Saturday, May 17, 2014

"Closer to the Heart" by Rush

Song#:  0849
Date:  12/12/1981
Debut:  90
Peak:  69
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock, Arena Rock

Pop Bits:  Rush was at the peak of the prog-rock popularity with 1981's "Moving Pictures" becoming their most successful album in the US. The song "Tom Sawer" from the LP became their biggest pop hit at the time reaching #44. Since they were a very successful concert draw, the group's next move was to cull performances for a live album. "Exit...Stage Left" was assembled from shows in the UK and Canada and released. This first single, a live version of an earlier hit, was issued and it stayed on the lower end of the chart, which was typical for most Rush singles. However, it did best the original recording's effort on the chart, which reached #76 in 1977.

ReduxReview:  This is a great Rush song and I'm sure if you were lucky enough to see one of their concerts around this time, it was probably awesome. But as I've said several times before, live albums don't do much for me. I'd rather listen to the original recording or be there in person. So while I really like this song, a live single similar to the original just leaves me longing for the original.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The group got the album title from a cartoon character. It was the catchphrase of Snagglepuss, a pink mountain lion who made appearances on shows like "The Yogi Bear Show." Whenever Snagglepuss had to get out of a situation or leave, he would say "exit, stage left" (or right).  2) The front and back covers of the LP paid tribute to all of Rush's previous albums by incorporating images or figures/characters from those albums.


Friday, May 16, 2014

"A World Without Heroes" by Kiss

Song#:  0848
Date:  12/12/1981
Debut:  92
Peak:  56
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  It will happen. A successful artist will take a "new direction" (typically after a career decline) and will usually hit bottom. Kiss reached that point when they recorded the concept album "Music from 'The Elder'," a botched attempt to create a "Wall"-type rock piece with a storyline. Guided by the co-producer of Pink Floyd's "The Wall," Bob Ezrin, the recording of the album was shrouded in secrecy. Upon release, the LP was a failure peaking at a lowly #75 and not even going gold - their first album to not be certified. It didn't help that the story was a bit incomprehensible and dialog that was to move the story along was cut from the album. Plus, the track order was moved around to put focus on the singles to be released, which then made the storyline almost impossible to follow. The group was also splintered with Ace Frehley not liking the new direction (but outvoted by the others) and recording his parts separately, submitting via mail. This eventually led to his departure the following year. The reception to the album was so bad that a planned tour in support was cancelled. It was obvious that Kiss had to regroup and focus, or just die off. Luckily, they did come back and rebuilt their dynasty. But before that, this single from "The Elder" album got near the top half of the chart, but didn't really help to promote any sales of the LP.

ReduxReview:  I'm not sure what to make of this. On it's own, the song is not bad. I don't think it is really single-worthy, but it is interesting. However, knowing this came from Kiss just makes it very strange. In a way it kind of sounds like Pink Floyd meets Alan Parsons. I don't know what the guys were thinking here. Were the looking for more artistic cred or something? Whatever the motivation, it just didn't work - and they found this out very quick. However, it did make a pretty good Cher track (see below).

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Original group member Peter Criss had left the band the year before. Kiss then hired Paul Caravello to replace him. Caravello chose the stage name Eric Carr and he remained with the group until his death from a heart cancer in 1991 (oddly, the exact same day as when Queen's Freddie Mercury died). This album was his first with the group.  2) This song was covered by Cher for her 1991 album "Love Hurts." Cher and Kiss band member Gene Simmons dated for a while in 1980.


"Every Home Should Have One" by Patti Austin

Song#:  0847
Date:  12/12/1981
Debut:  93
Peak:  62
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Throughout the 60s and 70s, Austin was an in-demand session vocalist who sang on hundreds of recordings by major artists like James Brown, Paul Simon, Bette Midler, and many others. Along the way she launched a solo career as an R&B/Jazz vocalist and was able to get a few minor singles to hit the R&B chart. Her albums found their way on both the R&B and Jazz charts as well. But it wasn't until she signed with Quincy Jones' Qwest label that she finally started to break through to the mainstream. This title track to her 1981 album was her first to reach the pop chart. It wasn't a huge hit, only managing a #55 showing at R&B and #24 AC, but it set her up for her next single which would be the biggest of her career.

