Saturday, February 27, 2016

"How Can I Refuse" by Heart

Song#:  1564
Date:  08/13/1983
Debut:  84
Peak:  44
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After finding major success in the late 70s, Heart's career was in a slump as the 80s marched on. Their album Private Audition couldn't produce a significant hit with only "This Man Is Mine" (#33 Pop, #16 Rock) getting any attention. It doomed the self-produced album which became their first studio recording to miss the gold mark. Their label, Epic, was not happy with the results and pushed them back into the studio under the guidance of producer Keith Olsen. Passionworks was meant to right the ship and indeed it seemed on course with this first single hitting #1 at Rock (it would be their only song to ever do so). But a tepid response at Pop for the tune and lackluster critical reviews of the album began to sink it. Epic seemed to lose interest as well with the band stating that little was done to promote the album. It would end up being the band's lowest peaking LP up to that point reaching #39.

ReduxReview:  The band was not producing their best material around this time, but there were exceptions like this song. It definitely had fans as Rock radio sent it to #1, but why it failed at Pop is a mystery. I wouldn't say it was Top 10 material, but it's a terrific song that deserved to do better. I think this tune also shows they were moving towards more mainstream rock and certain flourishes gave hints as to the direction their next LP would successfully take.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Earlier in the 80s, Heart's Nancy Wilson was introduced to an up-and-coming screenwriter named Cameron Crowe. While they were dating, Crowe's debut screenplay effort, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, was being filmed. He got Wilson a teeny part in the movie as the "beautiful girl in a car." The pair continued their relationship and were eventually married in 1986. Wilson gave birth to twins in 2000, but then the couple separated in 2008. Two years later, their divorce was final.


Friday, February 26, 2016

"Miracles" by Stacy Lattisaw

Song#:  1563
Date:  08/13/1983
Debut:  85
Peak:  40
Weeks:  16
Genre:  R&B, Pop

Pop Bits:  Lattisaw's second and third albums were R&B Top 10's thanks to three Top 10 hits. She scored another hit with her fourth album, but it signaled a dip in popularity when the album stalled at #11. Staying with producer Narada Michael Walden, Lattisaw recorded her fifth disc, Sixteen (titled after her age at the time). This first single seemed on track to turn things around, but the tune couldn't get into the R&B Top 10 peaking just shy at #13. The song got a boost at Pop becoming her third and final Top 40 entry, but that still wasn't enough and the album faltered at #26 R&B, #160 Pop.

ReduxReview:  Now that she was 16, I think Walden and Lattisaw had a plan to start ditching the cute teenage tunes in favor of more mature material. It was a smart thing to do, and this first single was a good step. However, it may have been a bit too pop-oriented to fully hit at R&B. I'm actually surprised this did not chart at AC as it seemed tailor made for the format. At least Pop gave it some support. While it is not an outstanding ballad, it is a quality piece with a nice vocal turn from Lattisaw.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was co-written by Gary Benson and Frank Wildhorn. Wildhorn would go on to co-write Whitney Houston's 1988 #1 hit "Where Do Broken Hearts Go," but it would be his compositions for Broadway shows that would make him famous. His first show, Jeckyl & Hyde, would reach Broadway in 1997 and run for four years. During that run, he would compose scores for two more shows that would reach Broadway - The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Civil War. In 1999, all three shows were playing on Broadway. Wildhorn would receive Tony nods for Best Original Score for Scarlet and Civil. Both shows would also receive nods for Best Musical.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

"Rainbow's End" by Sergio Mendes

Song#:  1562
Date:  08/13/1983
Debut:  87
Peak:  52
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Sergio Mendes found himself with a surprise Pop Top 10 fourteen years after his last Pop chart appearance. "Never Gonna Let You Go" sung by Joe Pizzulo and Leza Miller, was a big hit that reached #1 at AC, #4 Pop, and #28 R&B. It was from Mendes' self-titled LP, as was this second single. While the song got some airplay at AC (#6), Pop was less enthusiastic and the single peaked just outside the Top 50.

