Saturday, January 16, 2016

"Tonight, I Celebrate My Love" by Peabo Bryson & Roberta Flack

Song#:  1522
Date:  07/09/1983
Debut:  89
Peak:  16
Weeks:  29
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Bryson was getting quite used to doing duets with quality female vocalists. He teamed up with Natalie Cole for the album We're the Best of Friends (#7 R&B gold LP), joined Melissa Manchester for the song "Lovers After All" (#25 AC/#54 Pop/#34 R&B), and recorded the concert album Live and More (#10 R&B) with Roberta Flack. The pairing with Flack was particularly successful and that prompted the two singers to record a full studio album together. Titled Born to Love, the LP became a successful gold-seller (#8 R&B/#25 Pop) thanks in part to this first single. The song would be Bryson's biggest hit to-date at Pop (#16) and AC (#4). It would also be a winner at R&B hitting #5. The song would continue to have a long life after its chart days thanks to its use in weddings/receptions.

ReduxReview:  Oh that tinkling Rhodes keyboard that opens the song! That sound became a staple in a lot of ballads from the 80s. It ended up becoming a cliché and worn out by the end of the decade, but early on it was a sound that indicated a pretty ballad was about to happen. And indeed it does with this song. Despite the saccharine lyrics, this is a lovely track perfectly executed by Bryson and Flack. It was written by Gerry Goffin and Michael Masser. Masser was already a successful songwriter, but he would go on to have tremendous success co-writing ballads that Whitney Houston would make famous like "Saving All My Love for You, "Didn't We Almost Have it All" and her remake of "Greatest Love of All." This song added a good notch to his songwriting bedpost.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Although he had toured with a couple of bands since 1966, Bryson didn't fully get involved in the music business until he joined up with Atlanta's Bang Records as a writer, producer and arranger. He worked for Bang for a few years and during that time he got hooked up with producer Michael Zager. Bryson would sing with Zager's band and appear on the 1976 single "Do It with Feeling" (#3 Dance/#25 R&B/#94 Pop). The single was credited to Michael Zager's Moon Band featuring Peabo Bryson. That same year saw Bryson stepping out on his own with his debut album Peabo, for the Bang imprint Bullet Records. It would peak at #48 on the R&B chart and feature three Top 30 R&B singles. It also led to his deal with Capitol Records where his success continued to grow.


Friday, January 15, 2016

"Johnny B. Goode" by Peter Tosh

Song#:  1521
Date:  07/09/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  84
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Reggae, Rock

Pop Bits:  Reggae legend Peter Tosh got his start as a member of The Wailers with Bob Marley. A self-taught musician, Tosh also wrote some of the band's songs including their classic 1973 tune "Get Up, Stand Up." But by the time 1974 rolled around, the Wailers called it quits and Tosh went off on a solo career path. He signed with CBS and issued his debut album, Legalize It, in 1976. He moved over to The Rolling Stone's own imprint label for his third LP, 1978's Bush Doctor. The association with the Stones paid off when a single from the LP, a remake of The Temptations 1965 #14 R&B hit "Don't Look Back," reached #81. Credited to "Peter Tosh with Mick Jagger," the song also featured Keith Richards on guitar. Over time, Tosh's popularity grew and his studio albums continued to chart higher and higher. His peak would be 1983's Mama Africa, which hit #53 thanks in part to this single that spent a month on the Pop chart. He wouldn't record another album until 1987's No Nuclear War. The album would go on to win Tosh a Grammy in 1988 for Best Reggae Album. Unfortunately, it was awarded posthumously due to Tosh's death in September of 1987 by gunmen during a home invasion.

