Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Still" by John Schneider

Song#:  0751
Date:  09/26/1981
Debut:  90
Peak:  69
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop



Pop Bits:  The success of his first single, a remake of "It's Now or Never" (#4 country, #14 pop), prompted this follow-up from his debut album. Unfortunately, it didn't grab as much attention and fizzled out before it could crack the top half of the chart. But thanks to the first single (and hit TV show - "The Dukes of Hazzard"), his album "Now or Never" did well and hit #37 on the pop chart (#8 country). While he would go on to top the country music charts, this album would be his best showing at pop.

ReduxReview:  Again, Schneider has a good voice but I just don't think it fits this type of pop. He ended up sounding far better as a country artist and as a Broadway singer. Here, all the soul is just sucked out of Richie's song (see below) thanks to his stiff delivery and an arrangement that borders on karaoke. It all just sounds like a quick cash-in project that capitalized on his TV popularity (which it probably was). But he did prove himself later with legit country hits. But this? Yikes...

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Yup, another remake. This time around he did a version of the 1979 #1 hit by The Commodores written by Lionel Richie.  2) This song was actually the b-side to his single "Them Good Ol' Boys Are Bad." That song reached #13 at country but failed at pop. But then "Still" got some minor pop attention while not making it to the country chart.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

"I'm So Glad I'm Standing Here Today" by The Crusaders

Song#:  0750
Date:  09/26/1981
Debut:  98
Peak:  97
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, R&B



Pop Bits:  The Crusaders had been recording their brand of instrumental jazz, pop, and R&B since 1961 and had a few very minor chart entries along the way. But it was with their 1979 LP "Street Life" that the group found a larger audience. The album reached the Top 20 and spawned the #36 title-track single (#17 R&B). Normally an instrumental band, that single featured vocals by Randy Crawford. It would be the peak moment of their career. Their follow-up LPs (one studio, one live) wouldn't fare as well, but their next album "Standing Tall" contained this very minor chart entry that featured vocals by Joe Cocker. Although it wasn't a major hit, the song got the group and Cocker a Grammy nomination for Best Inspirational Performance. It would also be their last pop chart entry.

ReduxReview:  I really wasn't expecting this type of pop-gospel-ish ballad from the group. They try to take the song to church, but I don't think they quite make it there. Cocker sounds pretty good, if slightly subdued, and the sax is nice, but the tune just doesn't sing to me like it should. I guess with the artists involved I just wanted more.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  When the group first formed, they were called The Jazz Crusaders and their focus was on hard bop mixed with R&B. They retained that name for 18 albums over a decade beginning in 1961. They shortened the name for their 1971 album "Pass the Plate" and began to incorporate more funk into their sound. The main era of the group ended in 1991.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

"Atlanta Lady (Something About Your Love)" by Marty Balin

Song#:  0749
Date:  09/19/1981
Debut:  77
Peak:  27
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary



Pop Bits:  Former Jefferson Airplane/Starship member Balin began a solo career with his 1981 album "Balin." It got off to a great start with the #8 hit "Hearts." This follow-up single reached the Top 30, but could not replicate the success of "Hearts." But both helped the album get to #35 on the chart.

ReduxReview:  Keeping with the smooth sound that made "Hearts" alluring, Balin issues another good single from his album. Written by the same person who wrote "Hearts" (Jesse Barish), it's a nice, mellow groove that probably sounded great on AC radio (where it peaked at #11).

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  After leaving Jefferson Starship in 1978, Balin produced a rock opera titled "Rock Justice." Loosely based on some of his own experiences, the plot revolved around an artist who, during a recording session, falls asleep and starts dreaming that his bandmates have put him on trial for not being able to produce a hit song. A cast album was recorded, but it did not feature Balin - he directed and co-wrote some of the songs.
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"Aiming at Your Heart" by The Temptations

Song#:  0748
Date:  09/19/1981
Debut:  83
Peak:  67
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B

Aiming at Your Heart by The Temptations on Grooveshark

Pop Bits:  After leaving the label for a couple of albums, The Temptations returned to Motown with the LP "Power" and its title-track single (#43 pop, #11 R&B). It wasn't the most spectacular return but it setup some attention for their next self-titled album. This first single fared even worse staying in the lower third of the pop chart while only reaching #36 R&B. The LP was their first to not reach the Top 100 on the album chart (#119). It was a rough period for the group as they struggled to find a way to remain popular in the 80s after 15+ hit-making years.