ReduxReview:  This pop-jazzy outing wouldn't be out of place for a Michael McDonald album. McDonald may have given it a boost with a bit of blue-eyed soul tossed in. If he did, it might have been better. Al Jarreau might have done well with this tune too. Whoever would/could/did do the song, I can't say it would be a favorite. It's a good tune with solid pedigree, but it plays more like an album track than a single. I have to say that no matter what tracks I liked or disliked on the album, the fact is that it sounds nothing like a Sergio Mendes recording. Any reputable musician could have put there name on this and it would have sounded the same. Back in the day, Mendes created a great sound for his Brazil outfits, but that is completely lost here. This was just an attempt to Herb Alpert-ize Mendes and get some more miles out of an old model (as Alpert did with "Rise" and later with "Diamonds"). It's also no surprise that Mendes was on A&M - Alpert's label. The ploy worked, but at the cost of losing Mendes' real musical persona. Hopefully, new listeners went to Mendes' back catalog and discovered his great LPs from the 60s and early 70s (I have them all...).

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Mendes is not a vocalist, so for tracks requiring vocals, he hires out, as was the case for "Never Gonna Let You Go" and other songs on the album. This particular song features lead vocals by Danny Sembello. If that name sounds familiar, it is because he is the brother of Michael "Maniac" Sembello. Although Danny did not release any recordings on his own, he did write (and co-write with his brother) and produce songs for other artists. His most well-known songs come from the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop. Danny co-wrote "Neutron Dance" (#6) for the Pointer Sisters and "Stir It Up" (#41) for Patti LaBelle. The efforts got him a Grammy when the soundtrack won for Best Score Soundtrack.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"I Don't Wanna Dance" by Eddy Grant

Song#:  1561
Date:  08/13/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  53
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Reggae

Pop Bits:  After being in the music business since the late 60's, Grant finally grabbed his first US solo hit with the #2 "Electric Avenue." The funky reggae tune made him a worldwide star and his album Killer on the Rampage became his best selling disc. This song was selected as the second single from the LP in the US. The tune was initially the first single from the album released in the UK and it became Grant's first and only #1 hit there ("Electric Avenue" would hit #2). Unfortunately, the US didn't care for it all that much and the song stopped short of the Top 50.

ReduxReview:  After the terrific "Electric Avenue," this song just sounds...silly. If Huey Lewis & the News turned into a reggae band, this is probably what they would have sounded like. Why on earth this became a hit in the UK is beyond me. It hasn't aged well either. That dated production may be what is throwing me off. I can dig a goofy, fun tune, but there still has to be some meat on it. It just sounds like Grant was putting too much effort into being more mainstream pop and the results were not good. I just don't connect with this at all. Man, I needed a Metallica palate cleanser after that.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  As his hit days were winding up, Grant made a permanent move to Barbados. Once there, he would build his own commercial recording studio called Blue Wave. The state-of-the-art facility and exotic location would attract many musician looking to record their next song or album. Those that have recorded at Blue Wave include The Rolling Stones (and solo Mick Jagger), Sting, Rihanna, and the Happy Mondays.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"Don't You Know How Much I Love You" by Ronnie Milsap

Song#:  1560
Date:  08/13/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  58
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Country Crossover, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Milsap's more rock-oriented single "Stranger in My House," the first single from his album Keyed Up, did well reaching #5 at Country (#23 Pop), but its peak interrupted a streak of ten consecutive #1's. However, this next single returned him to the top spot for the twenty-third time. It also did well at AC reaching #12. It didn't catch on as well at Pop where it fell off the chart before getting into the top half.

