Saturday, May 21, 2016

"Lady, Lady, Lady" by Joe "Bean" Esposito

Song#:  1660
Date:  10/22/1983
Debut:  91
Peak:  86
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Singer/songwriter Esposito got his first real break in music with the band Brooklyn Dreams. A trio made up of Esposito, Bruce Sudano, and Eddie Hokenson, they hit it big when a collaboration with Donna Summer, "Heaven Knows", hit #4 in 1978. For the single, which appeared on Summer's Live and More LP, Summer had the lead vocal duties while Esposito did the supporting vocal. The song also appeared on Brooklyn Dreams' second album, Sleepless Nights, but with Esposito on lead and Summer supporting. The hit helped sell a few of the band's albums, but it did not translate into a successful recording career. However, the band did co-write Summer's 1979 #1 hit "Bad Girls," which put a few royalties in their pockets. With disco dying and interest in the band fading, they separated into their own careers. Esposito began working with producer Giorgio Moroder and this song wound up on the Moroder's soundtrack to the movie Flashdance. It would serve as the third single from the album. The ballad only managed a couple of weeks on the Pop chart while going to #36 at AC. The collaboration with Moroder continued and the pair issued an album titled Solitary Men, which also included this song. Unfortunately, it couldn't capitalize on the success of Flashdance and disappeared quickly. Esposito and Bruce Sudano would then form the band Joe-Bruce & 2nd Avenue. They issued a self-titled disc in 1987 that also failed to get attention. Despite not breaking big, Esposito kept busy in the decade supplying songs and vocals for several soundtracks as well as backing vocals for other artists.

ReduxReview:  Something has always bugged me about the Flashdance soundtrack. In addition to the back-to-back #1's of the title-track and "Maniac," the album contained some primo tracks from Laura Branigan, Donna Summer, Kim Carnes, and two virtual unknowns Shandi and Karen Kamon. Any of these tracks would have done far better than this weak ballad. It is actually my least favorite song on the album (and that's even taking into consideration the dreary instrumental "Love Theme from Flashdance"). Perhaps there were agreements in place that blocked the other songs from single release. Or perhaps the label was just dumb. Whatever the case, we were left to slog through this song as a single and it bombed. When I don't particularly like a song, I usually try to say something semi-positive about it like "it's not really bad, it is just not a good single." I this case I just can't. It's just boring filler that interrupts the flow of an album loaded with some hot 80s tracks. Well, not interrupts. More like brings it to a screeching halt.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Esposito would grab a couple of Grammy nods for his work on the Flashdance and Staying Alive soundtracks, but he would get a nomination in a performance category for his appearance on Brenda Russell's 1988 hit "Piano in the Dark" (#3 AC/#6 Pop/#8 R&B). They would be nominated in the Best Pop Vocal Group category for the song. Russell's song would also be nominated for Song of the Year.  2) Esposito's son is former Major League baseball player Mike Esposito. The starting pitcher played one season with Colorado Rockies in 2005.  3) Brooklyn Dream' Bruce Sudano would marry Donna Summer in 1980. They remained married until her death in 2012.


Friday, May 20, 2016

"I Just Can't Walk Away" by The Four Tops

Song#:  1659
Date:  10/22/1983
Debut:  93
Peak:  71
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After two albums for Casablanca that yielded the #1 R&B hit "When She Was My Girl" (#9 AC/#11 Pop), the vocal group moved back to their original home label of Motown, which they had left in 1972. Their first album for the label was appropriately title Back Where I Belong and this first single was issued to get things started. Unfortunately, the results didn't even come close to replicating the success of their previous Motown hits and it fell of the chart after a couple of months. The tune's best showing was at AC where it did get to #18. At R&B, the single stalled just inside the Top 40 at #36. The album then quickly and quietly disappeared.