ReduxReview:  I'm not a big fan of reggae music. Much like the blues, a good chunk of it all sounds the same to me. I appreciate the history, style, and influence of the genres, but with minor exceptions, I can't really get into them. So I wasn't sure what to expect with this remake (see below). How do you fit a classic, exciting early rock tune into a reggae format? Well, I guess this is how you do it and I'm not really sure what to think. More or less, it is just the lyrics put over a reggae beat and a melody to fit. It you completely changed the lyrics and played it, I highly doubt anyone would think this was "Johnny B. Goode." For me, if you are going to remake a tune, it still has to retain a melody or some structure that resembles the original. Just extracting the lyrics and fitting them to a whole new composition that is unrecognizable doesn't work. I understand wanting to make it your own, but hacking it apart so much that the original work you are paying homage to is completely lost does not make sense to me. So, as far as a remake goes, I don't like it at all. It turns the song into some kind of political-leaning dirge. However, I will say that the actual sound and performance of the song I like. It still kind of sounds like a thousand other reggae tunes, but something about Tosh's arrangement and/or voice sets it apart. In general, boo on the remake, but yea on the rest. I'll split the difference.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Unless you live in the deep backwoods and have never seen Back to the Future, you obviously know that this is a remake of the rock 'n roll classic by Chuck Berry. Berry's 1958 original was a #1 R&B smash that also hit #8 on the Pop chart. A big list of artists have covered and/or recorded this song including a #1 country version by Buck Owens in 1969. Tosh is the fourth, and so far last, artist to reach the Pop chart with the song. After Berry's original, Dion took the song to #71 in 1964 and then Johnny Winter hit #90 in 1970.  2) Here's an odd fact. During his solo days Tosh took to riding unicycles. He became quite proficient at it and would often ride one on stage during his performances.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

"It's a Mistake" by Men at Work

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1520
Date:  07/02/1983
Debut:  42
Peak:  6
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  The Aussie band's second album, Cargo, got under way with the #3 peak of its first single "Overkill." This next single kept up the momentum by getting into the Top 10 at both Pop and AC (#10). Rock was less receptive and the song faltered at #27. In their home country, this song served as the album's third single and it under-performed at #34. But by that time, the album had already become a #1 best-seller there and pretty much run its course.

ReduxReview:  Initially I didn't care too much for "Overkill," but eventually it won me over. The same could be said for this tune as well. I actually disliked it more than "Overkill" back then so it quickly went off my radar. These many years later I don't mind hearing the song. It's another solid effort by Colin Hay (both writing and vocals) with a slight reggae-ish beat that reminds me of The Police. I wouldn't put it in the same company as "Overkill," but it's certainly one of their better songs.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written during the Cold War and considers how it might end. War? Nuclear bomb? Told from a soldier's point of view, he questions his leader as to what is going to happen. The song makes reference to one of the key figures in the Cold War, US President Ronald Reagan (as "Ronnie").


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

"I'll Tumble 4 Ya" by Culture Club

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1519
Date:  07/02/1983
Debut:  64
Peak:  9
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Culture Club scored their second #2 hit with "Time (Clock of the Heart)" from the US version of their debut album Kissing to Be Clever. Having already released three singles from the LP in the UK plus "Time," that market was pretty much done with Kissing. However, the US was still enthralled with the Club and that prompted this third single that would only be released to the North American market. It ended up being a smart move with the single going Top 10 at Pop, #14 Dance, #33 AC, and #70 R&B.

ReduxReview:  While not nearly as brilliant as their first two US singles, this is still a fun song that has an unrelenting hook. It was a perfect upbeat follow-up. I admit that after hearing it on the radio so many times, the song really wore on me. However, enough time has past to where I can enjoy the tune again.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  With this single, Culture Club was the first band since the Beatles to score three Top 10 hits from their US debut album. Introducing...The Beatles was issued on the Vee-Jay label in January of 1964. Over the next few months, three songs included on the LP reached the Top 10:  "Twist and Shout" (#2) along with "Love Me Do" (#1), and its b-side "P.S. I Love You" (#10). Although Introducing was the first official Beatles album released in the US, their first album for the Capitol label, Meet the Beatles, beat it to the album chart by a week and went to #1. It ended up blocking Introducing from the top spot, which had to settle for a #2 showing.


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 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.


