Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Don't Run My Life" by Spys

Song#:  1139
Date:  08/14/1982
Debut:  88
Peak:  82
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Spys was a band created by two former (and founding) members of Foreigner, Ed Gagliardi and Al Greenwood. Gagliardi was sacked before the "Head Games" album and Greenwood's firing came after. It seems creative differences played a role in both instances, so the two got together to do their own thing. The band got signed by EMI America and issued a self-titled debut. Unfortunately the single didn't grab a Foreigner-size audience and the LP failed to do much business. The band tried once more with the follow-up LP "Behind Enemy Lines," but it fared even worse. Between the lack of sales and issues with their label, the group finally called it quits.

ReduxReview:  Being in Foreigner, Gagliardi and Greenwood knew their way around keyboard/guitar-driven arena rock and they did a good job with this song. The material may not be as strong as Foreigner's Lou Gramm/Mick Jones compositions, but it's a step above most AOR bands of the time.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The producer of the Spys album is Neil Kernon. Although he has engineered/produced recordings for may rock acts like Dokken and Queensrÿche, possibly Kernon's most successful work came via duo Hall & Oates.  Kernon engineered their hit album "Voices," and then co-produced their next two successes, "Private Eyes" and "H2O."


Friday, January 16, 2015

"Holdin' On" by Tané Cain

Song#:  1138
Date:  08/14/1982
Debut:  89
Peak:  37
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Born in Hawaii, Cain's musical career started there with a stint in the Latin jazz group Sweet Honesty. She made a move to San Francisco later in the 70s and it was there that she met her future husband, Jonathan Cain (The Babys, Journey). She secured a deal with RCA Records and in 1982 issued her self-titled debut album, which was mostly written and co-produced by her husband. The LP's first single, "Danger Zone," failed to make an impression and didn't chart. However, this second single caught on enough to duck just inside the Top 40. Despite positive reviews for the album and a chart single, RCA wasn't impressed with the results and they dropped Cain from the label. It would end up being her one and only album and chart single. Cain would turn to acting beginning with a few horror flicks follow by a long series of sexploitation films. She did do a couple of mainstream films along the way including playing Reese Witherspoon's mom in the two "Legally Blonde" movies.

ReduxReview:  Her music was compared to Pat Benatar's, which is pretty much valid. However, her voice didn't sound like Benatar's (unlike the other Benatar-a-like, Quarterflash's Rindy Ross). Cain had a decent voice for rock and got some good material thanks to Jonathan Cain, so it's a little odd that she didn't catch on a bit more. I can't say that this is an outstanding single, but if it had been paired with a better video for MTV, I think this could have done better.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Although primarily a musician, Cain had acting in her blood. Born Tané McClure, she is the daughter of actor Doug McClure. Although he appeared in many films from the late 50's on, McClure's most famous role was that of the cowboy Trampas on the hit TV show "The Virginian" (1962-1971). Along with Troy Donahue, McClure served as the inspiration for the character Troy McClure on "The Simpsons." Voiced by Phil Hartman, the character was retired after Hartman's death in 1998.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

"In the Driver's Seat" by John Schneider

Song#:  1137
Date:  08/14/1982
Debut:  90
Peak:  72
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  This second single from Schneider's album "Quiet Man" did even less business than it's first single, the #45 "Dreamin'." However, it was Schneider's first chart single to be an original tune rather than a remake. The song was part of several written and recorded for the soundtrack to the TV show "The Dukes of Hazzard." Schneider and a few of his co-stars, including Tom Wopat and Catherine Bach, recorded songs for the soundtrack. This song also made it on to Schneider's "Quite Man" album and was selected for single release. It would be Schneider's last pop chart appearance. However, a label move in 1984 moved him into country music where he would have a run of nine Top 10 song including four #1's.

ReduxReview:  I don't care much for this song but after some dismal outings, at least Schneider finally sounds comfortable with the material. His voice seems to fit country music well and it paid off for him later. He's like a totally different singer here than on the drab pop remakes he was (probably forced into) doing. Still not great, but he was heading in the right direction.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  It probably didn't help Schneider's chart fortunes or popularity when earlier in 1982, he and Wopat walked off "The Dukes of Hazzard" before its fifth season began due to contract/salary disputes. The show was delayed, but eventually soldiered on with look-alike actors portraying Coy and Vance - cousins to Bo and Luke. Ratings took a dive and the show fell way out of the Top 10 where it had resided for the past three seasons. Schneider and Wopat returned for the last four shows of the season, but by then the damage was done. The show limped along for two more seasons before ending.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)" by Michael McDonald

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1136
Date:  08/07/1982
Debut:  69
Peak:  4
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  With McDonald officially separated from The Doobie Brothers, it was time for him to record his debut solo album. "If That's What It Takes" reached #6 on the pop album chart and would be a gold seller thanks in part to McDonald's popularity via the Doobies and this first single that reached the Top 10. It was a solid start that would garner him a Grammy nod for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male. McDonald's sister Maureen provided background vocals on the tune.

