Saturday, September 5, 2015

"I Couldn't Say No" by Robert Ellis Orrall with Carlene Carter

Song#:  1392
Date:  03/26/1983
Debut:  75
Peak:  32
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Singer/songwriter Orrall started out gigging at clubs around Boston with his band in the late 70s. A couple of indie albums he recorded caught the ear of RCA who signed him to a deal in 1981. His debut LP, "Fixation," didn't really get people fixated on his tunes, but his second stab, "Special Pain" got some attention thanks to this first single, a duet with singer Carlene Carter. The song did well peaking just shy of the Top 30. For both artists, it would be their one and only pop chart entry. Orrall and Carter would later continue their careers in the country market where Orrall scored three chart entries as a solo act while Carter grabbed three Top 10 hits (oddly, all peaking at #3). Orrall would join fellow songwriter Curtis Wright in a duo called (appropriately) Orrall & Wright. They would record one album that would produce a couple of minor country chart singles.

ReduxReview:  I always thought this was a slightly odd song. The three sections of the song (verse, bridge, chorus) almost seem like three separate ideas - like each one was taken from another song and then stitched together. I doubt that was the case, but it is a little Frankenstein-ish. However, I think that is what makes the song so interesting. It all works together quite well and when the chorus hits, the song really soars. The vocals are awesome as well. I bought this single back then and the more I play it, the more I love it. It's a shame the single didn't go higher. It's far better than what its #32 peak would indicate. A true lost hit of the 80s.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Although Orrall's solo career never fully took flight, he became a sought after songwriter and ended up penning several hits for country artists like Reba McEntire, Shenandoah, and Martina McBride. He also continued writing for pop artists including Lindsey Lohan who recorded Orrall's "Ultimate" for the "Freaky Friday" soundtrack in 2003. He also contributed/produced two songs for Taylor Swift. One appeared on her self-titled debut album and the other appeared on a 2008 EP titled "Beautiful Eyes."  2) Orrall's brother Frank originated and still fronts the popular alt rock band Poi Dog Pondering.  3) Carlene is the daughter of June Carter (Cash) and Carl Smith, who was June's first husband.


Friday, September 4, 2015

"Never Give Up" by Sammy Hagar

Song#:  1391
Date:  03/26/1983
Debut:  79
Peak:  46
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Hagar grabbed his biggest solo hit with the #13 (#3 rock) "You're Love Is Driving Me Crazy" from his album "Three Lock Box." This second single got close to the Top 40, but peaked just short. Oddly, the song was ignored at rock radio and failed to make that chart. The solid showing of "You're Love" propelled the album to gold, but that was a drop following his platinum-selling LP "Standing Hampton."

ReduxReview:  This song, especially the verses, infringe a bit on Bob Seger territory. In fact, if Seger co-wrote a tune with Rick Springfield, it might sound like this. The results are pretty good. It's obviously not as strong as "You're Love," but it's a good tune that should have gotten into the Top 40. The tune could possibly be the most pop-oriented one Hagar has done. That could be because Hagar didn't write it. He usually writes/co-writes most all of his material, but this one was composed by Alan Pasqua and the album's producer Keith Olsen (who was Springfield's producer at the time - hence the connection). It worked well, but I guess it wasn't quite strong enough to really conquer pop radio.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The previous year, Hagar contributed a song to the soundtrack for the film "Fast Times At Ridgemont High." His song was titled after the film and appeared in Spicoli's joyride scene. The song would not be issued as a single, but would become the b-side to "Never Give Up."


Thursday, September 3, 2015

"Wind Beneath My Wings" by Lou Rawls

Song#:  1390
Date:  03/26/1983
Debut:  82
Peak:  65
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  A three-time Grammy winner, this R&B singer began recording jazz-oriented albums for Capitol Records in 1962. Although his recordings were selling well, he didn't have much luck on any singles chart until he moved to a full R&B sound on his 1966 album "Soulin'." That LP featured his first #1 R&B hit "Love Is a Hurtin' Thing" (#13 pop). His silky voice would front more hits that culminated in his 1976 #1 R&B (#2 pop, #1AC) gold hit "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine." Chart hits began to ebb after that single and as the 80s started he was looking for a new label. Epic picked him up and his second album for them, "When the Night Comes," produced this single that became a #10 AC hit. Pop and R&B (#60) were not that interested and it became Rawls' final pop chart entry. His last R&B chart showing would come in 1987. Rawls would continue to record and remain a popular concert draw and TV personality. He would receive a Grammy nod for Best Jazz Vocals, Male, for his 1989 album "At Last." Rawls died of cancer in 2006.

