Saturday, October 18, 2014

"The Last Safe Place on Earth" by LeRoux

Song#:  1044
Date:  05/29/1982
Debut:  87
Peak:  77
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's first LP for the RCA label, "Last Safe Place," yielded the #18 hit "Nobody Said It Was Easy." This follow-up single was issued, but it couldn't make much of an impact on the chart. The album would be the peak moment of their career. Following the success, the band's lead singer, Jeff Pollard, decided rock music was not the road for him and left to join a Baptist ministry.

ReduxReview:  This is another one of those rock tunes that sounds like it was the theme from a grade-B comedy movie. It's an okay listen, but there is nothing special that would prompt a better chart showing.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  LeRoux's previous album, "Up," was their third for Capitol Records and was produced by Jai Winding. Winding's father, Kai, was a successful trombonist who played with Benny Goodman and Stan Kenton. Kai had a hit of his own in 1963 with the instrumental version of the song "More," the theme from the movie "Mondo Cane." The single reached #8 on the pop chart.


Friday, October 17, 2014

"Cutie Pie" by One Way

Song#:  1043
Date:  05/29/1982
Debut:  88
Peak:  61
Weeks:  10
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  This Detroit group, led by Al Hudson, first recorded in 1976 as Al Hudson and The Soul Partners. Over the course of four albums, with the last being billed as by Al Hudson and The Partners, the band placed a few lower-peaking singles on the R&B chart. When they moved to the MCA label in 1980, they changed their name to One Way. As before, they consistently put singles on the R&B chart with a pair of #12's being their best showing. They finally broke through to the R&B Top 10 (#4) and onto the pop chart with this second single from their "Who's Foolin' Who" album. It would be the band's peak moment and their only pop chart entry. They would grab four more R&B Top 10's over the next few years before recording their final album in 1988.

ReduxReview:  This mid-tempo jam is fairly pedestrian, but the bass sound/line is pretty fun along with the modified bell. Other than that, there is not much here that sticks in your mind for very long. Overall, I guess I'd say this song is kinda...well...cute.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Original member and vocalist Alicia Myers departed the group for a solo career in 1981. Over the course of four albums for MCA, she had some singles success that included the #5 R&B hit "You Get the Best from Me (Say Say Say)." Her 1982 album "I Fooled You This Time" seemed to be an answer to One Way's LP "Who's Foolin' Who." The play on titles was most likely planned since members of One Way contributed to Myers' album.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

"Take Me Down" by Alabama

Song#:  1042
Date:  05/22/1982
Debut:  69
Peak:  18
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  Alabama continued their streak of #1's with their LP "Mountain Music" and its title-track single. However, the wildly popular single couldn't muster a showing on the pop chart. This second single would do the trick and get them their second best pop chart entry. Of course, it was another #1 country hit and would reach #5 at AC. The album would eventually become their best selling studio album getting certified 5x platinum.

ReduxReview:  Although they were always good at country stompers ("Mountain Music") and old-style waltzes, they really knew how to sell a crossover tune. They understood that the broad appeal of a song like this could open up their music to a wider audience and it certainly worked. Maintaining that audience would be more difficult as the decade moved on, but many of the fans won here stayed on and pushed them into their most popular period. This quality tune got missed the first time around (see below), but Alabama knew exactly what to do with it and did it well.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was originally done by the group Exile. Written by two of its members, the song appeared on their 1980 LP "Don't Leave Me This Way." It was issued as a single, but failed to chart. This came at a time when Exile was beginning a switch from soft rock to country. Known for their #1 hit, 1978's "Kiss You All Over," the group had difficulty securing another hit. After several personnel changes, the band made a distinct switch to country with their self-titled 1983 album. It would be a successful transition with the band getting 10 #1 country hits throughout the decade.


"Still They Ride" by Journey

Song#:  1041
Date:  05/22/1982
Debut:  70
Peak:  19
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Arena Rock

Pop Bits:  Journey's #1 album "Escape" banged out three Top 10 gold records in a row including their biggest hit, "Open Arms" (#2 for six weeks). The band tried for a fourth hit from the LP with this single, but it could only muster a Top 20 showing.