ReduxReview:  For his first solo single, McDonald doesn't stray too far from the sound he brought to The Doobie Brothers. That was probably a good choice as the familiar sound seemed to please listeners. Plus, this tune was far better than anything McDonald contributed to the last Doobies album. It's a terrific single that still holds up. McDonald had some further good singles, but this was really his peak moment.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The songwriting credits for this tune originally listed Michael McDonald and Ed Sanford (of The Sanford-Townsend Band, "Smoke from a Distant Fire," #9, 1977). However, soon after the song was released it was noticed that there was a distinct similarity to another song by the same name. The famous songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote "I Keep Forgettin'" in 1962. It was originally recorded by R&B singer Chuck Jackson. The song and arrangement were considered a little ahead of its time (and a bit Bacharach/David-ish too) and the song fizzled reaching #55 at pop. However, it is considered one of Jackson's best recordings and it has been updated by several artists including David Bowie (on his 1984 "Tonight" album). The beginning of each song is nearly identical in melody and before a lawsuit could ensue, Leiber and Stoller were given songwriting credits on McDonald's hit.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"Make Believe" by Toto

Song#:  1135
Date:  08/07/1982
Debut:  78
Peak:  30
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Toto's first single from their "Toto IV" album became their biggest hit to-date. "Rosanna" spent five weeks at #2 and was certified gold. That should have set up their next single to be another success, but that didn't happen. Many of the folks who got hooked on "Rosanna" just didn't connect with this single. The result was a lowly Top 30 showing (barely) that basically killed the momentum of the album. But in a rare twist, Toto gained back their audience (and more) with the album's third single.

ReduxReview:  Thud! Oh man. This one landed like a lead fart. I'm sure there were high hopes for more hits after "Rosanna" became a smash, but why oh why would they choose this tune as the follow-up? Especially when there are better hit-potential songs on the album? I remember very well that I was on the verge of buying "Toto IV" and then this song came out. I changed my mind right away. I didn't like this song at all and found it to be such a disappointment after the thrill of "Rosanna." It sounded like a Supertramp knock-off to me. Their next single prompted me to finally buy the album, but when I played the LP I usually skipped over this song. Why don't we make believe this song didn't happen.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Toto's self-titled debut album in 1978 featured artwork done by Philip Garris. A sword and single iron ring is shown on the cover. The same artist updated the image for "Toto IV" to include three more iron rings, which represented Toto's four albums.


Monday, January 12, 2015

"Still In the Game" by Steve Winwood

Song#:  1134
Date:  08/07/1982
Debut:  81
Peak:  47
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Winwood's second LP, "Arc of a Diver," was a platinum success that reached #3 on the album chart thanks to the #7 hit "While You See a Chance." Unfortunately, his follow-up album "Talking Back to the Night" didn't fare as well. This first single couldn't make a Top 40 showing and subsequent singles failed as well. The album petered out at #28 and failed to even reach gold status. Luckily, it would just be a bump in the road for Winwood and he would come roaring back after a four-year break with his most successful album.

ReduxReview:  As he did with "Arc of a Diver," Winwood takes control and basically records the album all on his own. This time the results were not as good and it seemed to be an effort to replicate the previous album. There were some bright spots, but overall it just didn't move his music forward. This song is pretty good but it just doesn't reach the same giddy pop of "While You See a Chance." If the production was beefed up, it might have been better. As-is, it almost sounds like a demo version rather than the real deal. Sometimes recording/playing everything yourself isn't the best idea. Overall, the song was just not strong enough to make an impact.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In 1983, Winwood co-wrote several songs for an album by Will Powers. Powers was a pseudonym used by celebrity photographer Lynn Goldsmith. She created a kind of concept/comedy album based on self-help gurus and programs. As Will Powers, Goldsmith both sang and did spoke word passages throughout the album (with her voice modulated to mimic a man) about the Will Powers method of self-help. In addition to Winwood, several major artists contributed to the album included Todd Rundgren, Sting, Nile Rodgers, and Carly Simon, who did uncredited lead vocals on the single "Kissing in Confidence" (#17 UK).


Sunday, January 11, 2015

"I Only Want to Be with You" by Nicolette Larson

Song#:  1133
Date:  08/07/1982
Debut:  82
Peak:  53
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Larson's chart efforts after her 1978 hit "Lotta Love" (#8) didn't do much to promote her career. Besides a minor chart duet with Michael McDonald, 1980's "Let Me Go, Love" (#35), the singer just could not find a hit. For her album "All Dressed Up & No Place to Go," Larson tried a different tactic by releasing a cover version of an older hit (see below). It got her back on the chart, but unfortunately it fizzled outside of the Top 50. However, it did reach #15 at AC. The song would end up being her last pop chart entry and the album her last for Warner Bros. A tour with the stage show "Pump Boys and Dinettes" caught the attention of MCA Nashville and they signed her in 1983. Larson would have a few minor country chart entries with one of them, 1986's "That's How You Know When Love's Right" (a duet with Steve Wariner), hitting #9. Larson recorded two more albums before her death in 1997.

ReduxReview:  Larson's rockin' version nicely updates this 60s classic. It's fun and she sings it with a lot of vigor. Larson had a great voice but I don't think she really had great material. She had a terrific debut album, but after that the songs kind of escaped her. Plus she seemed like one of those artists that may have been hard to market - is she pop? Rock? Singer/songwriter? Country? She was fortunate to get Neil Young's "Lotta Love" into the Top 10, but following that up proved to be a challenge. She deserved a bigger career.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) It seemed those in Nashville were so geeked about Larson turning to country music that she won the Academy of Country Music award for Best New Female Vocalist a year before her first MCA Nashville recording was issue.  2) This is a remake of Dusty Springfield's 1964 debut single. Her original version reached #12. The song has hit the pop chart three other times besides Larson's version. The Bay City Rollers hit the same #12 as Springfield in 1976. The Tourists (with Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics) reached #83 in 1980 and later in 1989 Samantha Fox reached #31.