Saturday, May 31, 2014

"You're My Latest, My Greatest Inspiration" by Teddy Pendergrass

Song#:  0867
Date:  01/09/1982
Debut:  83
Peak:  43
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Quiet Storm


Pop Bits:  Pendergrass' previous album, "TP," was another platinum success that featured the #2 R&B hit "Love T.K.O." (#44 pop). His follow-up LP "It's Time for Love" got off to a slower start when its first single, "I Can't Live Without Your Love" failed to make the pop chart (but did get to #10 at R&B). This second single did better and came close to entering the Top 40. It got up to #4 at R&B and helped the album get to gold status, but it halted his streak of four consecutive platinum studio albums.

ReduxReview:  Working with the Gamble and Huff songwriting/production team, Pendergrass always seems to raise their work to another level. I don't think this is one of Gamble and Huff's best compositions, but what sells the song is Pendergrass' performance. He basically makes this slow burner worthwhile.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Pendergrass had worked with Gamble and Huff long before his solo career. After he joined Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in 1970, the group was signed to Gamble and Huff's label, Philadelphia International. By 1972, they had their first major hit with Gamble and Huff's "If You Don't Know Me By Now" (#1 R&B, #3 pop), which featured lead vocals by Pendergrass.


Friday, May 30, 2014

"When It's All Said and Done" by ABBA

Song#:  0866
Date:  01/09/1982
Debut:  87
Peak:  27
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Welcome to 1982!

Pop Bits:  As the 80s started, one of ABBA's power couples had divorced. The event inspired one of the group's biggest US hits with 1980's "The Winner Takes It All" (#8). The other couple followed suit the next year with their break-up being captured in this song from their final studio album as a group, "The Visitors." The LP was a more mature effort with darker subjects being set against their brand of pop. This single didn't click with listeners as well as their previous hit and it petered out just inside the Top 30. Fittingly, it became their final Top 40 hit. It was also their final AC Top 10 reaching #10.

ReduxReview:  Although a good song and a nice addition to their catalog, it's not one of ABBA's most memorable singles. I do think it was a better single choice for the US over the mid-tempo "One of Us" (see below), but the song was just not as immediately catchy as previous hits.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  For most of the world, the first single from "The Visitors" was "One of Us." That song hit #1 in several countries and #3 in the UK (their last Top 10 their). However, not all countries wanted to lead with that single and in a few places like the US, "When It's All Said and Done" was chosen as the first single. "One of Us" did finally get a US release as the album's third single, but it failed to chart.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Milestone! 1981: The Year in Review

As I close out the second year of this project, I just think to myself...why? Why am I painstakingly spending time going through over 4,000 songs year-by-year and trying to come up with something to say on each? I mean, I could just easily listen to all the songs in a short time and be done with it. So why document this stuff? Really, the only answer I have is that I just enjoy doing this. I love hearing the songs, discovering new tunes and artists, revisiting favorites, researching information, and sharing all I find. My hope is that folks will discover the blog along the way and join the journey.

The chart music of 1981 was when songs started to move towards that 80s sound. Leading the way was Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes," which brought a different sound with its dark synthpop. Country crossover was still big with three of the year's Top 10 hits from country artists (Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, and Eddie Rabbitt). R&B was gaining a little momentum, but rap was still being ignored by pop radio. Hard-edged rock was beginning to make some inroads while soft late-70s sounds were waning. Overall, it wasn't one of my favorite years in the decade, but it did contain some iconic songs that would last far beyond their charting days. Before moving on to 1982, here is a little recap of the previous year:

Number of charted songs in 1981:  413
Time it took listen/post all songs:  10 months - same as last time!
Number of songs to hit #1:  14
Number of songs to reach Top 10 (excluding #1's):  61
Artist with the most chart entries:  (tied with 4 each) Kenny Rogers, Don McLean, Sheena Easton
Number of gold singles:  26
Number of platinum singles:  3
Number of songs that won a Grammy:  11
Number of songs that won an Oscar:  1
Number of One-Hit Wonders:  5
Number of Rated 10 songs:  9
Number of Rated 1 songs:  1
Top 5 favorite chart songs of the year:
  1. "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey
  2. "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes
  3. "Start Me Up" by The Rolling Stones
  4. "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" by Daryl Hall & John Oates
  5. "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins
Worst song of the year:  "American Memories" by Shamus M'Cool
Best song I didn't know existed:  "No Time to Lose" by The Tarney/Spencer Band
Favorite discovery:  The Tarney/Spencer Band