ReduxReview:  Speaking song lyrics is really tricky. It can be very effective or incredibly corny. I have to say for this song, it is the latter. I almost wanted to give up on this song within the first 10 seconds. But I hung in there and I'm glad I did. Once the groove starts, the song sounds good. I'd never heard the tune at this tempo and I rather like it. Rawls is always in great voice, so that certainly helps. If I'm being honest, I think this song is full of cheez-whiz. It's never been a favorite of mine. I like a good slice of processed cheeze every now and then, but this one was just a little too filling for my taste. However, the arrangement (although dated) is interesting and puts a different spin on a song we all know. Now, if only the first 35 seconds of the song could be lopped off, destroyed, and redone.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Here is another song that took several years to become a major hit. Composed in 1982 by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley, the song was demoed by the writers and also by fellow songwriter Bob Montgomery. Montgomery's version was shopped around and got picked up by British crooner Roger Whittaker who recorded the song for his 1982 album of the same name. The same year, an Australian singer became the first to chart the song anywhere. Colleen Hewett's version reached #52 on Australia's Kent Music Report. The song's next appearance was on Sheena Easton's 1982 album "Madness, Money & Music." Rawls' 1983 version came next and was the first to hit a US chart. This was followed by a country version the same year by Gary Morris. His single of the song was a hit reaching #4 on the country chart. Many other artists would cover the song, but of course the most famous version would be Bette Midler's 1989 Grammy-winning #1 single. Although primarily known as a ballad, Silbar and Henley's original demo was a mid-tempo song while Montgomery turned it into a ballad. Rawls' version is in the style of the original demo.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

"I Won't Be Home Tonight" by Tony Carey

Song#:  1389
Date:  03/26/1983
Debut:  89
Peak:  79
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  As a teenager, Carey formed a band called Blessings that secured a contract with ABC Dunhill. While attempting (and eventually failing) to record a debut album, Ritchie Blackmore was down the hall holding auditions for his band Rainbow. Carey got asked to come down for an audition and was invited to be in the band on keyboards. With Blessings a non-starter, Carey took the gig. He recorded one album with the group and did a couple of tours before quitting to go solo. He relocated to Germany and recorded his first LP "In the Absence of the Cat." It got little notice, but his second album "I Won't Be Home Tonight" made a few waves with this title-track single. It would be a #8 hit at rock radio while floating around the bottom of the pop chart for a few weeks.

ReduxReview:  With its driving groove and memorable guitar lick, I can understand why this did well on rock radio. I was hooked right away. The chorus lacks a little bit of zest and is totally overshadowed by the guitar line, but it's a solid rocker that is better than the measly #79 pop showing.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  While in Germany, Carey had nightly access to a recording studio. The excess studio time allowed him to branch out into different styles and he recorded a lot of instrumentals and other experimental tunes. Many of the instrumentals were released on five indie albums in the early 80s. Other songs he had were too different to be included on his formal solo albums, so he created an alternate moniker, Planet P Project, and secured a deal to release those songs as well. A few weeks after this song was issued, Carey would hit the pop chart with the Planet P song "Why Me" (#64).


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"The One Thing" by INXS

Song#:  1388
Date:  03/26/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  30
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  The roots of this Australian group go back to a band of high school classmates that eventually developed into The Farriss Brothers. A couple of years later, they changed their name to INXS and found themselves supporting artists like Midnight Oil. It wasn't long before they signed their first record deal and issued a self-titled debut album in 1980. It had some limited success as did a second album. But the band was itching to break worldwide and went into the studio to record this song in order to get a deal. It worked and soon the band was recording their third album "Shabooh Shoobah." This song served as the LP's first single and it did well in Australia reaching #14. It also did good business in the US, thanks in part to a video played on MTV, and hit the Top 30 while reaching #2 at Mainstream Radio. The album would eventually go gold.