ReduxReview:  The Four Tops + Holland-Dozier-Holland + Motown. It has to be a fantastic return to form, right? Nope. What should have been a hot, upbeat, retro reunion of the three somehow turned into this sluggish ballad. It is well-performed by the Tops, but the song is a dud. It's almost reaching for a Commodores-ish sound but falls flat. It's definitely not a horrible tune, but considering the songwriters, the artist, and the label, it is pretty disappointing.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  For the new Motown album, the Tops were once again paired with the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. HDH wrote many songs for the Tops during their original Motown days including their two biggest hits "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" (#1 Pop and R&B, 1965) and "Reach Out I'll Be There" (#1 Pop and R&B, 1966). HDH wrote this song and four others for the new album, but the magic that they had with the Tops in the early days was no longer there. The album also boasted two superstar duets (neither written by HDH) - one with Aretha Franklin and one with The Temptations. The appearance of the legendary stars also failed to attract listeners.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

"Caught in the Game" by Survivor

Song#:  1658
Date:  10/22/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  77
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After getting a bit of attention with their first two albums, Survivor had a major break through when their contribution to the Rocky III soundtrack, "Eye of the Tiger," became a #1 smash. Their third album, titled after the hit, vaulted to #2 and became a platinum seller. Expectations were high for their follow-up as the band readied their new album Caught in the Game. This first single introduced the album, but not everyone was welcoming. The song performed okay at Rock reaching #16, but it faltered quickly at Pop and fell off the chart just over a month after it debuted. This was not good news. To make matters worse, no other single or song from the album was able to reach the Rock or Pop charts. With little support, the album tanked at a lowly #82 - a far cry from their previous #2 hit - and it had people questioning if the band could do anything nearly as popular as their signature tune.

ReduxReview:  These guys had to know that chances were slim they could repeat the results of "Eye of the Tiger," but they really did need a solid catchy tune that would keep the ball rolling for them. Unfortunately, this was not the song. It's not a bad album opener, but this has about zero going for it as a single. The sound is a bit more guitar-heavy than their previous outings, but I don't think that mattered. It's just a weak song to introduce the album. These guys were more than capable of writing some good, commercial rock fare, but this song and album were a stumble. Perhaps they were pushed to get this out and that along with Dave Bickler's health issues (see below) had them scrambling to produce product. Whatever it was, it resulted in what is arguably their weakest album of the decade.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The bad news continued for the band when lead singer Dave Bickler developed nodules on his vocal fold. He had to have surgery done to remove the nodules and that left the band without a singer. There would be no tour to support the Caught in the Game album, which certainly played a part in its lack of sales. With additional vocal rest required for Bickler, the band sought out a new vocalist so they could move forward. Jimi Jameson was hired and he would help lead the band into a new era of popularity. Bickler would end up returning to the band in 1993 and stay until 2000. He would also do another short stint with them in 2014 following the death of Jimi Jamison. Bickler would stay on until March of 2016.


"I Think You'll Remember Tonight" by Axe

Song#:  1657
Date:  10/22/1983
Debut:  98
Peak:  94
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This hard rock band had a bit of a breakthrough when their third album, Offering, spawned the Rock radio track "Rock 'N' Roll Party in the Streets" (#23) and the #64 Pop entry "Now or Never." It set them up well for their next album, Nemesis, but the only track to make any headway was this single that got to #36 at Rock and spent two short weeks near the bottom of the Pop chart. It wasn't great news, but it got far worse for them when two band members, Bobby Barth and Michael Osborne were involved in a car wreck. Barth would survive, but sadly Osborne would not. The band would fold soon after Osborne's death. A reformed version of the band would appear in 1997.

ReduxReview:  This tune starts off with a terrific, mysterious groove, but the chorus is a bit of a letdown. Although I like the Hammond organ part, it seems a bit out of place for a band that is billed as being hard rock. This is definitely not hard rock. It's more in line with Michael Stanley Band or some other Midwest rock outfit. The rest of the album kind of shifts around from harder rocking tunes a la 38 Special to more pop-oriented rock via Survivor or even the more keyboard oriented tracks from Styx. There are some good songs on the LP with several (like this one) that seemed to have been written with a more commercial slant. It's all good, just not outstanding.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The lineup of Axe in 1997, which featured original members Barth and drummer Teddy Mueller, also included vocalist Bob Harris. Harris had been a part of Frank Zappa's band for a few years beginning in 1981. He played keyboards and trumpet and provided vocals. He became lead singer of Axe when they reformed. Axe is still in existence as of this date with Harris at the helm. All other original members have either moved on to other projects or have passed away.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"Say Say Say" by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson

#1 Alert!
Platinum Alert!
Song#:  1656
Date:  10/15/1983
Debut:  26
Peak:  1 (6 weeks)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Pop, R&B