Some interesting things learned (click links for more details in previous posts):
  • Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" was originally pitched to Rod Stewart.
  • The song title "Sukiyaki" has nothing to do with the lyrics and was just a word chosen for the English market when originally recorded in 1963.
  • Diana Ross was originally asked to star in an early version of "The Bodyguard" with Ryan O'Neal and she turned it down.
  • Teena Marie sued her label (which was settled) and as a result a law was created and named after her using her given last name.
  • The Bee Gee's "Living Eyes" album was the first CD to be publicly demonstrated on a BBC show in 1981.
  • Blondie wrote a song called "For Your Eyes Only" that they submitted to be the theme for the James Bond movie.
  • Franke & the Knockouts recorded two songs that they didn't release (written by Franke Previte and John DeNicola). Both songs went on the "Dirty Dancing" soundtrack and became huge hits for other artists.
  • The Oak Ridge Boys' "Elvira" was a remake.
  • Randy VanWarmer's ashes were launched into space.
  • Eddie Rabbitt had a pet monkey named Jo-Jo.
According to the year-end chart for 1981, these were the year's Top 10 singles:
  1. "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes
  2. "Endless Love" by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie
  3. "Lady" by Kenny Rogers
  4. "(Just Like) Starting Over" by John Lennon
  5. "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield
  6. "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang
  7. "Kiss on My List" by Hall & Oates
  8. "I Love a Rainy Night" by Eddie Rabbitt
  9. "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton
  10. "Keep on Loving You" by REO Speedwagon
Now, let's move on to 1982!


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"Abacab" by Genesis

Song#:  0865
Date:  12/26/1981
Debut:  71
Peak:  26
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Art Rock

Pop Bits:  Genesis' turn towards more radio-friendly fare ended up with the horn-laden "No Reply at All" reaching #29. This second single and title-track to the album did slightly better, but still could not get the group back into the Top 20. Although issued as the second single in the US, the track was the first released in the UK where the song reached #9, becoming their third Top 10 there.

ReduxReview:  Although I prefer "No Reply at All," this is another great jam from the album. The memorable guitar/keyboard answer/call riffs with the charging synth undercurrent really pushes the song forward. But what may have held the song back for US listeners are the abstract lyrics and that it lacks a real sing-along chorus. The song is really more of an instrumental with lyrics just tagged on almost as an afterthought. This single version above is shorter than the album version which includes a whole other instrumental break. Regardless, I've always loved it and "Abacab" is my favorite post-Gabriel Genesis album.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The song title comes from the arrangement of the specific sections of the song. Many pop songs have three distinct sections, typically a verse (A), a chorus (B), and a bridge (C). A pop song will commonly follow the pattern A-B-A-B-C-B (or some have no bridge so maybe just A-B-A-B-A-B). An early version of this Genesis song was patterned as A-B-A-C-A-B and so they used that pattern for their working title - "Abacab." Wanting the song to be somewhat abstract, they decided to utilize the title for the final song, even though the completed version did not follow that pattern any longer.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Southern Pacific" by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Song#:  0864
Date:  12/26/1981
Debut:  80
Peak:  70
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Whether he was part of Buffalo Springfield or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, or solo, Young marched to his own drummer. Diverse and experimental, he pretty much did what he wanted with his music despite any label, critical, or fan feedback. Revered by many rock musicians, Young's songs and performances have been influential and essential, which led to him being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice - as a solo artist and with Buffalo Springfield. Young's rock did not really lend itself to fitting in with the pop radio market (his only real chart hit was 1972's #1 "Heart of Gold"), but many of his songs became rock radio staples and that pushed most of his 70s album output to gold or platinum level. But as the 80s arrived, Young struggled alongside other artists who were big in the 60s and 70s. This brought about more experimentation on his part and in 1981 he issued "Re-ac-tor," an album that found him straddling the line between his 70s rock and the 80's new wave. The album was not well-received, but it did supply a rare pop chart single with this song. It would be his last album for his home label Warner Bros. before moving into a very tumultuous relationship with Geffen Records.

ReduxReview:  Okay, let the hatin' begin. I admit that I really don't care for Young's music. I appreciate his contributions to rock and there are some songs I do like, but overall I just don't connect with him. I'm also not a fan of his nasally, whiny voice. This song doesn't do much to sway me into the Young camp. It's like ZZ Top covering "Ghost Riders in the Sky" via Heart's "Barracuda." I don't quite get it. And his thin voice doesn't do much to sell it. Not my cup o' Neil.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Young often wrote topical songs such as 1970's "Southern Man" which dealt with racism. That theme was revisited two-years later in his song "Alabama." Many folks thought the songs put out a message that all Southerners resemble those depicted in the lyrics and that caught the ire of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. Their big hit "Sweet Home Alabama" was a response to those songs (in particular "Alabama") and the lyrics call out Neil Young by name. You'd think this start some kind of feud like it typically does in today's music, but both Young and the Skynyrd band retained a mutual respect and understanding about the issue. Young has even covered "Sweet Home Alabama" in concert while Skynyrd members have donned t-shirts featuring Young's album covers. Young has even said that in retrospect, his lyrics for "Alabama" were not well thought out and could easily be taken in a manner he didn't intend. An odd side note to this is that singer Merry Clayton covered Young's "Southern Man" on her 1971 debut album and then later was the background vocalist for Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama."


