Saturday, April 4, 2015

"The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

Song#:  1217
Date:  10/16/1982
Debut:  84
Peak:  62
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rap, Hip Hop

Pop Bits:  In the late 70s, this group was arguably the most popular rap outfit on the streets of New York without having recorded a single note. After the Sugarhill Gang broke through to the charts with "Rapper's Delight," they took their work to the studio and got a single released. They then signed with Sylvia Robinson on her Sugarhill label and released several more singles including the #19 R&B hit "Freedom." But their shining moment came with this title track to their album "The Message" (#4 R&B). With content that commented on social and political issues, the song's influence would be felt for decades and would help shape rap music. In 2012, Rolling Stone selected this classic as the greatest hip hop song of all time.

ReduxReview:  "Rapper's Delight" took rap to the masses, but I think most modern day rap can be traced back to this song. The format and content would influence so many other artists. There are only a handful of artists that can be considered pioneers of a whole genre and these guys were at the forefront. Like the Sugarhill Gang, they didn't last that long as a group but what they did resonated for years. I'm still not the biggest fan of the genre, but I do recognize that this was a pretty bold statement and consider it one of the best early rap hits.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Although credited to the entire group, the song was written (with Sylvia Robinson) and recorded by session musician Duke Bootee and DJ Melle Mel.  2) Members Melle Mel and The Kidd Creole were the first DJs to dub themselves MC's, which stands for "master of ceremonies."  3) They were the first hip hop group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Friday, April 3, 2015

"Attack of the Name Game" by Stacy Lattisaw

Song#:  1216
Date:  10/16/1982
Debut:  86
Peak:  70
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B, Rap, Novelty

Pop Bits:  This teenager was doing quite well with three R&B Top 10's and two pop Top 30's to her name including the #2 R&B hit remake "Love on a Two Way Street" (#26 pop). Her fourth LP, "Sneakin' Out," extended the streak when "Don't Throw It All Away" reached #9 at R&B. The song failed to reach the pop chart, but this second single would do the trick. It didn't spend a lot of time on the chart, but would do better at R&B getting to #14.

ReduxReview:  Hmm. Well, I guess this is kind of cute for kids, but other than that...yikes. For something that has "attack" in the title, it sounds pretty lazy. The tempo probably had to be set in order to do the rap/rhyme/game, but it still could have sounded a bit more upbeat. Like many a novelty song, I only needed to hear this once. And that was plenty.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although not a remake, the idea for this song has its roots in a hit from 1964. Shirley Ellis reached #3 that year with "The Name Game," a novelty-style song that uses a rhyming game to create variations on a person's name.  2) Mariah Carey used a sample of this song in her 1999 #1 hit "Heartbreaker."


Thursday, April 2, 2015

"Talk Talk" by Talk Talk

Song#:  1215
Date:  10/16/1982
Debut:  90
Peak:  75
Weeks:  7
Genre:  New Wave, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This UK band issued a couple of minor singles when first signed to EMI, which included a version of this song, before launching their full-length self-titled album. The LP's first single, "Today," became their first success reaching #14. Then a remix version of this song that appeared on the album was reissued as the second single. This time around it hit #23 on the chart and then proceeded to become the song that introduced the band to the US. Although the single only made it a quarter of the way up the chart, it got the band's foot in the door and set them up for more success with their second album.

ReduxReview:  This is one of those odd songs that I kind of like but a few days from now if you ask me to hum a few bars, I will have totally forgotten the song. I'm not sure why. It just does not stick with me even after several spins. They shared a similar sound to their label mates Duran Duran (and shared a producer), but their brand of the new romantic sound just wasn't as catchy or memorable as Duran Duran's.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Prior to becoming Talk Talk, songwriter/vocalist Mark Hollis was in a group called The Reaction. They recorded the song "Talk Talk Talk Talk." The song title was shortened and Hollis once again recorded it with his new band of the same name.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"Baby, Come to Me" by Patti Austin with James Ingram

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1214
Date:  10/16/1982
Debut:  91
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  28
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The mega-popular soap "General Hospital" was no stranger to promoting music. In 1979, the use of Herb Alpert's "Rise" in the show pushed the instrumental to #1. And although his music wasn't in the show, Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl" got a boost thanks to his popular character. Then came this song. Initially released as a single in April of '82, the duet failed to capture an audience and peaked at #73. Later in the year the tune showed up on "General Hospital" as the love song for Luke and Holly. The network got so many calls about the song that Austin's label decided to reissue the single. This time around the single clicked and took off for #1. It also reached #1 at AC and #9 R&B. It would be Austin's first and only pop Top 10 hit.

