Saturday, December 26, 2015

"Midnight Blue" by Louise Tucker

Song#:  1501
Date:  06/18/1983
Debut:  78
Peak:  46
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Adult Contemporary, Classical Crossover

Pop Bits:  As a mezzo-soprano, Tucker studied voice with the intent of performing in operas. It seemed like a clear-cut path for the British singer, but then she met record producers Charlie Skarbeck and Tim Smit. They had an idea for a project and asked Tucker to join. Their intent was to merge elements of classical music (including Tucker's voice) with synthpop. The resulting album was titled Midnight Blue and it contained original works along with adaptations like this first title-track single, which uses the melody from Beethoven's Sonata Pathétique. The song didn't do all that well in the UK where it hit #59. However, it was embraced by AC in the US and it reached #10. It crossed over to the Pop chart where it came close to the Top 40. The album did well enough on a worldwide basis to call for another one. After the Storm got issued late in the year, but it failed to capitalize on the success of the first album and disappeared quickly. This song would be Tucker's only one to chart in the US. Following the second album, Tucker decided to drop pop music and went back into the classical realm performing in operas.

ReduxReview:  Of course I see the title and I think this is a cover version of Melissa Manchester's #6 hit from 1975. And with a name like Louise Tucker, I thought she might be a country crossover artist. Not...even...close. I played the song without having any background knowledge and right from the start I knew something weird was up with its "Chariots of Fire"-ish riff. Then a voice comes in and I wasn't sure if Louise wasn't a Lou. After a while, the female voice comes in and I recognize the melody. Oh...dear...god. What fresh hell is this? No. I am utterly shocked this went Top 10 AC and almost hit the Pop Top 40. This is not the first time classical and pop have merged, but this possibly ranks among the worst examples to hit the chart. It's a crossover travesty.

ReduxRating:  1/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Producer Skarbeck provides the male voice on this track.  2) Producer Smit later left the music industry and focused his attention on the Eden Project, a large environmental and garden complex in Cornwall, UK. It consists of several biomes that house plants from various climates. Various forms of art are also featured. The popular attraction opened in 2001. Combining his music past with his present project, Smit also began the Eden Sessions in 2002. The sessions are live performances from popular artists that perform at the complex. Over the years, artists like Amy Winehouse, Brian Wilson, and Elton John have participated. Scenes from the James Bond film Die Another Day were filmed at the site as well.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

"Europa and the Pirate Twins" by Thomas Dolby

Song#:  1500
Date:  06/18/1983
Debut:  81
Peak:  67
Weeks:  5
Genre:  New Wave, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Dolby scored a left-field hit with his video-centric song "She Blinded Me with Science" (#5). For his follow-up single, the label reached back to this song that was initially released in the UK in 1981. It was Dolby's first major label release and it reached #45 on the UK singles chart. After the success of "Science," the label brought this song back around for a US release. It stayed in the bottom third of the chart for a few weeks while getting to #37 at Rock. Andy Partridge from the band XTC lends a hand on the harmonica.

ReduxReview:  As much as I liked the wacky "Science," I fell in love with this song. I've played this tune and the album track "Flying North" far more than "Science." I love the story, which brings to mind the WWII era, and the jittery arrangement is terrific. I was really bummed when this song didn't catch on at radio. I thought for sure it would be a hit. Unfortunately it kind of tanked. It was gonna be hard for Dolby to follow-up the novelty-esque of "Science" and I think this song most likely had the best shot. Sadly, folks were not interested. I was though - and still am. I'm probably overrating this, but I don't care as I find it awesome.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The UK version of Dolby's The Golden Age of Wireless LP contained the instrumental song "The Wreck of the Fairchild." Dolby loosely based the song around the famous 1972 plane crash that took place in the Andes mountains. The plane was carrying members, family and friends of the Uruguayan rugby team when it crashed. A total of 16 people survived out of the original 45 passengers. The survivors were stuck on the mountain for 72 days. They were rescued after two survivors finally made their way through the mountains and found help. The survivors famously resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. Their story was told in the 1993 film Alive starring Ethan Hawke. A retired Argentinian pilot supplied the voice for the radio transmissions on the song. After the success of Dolby's "Science," the US version of the album saw "Fairchild" cut from the lineup in favor of two other tracks, "Leipzig" and "Urges."


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

"The Border" by America

Song#:  1499
Date:  06/18/1983
Debut: 82
Peak:  33
Weeks: 12
Genre:  Soft Rock, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  It seemed America's hit days ended in the mid-70's, but the now-duo of Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell rallied for an unexpected hit with 1982's "You Can Do Magic" (#6 Pop/#5 AC). Written and produced by Russ Ballard, the duo decided to retain his services for their next LP Your Move. Ballard took on the project, but to an extent that didn't really please the duo. By the time Beckley and Bunnell got involved in the recording sessions, Ballard and already written and recorded most all of the songs playing the instruments himself. Basically all the guys had to do was add their vocals. The duo did get some of their co-writes included, but Ballard's song would take up seven of the eleven tracks. With Ballard in charge, the duo had little input and they struggled through the sessions. The one bright spot for them was this tune. Originally written only by Ballard, Bunnell was dissatisfied with the lyrics. He asked to take a crack at them and Ballard obliged. The new lyrics worked well and the song became the first single from the album. It was able to crack the Pop Top 40 while hitting #4 at AC. It would end up being the duo's final Pop chart entry. They would record one more album in 1984 before focusing on their live shows. It would be a decade before they would return to the studio.

