Saturday, July 4, 2015

"Fall in Love with Me" by Earth, Wind & Fire

Song#:  1317
Date:  01/22/1983
Debut:  78
Peak:  17
Weeks:  16
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Earth, Wind & Fire shed their 70s sound and moved into the 80s with their album "Raise!" It was very successful (#5 pop, #1 R&B) reaching platinum status thanks in part to the #3 gold single "Let's Groove" (#1 R&B). For their follow-up album, "Powerlight," they continued to dress up their signature sound in 80s colors. It wasn't quite as well-received this time around with this first single only making a Top 20 pop showing. It got to #4 at R&B, but even that wasn't quite enough to make the album a smash hit. It would be their first album since 1974 to miss the pop Top 10. At R&B it would be their first since 1972 to miss hitting #1 or #2. The LP would be certified gold, but it was a definite drop that signaled a decline in popularity.

ReduxReview:  The title of this song wasn't familiar to me, but since it peaked at #17, I know I would have heard it for several weeks on the American Top 40 show. So I thought I'd recognize it when I played it. Nope. Didn't remember a lick of it. I can't say I'm surprised though. There is not a lot here to grab onto. It sounds like a nice album track from the band's heyday with some 80s flourishes added. The only standout section is the guitar solo. Other than that, it's just an average EWF effort.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although this was not one of their most successful singles, it was enough to grab the attention of Grammy voters. The band received a Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group nomination for this song.


Friday, July 3, 2015

"Come on Eileen" by Dexys Midnight Runners

#1 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  1316
Date:  01/22/1983
Debut:  79
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  23
Genre: Pop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  This English pop band headed up by Kevin Rowland broke through on the UK chart with their 1980 #1 single "Geno." But it wasn't until this single from the band's second LP, "Too-Rye-Ay," that US audiences caught on to Rowland and his rag-tag bunch. The Celtic folk/pop/soul tune hit the top spot in the US and the UK. The unique single was a new sound for pop radio, as was the band's country-disheveled look. It all made for a very distinct moment in 80's music that, unfortunately, the band could never live up to. Besides a very minor second single, they never charted again in the US and it got them tagged as a one-hit wonder. The story was different in the UK where they had another Top 10 and three other Top 20 hits before calling it a day in 1986.

ReduxReview:  I can't tell you how much I loved this song back then. I was totally obsessed with it. The album is still one of my all-time favorite summer jams. The song was odd, the band was strange, their blue-eyed soul/folk/pop sound was really left of center. I dug it all. Whether you love it or hate it, the song is an 80's classic. I'm not so over the moon with this song as I once was, but I still dig it and the nostalgia factor is through the roof with this one.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) There is no one named Dexy in the band. The name is derived from drug dextroamphetamine. Known by its brand name Dexedrine, it was something commonly taken by those in UK's Northern Soul club scene to keep awake and dancing all night. Dexys refers to the drug while Midnight Runners is in reference to the energy it gives someone to keep going all night.  2) This was the spoiler song. It prevented Michael Jackson from having back-to-back #1 singles. "Come On Eileen" replaced "Billie Jean" at the top of the chart. Then the following week, "Beat It" went to #1. If Jackson had gotten back-to-back #1's, it would have been the first time an artist had done that since The Beatles did it in 1964. R&B group Boyz II Men would be the ones to break the drought in 1994.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

"Lies" by Thompson Twins

Song#:  1315
Date:  01/22/1983
Debut:  80
Peak:  30
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  They were not twins and none of them were named Thompson. But the trio known as the Thompson Twins broke through on the pop chart with this single from their second US album "Side Kicks." Formed in 1977, the British band started as a quartet and expanded to six for their 1981 UK debut album. It failed to get attention, but a single from their second UK album did help get them on the map. "In the Name of Love" crossed over to the US and became a #1 dance hit. This led to their US debut album of the same name. For their next LP, they trimmed the band down to the trio of Tom Baily, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway. "Side Kicks" (titled "Quick Step and Side Kick" in the UK) started off well with this first single that got the trio their first US Top 40 hit. It also reached #1 on the US dance chart. The UK wasn't as enamored with the band yet and the song petered out at #67.

ReduxReview:  Although I like this song now, I was not a fan back in the day. That whiny chorus of "lies, lies, lies, yea-ah" totally annoyed me. It sounded like self-righteous grade school kids taunting some poor soul. You know the ones. The tattlers who try to suck up to the teachers. Ugh. I hated those kids. In addition to the chorus, I thought the synth lines that imitated Japanese and Egyptian music were cheezy and dorky. Bleh. Yeah, I pretty much ignored this song. But the trio won me over later and this song sounded less annoying as time went on. It's not one of my favorites of theirs, but at least it was the song that lead to better things.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The band's name was derived from the two detectives, Thomson and Thompson, that appeared in the comic series "The Adventures of Tintin." The Belgian comic, which began in 1929, was wildly popular in Europe. The detectives made their first appearance in a 1932 storyline. The Tintin comics did not catch on as well in the US despite attempts to publish Americanized versions of the serials. Many folks remained unfamiliar with Tintin until the release of Steven Spielberg's 2011 animated film "The Adventures of Tintin."