ReduxReview:  While it is not a forceful single contender, this is really a nice R&B tune. Written by Rod Temperton* (who wrote songs for Michael Jackson and others), it's better than a lot of other pop/R&B songs that were hitting the chart and doing better. This really should have at least made the Top 40.

*As one reader nicely commented - I got the songwriter incorrect. I must have looked at the wrong song on the liner notes when researching. That'll teach me! Information on the real songwriters is in the comment below. Thanks for the correction!

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In addition to her session work, Austin at one point was considered the "queen of jingles" because she sang on so many advertisements. Even if you didn't think you had heard her sing at all, you probably did due to her commercial work - you just didn't know it. From McDonald's to the US Army, her voice was all over TV and radio.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

"Chariots of Fire - Titles" by Vangelis

#1 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  0846
Date:  12/12/1981
Debut:  94
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  28
Genre:  Soundtrack, New Age, Electronic, Instrumental

Pop Bits:  If you mention the name Vangelis to people, mainly they just think of this chart-topping song. But Vangelis had an established career long before this tune hit. Early on he was part of prog-rock band in Europe called Aphrodite's Child who had some success there. But the group splintered and Vangelis went solo and found his real calling in electronic music and composition. He issued a debut album in 1972 and released 16 more over the years. In between, he found time to do film scores and be part of a duo with Yes' Jon Anderson called Jon & Vangelis. He had a lot of success, but none would define his career more than this single lifted from his soundtrack to the film "Chariots of Fire." It was a surprise hit that took five months to reach the summit and it helped to push the album to #1 as well. The film would go on to with the Oscar for Best Picture and Vangelis' score would also win. This single would grab a nomination for Record of the Year at the Grammys. The song and album also brought more attention to the growing New Age genre. And although Vangelis did get two middling single on the chart in the duo Jon & Vangelis, this was his only solo song to get on the chart, getting him one-hit wonder status.

ReduxReview:  I'm pretty sure that most folks would recognize this song quickly. They may not know the title or the artist, but they would know it. The song has been on countless sporting event shows, commercials, the Olympics, comedy sketches, and even TV shows like "Seinfeld." It really sounded unique at the time, especially for pop music, and I liked it. These days I think it's value as a composition has kind of been lost because it gets referenced so much in comedic ways. It's almost viewed as a novelty. But it deserves a better fate.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The unexpected hit didn't really have a name. On the soundtrack album, it was just listed as "Titles" because it played over the opening titles of the film. When it first hit the chart, it was listed as "Titles." But as it grew in popularity, that name was just confusing and unmemorable. So it got re-dubbed "Chariots of Fire - Titles."  2) Thanks to this song, Vangelis still remains the only Greek artist to have ever topped the pop singles chart.


"Waiting on a Friend" by The Rolling Stones

Song#:  0845
Date:  12/05/1981
Debut:  70
Peak:  13
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Stones' "Start Me Up" got their album "Tattoo You" off to a great start when it reached #2, becoming their final Top 3 appearance. This second single did well by making it into the Top 20, but didn't quite have enough power to make it into the Top 10. The backing track was originally recorded around 1972 during the sessions for their "Goats Head Soup" album. Since time was limited to get "Tattoo You" recorded, this track was revived, adjustments made, and lyrics written. Almost 10 years after its initial recording, the song ended up being a hit for the group.

ReduxReview:  I've always liked this song and had the single back in the day. But with a catalog of killer songs, this breezy effort has kind of gotten lost in the shuffle. I admit that I kind of pass it up now and then, but when I do turn it on, I realize it is one of their most charming songs.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The Stones got famous jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins to come in and do the solo for this song. Rollins also played on two other tracks on the album.  2) The video for this song was popular in the early MTV days. It was filmed in front of the same building that was featured on Led Zeppelin's "Physical Graffiti" LP cover. Reggae artist Peter Tosh appears in the video as well.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"Breakin' Away" by Al Jarreau

Song#:  0844
Date:  12/05/1981
Debut:  81
Peak:  43
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop, Smooth Jazz, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Jarreau was on a career high with his biggest hit, "We're in This Love Together" just peaking at #15. This follow-up single was the title-track to his album and it came close to breaking into the Top 40. It was able to do a little better at R&B by hitting #25 and at AC getting to #30.

