Saturday, September 6, 2014

"Baby Step Back" by Gordon Lightfoot

Song#:  0978
Date:  04/03/1982
Debut:  80
Peak:  50
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Singer/Songwriter

Pop Bits:  Lightfoot is often considered one of Canada's best songwriters. He is revered in his homeland and has even been called a "national treasure." Performing with folk groups and solo around Canada in the 60s, his popularity grew and in 1966 he issued his first solo album, "Lightfoot!" Several chart singles and albums followed throughout the remainder of the decade, but success in the US eluded him. That changed in 1970 when his single "If You Could Read My Mind" reached #5 on the US pop chart. He would have three more US Top 10's including the #1 "Carfree Highway" (1974) and what would arguable become his most famous song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (#2, 1976). His popularity decreased in the late 70s with his pop/folk music falling out of favor. He had been absent from the pop chart for four years before this single from his LP "Shadows" got him into the Top 50 (#17 AC). It would be his last single to reach the US chart.

ReduxReview:  Lightfoot has a distinctive nasally voice that is easily recognized. When it's paired with one of his great tunes, the combo is hard to resist. If the song is not that interesting, his voice can be a bit grating (for me). This song is semi-interesting with Lightfoot's voice sounding a bit pinched. It's a listenable outing but nothing that would gain new fans.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although it took until 1970 for Lightfoot to reach the US pop chart, as a songwriter he was having success on the US country chart. In 1965, country star Marty Robbins reached #1 with Lightfoot's "Ribbon of Darkness." The following year, George Hamilton IV hit #9 with "Early Morning Rain."


Friday, September 5, 2014

"You Got the Power" by War

Song#:  0977
Date:  04/03/1982
Debut:  82
Peak:  66
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  Developed by producer Jerry Goldstein and former Animals lead singer Eric Burdon, this group hit right off the bat with the #3 "Spill the Wine" (1970). Burdon only stuck around for two albums but War continued without him and released a streak of hit singles throughout the 70s including the #2 (#5 R&B) "The Cisco Kid" (1973) and their #1 R&B smash (#7 pop) "Low Rider" (1975). The late 70s brought many changes to the band and their popularity began to decline. A switch to the RCA label prompted the LP "Outlaw" and this single got them a third of the way up the pop chart while reaching the R&B Top 20.

ReduxReview:  War's funk still sounded a little stuck in the 70s, which was not really in favor at the time. Even Earth, Wind & Fire recognized early in the decade that they had to adapt and update coming up with the major hit "Let's Groove" (#3). Without anything new to offer, this song ultimately becomes forgettable. War typically offers up a nice groove, but this one lacks anything remarkable to make it stand out. Nice cowbell though...

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  At one point, the band that would eventually become War was called Nightshift. During this incarnation, the band backed football player-turned R&B singer Deacon Jones. Thought to be one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the game, Jones started a singing career while still playing pro football. It was during one of Jones' performances that Jerry Goldstein heard the band and liked their sound. Goldstein would help turn Nightshift into Eric Burdon and War.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

"If It Ain't One Thing...It's Another" by Richard "Dimples" Fields

Song#:  0976
Date:  04/03/1982
Debut:  83
Peak:  47
Weeks:  10
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Fields promoted his own singing career early on by purchasing a nightclub and becoming the headliner. Located in San Francisco, the Cold Duck Music Lounge is where Fields honed his skills for many years before getting the attention of Casablanca Records. Signed to the Boardwalk label, Fields issued an LP that featured his first R&B chart song, a remake of The Penguins' "Earth Angel." His second LP boasted this tune which became his biggest hit. Reaching #1 on the R&B chart, it crossed over to pop and got near the Top 40. Fields would put out more singles and albums (and eventually just go by "Dimples"), but nothing would come close to this peak moment. Unfortunately, he died of a stroke in 2000.

ReduxReview:  This guy had an odd career where he did some rather randy tunes like "A Woman at Home (A Freak on the Side)" and then did innocent stuff like "Earth Angel" and "Sincerely." This song is kind of a head scratcher. With lyrics of how bad things are, including him talking about an ugly woman having his baby (not to mention the whole section referring to the bible!), it is really amazing this did so well. Maybe folks saw this as more of a novelty song. I really don't know. Good for him I guess that he got at #1 out of it, but for me this is pretty awful.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Fields had put out some recordings in the 70s before signing with Boardwalk. His album "Spoiled Rotten!" contained his first version of this song. With a slightly slower tempo and spacy keyboard sounds, the song did not contain any of the spoken word passages heard in his updated version.  2) Fields' first album contained the song "She's Got Papers on Me," which has turned into a sort of R&B cult classic. In the song, Fields is talking about how he wants to leave his wife for his mistress but can't. Later in the song, R&B star Betty Wright comes on and lays down the law from her side in a spoken word section. The song itself is not all that great, but Wright's contribution is perfection.