ReduxReview:  Instead of following up "Open Arms" with a solid rock track like "Stone in Love," which was already being played on rock radio, they opted for this ballad. It is definitely not a bad choice and I love this song, but they may have had a better chance at another Top 10 with "Stone." Regardless, it's a fourth fab single in a row for them.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The wing and beetle designs used on the covers of several Journey albums, including "Escape," were courtesy of artist Stanley Mouse. Mouse, along with Alton Kelley, were responsible for a good chunk of the artwork featured on concert posters and other commercial items for The Grateful Dead, including the iconic skull and roses image. Mouse's work graced the covers of Journey albums from 1978's "Infinity" (the band's first platinum album) through to "Escape."


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"Be Mine Tonight" by Neil Diamond

Song#:  1040
Date:  05/22/1982
Debut:  73
Peak:  35
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Diamond would chalk up another Top 40 entry with this third single from his "On the Way to the Sky" album. Although it wouldn't be a significant pop hit, the song would reach #2 on the AC chart.

ReduxReview:  I didn't care for any of the singles from this album. I just remember how out-dated the songs seemed for the time. Years later, I can listen to them differently, but I'm still not a fan of the tunes. This one was the best of the bunch and about the only song on the album worthy of a repeat listen. It's still not quality Diamond, but its sound harkens back to his classic period.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Diamond attended New York University via a fencing scholarship. Sabre was his area of focus for the sport and he was a member of the 1960 NYU team that went on to win that year's NCAA Championship.


"Dancing in the Street" by Van Halen

Song#:  1039
Date:  05/22/1982
Debut:  74
Peak:  38
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Van Halen's one-off stop gap single, a remake of Roy Orbison's "(Oh) Pretty Woman," became an unexpected hit and forced them to quickly record the full album "Diver Down." With four other cover tunes on the LP, it seemed logical to issue one of them as a second single. This remake (see below) didn't do as well, but it was the first time Van Halen grabbed two Top 40 hits from one album.

ReduxReview:  I'm still not on the remake train with these guys, but they can make it a fun ride. I do like that they didn't just do a straight cover of the song but did a very Van Halen arrangement. Again, like "Pretty Woman," it's not a favorite of mine in their catalog, but I don't mind if it comes up in a VH playlist.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of the 1964 original hit by Martha & the Vandellas. This Motown classic, co-written by Marvin Gaye, reached #2 and was the girl group's biggest hit.  2) "Diver Down" featured a version of the 1924 tune "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)." Eddie and Alex Van Halen's father, Jan, played clarinet on the track.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"You Should Hear How She Talks About You" by Melissa Manchester

Top 10 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  1038
Date:  05/22/1982
Debut:  76
Peak:  5
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Pop, Dance

Pop Bits:  The early 80s were not the best time for Manchester. Her 1980 LP "For the Working Girl" was a disappointment and she was on the losing end of a lawsuit she filed against her label, Arista (an attempt to get out of her contract). With LPs owed to Arista, she got back in the studio and recorded the song "Race to the End." The song was a vocal version of the recent #1 film theme "Chariots of Fire" by Vangelis. It was issued as a single, but failed to chart. The tune got included on her next album "Hey Ricky" as was this next single. Forced into full dance-diva mode, balladeer Manchester reluctantly recorded this song. Despite her misgivings, the tune ended up a major success becoming her third Top 10 and her biggest hit on the pop chart. It also nabbed her a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

ReduxReview:  Oh girrl, I loved this song! I think I may have come close to wearing out my 45. It's an insanely catchy pop/dance tune that was perfect for the early 80s. And with Manchester giving it her all (regardless of her initial dislike of the song), it was as close to epic as you could get. It may seem a bit dated now, but the song still soars and it is still hard to resist.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  This song is actually a remake. Singer Charlie Dore, who hit #13 in 1980 with "Pilot of the Airwaves," first recorded this song for her 1981 album "Listen!" Done as a straight pop tune, it was not issued as a single.


"I'll Find My Way Home" by Jon & Vangelis

Song#:  1037
Date:  05/22/1982
Debut:  81
Peak:  51
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop, Electronic

Pop Bits:  This duo's first LP in 1980 produced the #58 pop entry "I Hear You Now." Before issuing a follow-up, Vangelis finished up another project that unexpectedly provided him with a major hit. His score to the film "Chariots of Fire" featured the same-titled single that reached #1 on the pop chart. The album also hit #1 for four weeks and the week after it's run at the top, this first single from Jon & Vangelis' LP "The Friends of Mr. Cairo" debuted on the singles chart. The added exposure provided by Vangelis' movie hit most likely gave a boost to this single, but it wasn't quite enough to enter the top half of the chart. However, it did become the duo's best charting single (and their last).

