Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"All Time High" by Rita Coolidge

Song#:  1518
Date:  07/02/1983
Debut:  69
Peak:  36
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  After a two year break, it was time for James Bond to get back into action. The previous film, 1981's For Your Eyes Only, spawned another hit theme song for the franchise when Sheena Easton took the title-track to #4 (#6 AC). For the next film, a title-track theme would be a bit awkward thanks to the movie's title, Octopussy, so score composer John Barry tasked lyricist Tim Rice to come up with a selection of titles for the song. From the list, "All Time High" was chosen. With the song set, a search for a vocalist would take place. The retro-styled British singer Mari Wilson was an initial choice, but even though she was having chart success in the UK, she was virtually unknown in the US, which could pose a marketing problem. Laura Branigan was also a popular contender and had apparently recorded the song. However, Rita Coolidge's name came about thanks to her being a favorite of assistant director Barbara Broccoli (producer Cubby Broccoli's daughter) and she got a crack at the tune. Despite not having had a major hit since 1977, Coolidge's version was the one chosen for the film. Upon release, the song went to #1 at AC and stayed there for four weeks. At Pop, the single was not nearly as successful stalling just inside the Top 40. Instead of being a career reviver, the song would end up being Coolidge's final one to hit the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  With "For Your Eyes Only," the producers kept up with a current sound and a current artist and it served them well, as it did with past pop efforts from hot artists like Paul McCartney and Carly Simon. But here they just totally lost it. First, the song is just dull. They let John Barry compose it, which was a mistake (his previous two Bond efforts couldn't even chart). Then Tim Rice got his Broadway jazz hands on the lyrics. Really? "All Time High" was the best title they could come up with? Ugh. But that is not their worst sin. Their biggest mistake is not issuing the Laura Branigan version. Now, I haven't heard that recording (actually very few folks have - it is locked away in some vault), but it had to be better than what got issued. I'm pretty sure Branigan would have sold the song and with her coming off of two Top 10's, the timing was perfect. It would have also been beneficial to get a producer who could jazz up this thing and bring it into the 80s. Instead, they chose an artist way past their chart prime who sleepily reads through this piano bar dirge. Don't get me wrong, Coolidge has a lovely voice, but she is not the most exciting singer to ever hit the chart. Combine her laid-back approach with this sluggish tune and fizzle...no explosion, no Bond magic. A dud. I didn't like the song then, and I still don't like it now.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In the UK where all but two theme songs reached the chart (and were mostly significant hits), this song would fare even worse than in the US. It would only muster a lowly #75 showing on the chart. Of all the James Bond themes that have hit the UK chart, this one remains the lowest peaking. After Octopussy, most all Bond themes found their way to the UK Top 10. Of the eleven themes up to this posting date, eight went Top 10, one hit #11, one at #12 and one peaked at #1 - the most current Bond song "Writing's on the Wall" by Sam Smith (for the 2015 film Spectre). By comparision, in the US, of those eleven themes, only two would reach the Top 10 while one would make it to #1 - 1985's "A View to a Kill" by Duran Duran.  2) Despite a hefty push to get the song nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song, it failed to garner a nod. Three previous Bond themes including "For Your Eyes Only" received nominations, but none of them would win. A Bond theme finally won an Oscar when Adele's "Skyfall" would grab the statue in 2012.


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