ReduxReview:  This summery tune is a nice track from the album, but not so sure it's a good single. It's more like good background music to being in a park, or riding a bike, or having a coffee or cocktail at an outdoor cafe. The song give off a good feeling, but I think it might have been a little too pop-jazzy to really click on radio.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Jarreau's "Breakin' Away" album became a standard for the breezy West Coast pop sound at the time. Jay Graydon was a co-writer on this tune (with Jarreau and Tom Canning) and his works pretty much defined the West Coast sound. In addition to this song (and many others with Jarreau), Graydon co-wrote and produced such genre defining hits as "Turn Your Love Around" by George Benson, "After the Love Has Gone" by Earth, Wind & Fire, and "Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone" by Manhattan Transfer.


"Take It Easy on Me" by The Little River Band

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0843
Date:  12/05/1981
Debut:  82
Peak:  10
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  LRB's "Time Exposure" album already generated a hit with "The Night Owls" (#6) and this second single did well by just made it into the Top 10 (#14 AC). The song would be the sixth and final Top 10 hit for the group. The album would reach #21 and get gold certification - their last studio album to reach that level.

ReduxReview: "The Night Owls" and this song were a great one-two punch for the band. I like "Owls" slightly better, but this is a close second.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Famed Beatles producer George Martin served as producer on LRB's "Time Exposure" album.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Love Is Alright Tonite" by Rick Springfield

Song#:  0842
Date:  12/05/1981
Debut:  84
Peak:  20
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Springfield's third single from his "Working Class Dog" LP just made it into the Top 20. The album would go platinum and would be the first of four in a row that would sell to that level.

ReduxReview:  This album opener was another solid rocker for Springfield. And like his #1 "Jessie's Girl," he wrote the tune. It's a pretty hooky song so I was a little surprised it didn't become his third Top 10 from the album.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Although it seemed that Springfield's LP and #1 single "Jessie's Girl" were debut hits, he actually had four other chart singles between 1972-1976. The best of these being "Speak to the Sky" which reached #14 in 1972. The other singles were lower-charting efforts with only "Take a Hand" almost bumping into the Top 40 (#41, 1976). That song was from his 1976 LP "Wait for Night," which was reissued in 1982 and briefly charted.


"The Woman in Me" by Crystal Gayle

Song#:  0841
Date:  12/05/1981
Debut:  87
Peak:  76
Weeks: 6
Genre:  Country Crossover, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Gayle's previous album "These Days" couldn't generate any pop chart entries, but did include two #1 country hits. Her follow-up album "Hollywood, Tennessee" got her back on the pop chart with this first single spending a few weeks in the bottom quarter. It also reached #17 at AC while going to #3 at country.

ReduxReview:  The song is definitely more pop-leaning, but it's also a snoozer. I'm really surprised it got so high on the country chart. That break in the chorus (appropriately) after the word "break" I'm sure was meant to highlight the word and the meaning in the tune, but I found it really annoying. The only bright spot here is Gayle's wonderful voice.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Gayle's "Hollywood, Tennessee" was a themed album that addressed both her pop and country fans. Side 1 was more pop oriented that closed with the song "Hollywood." Side 2 moved her back to country with the song "Tennessee" closing the album. The first two of the album's three singles were from the "pop" side, most likely released to get her back into the pop market where she had not had a significant hit since 1979's #15 "Half the Way."


Monday, May 12, 2014

"Could It Be Love" by Jennifer Warnes

Song#:  0840
Date:  12/05/1981
Debut:  88
Peak:  47
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After only two album with Arista, the label pushed out "The Best of Jennifer Warnes" LP which featured tracks from those two albums plus a soundtrack song and three new songs. It became her second-best showing on the album chart peaking at #47 and this first single reached the exact same position (and #13 at AC, #57 country). Maybe a "best of" was prescient because she didn't record another album until 1987. But in that down-time period, she continued to record soundtrack songs which resulted in two #1 smash duets.