ReduxReview:  For The Temptations, this was a bit lackluster. It's not a bad tune and they try to give it that Temps treatment, but it just falls short. With a track record of such quality hits, this one just can't compete. The lack of chart action seems to confirm that assertion.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Although the group was in a major slump, they did have one bright spot. They released a Christmas album in 1980 called "Give Love at Christmas." It proved to be popular and reached #6 on the yearly Christmas music chart.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"No Time to Lose" by The Tarney/Spencer Band

Redux Spotlight Alert!
Song#:  0747
Date:  09/19/1981
Debut:  84
Peak:  74
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop

No Time to Lose by Tarney-Spencer Band on Grooveshark

Pop Bits:  Australians Alan Tarney and Trevor Spencer formed this duo in 1975 but they had been working together on other recordings and projects since the late 60s. Throughout the 70s both would support Cliff Richard and the Shadows on many sessions with Tarney formally joining the Shadows in 1973. The duo's first album was a UK-only release in 1976. Then they signed with A&M Records and issued their second album in 1978, which did a little business due to the #86 single "It's Really You." The following year their third album, "Run for Your Life," came out and featured this single. Initially released in 1979, the song reached #84. This lackluster showing got A&M to cancel their contract and the duo broke up. Enter the fledgling MTV channel who began airing the video for this song and it gained enough popularity to have the single reissued two years after its initial release. It peaked slightly higher the second time around, but it wasn't enough to really revive the group.

ReduxReview:  This has a lot that I really like - the opening is great and the chorus is like a cross of Fleetwood Mac and Alan Parsons Project. I can't say it is the strongest single, but it if I heard this on the radio, I would have picked it up right away. I like Tarney's work with Cliff Richard and others (see below) and his songwriting is strong, so I'm not too surprised I liked this so much. The surprise is that I didn't know it existed. I think the song deserved a better fate, so I'm Spotlighting this tune as being a terrific lost song from 1981 (or really, 1979). I've already got this album ordered and coming my way!

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Tarney's career took a turn from performing to being behind the boards. He wrote/co-wrote songs and produced them for Cliff Richard including the hits "We Don't Talk Anymore" (#7, 1979) and "Dreaming" (#10, 1980). But his biggest success would be producing the first three albums for Norwegian group a-ha, who reached #1 with "Take on Me" (1985).

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"I'm Gonna Love Her for Both of Us"

Song#:  0746
Date:  09/19/1981
Debut:  85
Peak:  84
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  After Meat Loaf's 1977 epic "Bat Out of Hell" LP became a sensation, work began on its follow-up with his collaborator Jim Steinman. Unfortunately, everything took a toll on Meat Loaf and he lost his voice. Steinman took the songs meant for Meat Loaf and issued them as his own solo disc "Bad for Good," which featured the #32 "Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through." When Meat Loaf got his voice back, Steinman had song waiting and together they worked up the album "Dead Ringer." This first single barely hit the chart and that pretty much sank the album. The relationship between Steinman and Meat Loaf crumbled soon after, but they would reunite in 1993 for the #1 LP "Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell."

ReduxReview:  This pre-dated the real epic singles Steinman did for Bonnie Tyler and Air Supply, so radio may not have been ready for this (although the single version knocks off about 2-1/2 minutes from the full album track). When compared to those hit tracks, this one is kind of lacking focus. It rambles a bit and there is no real definitive chorus to wrap your ears around. It's just big, loud, and long. I still like that Steinman sound, but this is not one of his top tunes.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although the "Dead Ringer" album went direct to the cut-out bin in the US, in the UK it was a different story. Thanks to the album's #5 UK duet with Cher, "Dead Ringer for Love," the album reached #1 and was a major hit.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"The House of the Rising Sun" by Dolly Parton

Song#:  0745
Date:  09/19/1981
Debut:  87
Peak:  77
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Country Crossover, Pop



Pop Bits:  Parton's album "9 to 5 and Odd Jobs" was her best solo effort on the pop album chart reaching #11 (hard to believe she never had a Top 10 pop album). This third single from the album couldn't muster up much support at pop and after four consecutive country #1's, it broke the streak by only reached #14.

ReduxReview:  The arrangement of this tune (courtesy of both Parton and TV theme composer Mike Post) is really quite odd. It starts with a dance thump and then moves into a dated keyboard riff followed by a gospel choir background and ending on some kind of spooky groove. I'm not sure it all works together as there is this slick-cheezy feeling to the recording that is a little hard to swallow. I dearly love my Dolly, but this is not one of her finest moments.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This song is considered a traditional folk song and the authorship is unknown. It's beginnings may have been rooted in English emigrants who took an old ballad and change it to the New Orleans setting. The earliest known recording of the song comes from 1934. It has been recorded by many artists including Bob Dylan, who included it on his debut album. But it was the #1 version by UK's The Animals in 1964 that brought the song to the mainstream. Detroit blues-rock band Frijid Pink also reached the Top 10 in 1970 with the song. Parton's version is the fourth to reach the charts following a #78 version by Santa Esmeralda in 1978.