"Just to Satisfy You" by Waylon & Willie

Song#:  0975
Date:  04/03/1982
Debut:  85
Peak:  52
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Country

Pop Bits:  Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson had collaborated before on two other country #1 singles and a
successful duet album, "Waylon & Willie" (#1 country, 1978). Jennings asked his pal back again for this song that appeared on Jennings' "Black on Black" album. It was another smash at country reaching #1 and it had enough support to make it almost halfway up the pop chart. At the time, Nelson was having his greatest crossover success, but for Jennings this single would be his final pop chart entry. However, Jennings would still spend the rest of the decade releasing a long string of country Top 10 hits.

ReduxReview:  Okay, so these guys are great and all that, but why does this just sound so lazy? I expected something a bit better than this. I don't think the song is bad, but the arrangement and delivery lack any kind of energy. It's like two old grandpa's on the porch singin' and watching the world pass by. There are passages where they basically mumble the title. This one had potential, but it turned out to be a snoozer.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  With this song, Jennings is basically covering his own recording. Jennings wrote the tune with Don Bowman in 1963. It was picked up and recorded by Bobby Bare in 1965 and his single reached #31 on the country chart. Jennings recorded the song and put it on his album of the same name in 1969, however, the song was not issued as a single. Other country artists like Jerry Reed, Barbara Mandrell, and Glen Campbell recorded the song over the years, but it took Jennings' duet with Nelson to finally get the song to #1.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

"Finally" by T.G. Sheppard

Song#:  0974
Date:  04/03/1982
Debut:  86
Peak:  58
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  This ballad was the second singled lifted from Sheppard's "Finally!" LP and it was number six in a string of eight consecutive country #1's. The early 80s would be his hottest period as a chart artist with several of his songs crossing over to the pop chart. This single also made the AC chart reaching #17.

ReduxReview:  This song is bothering me so much! I know I've heard it before (as I could sing along with the chorus) but could swear it was not this version. I'm certain a female vocalist covered this song on an album. I can't really find any evidence supporting a female version, but that is what I'm hearing in my head. Amy Grant did do a live version for an album, but I never owned that LP. I'll figure it out someday. In the meantime, Sheppard scores with this sweet pop ballad. I think this song had better potential and probably if a non-country artist had done it, the single might have done much better on the chart. I think it is one of Sheppard's best singles.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Sheppard owned a log home estate near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and in 1988 he opened it up as a B&B called Moon Mountain Lodge. Sheppard kept a suite of rooms at the lodge for himself and when in the area would sometimes stay at the B&B and mingle with guests. Sheppard sold the property in later years.


"Right the First Time" by Gamma

Song#:  0973
Date:  04/03/1982
Debut:  87
Peak:  77
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Gamma did well with their self-titled debut that featured the #60 "I'm Alive." Their follow-up LP, "Gamma 2," actually did better thanks to the group's following, but it failed to produce any chart songs. This first single from their third LP "Gamma 3" got them back on the pop chart for a few weeks. At rock radio it became their best effort reaching #10 on the Mainstream Rock chart. Unfortunately, their label didn't promote the band well and combined with their middling sales stats, it affected the group and they ended up calling it a day. Group founder Ronnie Montrose revived the band in 2000 for one more album (appropriately Gamma 4).

ReduxReview:  The beginning of this song and the verse wouldn't sound out of place on an Alan Parsons Project album. The chorus lacks a little punch, but overall this is a nice rock tune. I could easily include this on an 80s rock playlist. If they had received a little more label support, this could have done better at pop.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Group founder Ronnie Montrose got a major break early in his career when he auditioned for Van Morrison. Montrose got the gig of being the guitarist for what would become Morrison's 1971 "Tupelo Honey" album. That album featured the #28 single "Wild Night," which was later a #3 hit for John Mellencamp (featuring Me'shell Ndegeocello) in 1994


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Without You (Not Another Lonely Night)" by Franke & the Knockouts

Song#:  0972
Date:  04/03/1982
Debut:  89
Peak:  24
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  The Knockouts' self-titled debut album was a winner that featured the #10 hit "Sweetheart." Their follow-up album "Below the Belt" featured this first single that only managed a Top 30 showing. The album did well reaching the Top 50, but bad luck set in when their label, Millennium, closed up shop. They caught a break when RCA (Millennium's distributor) picked them up and their third LP "Makin' the Point" got issued. It would not be a success though and soon after the band broke up. That would leave this song as the group's final chart entry.

ReduxReview:  This song has a great chorus that should have carried it further up the chart. It's not quite as memorable or hooky as "Sweetheart," but it's a well-written tune that deserved a bit more attention. I rediscovered this tune on a "lost" 80s compilation and have enjoyed it since.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Their second album introduced a new drummer. Tico Torres would remain with the group through to their last album. He then joined up with Bon Jovi and has been the drummer for that group since their debut in 1984.


"Teach Me Tonight" by Al Jarreau

Song#:  0971
Date:  04/03/1982
Debut:  90
Peak:  70
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Crossover Jazz, R&B

Pop Bits:  Jarreau reaches back to his jazz vocal roots for this standard that served as the third single from his hit LP "Breakin' Away." The oldie couldn't make much headway on the pop chart, but with a sound that is typically more appreciated by adults, the song got to #19 on the AC chart.

