Saturday, July 5, 2014

"Why You Wanna Try Me" by Commodores

Song#:  0907
Date:  02/06/1982
Debut:  82
Peak:  66
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The first two singles from The Commodores' LP "In the Pocket" reached both the pop and R&B Top 10 - "Lady (You Bring Me Up)" (#8 pop/#5 R&B) and "Oh No" (#4 pop/#5 R&B). They shot for a third hit with this song but it came up way short only making it a third of the way up the pop chart and petering out at #42 at R&B. The low peaks were especially disappointing because it was the last Commodores single to featured Lionel Richie as lead vocalist.

ReduxReview:  I'm not that shocked at the poor showing of this single. It just is not in the same league as their two previous hits. Richie was co-writer and it doesn't even come close to ranking near his best material. There is not much interesting about the tune and its lazy groove and performance seems almost half-hearted. The album was not really one of their best, but it did contain the Lionel Richie-penned tune "Lucy," which is kind of a lost gem. That song plus the two Top 10's are pretty much all you need from the album. This single can be left behind.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  After Lionel Richie left for a solo career, The Commodores replaced Richie with vocalist Skyler Jett. Jett shared lead vocal duties for just a couple of years. He became an in-demand session singer in later years and provided vocals on thousands of songs including Celine Dion's 1998 mega-hit "My Heart Will Go On" (from the film "Titanic").


Friday, July 4, 2014

"(Oh) Pretty Woman" by Van Halen

Song#:  0906
Date:  02/06/1982
Debut:  84
Peak:  12
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Van Halen's 1981 album "Fair Warning" was their best on the chart to that point peaking at #5. Following its release, they embarked on an extensive tour that took time away from writing and recording. After the tour they wanted to take their time and really focus on the next album, so to keep their name kicking around they decided to do a quick toss-off cover for their next single. This cover tune became an unexpected hit, their biggest at the time, and it forced the band to get in the studio asap and push out an album. Consisting of five cover songs and others that had been kicking around already, the band rushed out "Diver Down." Although critics mostly panned the LP, it was a big hit peaking at #3 and eventually going 4x platinum. 

ReduxReview:  I thought this single was kind of lame back in the day. I considered it a smarmy rock redo of a revered classic. These days I'm less hoity-toity about stuff like this and can appreciate the fun aspect of the tune. It's not even close to being one of Van Halen's best, but I hear it differently now and like it better.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of the classic Roy Orbison #1 from 1964. Many artists have covered the song, but Van Halen's is the only other one to reach the pop chart.  2) It was still early in the days of MTV and content could be an issue, as it was for many years. Van Halen's video for this song was one of the first to be banned by the channel. One of the main reasons was near the beginning of the video where a woman is held captive and basically fondled by little people. What was revealed near the end was that the woman was actually a man in drag, which just kind of made things worse. It's considered tame by today's standards but was definitely not appreciated by parents of the day who flooded MTV with calls.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

"Opposites Do Attract" by All Sports Band

Song#:  0905
Date:  02/06/1982
Debut:  88
Peak:  78
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  This assembled concept group (like the Village People only in sports outfits) almost got my vote for having the worst song of 1981 with their debut single "I'm Your Superman." The whole project was just a solid dud and it never really got off the ground. This second single actually did a little better than their first, but it wasn't enough to keep the group going. They flamed out so quick that they band didn't even have a chance to tour. You could say they had their 15 minutes of fame, but I think it was more like 5 minutes.

ReduxReview:  Well, I have to say that this is not bad. It is certainly a step above "Superman." If it wasn't for the whole distracting gimmick of the sports theme, this song may have had a better chance. It's not top-quality material, but the tune is a good pop listen. It's almost boy-band-ish in a way. Had this been given to a popular teen idol to record, it might have been a perfect match. As-is, it showed that the band could write something semi-decent. It is nothing I'd clamor to hear, but it's not horrible either.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The All Sports Band self-titled album was co-produced by Richie Zito. Zito was an in-demand session guitarist in the 70s playing on numerous recordings by major artists. He turned to production in the 80s and would produce hit albums by many artists like Cheap Trick, The Motels, The Cult, Poison, and others. In 1990, he received a Billboard award for Producer of the Year. We all gotta start someplace...


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"You Can" by Madleen Kane

Song#:  0904
Date:  02/06/1982
Debut: 89
Peak:  77
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Dance

Pop Bits:  Swedish singer and model Kane had some impact on the US dance charts starting with her debut "Rough Diamond" in 1978. Her first three albums all had some success but she wasn't able to cross over to the pop chart until she worked with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotti for her fourth album "Don't Want to Lose You." This single from the LP was issued and it became one of her biggest hits on the dance chart staying at the top for three weeks. It would be her lone pop chart entry. After one more album in 1985, she basically quit the music business and never recorded again.

