cafe

Song#:  0710
Date:  08/15/1981
Debut:  90
Peak:  78
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  This English band formed in 1976 and placed six albums on the UK chart through 1981. They had a handful of minor chart singles with their best effort being the UK #3 "Every Day Hurts" in 1979. Their success overseas didn't translate as well to the US as they only placed two singles on the chart. "Run Home Girl" reached #71 in 1979 and this single from their self-titled LP popped in for a few weeks. The group would initially disband in 1990, but years later had a few reunions.

ReduxReview:  Originally a chart entry a year earlier in the UK, this song is still awash in sounds of the late-70s. For some reason, I can hear either Rod Stewart or Mick Jagger doing this tune. Or maybe something out of the Utopia catalog. I rather like it and think it's a strong single. It should have done a bit better. The more I hear it, the more I like it.  If you like this tune, then check out their UK hit "Every Day Hurts"

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Founding member and lead singer Paul Young (not the UK solo artist who had hits) became a member of another prominent group, Mike + the Mechanics. He shared lead vocal duties on their albums with Paul Carrack. The hit single "All I Need Is a Miracle" (#5, 1986) featured Young on lead vocals. He died of a heart attack in 2000.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

"Very Special" by Debra Laws

Song#:  0709
Date:  08/15/1981
Debut:  94
Peak:  90
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  This tune hung on the bottom rungs of the chart for five weeks while reaching #11 R&B. Laws was part of a musical family and two of her other siblings, Eloise and Ronnie, would also put songs on the charts. Ronnie provided the male vocals on this tune. While this would be her only pop entry, she would have a couple more reach the R&B chart. Her album "Very Special" would be only one of two solo discs that she would put out. She continued to tour and support other acts like The Commodores in addition to getting work in theater and film.

ReduxReview:  I like her voice, but I can't say that the song really stands out for me. It's an alright R&B mid-tempo tune and the addition of the male voice is nice, but while it has definite sections, I can't really immediately pick out what the chorus is here. I think the lack of a definitive, memorable hook probably kept it from going higher on the pop chart.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In 2002, Jennifer Lopez released the single "All I Have." It was a hit and it ended up reaching #1. A portion of this Laws song was sampled for the recording. The sample obviously contains Laws' voice and is all throughout the track. Both the original songwriters and the record label gave permission to use the sample, but Laws contended that she did not give permission for its use and should have been under California law. She filed suit against Sony and lost. The decision was upheld by the court of appeals.