ReduxReview:  Jarreau takes the standard and gives it a nice, updated retro sheen. The modern pop/AC arrangement helps the song along but really it is Jarreau's voice that takes it to another level. It's not the type of song you'd expect to hear on pop radio back then and so the #70 showing is pretty admirable. Most likely the attention it got at AC provided the push.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Sammy Cahn and Gene De Paul in 1953 and has since become known as a pop standard. It has been recorded by many artists over the years with five versions reaching the pop chart in the modern rock era (1955-present). The DeCastro Sisters, a trio of siblings from Cuba, had the biggest hit with the song when their version reached #2 in 1955. The Sisters re-recorded the song as a cha-cha in 1959 and that single reached #76.


Monday, September 1, 2014

"The Beatles Movie Medley" by The Beatles

Song#:  0970
Date:  03/27/1982
Debut:  70
Peak:  12
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The original Stars on 45 "Medley," which hit #1 the previous year, mainly consisted of Beatles songs sung by a John Lennon imitator. With the medley craze still going on, Capitol Records decided to board the money-making train and create their own Beatles medley using the real-deal. The theme would be songs from Beatles films and the wave of familiar nostalgia push the single near the Top 10 peaking at #12. (Oddly, the real-deal "Beach Boys Medley" also reached #12.) It would be the first of two singles from the Beatles to get on the pop chart in the 80s.

ReduxReview:  What can really be said about this? The music is obviously great, but was this Frankenstein approach really necessary? It acts more like a commercial than a legit single (which probably suited Capitol just fine). The only positive I see is that it may have introduced a younger generation to the Beatles who previously were not familiar with the band. Other than that, why bother?

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  The single was released in conjunction with a compilation album titled Reel Music. As the title suggests, the album is a collection of songs the Beatles used in their films. All songs in the medley appear in their full versions on the LP. All these songs appear on their proper albums and therefore would be issued on CD in later years. However, this medley is still the only Beatles single to never appear on CD.


"Still in Saigon" by The Charlie Daniels Band

Song#:  0969
Date:  03/27/1982
Debut:  75
Peak:  22
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Country Rock

Pop Bits:  After a third platinum album with 1980's "Full Moon," it took Daniels a couple of years to issue a follow-up. "Windows" was the new LP and this first single came close to reaching the Top 20. Leaning more towards rock, the song failed to make the country chart but did end up a #2 hit on the Mainstream Rock chart. It would end up being the band's final pop chart song. They would continue on to have more country hits and Daniels himself would return to the pop chart as part of a collaboration single. Aaron Lewis, who fronted the rock band Staind, put out a country EP in 2010 that featured the song "Country Boy." Lewis performed the song with George Jones, Charlie Daniels, and Chris Young. The single reached #50 on the country chart while making a brief appearance at #87 on the pop chart. Despite the low peaks, the digital single was certified gold.

ReduxReview:  The whole Southern rock thing was lost on me and so I pretty much ignored this song. The subject matter (see below) was also slightly beyond my reach as a teenager. It took a few years before I had a better comprehension of the Vietnam War and all that it entailed during and after. I appreciate the lyrics of this song far better now and like the fact that it affected people. It's great when music can do that. If the song had other lyrics I would probably give this a low rating as it is just not my style. However, the story is interesting and I like the fact that many folks were moved by the song. So I'll assess it somewhere in between.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  "Still in Saigon," written by Dan Daley, centered on a Vietnam vet ten years after being in the war. Around this time the subject of veterans from the Vietnam War and their struggles/issues seemed to be getting more attention. The topic spilled over into music and songs such as this one were composed. Others would follow including "Goodnight Saigon" by Billy Joel and "Born in the U.S.A." by Bruce Springsteen. The song was initially pitched to both Bruce Springsteen and Charlie Daniels. Both turned it down, but somehow the song struck Daniels and he ended up recording it.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

"Since You're Gone" by The Cars

Song#:  0968
Date:  03/27/1982
Debut:  78
Peak:  41
Weeks:  9
Genre:  New Wave

Pop Bits:  The Cars had just reached the Top 10 for the first time with their single "Shake It Up" when this follow-up single was issued. It couldn't match the previous song's success and ended up peaking at the unfortunate #41 runner-up spot. It would be their last chart single for a couple years as the group took a bit of a hiatus after the success of the "Shake It Up" album.

ReduxReview:  This opening track from the "Shake It Up" album starts off sounding like something from the B-52's, but it quickly settles into a mid-tempo number that doesn't come close to matching the near-perfect pop of their previous single. It's not a bad song, but I wouldn't peg it as a single. Especially when there were better choices on the LP. It lumbers along with Ric Ocasek throwing in some Bob Dylan-esque vocal flourishes. Not one of my favorites from them.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  There is quite a difference between the new wave pop/rock music of The Cars and hardcore punk, but the two sort of got married together in a way via Cars member Ric Ocasek. During The Cars' hiatus, he produced the first proper album release by the pioneering Washington D.C. punk/reggae band Bad Brains titled "Rock for Life."