ReduxReview:  This has a certain "Ride Like the Wind" feel to it. I like the arrangement and it's a good song, but it doesn't quite reach the pop heights of "You Can Do Magic." Still, it probably could have done a little better on the chart. Maybe Top 20 at most. AC loved the song and I think it lives on in that format, but this has sort of become a lost track over the years.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song features strings by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The sax solo was performed by Raphael Ravenscroft. You may not know his name, but most everyone knows his most famous solo. Ravenscroft did the unforgettable sax line from the 1978 hit by Gerry Rafferty, "Baker Street" (#2). It is arguably one of the most recognizable sax melodies in rock music.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"Don't Make Me Do It" by Patrick Simmons

Song#:  1498
Date:  06/18/1983
Debut:  84
Peak:  75
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Ex-Doobie Brother Simmons issued his debut solo album Arcade in 1983. It didn't make a huge splash, but it did contain the #30 single "So Wrong" (#8 Dance/#18 Rock/#77 R&B). This second single couldn't muster up much support and it flamed out rather quickly after a few weeks. It would be Simmons' final Pop chart entry as a solo artist.  Simmons later joined a reformed Doobie Brothers in 1987 and he has remained with them ever since. He would issue another solo recording in 1995 titled Take Me to the Highway, but it didn't make any waves.

ReduxReview:  Excepted for the updated production, there is not much difference between this version and the original (see below). Neither are major winners, but Simmons' is a good listen with its Springsteen-ish vibe. The problem I had with Simmons' album was that the songs were inconsistent. Just compare "So Wrong" with this song. There is nothing remotely in common. If I didn't know any better, I'd swear they were done by two separate artists. The album also features Doobie-ish funk and even a remake of The Chi-Lites R&B classic "Have You Seen Her" (1971, #3 Pop/#1 R&B). It just lacked any focus, which is too bad because I think he was on to something with "So Wrong." He had my attention - aaannndd now its gone.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song done by Huey Lewis & the News. Written by the band, the song appeared on their 1980 self-titled debut. It was not issued as a single. That debut album didn't even crack the Album chart, but its success around the band's San Francisco home base led to Chrysalis flipping the bill for another album. It would pay off when their second album, Picture This, would go gold. It featured their first Top 10 hit "Do You Believe in Love?" (#7 Pop/#12 Rock).


Monday, December 21, 2015

"Boogie Down" by Jarreau

Song#:  1497
Date:  06/18/1983
Debut:  86
Peak:  77
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Jarreau's self-titled album (now minus the "Al") started off well with the #21 single "Mornin'" (#2 AC/#6 R&B). This second single would score again at R&B reaching #9, but failed to make any inroads elsewhere. At Pop, the song would spend a minor few weeks in the bottom quarter of the chart while missing at AC completely. It didn't matter too much because the LP would end up being another platinum success for him.

ReduxReview:  I'd probably call this Stevie Wonder-lite. It seems to channel some of Wonder's late 70s jams, especially when the horns join in. It's just okay for me, but the highlight of the song is Jarreau's scat solo. No matter what the material is, Jarreau is going to sing the crap out of it (pun intended).

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The Jarreau album would end up receiving four Grammy nominations. Although it walked away empty handed, it did get nods for Best Engineered Recording and Producer of the Year (for Jay Graydon), as well as two noms in the Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocal(s) for "Mornin'" and "Step by Step."


Sunday, December 20, 2015

"You Are in My System" by Robert Palmer

Song#:  1496
Date:  06/18/1983
Debut:  88
Peak:  78
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock, Dance

Pop Bits:  British singer/songwriter Palmer had been a member of several bands before going the solo route in 1974. Signed to Island Records, he issued three albums that got some attention before really breaking through with his fourth one, Double Fun. That 1978 LP featured his first major hit, the #16 "Every Kinda People." He got another hit in 1979 with his rock radio classic "Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)," which reached #14. After that, his chart fortunes dwindled. By 1983, he hadn't had a chart entry for four years. He caught a bit of a break when this single from his album Pride reached the lower levels of the Pop chart for a few weeks (#33 Rock/#4 Dance). It wasn't a major breakthrough, but it was enough to keep him signed to the label. A big career boost would come his way the following year when he would join up with some Duran Duran members to form the side group The Power Station.

ReduxReview:  I have to say that I like this version better than the original (see below). It just seems meatier. The groove and other elements are pretty similar, but Palmer has a way of really bring out the best in these slight songs. I'm still not a big fan of the song, but given the choice I'd easily want to hear Palmer's take over the original.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  If you have been following this blog recently, this title may seem familiar. It was originally a chart entry for The System just a few months earlier in March of '83. The #10 R&B hit reached #64 on the Pop chart and got the attention of Palmer. He did his own version of the song, which featured The System's David Frank on keyboards. Although Palmer's version couldn't do better on the Pop chart than The System's original, it did reach at #4 on the Dance chart besting The System's #14 peak.