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"At This Moment" by Billy & the Beaters

Song#:  0744
Date:  09/19/1981
Debut:  90
Peak:  79
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary



Pop Bits: You may look at this post and think "hey, wait - wasn't this a big hit?" The answer would be yes, but not right now. Billy Vera and his band released their self-titled live album in 1981 and its first single was the #39 "I Can Take Care of Myself." A Top 40 hit usually calls for a follow-up and this tune from the album was selected. On initial release, it only spend a minor few weeks on the chart, which seemed to be the end of the line for this song. That is until a TV producer heard Vera perform the song and thought it would work in an episode of the hit show "Family Ties." The song was used in the show in 1985 and it wasn't long before everyone wanted a copy. A reissue of the single sent it all the way to #1 the following year. But for this moment in chart history, it was just a little blip that disappeared quickly.

ReduxReview:  What a stroke of luck. This song basically died on initial release and could have easily been considered a "lost song" of the 80s. But it is amazing how the placement of a song and exposure to a huge audience can create a hit. It just seemed the song was destined to be heard. Did it deserve the second chance? After all, it was initially ignored. I think perhaps the timing may just not have been right for this style of ballad. With new wave, synthpop, rap, and edgier rock taking over, a smokey bar tune just didn't fit. I'm glad it got another chance as I loved it after its reissue. I wasn't a fan of "Family Ties" so I just heard the song itself without relation to the show. That in itself kind of tells me it was hit-worthy.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  In addition to his music career, Vera was also an actor. He had a minor career doing spots on TV shows and film. He appeared on the soap "Days of Our Lives" along with other shows like "Baywatch" and "Beverly Hills, 90210." He also sang theme songs to TV shows like "Empty Nest" and "King of Queens."

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Monday, March 10, 2014

"Tryin' to Live My Life Without You" by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0743
Date:  09/12/1981
Debut:  61
Peak:  5
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rock

Tryin' to Live My Life Without You by Bo Seger on Grooveshark

Pop Bits:  After his first and only #1 album, "Against the Wind," Seger released the live LP "Nine Tonight." Another multi-platinum seller, it reached #3 and spawned this Top 5 single. The album's title track was originally done as a studio track and included on the soundtrack to the film "Urban Cowboy."

ReduxReview:  I didn't care for this song when it came out and wasn't into Seger's music either. I would change my mind later and develop an appreciation for Seger, but I'm still not 100% sold on this tune. I do like it much better these days, however I would not include it on a list of favorite Seger songs.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Eugene Williams and first recorded by R&B/blues singer Otis Clay. His single didn't reach the pop chart, but did hit #24 at R&B, which ended up being Clay's biggest entry on that chart.

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"Say Goodbye to Hollywood" by Billy Joel

Song#:  0742
Date:  09/12/1981
Debut:  70
Peak:  17
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  Joel hit it big in 1977 with his album "The Stranger." But before that, he had released four albums that, while popular later, were not mega-hits. After his second #1 album in 1980, "Glass Houses," Joel decided to revisit some of the songs from those first albums in a live setting. Culled from various performances with his band, Joel featured these older tunes on the album "Songs from the Attic." This first single was lifted for release and just made it into the Top 20. The song was originally the lead-off track from his 1976 album "Turnstiles." It was issued as a single then, but did not chart.

ReduxReview:  This live version is not wildly different from the original, so they probably could have just re-issued that track. The difference is that Joel was a huge star by this time so whatever he released from a new album was going to get attention. And while this is a good song and the "Be My Baby" reference is nice (see below), it's not really a great single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Joel wrote this in a style that was reminiscent of The Ronettes' "Be My Baby." This fact was not lost on Ronnie Spector who after hearing the tune went and recorded her own version a year later. Her backing band was Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and it was produced by Steven Van Zandt. It was issued as a single but did not chart.

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

"Steal the Night" by Stevie Woods

Song#:  0741
Date:  09/12/1981
Debut:  82
Peak:  25
Weeks:  21
Genre:  R&B, Pop

Steal the Night by Stevie Woods on Grooveshark

Pop Bits:  With a lean towards pop, this single ended up peaking higher there than at R&B, where it only reached #36. The song would end up being his best pop showing and it was the first single from Woods' debut album "Take Me to Your Heaven," which briefly showed up on the lower end of the album chart.

ReduxReview:  The song kind takes some notes from the smooth sounds going on at the time from artist like Al Jarreau, George Benson, etc. It keeps up with those artists' hits pretty well and he has a pleasant, if unspectacular, voice. The song has gotten lost over the years and I think it may be because it's simply a good song that has nothing unique or truly memorable to offer.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Woods recently passed away on 1/28/14, just the week prior to me writing this post.  2) He had a soon-to-be famous cousin who was an actor, Philip Michael Thomas. Thomas would begin as co-lead on the hit show "Miami Vice" in 1984. Music from the show proved to be popular and not wanting to miss out, Thomas recorded a couple of albums during that time with neither selling or producing hits. Odd note - Thomas is the person responsible for coming up with "EGOT," which is the acronym used to describe winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. At one point Thomas said he planned on winning them all. However, he has yet to be nominated for a single one.

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