Monday, January 11, 2016

"Blame It on Love" by Smokey Robinson and Barbara Mitchell

Song#:  1517
Date:  07/02/1983
Debut:  79
Peak:  48
Weeks:  12
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The R&B vocal trio High Inergy grabbed a minor chart entry in 1983 with "He's a Pretender," from their album Groove Patrol. Among the tracks on the album, two featured vocals by their Motown labelmate Smokey Robinson. The songs were listed on their album as "featuring Smokey Robinson." However, it seems Robinson and/or his label decided to usurp one of the songs to help promote a new hits LP. Titled Blame It on Love & All the Great Hits, this single was issued on the Tamla imprint under Robinson's name. Early copies of the single had it by Smokey Robinson with High Inergy, but it was decided to just claim it as a duet with front woman Barbara Mitchell. This left the High Inergy album in the dust in favor of the Motown legend's compilation. The ploy worked well at AC where the song reached #5, but Pop and R&B (#35) were not that interested. However, it gave a boost to Mitchell's name/career who left High Inergy soon after.

ReduxReview:  This sounds like it was fashioned after James Ingram's "Just Once." Unfortunately, it's not nearly as good as that AC classic. It's actually not a bad tune and is better than some of the material Robinson was releasing around this time. I can see the AC appeal of the song and it works well for that format. For R&B and Pop? Eh.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Later in the year, Robinson released his next solo album Touch the Sky. Although it featured the #8 R&B hit "I've Made Love to You a Thousand Times," it failed to score any Pop/AC entries and faded quickly, as did his next two albums. It would be the lowest point in his solo career to-date. However, he would have a solid comeback in 1987.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

"Ewok Celebration" by Meco

Song#:  1516
Date:  07/02/1983
Debut:  85
Peak:  60
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  He's baa-ack! With the release of the third Star Wars film, Return of the Jedi, it was pretty much a given that Meco would be back to put his own spin on music from the soundtrack. This time around he chose to spruce up the tune that was used near the end of the film. Known as "Yub Nub," which is Ewokese for "freedom," the song was played by Ewoks during the final celebration scene. Meco's previous Star Wars themed records were based in disco, but since that format had gone the way of the dodo, he had to do something different. This time around, Meco gave the song a more international beat and added a rap section that was performed by Duke Bootee (of "The Message" fame). Unlike his previous two hit takes on the Star Wars themes, this one couldn't even make it halfway up the chart and disappeared after a couple of months. It would end up being Meco's final Pop chart entry. Meco would go on to do an album for the "Hooked On" franchise called "Hooked on Instrumentals," but it failed to get any attention and his solo recording days came to an end.

ReduxReview:  Just when you thought the charts were gonna be Meco-free, here he comes. Thankfully, it is his last chart entry. And oh what a doozie. I'm not a big Star Wars nerd, but I remember sitting in the theater watching the original Jedi and when the last party scene came up I just thought "what the hell is this?" For me, that last little bit with the "Yub Nub" song was the worst scene in the entire first trilogy. Me and all my geeky friends made fun of it. And if that wasn't enough, we got subjected to this Meco version that arguably made it worse. And poor Duke Bootee. I hope he got paid a lot for his appearance because it's pretty embarrassing. This is not the way the original trilogy should have closed out, but there you have it. The only bright side? No more Meco!

ReduxRating:  1/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) It is not surprising that this song did not do so well. The final scene and "Yub Nub" were a bit polarizing with many folks hating the song. Therefore, Meco enhancing the tune was probably not the smartest choice. In George Lucas' Special Edition version of Jedi, the last scenes were redone with "Yub Nub" taken out and replaced with a new John Williams orchestral piece. Again, the new ending was polarizing. Many like it and thought it made the ending more powerful, while others were more traditional and loved their "Yub Nub."  2) There are two sets of lyrics for "Yub Nub." The Ewokese lyrics were written by Ben Burtt while the English lyrics were written by John Williams' son, Joseph. Burtt was mainly a sound designer/engineer. Among his notable achievements are sounds for the lightsaber and for R2-D2. He has won four Oscars.  3)  On Meco's Ewok Celebration album, there are sax and lyricon solos credited to one Kenny G. This may seem to be a strange place for Kenny G to lay down some smooth sax sounds, but it ends up making a little sense. The previous year, Meco co-produced Kenny G's self-titled debut album.