ReduxReview:  I don't have much to add from what I wrote in the original post. I will say that Austin's a great vocalist, but Ingram really outshines her on the tune. He rips it up.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In addition to this song, Austin's album "Every Home Should Have One" contain one other #1 song. The opening track "Do You Love Me" (in combination with another track "The Genie") was a hit in the clubs and reached #1 on the dance chart. It also peaked at #24 on the R&B chart. Unfortunately it did not chart at pop.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)" by Donald Fagen

Song#:  1213
Date:  10/09/1982
Debut:  56
Peak:  26
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Soft Rock, Jazz-Rock

Pop Bits:  After his 1981 break-up with his Steely Dan partner Walter Becker, Fagen turned to a solo career and recorded his debut album "The Nightfly." Although not necessarily a concept album, its lyrical content reflected Fagen's life and outlook growing up in the suburbs in the late 50s/early 60s. This first single got off to an excellent start debuting at a high #56. However, Fagen's sophisticated pop/jazz style was not really what the kids were diggin' at the time and the song faded once it got inside the Top 30. It did much better at AC where the song peaked at #8. The song also spent a little time the R&B chart reaching #54. The album would be successful reaching #11 and Grammy voters rewarded it with a nomination for Album of the Year. This song also got Fagen nods for Song of the Year and Pop Male Vocalist.

ReduxReview:  Not being a fan of Steely Dan to begin with, this one was lost on my quite quickly. In fact, I though it was kind of a dorky song. I remember thinking - this is what smart people must listen to. Well, times change and I've learned a lot more since then so I have a better understanding and appreciation for this song now. I wouldn't call it a favorite in any way, but I can easily groove with its smooth sound. (Although I have to say I still kind of consider this nerd-pop...)

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia: Fagen sets a specific timeline for this song via its title. "I.G.Y." refers to the International Geophysical Year, a project that took place from July 1957 to December 1958. The project was meant to promote international collaboration on certain categories of earth sciences. The Cold War had spread to the scientific world and this project was a way for countries to work together for the greater good. Sixty-seven countries would participate including the US and the Soviet Union. It was during this time that the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1. Fagen's song focuses on the hopefulness this project projected for the future.


Monday, March 30, 2015

"Truly" by Lionel Richie

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  1212
Date:  10/09/1982
Debut:  60
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, R&B

Pop Bits:  As Richie's days with The Commodores was beginning to wrap up, he recorded a solo album that was set for release in the fall of 1982. Prior to that, his name ended up all over the place thanks to his #1 duet with Diana Ross, "Endless Love" (#1, 10 weeks). That set him up well for this first single from his self-titled debut album. Keeping with the soft ballads he had become known for with The Commodores ("Still," "Three Times a Lady"), this song was an instant smash that vaulted to #1 at pop and AC. It also spent nine weeks at #2 on the R&B chart. It was the song that fully launched his solo career and the first of twelve consecutive pop Top 10's.

ReduxReview:  I was completely head over heels for this song when it came out. I remember falling in love with it the first time I heard it on the radio. The single wasn't out in stores yet so I stalked the radio with my tape recorder until it came on again. I think I got it recorded the next morning before school and then kept playing it over and over. Oddly, I haven't heard this song in a long while. I kind of got over the whole Lionel Richie thing when "Dancing on the Ceiling" came out and didn't really look back. Hearing it now, there's still some treacly goodness going on and it is masterfully done, but I'm just not as enthralled with it as I once was. I guess you could say I still kinda love it, but I'm not "truly in love" with it any longer.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In addition to being his first #1 solo smash, the song also earned Richie a Grammy award. He won for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

"Heartbreaker" by Dionne Warwick

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1211
Date:  10/09/1982
Debut:  68
Peak:  10
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, R&B

Pop Bits:  Warwick's two LP's that followed her 1979 platinum debut album for Arista, "Dionne," were not nearly as successful and failed to even go gold. She needed a new approach and one came to her via a conversation between Clive Davis and the Bee Gees' Barry Gibb. Gibb expressed that he loved Warwick's music so Davis got the Bee Gees and Warwick together to discuss a possible project. They hit it off and the brothers began to develop a full album for the singer. Co-produced by Barry Gibb, the LP "Heartbreaker" featured six songs written by the Bee Gees plus three others co-written by Barry Gibb. This first title-track single got things off to a great start as it returned her to the pop Top 10 while hitting #1 at AC (and #14 R&B). Thanks in part to the participation of the Bee Gees, the album and single became Warwick's biggest successes in the UK reaching #3 and #2 respectively.

ReduxReview:  The Bee Gees have a distinct style of writing songs and even when those songs go to other artists, you can usually recognize their work. Burt Bacharach's songs are often like that as well. "Heartbreaker" is one that has an unmistakable Bee Gees stamp to it, thanks in part to the brothers' background vocals. Warwick, this song, and the Bee Gees were an absolutely perfect fit. The brothers updated her sound in just the right way and Warwick responded well to the change. I loved this song right off the bat and I think it holds up well despite the 80s production.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Warwick stated later that she really didn't initially care for the song "Heartbreaker." But she knew a Bee Gees song would be a good career move and trusted the brothers when they said it would be a hit.  2) Like many songwriters, the Bee Gees recorded demos of songs to present to other artists. For the nine songs included on Warwick's album, the brothers recorded their own versions. These songs were passed around among collectors for years until officially released on iTunes in 2006 as "The Heartbreaker Sessions" under Barry Gibbs' name. Also released at the same time were sessions for albums they wrote/produced for Barbra Streisand ("Guilty"), Kenny Rogers ("Eyes That See in the Dark"), and Diana Ross ("Eaten Alive").