Saturday, May 30, 2015

"The Clapping Song" by Pia Zadora

Song#:  1273
Date:  12/11/1982
Debut:  90
Peak:  36
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Pop, Novelty

Pop Bits:  While Zadora's acting career was not winning over critics or fans, her music was getting some good attention with her debut album spawning the #45 single "I'm in Love Again." This next single did even better and grabbed Zadora her first and only Top 40 entry. The song was not on her debut album, but recorded for the soundtrack to her critically reviled film "The Lonely Lady." The song would eventually appear on her next solo album, 1984's "Let's Dance Tonight."

ReduxReview:  I really hate to admit this, but I don't mind this song. Obviously the original is better (see below) but I do like that this was put into a Bo Diddley-ish beat that reminded me of "I Want Candy." A song like this could have easily been taken over the top, but it is saved by a nice arrangement. It's nothing great, but considering the singer and the song, not bad.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Zadora's 1984 single "Rock It Out" failed to reach the chart, but it did get her a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female.  2) This is a remake of the 1965 hit by Shirley Ellis. Her original reached #8 and served as a follow-up to her novelty smash hit "The Name Game" (#3, 1964). Although considered an original song written by Lincoln Chase, "The Clapping Song" does include a section of lyrics that were first heard in the 1939 song "Little Rubber Dolly," which was recorded by the Light Crust Doughboys.


Friday, May 29, 2015

"Bad Boy" by Ray Parker, Jr.

Song#:  1272
Date:  12/04/1982
Debut:  70
Peak:  35
Weeks:  12
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  After disbanding his group Raydio, Ray Parker, Jr.'s debut solo album became a hit thanks to its #4 title track single "The Other Woman." For a follow-up, his label (Arista) seemed to think it was a good time for a....greatest hits album? Yup. "Greatest Hits," credited only to Ray Parker, Jr., was issued. It included his first solo singles, two new songs, and was filled out with hits from Parker's Raydio days. Yet even though those hits were originally credited to Raydio (or Ray Parker, Jr. & Raydio), there was not one mention of the group on the LP. The former band members were relegated to just individual musician credits. I guess Parker had the right to do this since it was his music, but it sure seems like he and/or Arista decided to erase some history. Kind of a crappy move. But they had records to sell so they lifted this new song from the album as its first single. It stopped just inside the pop Top 40 while reaching #6 at R&B. Oh, the album petered out at #51 pop/#17 R&B and failed to receive any sales certification. Darn.

ReduxReview:  You know, I was never really a fan of Parker. I like a couple of Raydio songs and "The Other Woman," but there was something I just didn't like about him. And the whole "Ghostbusters" fiasco left a bad taste. Whether it was him or Arista (Clive Davis) who decided to completely ignore Raydio for this LP, it just furthers my dislike. As for the music, this jam is okay musically, but the lyrics kill the song. "Break out the leather baby?" "I'll do the dishes baby?" Yeesh.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Parker was an early proponent of music videos and for his song "The Other Woman," he actually made two videos - one performance, one concept. The concept one was horror-based and featured vampires and skeletons around a cemetery and creepy mansion (almost a precursor to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video). However, MTV refused to play the concept video because Parker's girlfriend and the female vampires who turn him into a vampire were white. The channel thought the interracial pairings were too much to show at the time so they opted to only play the performance video.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

"Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" by Culture Club

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1271
Date:  12/04/1982
Debut:  80
Peak:  2
Weeks:  25
Genre:  New Wave, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  This English quartet initially wasn't having much success as their first two singles failed to garner any attention when released in the UK. But then this last-ditch third single got issued and voilĂ  - Culture Club arrived. The song hit #1 in the UK and that lead to the single being issued in the US. The song got off to a slow start, but it picked up speed and landed in the #2 spot for three weeks. With the flamboyant, androgynous Boy George out in front, the group grabbed headlines and lots of attention. But despite their unique look, the music took center stage and this song got them a Grammy nod for Best Pop Vocal Group. Their debut album, "Kissing to Be Clever," would reach #14 and become a platinum best-seller.

ReduxReview:  This song was massive in the spring of '83 and the one distinct memory I have of it was hearing it while riding in my brother's orange VW bug in Ft. Lauderdale. I was spending spring break down there and he had picked me up from the airport (he was living in Lauderdale at the time). For some reason, that slight reggae beat along with the sights of the city created a memory. It's a brilliant song and it still sounds great today.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  In addition to the above mentioned Grammy nod, Culture Club was also nominated for Best New Artist, which they ended up winning. In true, outrageous Boy George fashion, when the group accepted the award live via satellite during the show, he famously said "Thanks America, you've got style, you've got taste, and you know a good drag queen when you see one." Although his acceptance speech wasn't necessarily controversial, it certainly raised the eyebrows of a semi-repressed early 80s America - and Grammy host John Denver.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"Cross My Heart" by Lee Ritenour

Song#:  1270
Date:  12/04/1982
Debut:  82
Peak:  69
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Crossover Jazz, Pop

Pop Bits:  Jazz artist and session player Ritenour made a move towards the mainstream with his LP "Rit," which featured the #15 pop hit "Is It You?" He decided to keep on that path with his follow-up "Rit/2." This first single, with vocals by Eric Tagg (who also sang "Is It You?"), didn't click at radio or with record buyers and that kept it in the bottom third of the chart. It would be Ritenour's final pop chart entry. He would do one more pop-oriented album before returning fully to Contemporary Jazz. Ritenour's jazz LPs did very well and he won a Grammy along the way.