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

"Love Me Again" by The John Hall Band

Song#:  1314
Date:  01/22/1983
Debut:  86
Peak:  64
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After leaving the group Orleans, Hall found some success with his new band when their album "All of the Above" featured the #42 single "Crazy (Keep on Falling)." The album and single were not major successes, but it allowed him to record the follow-up LP "Search Party." This first single didn't make much of an impression and it disappeared soon along with the album. It would be Hall's final pop chart entry.

ReduxReview:  This is a good rock song with a solid chorus. I don't think it was destined to be a hit, but I think it should have done a bit better. The unfortunate thing is this type of rock wasn't selling at the time. Other similar artists, like Michael Stanley Band, were struggling to get airplay when the likes of Duran Duran and Michael Jackson were the flavors o' tha day.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Hall continued to work in music and wrote songs for several artist. In 1985, he co-wrote a song with country artist Steve Wariner. "You Can Dream of Me" was issued as the first single from Wariner's album "Life's Highway." It would reach #1 on the country singles chart.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls

Song#:  1313
Date:  01/22/1983
Debut:  88
Peak:  46
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Dance

Pop Bits:  In 1977, Martha Wash and Izora Armstead began to work as backup singers for disco/soul singer Sylvester. He dubbed the duo as Two Tons o' Fun and it wasn't long before they started to get a following of their own. This was not lost on Sylvester's producer, Harvey Fuqua, who got the duo a recording contract. As Two Tons O' Fun, they recorded a self-titled album that spawned three consecutive #2 dance chart hits. Unfortunately, the songs didn't make the pop chart and only one, "Just Us," got on the R&B chart (#29). The ladies would make a label change and move over to Columbia where they began work with producer Paul Jabara. He had written a song in 1979 with Paul Shaffer (of David Letterman fame) that they shopped to mega stars like Donna Summer, Cher, and Barbra Streisand. No one bit, so Jabara got Wash and Armstead on board and recorded "It's Raining Men." The song inspired the duo's new name of The Weather Girls and it wasn't long before they had their first #1 dance hit. The song proved to have some crossover appeal and got to #34 at R&B while getting close to the pop Top 40. Their album "Success" contained some other popular tracks, but it was this one that got all the attention. It would be their only pop chart entry. The duo would record one more album before splitting. However, this song quickly became a gay anthem and it continues to be popular. Armstead resurrected The Weather Girls in Europe with her daughter, but that came to an end when Armstead died in 2004.

ReduxReview:  Wow! Where do I start on this one. It really is...wait for it...legendary! If I'm being completely honest, I'm probably the only gay guy in the world who doesn't like this song. It's just so corny. I know it's supposed to be silly and campy, but I've never been a fan of songs like this. However, I realize it is an iconic anthem so I do have to give it props. These days I don't mind it so much, but if you were out with me and this song came on, you'd probably notice a quick eye roll from me. Although I can't find any evidence of it, I'm sure that I saw Two Tons O' Fun on The Gong Show back in the day. As The Weather Girls, I think my brother saw them in Miami. They were really popular on the club circuit. I'm torn on rating this. On one hand, I'm not a fan of the song. On the other, it's a classic that has lived on far longer than most chart singles and continues to be an anthem. I guess I'll split the difference and call it good. I await your hate mail...

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) After The Weather Girls split, Martha Wash found herself singing on various house/dance tracks. Italian group Black Box hired her to do vocals on songs meant just for the clubs. However, the songs were commercially released and Black Box ended up with two Top 10 pop hits, "Everybody, Everybody" (#8, 1990) and "Strike It Up" (#8, 1991). Wash was uncredited and the videos for the songs featured someone else lip syncing. The same thing happened with C+C Music Factory's 1990 #1 hit "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)." Wash sang the song yet was not credited and Zelma Davis famously lip synced it in the video. Wash sued both groups and RCA for credit and royalties. She settled out of court and with that settlement came a recording contract. Wash issued a self-titled debut album in 1993 for RCA that featured two #1 dance hits.  2) Wash did a follow-up to this song in 1998. She and RuPaul recorded "It's Raining Men...The Sequel." It reached #22 on the dance chart.


"The One That Really Matters" by Survivor

Song#:  1312
Date:  01/22/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  74
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This song became the third charting single from Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" album. The LP did well thanks to the mega-success of the title track. However, it seemed to be lacking follow-up material with "American Heartbeat" modestly getting into the Top 20 (#17) and this single barely getting out of the basement. It was going to be tough for them to live up to the legacy of "Eye" and indeed they did stumble with their next album. They would eventually have a major comeback late in '84 and erase any doubts surrounding their hit-making abilities.