ReduxReview:  I remember hearing this on the radio and it was announced as by "in excess." Then, I was in a record store and saw a poster or album that showed INXS as the artist. I though "I.N.X.S.? What is that? "In X's?" Not sure how long it took me to put 2 and 2 together, but I finally realized - "oooh - in-excess! They do that 'one thing' song! Got it." ID-ing the band helped, but I didn't buy the single or album. I probably should have bought the single. I always liked how the verse really rocked along and then the chorus became dreamy and slightly psychedelic. It's pretty terrific and the song deserved to go much higher on the chart.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Apparently, the band's manager, Gary Morris, came up with their name. He thought they needed a new one because The Farriss Brothers seemed like some country act. They needed something with a bit more edge. Morris had a concept in mind for the band about being inaccessible - a mystery band. While that was on his mind he was also thinking how he loved the band XTC's name. Then he spotted a commercial for IXL jam ("I excel"). He brought the three things together into letters that created a phrase, INXS (in excess). The band hated Morris' "inaccessible" concept, but loved the name and kept it.


Monday, August 31, 2015

"Solitaire" by Laura Branigan

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1387
Date:  03/19/1983
Debut:  65
Peak:  7
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Europop, Dance

Pop Bits:  Branigan's debut album contained what would become her biggest hit, the #2 Euro-disco remake "Gloria." While that single was still on the chart, Branigan went back to the studio to prep a follow-up album. "Branigan 2" would also dip into the European chart pool with Branigan remaking songs such as Falco's "Der Kommissar" (as "Deep in the Dark") and this tune, which ended up being chosen as the LP's first single. The formula worked again for her and the song rose into the Top 10 (#16 AC, #28 dance). The album would be her second gold seller reaching #24.

ReduxReview:  When this song first came out, I was kind of blown away. I thought it had "Gloria" beat by a mile. There was a terrific urgency in both the writing and arrangement that really grabbed me. The song just builds and builds until the bridge totally explodes. And, of course, Branigan just sings the shit out of it. How her performance escaped getting a Grammy nod is beyond me. I will say it is my favorite Branigan song. However, in the long run I do recognize that "Gloria" is the true pop classic. But that doesn't mean I can't give this song a lotta love (and sing/dance like a total idiot when it comes on).

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song written and performed by French artist Martine ClĂ©menceau. Her original 1981 version would hit #50 on the French pop chart. The song's lyrics were a bit dark and focused on a person trying to get away and hide from a world that was on the brink of nuclear war. Branigan's English version steered away from the premise and into relationship territory. The new lyrics came courtesy of an upstart songwriter named Diane Warren. She had been working with Branigan's producer, Jack White. He tasked Warren with the job of writing English lyrics for the song. It became Warren's first major hit. She would go on to write many major hits, win a Grammy, and receive seven Oscar nominations for Best Original Song. 2) The last note Branigan belts in the song is a doozy. It came close to setting a world record. For hit songs, the longest sustained note held by a female singer on record was performed by Donna Summer on her 1979 hit "Dim All The Lights." She holds a note for about 16 seconds. Branigan's last note on this song clocked in only 2 seconds shorter.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

"Goodnight Saigon" by Billy Joel

Song#:  1386
Date:  03/19/1983
Debut:  71
Peak:  56
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Joel's peak behind "The Nylon Curtain" gave him two Top 20's, "Pressure" (#20) and "Allentown" (#17). A third look would produce this Vietnam-themed single that couldn't quite get into the top half of the chart. Joel's more serious tunes would help the Grammy nominated LP reach double-platinum status, but that was actually a significant drop from his previous three studio albums which all would eventually sell between 7-10 million each. He would rebound to those levels with his next set of songs.

ReduxReview:  Joel's bid to be considered a "serious" musician continued with this song. At the time there was a lot of focus on the Vietnam war, the soldiers who returned, and the after-effects. Joel's song was a well-timed release that a lot of critics seemed to appreciate. It is indeed a well-written observation piece that culminates in a moving "we will all go down together" refrain. However, as a single there are a couple of problems. First is length. Even the edited single is close to 6 minutes - an eternity in pop radio. It had better be a highly popular and requested tune for a stations to play something that long. I can honestly say I never heard this on the radio. Second is that the song is not something someone is gonna hum along with while driving home from work. It's just a little too serious for that. I'm sure that Joel and the label wanted to draw attention to all the Vietnam issues at the time and chose to release this epic, but this is really a key album track and not a single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Joel's lyrics reflect the experience of a group of Marines during the Vietnam War. The song references many key touch points from the era including Parris Island (a Marine training facility in South Carolina), a hash pipe, The Doors, Bob Hope, and "Charlie." Apparently Joel was approached to write a song by a veteran's organization. Since Joel did not serve in the military, he had no real experience as a basis for the song, however members of the organization did. With their input and that of other friends/crew members who served, Joel was able to fashion the song from their experiences.