Pop Bits:  With Jackson's Thriller still ruling the charts, McCartney coming off of his own #1 solo disc (Tug of War), and one hit already in the bank ("The Girl Is Mine"), the time for a second duet between these two legends could not have been more perfect. To help promote McCartney's upcoming LP Pipes of Piece, this duet was issued as the first single. Not only did the song have a significantly high debut within the Top 30, it quickly rose to the top spot and remained there for a solid six weeks becoming one of the decade's top superstar collaborations. It hit several other charts as well getting to #2 R&B, #2 Dance, #3 AC and #24 Rock. It also had Jackson taking away a specific historic title from McCartney. The single was Jackson's seventh Top 10 within a year, which broke the record that was held by both The Beatles and Elvis Presley. Although the song was a major hit, it didn't translate into big albums sales for McCartney. His associated Pipes of Peace LP would top out at a weak #15. It would be a platinum seller, but considering the size of this hit, the album results were a bit of a disappointment.

ReduxReview:  I remember the huckster/vaudeville-style video for this song. It was pretty corny and even though it had a story line, it had nothing whatsoever to do with they lyrics. However, I don't think people really cared because the song was so solid. Of the three songs McCartney and Jackson collaborated on (see below), this one is by far the best. The song played to the strengths of both artists and it's one of the better pop grooves that McCartney had done in a long while.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This was McCartney's second album to feature a pair of duets with a superstar artist. Tug of War contained two duets with Stevie Wonder, including the #1 hit "Ebony and Ivory." For Pipes of Peace the superstar was Michael Jackson, who did this hit and another track titled "The Man." Both songs were co-written by McCartney and Jackson. Oddly, these tracks are not new. They were originally recorded during McCartney's sessions for Tug of War, a year before their first duet single, the #2 "The Girl Is Mine," was released.


"Crumblin' Down" by John Cougar Mellencamp

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1655
Date:  10/15/1983
Debut:  42
Peak:  9
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  John Cougar's LP American Fool was a major #1 multi-platinum hit thanks to the singles "Hurt So Good" (#2 Pop/#1 Rock) and "Jack & Diane" (#1 Pop/#3 Rock). He then had the formidable task of trying to follow-up that huge success. The results were found in his seventh LP Uh-Huh. To get things kicked off, this first single was issued. It was another success at Rock reaching #2 while becoming his third Pop Top 10 hit. It pushed the album to #9 and over time it became a triple-platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  I totally loved "Jack & Diane," but I wasn't so sure I really liked Cougar. He'd have to put out something pretty awesome to get me on his team. Unfortunately, this song wasn't it. I totally hated it. I thought it was a snotty song from a punk-ass guy with way too much attitude. The video for the song kind of confirmed that for me as well. I was not having it. Little did I know that his next LP would become one of my all-time favorites. After that, I would revisit his previous albums and develop a fondness for them. In a total about-face, I ended up liking this song a lot. It's got a great rock/R&B feel to it with terrific guitar parts and immaculate drums. It took a while, but I finally warmed up to this jam.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  After American Fool did so well, it allowed Cougar to have a bit more freedom and power over his career and music. The one thing he wanted to do was shed his given stage name of Cougar and use his real name of Mellencamp. His label wasn't necessarily fond of this as John Cougar was (to them) a recognizable product name. However, knowing that the next LP could be just as successful as American Fool, the label and Cougar agreed to still keep his stage name, but add on his real last name. Beginning with Uh-Huh, he would keep the John Cougar Mellencamp moniker for four albums before finally being able to drop the Cougar completely for 1991's Whenever We Wanted.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" by Asia

Song#:  1654
Date:  10/15/1983
Debut:  65
Peak:  34
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Arena Rock

Pop Bits:  Asia grabbed their second Pop Top 10 and second #1 Rock hit when "Don't Cry" was issued as the first single from their second album Alpha. For the follow-up, the band chose this big ballad, which found its way inside the Top 40. It seemed to be sure bet to do well at Rock, but it could only muster a #25 showing. The LP was able to reach #6, but the lack of a second significant single put a dent in its popularity. It did get certified platinum, but that was considered a disappointment after their 4x platinum results of their debut.

ReduxReview:  If it wasn't already evident that Asia jumped from prog-rock-ish fare to more commercial pop/rock with Alpha, this song should have made that abundantly clear. Honestly, I think this song is a mess. First off, it is just the wrong song for Asia. Their debut was dense and meaty and refrained from a lot of flowery romantic fluff. Could Styx get away with it? Sure. Can Asia? Nope. It is also way over produced. It's too loud and muddy for such a sappy song. The worst part - those effects that seem to want to mimic cannons or explosions at the peak of the song. When I hear that part, I always feel that glittery confetti should be showering down. It just doesn't work. Now, that said, in general I do like the song. I think there is potential here for something good. I just don't think Asia was the band to do it.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  While only two proper singles were released from the album, three other tracks were circulated for airplay on Rock radio. All three reached the chart. The best showing was from "The Heat Goes On," which reached #5. The other two were "True Colors" (#20) and "Daylight" (#24). The results were good, but considering that their debut album had six Rock chart entries with three of those going Top 10, the five from Alpha were not as strong.