ReduxReview:  The warm jazz chords, funky synth bass line, and smooth groove just scream West Coast pop. The song goes down easy, but it's just not very memorable. It's an inoffensive piece of pop that would provide a lovely background to your grocery shopping.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  As the 90s started, Ritenour became part of a contemporary jazz "supergroup" called Fourplay. Consisting of Ritenour, Bob James, Nathan East, and Harvey Mason, the quartet issued their debut LP in 1991. It was an immediate success on the Jazz chart reaching #1. The album got a major boost thanks to the single "After the Dance," which reached #2 on the R&B chart. It was a remake of the Marvin Gaye tune which hit #14 R&B/#74 pop in 1976. Fourplay's version featured vocals by El DeBarge. Fourplay's next two albums were also #1 Jazz hits, but after those and a "best of" package, Ritenour decided to leave the group. In 1997, he was replaced by Larry Carlton.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"After I Cry Tonight" by Lanier & Co.

Song#:  1269
Date:  12/04/1982
Debut:  84
Peak:  48
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  This R&B group from Jackson, Tennessee, began in 1968 as The Jacksonians. Featuring Faris and Fenoye Lainer (and managed by their father Faris Sr.), the band made a few singles for a couple of labels, but nothing hit. Adding another Lanier, Marlon, they basically spent the 70s backing many other established Southern R&B artists. Another chance for stardom came via the LARC label. As Lanier & Co., they recorded and issued this single that became their first charting song. It reached #26 on the R&B chart while just missing out on the pop Top 40. The band would not hit the pop chart again but they would grab a couple more minor R&B entries. Their recordings never fully paid off, but they continued to work and perform through 1991.

ReduxReview:  Steeped in a smooth late-70s R&B sound, this may have been a little too retro for the 80s. However, some folks like Larry Graham were having success with a similar sound, so it wasn't out of the question. It's a nice sultry jam with some solid vocals by Faris Lanier. It doesn't surprise me that this didn't fully catch on, but it's a quality single that is worthy of a few spins.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The song's writer, Phillip Mitchell, has written several R&B hits including "Starting All Over Again" (1972, #4 R&B/#19 pop) by Mel and Tim and Millie Jackson's biggest single "Hurt So Good" (1973, #3 R&B/#24 pop). As songwriters tend to do, Mitchell tried for his own solo career. He had five low-charting R&B entries with the best being 1978's "One on One" (#32) on which he was billed as Prince Phillip Mitchell.


Monday, May 25, 2015

"Painted Pictures" by Commodores

Song#:  1268
Date:  12/04/1982
Debut:  85
Peak:  70
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  With Lionel Richie on the verge of leaving permanently for his solo career, the Commodores took a step back to plan their next move. In the meantime, a stop-gap compilation was ordered and the album "All the Great Hits" was issued. In addition to eight of their hits, two new songs were included, "Painted Pictures" and "Reach High." Neither song was written by Richie nor did they feature his vocals. This first single was issued and it did a little business at R&B reaching #19, but it couldn't make any headway at pop. "Reach High" was also released as a single but it failed to make either chart. In turn, the hits package was a bust and it was unable to chart. It did not set the group up very well for post-Richie success.

ReduxReview:  I'll describe this using the title of another Commodores song..."Oh No." In fact, I'd probably say, oh hell no. If this was the best the post-Richie Commodores could offer up, they were in serious trouble. Spoken word sections, cheezy synths, and droning vocals do not make a hit single. Plus, where is the chorus? This thing is just a mess. Yeah, Richie wrote most of their big hits, but not all, so the band had some legit writers. It just seems by this point they were falling apart.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  The song "Reach High" also served as the theme to a TV show. The Lynn Redgrave sitcom "Teachers Only" lasted two seasons on NBC in 1982-83. The first season was not highly successful, but it did get renewed and with several changes its second season kicked off in February 1983. As part of the changes, this Commodores song served as the opening theme. Unfortunately the show did not perform well and was cancelled after its second season. The show also featured Jean Smart who would go on to much success a few years later in "Designing Women."


Sunday, May 24, 2015

"On the Loose" by Saga

Song#:  1267
Date:  12/04/1982
Debut:  86
Peak:  26
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  It took a couple albums before this Canadian prog-rock band was able to make some headway. Their third album, 1980's "Silent Knight," finally got them on the Canadian chart while generating some interest in other countries. This set them up well for 1981's "Worlds Apart." The album featured their first Canadian Top 40 hit with "Wind Him Up" (#22) and that allowed the LP to reach the same peak. It would take over a year for the album to catch on in the States, but it finally did thanks to this single that hit #3 on the Mainstream Rock chart. The song then crossed over to pop and reached the Top 30. This album would reach #29 and eventually become a gold-seller.

ReduxReview:  I did like this song back in the day but didn't buy it or even thing to do so. Flash forward years later when I heard this song on a compilation and immediately fell in love. How could you not? It has about everything you'd want in a rock song - solid vocals, an urgent feel, keys and guitar licks that make it sound kind of prog-rock-y, and a great verse/chorus. They almost sounds like a more serious Loverboy. I'm glad I got to rediscover this gem.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Beginning with their self-titled 1978 debut album, Saga would include a couple of songs where "Chapter" and a number would follow the title, such as "No Regrets (Chapter 5)" from the "Worlds Apart" album. Appearing out of sync on various albums ("Worlds Apart" had Chapter 5 and 8), when collected these created a song cycle about an insect-like alien race who finds Albert Einstein's brain, brings it to life in a new body, and then uses Einstein to bring understanding between them and humans. Of course, it is meant to save humans from destroying themselves as well. Chapters appeared on Saga's first four albums and then continued with their 1999 album "Full Circle." A total of 16 Chapters were release over various albums but were never compiled into one full work. However, in 2003 Saga played a concert where they performed all the Chapter songs in order. It was recorded and released in 2005 as "The Chapters Live."