ReduxReview:  Vangelis seemed to really like tinkly keyboard sounds. Many of his tunes around this time were loaded with them. This one is no exception. With a mechanical chugging that is almost matched by Jon Anderson's staccato delivery, this tune moves forward with factory precision. It's not a great single, but there is something alluring about the song. It's almost sounds like a fancy music box. Not everything Jon & Vangelis did was good, but it certainly was interesting.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The title track to "The Friends of Mr. Cairo" was a tribute to film noir movies of the 30s and 40s. The film most referenced in the track is "The Maltese Falcon," with Mr. Cairo being the role Peter Lorre played in the movie. The track features impressions of actors like Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre. Although not a hit in any other country, the track surprisingly reached #1 in Canada.  2) The "Friends" album also included the original track "State of Independence." While not a hit for Jon & Vangelis, the track was covered by Donna Summer and would reach #41 later in 1982.


Monday, October 13, 2014

"Early in the Morning" by The Gap Band

Song#:  1036
Date:  05/22/1982
Debut:  83
Peak:  24
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  This outfit's previous album, "The Gap Band III," was their best showing to-date reaching #1 on the R&B chart and #16 pop. They continued to refine their sound and it resulted in the most successful LP of their career, the appropriately titled "The Gap Band IV." This first single would be one of two R&B chart toppers from the album and it became their biggest hit at pop. The LP would be another #1 R&B success, going platinum, while reaching #14 at pop.

ReduxReview:  This two-chord funk jam works remarkably well. Usually monotonous tunes like this turn me off, but I think the driving synth bass keeps things interesting and the chorus is solid. Although they did some nice ballads, it was tasty funk tunes like this that kept their career going.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In the early days of  The Gap Band, guitarist Tuck Andress was hired and performed with them. After several years sitting in with the band, Tuck met vocalist Patti Cathcart and the duo (who would marry in 1983) would end up getting signed to the fledgling new age label Windham Hill. Their debut LP was issued in 1988 and it was a success hitting #8 on the Contemporary Jazz chart. Several more successful albums followed. Andress' niece is musician Anne Clark, aka St. Vincent. She would open for Tuck & Patti early in her career.


"Happy Man" by The Greg Kihn Band

Song#:  1035
Date:  05/22/1982
Debut:  86
Peak:  62
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock, Power Pop

Pop Bits:  Kihn finally got a hit on the chart with "The Breakup Song (They Don't Write 'Em)" (#15) from his sixth album, "Rockihnroll." He tried to keep some of the momentum going with this first single off of his next LP, "Kihntinued," but the tune could barely get out of the bottom third of the chart. It was a slight bump in the road, but he would rebound in a big way the following year.

ReduxReview:  This kind of showcases what Kihn does best - around 3 minutes of punchy power pop. His material is always solid and usually quite catchy. Much of it may not linger in your mind for long but that's okay. Just listen, enjoy, rinse, and repeat. While this song doesn't match the greatness of "The Breakup Song," it's a worthy single that should have done a bit better.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The Band's keyboardist, Gary Phillips, was previously in the San Francisco rock band Earth Quake. They issued two albums for A&M beginning in 1971. Their manager, Matthew Kaufman, wasn't happy with how A&M was handling the band, so he went off and founded Beserkley Records. Earth Quake released four more LPs on the Beserkley label before breaking up in 1980. The meeting of Phillips and Greg Kihn eventually led to Kihn getting signed to Beserkley, which served as his home record label from 1976 to 1985. Phillips would join Kihn's band in 1983.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

"Angel in Blue" by J. Geils Band

Song#:  1034
Date:  05/22/1982
Debut:  87
Peak:  40
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Geils' third single from their hit album "Freeze Frame" hit the Top 40 - just barely. It spent a couple of weeks in the #40 position before starting its decent. While not as successful as the previous singles, "Centerfold" (#1 for 6 weeks) and "Freeze-Frame" (#4), it helped extend the life of the album which ended up going platinum.

ReduxReview:  I don't think J. Geils Band were known for their deep lyrical content (members Peter Wolf and Seth Justman wrote or co-wrote most of their songs), but this one by Justman is certainly an exception. It reads like a follow-up to the young woman in "Centerfold." It's a bit grim, but the scope is almost Springsteen-esque and it stands out in their catalog. I don't think it makes a good single, but it certainly is a quality song.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song features a pair of R&B stars. Cissy Houston (Whitney's mother) and Luther Vandross (who was just getting his solo career off the ground) provide backing vocals for this tune.