"Souls" by Rick Springfield

Song#:  1653
Date:  10/15/1983
Debut:  70
Peak:  23
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Springfield got his third consecutive platinum album with Living in Oz. The LP topped out at #12 thanks to the #9 showing of "Affair of the Heart" and the #18 "Human Touch." Hoping to squeeze one more hit out of the album, this third single was issued. It was the lowest peaking of the three, but it still came close to cracking the Top 20.

ReduxReview:  Yet again Springfield tosses out another solid rock tune. He was really on his game with Living in Oz. What's nice about this song is that he doesn't go overboard on the production with a ton of keyboard parts and effects. It's meaty without being overbearing. For the most part, he just puts the song out there. It's kind of been forgotten now, but the quality of it ranks right alongside the album's previous two singles.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  After many years toggling between acting and music, the combo effect helped Springfield land a significant film role. Oscar winning director Jonathan Demme was looking for an actor who was also a solid musician/guitarist for his latest film. When word got out that the star of the film was going to be Meryl Streep, most every actor who ever touched a guitar was trying to get the part. But no one was clicking. Either the actors couldn't really play guitar very well (or at all) or good guitarists couldn't act. That all changed with Springfield went in for an audition. With a solid resume on both sides of the check sheet, he walked in and meshed with both the band and with Streep. He ended up getting the part of the guitarist in Streep's band in the 2015 film Ricki and the Flash. Although the film was not a major hit, the appearance (and good notices) of Springfield put a spotlight back on his career.


Monday, May 16, 2016

"Invisible Hands" by Kim Carnes

Song#:  1652
Date:  10/15/1983
Debut:  78
Peak:  40
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Synthpop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Carnes' album Voyeur went down the dark synthpop path that was set by her huge 1981 hit "Bette Davis Eyes," but the results were not good. The title-track single could only get to #29 while the album faltered at #49. It was a major disappointment coming off her platinum #1 LP Mistaken Identity. For her next effort, CafĂ© Racers, Carnes mixed it up a bit with dance-pop, AC ballads, and rock-leaning synthpop. This first single falls into the latter category and once again, it just wasn't hitting the mark. The song just barely made the Top 40 while missing all other charts. Despite not being a major hit, the song did earn Carnes a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

ReduxReview:  I'd love to chat with Kim Carnes and actually find out if this is the direction she really wanted to go or if the label sort of pushed her that way. It just didn't make sense. They were still trying to sell her as some synthpop diva when the only time it really worked was with "Bette Davis Eyes."Again, it was the wrong move especially when she was writing top-notch songs like "I'll Be Here Where the Heart Is" (see below). I think she should have moved off into the pop/AC arena with an emphasis on blue-eyes soul, which was part of her earlier albums. She may not have scored another massive hit, but I think she could have done better on the charts that she did with this song. However, as with "Voyeur," I'm not sad that she did this song. I've always liked it and thought it could have done a bit better on the chart. It's a quirky tune that had a somewhat creepy MTV video where Carnes looks a tad uncomfortable in a "how the hell did I get into this" kind of way. Well, how did you, Kim?

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The b-side to this single, which was also included on the album, was "I'll Be Here Where the Heart Is." Carnes co-wrote this song which ended up on the hit soundtrack to the film Flashdance. The album won a Grammy for Best Original Score with all songwriters, including Carnes, taking home a Grammy. It was her second following Record of the Year for "Bette Davis Eyes."  2) This song was co-written by Martin Page and Brian Fairweather. The two Englishmen first got their start in a UK band called Q-Feel. They had a minor hit in the UK with "Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop)," which reached #18 on the UK Dance chart. It did not initially chart in the US. However, a reissue of the song in 1989 would reach #75 on the US Pop chart. Page would go on to write hit songs for other artists including "We Build This City" for Starship in 1985. He would also score his own solo hit in 1994 when the title track to his album In the House of Stone and Light would get to #14 (#1 AC).