ReduxReview:  There is nothing bad about this song. I just find it to be a bland rock track. There is nothing here that would capture my attention if I heard it on the radio. The band is more than capable of writing a hit, but this album had very little to offer up for a single besides "Eye." Without that song, I think this album would have disappeared quickly. It's an average rock album that got a significant boost thanks to a freakishly great soundtrack song.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  The cover of Survivor's 1980 debut album featured a blonde woman in an Air force uniform. Her hand partially blocks her face. Despite that, you may recognize the woman. It is Academy Award winner Kim Basinger. She was a model early on and then began an acting career around 1976. She appeared in several TV shows before moving to the big screen with 1981's "Hard Country," a film co-written by singer/songwriter Michael Martin Murphey. Basinger would take a left turn into music when she starred in Tim Burton's 1989 film "Batman." She did some vocals for Prince, who composed the music for the film (apparently, the pair were dating). Around the same time, Prince wrote and produced an album for Basinger. Although no one really knows why, the album, titled "Hollywood Affair," never got released. However, copies of the CD have surfaced. [Note: You can find the songs on YouTube. A good chunk of folks think the album is awful. I listened to some tracks. It ain't good, but it's not that terrible. There also seems to be controversy (pun intended) that Prince did not write/produce this album. But the timing of the film, studio work for the soundtrack, and their relationship seem to suggest it's legit.]


Monday, June 29, 2015

"You Are" by Lionel Richie

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1311
Date:  01/15/1983
Debut:  49
Peak:  4
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  With his first solo single, "Truly," reaching #1, Richie needed a solid follow-up to show that his first hit wasn't just a fluke riding on the "Endless Love" wave. He did a smart thing by choosing a happy, uptempo pop tune instead of another ballad. It worked well for him with the song hitting the pop Top 10, #2 at R&B and a long six weeks in the top spot at AC.

ReduxReview:  This song is just kind of hard to dislike. The chorus is infectious and Richie sounds as happy as all get-out. The arrangement is terrific and still sounds great despite the dorky synth bass. I don't think he could have had a better follow-up to "Truly" than this song. The only slight blemish is the very opening of the song. It sounds very similar to the opening of Steve Winwood's "While You See a Chance." Other than that, the song is aces.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Singing background vocals on this song was a teenage musician named Richard Marx. Marx had a demo tape that Richie heard and based on that, Richie invited Marx out to L.A. Marx was in the studio during the sessions for Richie's debut album and Richie tagged Marx in to sing a background part on this song. Marx went on to do more background vocals for stars like Whitney Houston and Barbra Streisand. Soon, his songs were getting recorded by artists and that finally lead to his own debut album in 1987.


"I'm Alive" by Neil Diamond

Song#:  1310
Date:  01/15/1983
Debut:  72
Peak:  35
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Thanks to inspiration from the film "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial," Diamond got his last pop Top 10 hit with the #5 "Heartlight." This second single from his "Heartlight" album would then become his final Top 40 pop entry. It would do much better at AC where it peaked at #5. Although Diamond's Top 40 days were done, he continued to chart well at AC gathering six more Top 10's. The "Heartlight" album would be his final regular studio release to reach platinum status.

ReduxReview:  I could be wrong, but I think Diamond was looking for "America, Pt. 2" here. This has a very similar feel to that 1980 hit. However, it doesn't have the same impact. This is actually a good latter-day Diamond song, but the production lacks and it's just not as exciting as it should be. I think this song could have been a bigger hit if it had a kick-ass arrangement. Hand claps and thin-sounding synth strings just don't do the song justice. Still, it's a worthy listen.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Although it may sound like a stage name, Neil Diamond is his given name (Leslie is his middle name). Prior to the release of his first album, Diamond wanted to change his name. Apparently he didn't like "Neil" and it was a name that kids made fun of in school. So he wanted to shed that name. He came up with two choices:  Noah Kaminsky and Eice Charry. He though Noah Kaminsky was strong and biblical while Eice Charry was just rock n' roll sounding. Luckily, he kept his own name and I think he and all of us are glad he did!


Sunday, June 28, 2015

"Breaking Us in Two" by Joe Jackson

Song#:  1309
Date:  01/15/1983
Debut:  73
Peak:  18
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Jackson grabbed his biggest hit with the #6 "Steppin' Out," the first single from his album "Night and Day." This follow-up single would do well reaching the Top 20 and peaking at #8 at AC. The success of the two singles helped the album become his best charting effort at #4. It would become a gold seller as well.

ReduxReview:  I dearly love this song. That little piano riff hooked me right away. I hadn't bought the album yet when this single came out and the first time I heard it I practically sprinted to the store. It was just such an odd sounding single, but yet had enough pop sensibilities to play well on radio. These days, I hear this song played a lot more than "Steppin' Out." It has aged well. I think "Steppin'" is the superior single, but I'm still madly in love with this one.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  In 1981, Jackson produced an album for the British power pop band The Keys. Release on A&M in the UK, their self-titled debut album sank despite some good notices. Band member Drew Barfield went on to another band called Big Heat. They ended up having a single in 1985 called "Watch Me Catch Fire" that got produced by Elvis Costello. Apparently, as this single was beginning to catch on, there was a devastating fire at Brandford football stadium where 56 people died. Big Heat's song was dropped from airplay due to its title and sensitivity surrounding the disaster. Barfield would have success as a songwriter and contribute songs to albums by Paul Young. Young later started a Tex-Mex band called Los Pacaminos that included Barfield. They played around in smaller clubs and would eventually record a self-titled album in 2002.