"Through the Years" by Kenny Rogers

Song#:  0863
Date:  12/26/1981
Debut:  82
Peak:  13
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After the disappointing pop showing of the rush-released "Blaze of Glory" (#66), Rogers got back to business with this pop crossover ballad, the fourth single from his "Share Your Love" album. It got him back near the Top 10 and went to #5 at Country. The song rose to #1 on the AC chart, which was his third single from the album to accomplish that feat.

ReduxReview:  This is a lovely song and a good one for Rogers. He doesn't have a wailing voice, so big Manilow-type ballads don't fit Rogers very well. However, this one was arranged well to accommodate his voice. He does a good job selling it, but had someone with a bigger voice done this tune, it really could have been turned up to 11 and been even better.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  With the LP being produced by Lionel Richie, there were bound to be songs written by Richie on the album. Four Richie compositions made the album including the song "Goin' Back to Alabama." It wasn't issued as a single, but it had some additional star power with Michael Jackson providing backing vocals.


Monday, May 26, 2014

"Crazy (Keep on Falling)" by The John Hall Band

Song#:  0862
Date:  12/26/1981
Debut:  83
Peak:  42
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Hall's music career started with a band called Kangaroo who issued an LP in 1968 for MGM. A few years after the group's break-up, Hall founded a group that would have some good chart success. Orleans would have a pair of Top 10's in 1975 and 1976 with "Dance with Me" (#6) and "Still the One" (#5). But the usual musical direction/group tension issues crept up and Hall left the group in 1977 for a solo career. After a couple of failed solo discs, Hall formed a new band and The John Hall Band released their album "All of the Above." It wasn't a hit, but it did generate this single that just missed out on the Top 40.

ReduxReview:  This sounds vaguely Clapton-ish to me. I'm a little surprised it got as high as it did on the chart. It just doesn't sound like good pop chart fare to me. The tune is pretty good and the chorus fairly solid, but there is nothing here that would attract me if I heard it on the radio.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Throughout his music career, Hall was involved with various community action groups and some political issues, including co-producing 1979's "No Nukes" protest concert recording (which featured Bruce Springsteen's first live released performance with the E Street Band). When he was dissatisfied with how things were going in his community, Hall ran for political office in New York and was elected to the House of Representatives. He served in the seat for four years beginning in 2007. After being defeated in a re-election, he decided not to run again. He continues to work with his old band Orleans on occasion.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Tonight Tonight" by Bill Champlin

Song#:  0861
Date:  12/26/1981
Debut:  85
Peak:  55
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Champlin's name will be familiar to any latter-day Chicago fan. He joined the group in 1981 and remained with them through 2008. Along the way he would co-write many songs for the group and provide vocals for some of their major hits. But before his Chicago days, Champlin originally recorded with Sons of Champlin, a renamed version of his band from high school. They had five albums that didn't make any impact and later in the 70s the group split. Champlin went on to became a very successful and in-demand session vocalist in L.A. His success led him to working with several major artists and big-time producer David Foster. He was able to secure a recording contract and with Foster producing he got two solo albums out the door. They didn't do very well but his second one, "Runaway," contained this single that just missed the top half of the chart. He would have one more minor single before the call from Chicago came in. Champlin would issue a few more albums in the 90s, but none would see any chart action.

ReduxReview:  This song and Champlin's album definitely has that David Foster touch and actually certain songs sound very Chicago-y. However, even though Champlin would go on to win songwriting Grammys, the material here is not great. It doesn't sound too different from the original (see below) so there is not much improvement. It's just a very bland ballad that for me that sounds a lot like some of Chicago's future AC efforts.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This song was co-written by Champlin, but for the most part it is a remake of another artist's song. Ray Kennedy's self-titled 1980 album featured the song "My Everlasting Love" that he co-wrote with Foster (and which Foster produced). With Champlin, Foster updated the song and changed the title to "Tonight Tonight." Kennedy's "My Everlasting Love" was not issued as a single, but he did reach #80 with "Just for the Moment" from the same album.