ReduxReview:  While this song doesn't rank among his best singles, it is certainly not a bad one at all. Since Milsap very rarely ever wrote his own material, he and his folks had to be sure to pick the right songs and for a long time, they were spot-on. The third single from Keyed Up, "Show Her," was a terrific song that also hit #1 at Country (#17 AC). Unfortunately, it didn't make the Pop chart, which was sad because it was a top-notch ballad. But with the second British Invasion and New Wave taking over the Pop chart, ballads like it were getting ignored. Do yourself a favor and go get a hits disc of Milsap tunes. You won't regret it.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Milsap is one of a handful of musicians who are also amateur radio operators (aka ham radio). His call sign is WB4KGC. In an earlier post I mentioned that former Eagle Joe Walsh was also a licensed operator. Other musicians that have had a license include country stars Chet Atkins and Patty Loveless, and singer/songwriter Jim Croce.


Monday, February 22, 2016

"(She's) Sexy + 17" by Stray Cats

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1559
Date:  08/06/1983
Debut: 51
Peak:  5
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rockabilly

Pop Bits:  These rockabilly revivalists hit it big when their US debut album, Built for Speed, spawned the hits "Rock This Town" (#9) and "Stray Cat Strut" (#3). Capitalizing on that momentum, the Cats once again hit the studio with producer Dave Edmunds and came out with Rant N' Rave with the Stray Cats. This first single followed the others right into the Top 10 to become their third in a row. In the UK where they first broke, their retro sound seemed to be quickly going out of fashion as this single could only manage a #29 showing. The US would soon follow suit making this their final US Top 10.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't into the Stray Cats' retro-billy sound to begin with, so when this came out I was particularly hateful towards it. If it came on the radio, I couldn't turn the dial fast enough. When the video played on MTV, I switched the channel. I just was not buying into their greasy, bad boy, poser personas and refurbished 50s music. Although my attitude towards them has changed over the years, I'm still not a fan of this song. I think it just tries way too hard to capture the era of the music and it comes off more like imitation rather than something new via something old. It's just okay. They were capable of better.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Stray Cat member Lee Rocker was born Leon Drucker. His father, Stanley Drucker, was a clarinetist with the New York Philharmonic. Drucker joined the clarinet section in 1948 and by 1960 he was the Philharmonic's principle clarinetist. He remained in that position until a final performance in 2009. His six-decade career earned Drucker a Guinness world record for the longest career as a clarinetist. He received the award following his last performance with the Philharmonic.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

"Kiss the Bride" by Elton John

Song#:  1558
Date:  08/06/1983
Debut:  60
Peak:  25
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  John's single "I'm Still Standing" was his third chart entry in a row to just miss out on the Top 10 reaching #12 ("Empty Garden" hit #13 and "Blue Eyes" got to #12). Could he finally crack the Top 10 with this second single from his Too Low for Zero album? Nope. It actually did worse and could only make a Top 30 showing. However, his luck would turn around with the third single from the LP.

ReduxReview:  This isn't too bad for a John/Taupin rocker, but it is nowhere in the same league as their classic 70s material. Although it made a respectable appearance on the chart, I don't think it was a very good single. Frankly, it's quite forgettable. It's definitely not his worst effort, but I certainly wouldn't put this on a list of his greatest hits.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In 1962 when he was just 15, "Reggie Dwight" co-founded the band Bluesology. They played clubs for a few years gaining a solid reputation that lead to them being contracted to be the backing band for artists on tour in the UK (The Isley Brothers, Patti LaBelle, etc.). Their demo caught the ear of Fontana Records, who signed them. Two singles were released, but no takers. In 1966, vocalist Long John Baldry asked them to become his regular backing band, which they did. But after a couple of years, Dwight was done with that job and decided to move on. He met a guy named Bernie Taupin and the two began co-writing songs. By this point, Dwight had changed his name. He took on "Elton," which came from his Bluesology mate Elton Dean, and "John" from his one-time boss Long John Baldry. Elton John would then issue his debut album, Empty Sky, in 1969.