ReduxReview:  It's odd - this is almost like a dress rehearsal for "Flashdance...What a Feeling," which was co-written and produced by Moroder. It's obviously not as good as that classic, but it's like Moroder pulled ideas from this one and perfected it. Parts of it also sound like Limahl's "NeverEnding Story." Again, a Moroder production. So this song seems to have provided inspiration for later use. However, for a dance hit, I really don't find it that groove-inducing. It's a good tune and Kane's thin voice works well here. Interesting, but not essential.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In her late teens before she began her singing career, Kane was an established and successful model. She made many appearances in top fashion magazines and even worked with Eileen Ford from the famous Ford Modeling Agency. She never really liked modeling, but it paid for singing lessons and by the time she was 20, she had her first recording contract.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"Natural Love" by Petula Clark

Song#:  0903
Date:  02/06/1982
Debut:  90
Peak:  66
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Crossover Country

Pop Bits:  Clark became a 60's pop icon thanks to her 15 Top 40 hits that included her signature #1 from 1964 "Downtown." Numerous appearances on TV (including her own show), in film, on stage, and in Vegas only added to her popularity. Although a still in-demand performer in the 70s, she slowed down to focus on family for a while and her recording career dwindled with her last chart entry coming in 1972. A decade later, Clark signed on with Scotti Brothers and issued this single that got her back on the pop chart one last time. It got a third of the way up the chart and reached #24 at AC. The country feel of the song also got it on the country chart where it reached #20 - her only appearance there. A second single was issued, but it failed to chart. The failure of either single to ignite the charts most likely caused Scotti Brothers to pass on doing a full album. Clark would continue to perform and issue an occasional album, but this single effectively closed the door on her pop chart career.

ReduxReview:  I really love Petula Clark. Her string of hits throughout the 60s were some of the best of that time period. By the early 70s, her hits were behind her but she still had some quality recording like here 1970 LP "Memphis," which some folks have considered a pop companion to Dusty Springfield's classic "Dusty in Memphis." This single is not quite up to those standards, but it's really not a bad song at all. It kind of reminds me of something Olivia Newton-John would have done early in her country-ish years. Pop-country was kind of hot at the time, so this seemed to fit right in. It just may not have found the right audience.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Although "Downtown" was her first chart entry in the US, Clark had been recording since 1949 and hitting the UK chart as far back as 1954. A performer since she was 9-years-old, her career started with a by-chance radio performance in 1942. From there, she did more singing and began acting in films. Her popularity soared and she was eventually dubbed "Britain's Shirley Temple."  2) As adulthood approached, Clark focused on music and composition. In addition to writing or co-writing many of her songs, she also composed scores for several films and a stage musical.  3) Petula's name was created by her father. He has jokingly said that it was a combination of names from two former girlfriends - Pet and Ulla.


Monday, June 30, 2014

"Be Mine (Tonight)" by Grover Washington, Jr.

Song#:  0902
Date:  02/06/1982
Debut:  95
Peak:  92
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Smooth Jazz

Pop Bits:  Washington had a big hit the previous year with "Just the Two of Us" (#2, vocals by Bill Withers) from his Grammy-winning "Winelight" album. He continued his jazz/R&B/pop formula with his follow-up album "Come Morning." For this first single, he teamed with vocalist Grady Tate, but the results were nowhere near as successful as "Just the Two of Us." The minor few weeks on the chart didn't help the album, which only peaked at #28. It did eventually go gold and hit #1 on the jazz chart, but couldn't muster a showing at R&B. This would be Washington's last single to reach the pop chart.

ReduxReview:  Well, this certainly ain't no "Just the Two of Us." It doesn't even come close. I'm actually surprised it even got any attention at pop. Of course, the sax work and Tate's voice are great, but the song just fizzles. The first part of the song is a quiet, smooth R&B-ish groove, but then it moves into a "funky" instrumental section that kind of reminds me of the theme from "Barney Miller." It just doesn't fit. Add in uninspired lyrics and this doctor's office lite-jazz tune is almost cringe inducing.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Jazz musician Grady Tate was mainly known for his drumming but also used his baritone voice to great effect on many recordings. In addition to being a sideman for some of the most famous names in jazz, Tate was also the house drummer on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" for a six-year stint. Kids who grew up in the 70s might recognize his voice from a couple of Multiplication Rock songs - "I Got Six" and "Naughty Number Nine."


Sunday, June 29, 2014

"Power Play" by Molly Hatchet

Song#:  0901
Date:  02/06/1982
Debut:  98
Peak:  96
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  With the band's previous album "Beatin' the Odds," they started to slide away from their original Southern rock sound to something a little heavier. Their next album, "Take No Prisoners," took them even further away from their roots by featuring straight-ahead AOR tunes shined up with a lot of studio polish. Fans were not impressed and after three platinum successes, the album failed to even hit gold status. It was a slide downward that the band never really recovered from. However, they remained a highly successful touring act even through multiple personnel changes. This first single from the LP was a very minor blip for a couple of weeks.

ReduxReview:  I'd have to agree with the fans on this one. It's like Blue Öyster Cult mixed with 38 Special. The song just kind of rambles with little melody and a verse and chorus that are close to being identical. The vocals kind of drone on and the only real relief from that are the guitar solo sections. This is certainly not the "Flirtin' with Disaster" Molly Hatchet.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  The "Take No Prisoners" album contains the song "Respect Me in the Morning," which is a duet between lead singer Jimmy Farrar and Joyce "Baby Jean" Kennedy. Kennedy was a member of the funk/rock band Mother's Finest. Although that group never really hit it big in their late-70s heyday (their best single was the #58 "Baby Love" in 1977), they got a reputation for being an opening act whose performance would often surpass that of the major rock artists that were the headliners. Kennedy would end up having one Top 40 hit in 1984 when "The Last Time I Made Love," a duet with Jeffery Osborne, reached #40.