"Time Will Reveal" by DeBarge

Song#:  1651
Date:  10/15/1983
Debut:  80
Peak:  18
Weeks: 21
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The sibling group's second album, All This Love, was a gold-seller that spawned two R&B Top 10's including the title track (#5), which also hit #17 Pop and #1 AC. Hopes ran high for a solid follow-up and they did not disappoint. Their third effort, In a Special Way, would be another gold seller thanks to this first single that hit #1 at R&B. It also got them back into the Pop Top 20 while getting to #12 at AC. Produced solely by El Debarge and featuring five songs he either wrote or co-wrote, the album would be one of their most critically lauded works.

ReduxReview:  I have to say that this is my favorite DeBarge song. Co-written by El, Bunny, and Bobby, it was the perfect song to follow up their other hits and kick off their third album. I think it is arguably El's best vocal work as well. This should have been a Top 10'er but it stalled just inside the Top 20. At least R&B had the good taste to send it to #1.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The group's self-titled 1981 debut album came and went with very little attention paid to it. They felt that some of the songs deserved a better fate and that much of the sound and mixing was not very good. So they decided to revisit songs from the album and do fresh recordings. One of the songs, "Queen of My Heart," written by El Debarge, was remade for inclusions on In a Special Way. Another tune would end up begin redone for their next album.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

"Baby I Lied" by Deborah Allen

Song#:  1650
Date:  10/15/1983
Debut:  81
Peak:  26
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  Singer/songwriter Allen spent many years taking advantage of good opportunities with top people, but nothing she did truly led to a breakthrough moment. Even a debut album on Capitol in 1980 barely made waves with one single, "Nobody's Fool," getting to #24 on the Country chart. Amidst the disappointment of her solo effort, her songwriting career got a major boost. Allen desperately wanted to record and release a song she co-wrote called "Don't Worry 'bout Me Baby," but Capital said no. It was a real bummer, but then the song got picked up by country star Janie Fricke who recorded it and took the song to #1 on the Country chart. The hit gave Allen a boost and she left Capitol for RCA where she recorded an EP titled Cheat the Night. It would prove to be her breakthrough when this first single hit #4 at Country. It also caught on at AC (#10) and even got into the Pop Top 30. The EP would spawn two more Country Top 10's, but that burst of popularity quickly waned and Allen would only manage a few mid-level charters over the next few years. Meanwhile, her hit streak as a songwriter continued with a second #1 for Fricke and one for John Conlee. Allen also helped supply songs for two hit albums by Leenn Rimes, her debut Blue and Sittin' on Top of the World.

ReduxReview:  Every now and then there would be a song rising on the chart that for some reason I wasn't getting to hear. So when I had a couple extra bucks in my pocket, I'd head to the record store and buy the single. The blind buying sometimes paid off, sometimes not. This song was one that I bought just to hear it. At the time, I thought it was just okay and kind of set it aside. It wasn't until I heard a version by Tracey Ullman that the song clicked for me. Since then, I've enjoyed both Allen's and Ullman's versions, but I do have to say that Allen kind of kicks some ass with her vocals. It was her peak moment for good reason.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) In the mid-70s, Allen got work with entertainer Jim Stafford on his TV show and tours which led to her recording a single in 1976 called "Do You Copy." Co-produced by Stafford, it was a novelty track based around the CB radio craze of the day. It failed to chart and Allen shuffled back to Nashville in search of something better.  2) Before her solo album, Allen actually appeared on three Top 10 Country hits in 1979 and 1980 as a duet partner with country legend Jim Reeves. Reeves passed away in 1964, but five tracks meant to be duets were dug up and producer Bud Logan got Allen to provide the second vocal on them. Three were released as singles and hit the Top 10.  3) In 1987, Allen took a chance and moved into the pop arena with the album Telepathy. The title track served as the lead single. What is odd about this song is that it was written by Prince, under the pseudonym of Joey CoCo. Allen had met Prince when they happened to be recording in the same LA studio. After Allen recorded her album, her label wanted a couple of more songs to amp it up. Allen then thought of Prince and sent him her latest tracks and a letter asking if he might work with her on a song. A couple of days later, she got a package with a song written specifically for her by Prince. Allen recorded it and named her album after the song. Unfortunately, neither the single nor the album were able to chart. Allen wasn't the only country/pop artist to record a Joey CoCo song. Kenny Rogers did "You're My Love" for his 1986 album They Don't Make Them Like They Used To.