ReduxReview:  This mid-tempo, somewhat country-ish shuffle was similar to other material she was recording at the time and like most of those songs, it's pretty vanilla. As I've said before, given the right material she can really sell it. But she seemed to always be attracted to fairly bland material for her solo discs. It's disappointing because she really has a terrific voice. However, her 1987 album of Leonard Cohen songs, "Famous Blue Raincoat," is where everything came together for her.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Early in her career she was urged to change her last name to Warren, but then there ended up being a popular actress with the name of Jennifer Warren. So the last name was dropped and she simply went by Jennifer. She released two albums for the Parrot label under that moniker and one for Reprise, but then added back her real last name when she moved to Arista in 1976.


"Little Darlin'" by Sheila

Song#:  0839
Date:  12/05/1981
Debut:  89
Peak:  49
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop

Little Darlin' by Sheila on Grooveshark

Pop Bits:  Sheila (real name Annie Chancel) was born in France and she began a successful singing career there when she was just sixteen. For most of the 60s, she sang teen-pop with great success in France and around Europe. That changed in the late 70s when she began recording disco songs in English as Sheila and B. Devotion, which was basically Sheila backed by three male dancers. She did well scoring several hits including a pair of UK Top 20's, "Singin' in the Rain" and "Spacer." As disco faded, she moved to a more pop/rock sound and issued the album "Little Darlin'" This title track became her one and only US pop chart entry. After this album, Sheila returned to singing in French and continued to issue albums in Europe. She left music for a while concentrating on a TV series and other endeavors before returning with a pair of successful LP's in 1998. She continues to record and tour in Europe.

ReduxReview:  I like this song, but Spider's version (see below) is better, mainly because lead singer Amanda Blue's vocals kick the song to another level. If I hadn't heard the original, I'd probably like Sheila's version more as it's well-done and sounds good. But her pop take pales when put next to Spider's rock original.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Sheila got her stage name from her first single - a French cover of Tommy Roe's 1962 #1 hit "Sheila."  2) Sheila was one of the most popular of the "yé-yé" girls in France. Yé-yé music was popular in Europe, mainly in the 60s, and was basically pop music mostly sung by girls in their mid-to-late teens. The songs were innocent, yet the girls were naively sexy. The term comes from the English "yeah, yeah." Along with Sheila, France Gall and Sylvie Vartan were some of the biggest stars of yé-yé music.  3) This is a cover version of a song that originally appeared on Spider's 1980 self-titled debut. Written by band members Holly Knight and Amanda Blue, it was not issued as a single. However, they did hit #39 with "New Romance (It's a Mystery)" from the album.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

"Runaway Rita" by Leif Garrett

Song#:  0838
Date:  12/05/1981
Debut:  90
Peak:  84
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Garrett's run as a popular teen idol was declining as was his music career. He cranked out an album a year since 1977 and had some success along the way, particularly with his lone Top 10 hit "I Was Made for Dancin'" (#10, 1979). But returns faded on subsequent releases and as 1982 approached, he put forth one last effort with the LP "My Movie of You." The album was his first to not chart and it didn't help that this single faded quick. It would be his last chart single and his final album from his teen idol days.

ReduxReview:  Isn't a runaway 'rita a margarita that spilled? No? Well, it's probably a little more preferable than this song. Actually, the song is not that bad. It's miles better than his last effort, the drab "I Was Looking for Someone to Love," but it sounds like it's stuck in the early 70s. This is not a song that's going to get you back into the upper-levels of the chart and I think it pretty much killed his music career.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Beginning in 1979, Garrett dated actress Nicollette Sheridan. Their relationship lasted for six year. It was soon after their break-up that Sheridan got her first major role co-starring in the TV series "Knots Landing." She remained on the series for seven seasons. Then in 2004 she found herself on another hit show with "Desperate Housewives."