Saturday, June 4, 2016

"Street of Dreams" by Rainbow

Song#:  1678
Date:  11/05/1983
Debut:  93
Peak:  60
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Rainbow got their biggest US hit with "Stone Cold" (#1 Rock, #40 Pop) from their album Straight Between the Eyes. The album had a more commercial rock sound, which displeased a good portion of their long-time fans. However, the success of the song and album prompted the band to continue down the same path for their next LP Bent Out of Shape. This first single announced its arrival and it was another hit at Rock reaching #2. Although not as popular as "Stone Cold," the song did okay getting to #60. It would be their final single to reach the Pop chart. Later in 1984, the band would split with leader Ritchie Blackmore heading back to his original band Deep Purple.

ReduxReview:  I think this song has even more of a commercial slant than "Stone Cold." It has a good chuggin' beat and a memorable chorus. I actually thought this did better on the chart because I remember the song whereas I didn't recall "Stone Cold." I kind of wished they would have rocked this out a bit more, but as-is I think the song still works and probably should have done better on the chart.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The video for this song was a take on the famous German silent horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari from 1920. Featuring scenes that involve hypnotism, at least one group whose focus was on curbing TV violence complained to MTV about airing the video. Whether or not the channel pulled the video is in question. In his biography, Blackmore stated that MTV banned the video, but there is no confirmation of that to be found.  2) The album did generate a Grammy nomination for the band. They received a nod in the Best Rock Instrumental Performance category for the track "Anybody There."


Friday, June 3, 2016

"Dirty Looks" by Juice Newton

Song#:  1677
Date:  11/05/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  90
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  It took a few years for her to break through, but Newton finally did it in a pretty big way with two platinum albums that featured four Top 10 hits. When she followed those two albums up with Dirty Looks, things were not going as well. The LP's first single, "Tell Her No," faded quickly after a disappointing #27 showing (#14 AC). To make matters worse, this next title-track single was barely a blip on the chart disappearing after a short three weeks. The non-hits certainly didn't help the album, which topped out at a less-than-stellar #52. It was the beginning of a rocky period for Newton.

ReduxReview:  If "Tell Her No" didn't fully turn off her country fans, this one most likely did. This synth-rock tune, written by Dave Robbins and Van Stephenson (they would later form the country band Blackhawk), was certainly interesting, but I just don't think it fit Newton's style at all. She sings it convincingly, but an edgier rock tune really didn't suit her well. Parts of it almost sound like she is trying to infringe on Pat Benatar territory. It's all very odd. I like the song, but it wasn't a good fit for Newton and it didn't make for a good single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Her move towards a more rock-oriented sound with Dirty Looks certainly left her country fans in the dust. Although the album would be able to eke out a #22 showing on the Country chart, the only single to get on the chart was the bluesy ballad "Stranger At My Door." The song would only manage a #45 peak while missing all other charts. The crossover hits she enjoyed on her previous two albums seemed to not be present on the new album. However, another track on the album would be a hit for another artist. "Twenty Years Ago" would be recorded by Kenny Rogers in 1987 and released as a single. It would reach #2 on the Country chart.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

"Say It Isn't So" by Daryl Hall & John Oates

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1676
Date:  10/29/1983
Debut:  30
Peak:  2
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Blue-Eyed Soul, Pop

Pop Bits:  Hall & Oates' eleventh studio album H2O became their second to boast three Top 10 hits and it was also their second consecutive double-platinum seller. They were in top form and at the peak of their powers. With eleven Top 10's in the bank the time seemed right to issue a hits compilation. Rock 'n Soul Part One featured nine of their hits along with a live version of their #18 entry from 1979 "Wait for Me." In addition, the set was rounded out by two brand new songs, one of which was this first single. It crashed onto the Pop chart at a high #30 and then made a beeline for the top. It would spend four weeks at #2 being blocked out of the #1 position by "Say Say Say" by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson (yes, there were a lot of "say say say, say it isn't so!" jokes going on at the time). It would also be a multi-format hit reaching #1 at Dance, #8 AC, and #45 R&B. The hit pushed the album to #7 and it eventually became their third double-platinum disc.

ReduxReview:  I took one listen to this song and sprinted to the record store to buy it. Those warm chords, atmospheric production, and killer verse hooked me and wouldn't let go. It was just the perfect song to issue while being at the top of their game. Although I'd like some of their future singles, none would come close to the quality of this one. I've often felt that this song closed out their best era of songs.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Around this time, Hall & Oates recorded a single for the Christmas holiday. They did a remake of the 1957 Bobby Helms hit "Jingle Bell Rock." Written by Joe Beale and Jim Boothe, the song became a classic holiday standard that would go on to be remade by many artists. However, Helms' original remains the best known and most played. Hall & Oates' version was issued as a single, but it did not chart. Despite not having any significant sales, their take on the song was quite popular at the time thanks to a humorous video that got a lot of airplay on MTV. What is also interesting about the single and video is that two versions were done - one with Daryl Hall on lead vocals (the a-side of the single) and one with John Oates taking the lead (the b-side).


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

"I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" by Elton John

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1675
Date:  10/29/1983
Debut:  65
Peak:  4
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  John's album Too Low for Zero started off well with the #12 "I'm Still Standing," but then it hit a bit of a snag when the follow-up single "Kiss the Bride" stalled at #25. Hoping to gain back some ground, this third single was issued. In the UK, this served as the LP's lead single and it reached #5 earlier in the year. Finally released in the US, the song struck the right chord at AC going to #2. Pop audiences embraced it as well and it became John's first Top 10 hit in three years. The delayed hit helped album sales and even though it would only peak at #25, it would become a platinum seller - his first since 1978.

ReduxReview:  I never really understood why this ended up as the third single instead of the first or second. I guess it didn't matter because the song was strong enough to become a hit no matter when it was released. In a decade where John's work was pretty hit-and-miss, this one was spot on. I'd even go so far as to say that it was his finest single of the period.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  John got an assist from another superstar artist for this song. Stevie Wonder is featured on harmonica. Since 1962, Wonder has contributed harmonica to over 100 songs by other artists. The week this song debuted, there was already another single on the chart that featured Wonder. His harmonica work could be heard on Manhattan Transfer's "Spice of Life," which was on the verge of hitting the Top 40.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"I Won't Stand in Your Way" by The Stray Cats

Song#:  1674
Date:  10/29/1983
Debut:  72
Peak:  35
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rockabilly, Doo Wop

Pop Bits:  The Cats got their third Top 10 hit in a row with "(She's) Sexy + 17" (#5), the first single from their album Rant N' Rave with the Stray Cats. Despite the hit, there were signs that pop audiences were tiring of the rockabilly revival. This next single just barely made a Top 40 showing while the album peaked at a lower than expected #14. It would reach gold status, but that was a drop from their platinum #2 album Build for Speed.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't a fan of the Cats back then and so I avoided their songs as much as I could, including this one. Now with a better understanding of what they were doing, I can revisit their tunes with a different ear. A few of their songs I'm still kind of "meh" about, but they did issue a few gems along the way like this one. The backing vocals (see below) are terrific and I like the big reverb filled production. It's definitely one of their better tunes and it should have gone up the chart a bit more.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song and others on the Rant N' Rave album featured backing vocals by the soul a cappella group 14 Karat Soul. Formed in East Orange, New Jersey, the teenage vocalists initially focused on doo-wop and their skills ended up getting them gigs backing other artists, performing on TV shows (like Sesame Street), and singing for commercials. After a string of successful ads in Japan that featured the group, they became very popular there and would go on to release several albums for the Japanese market. In addition to doing the backing vocals for the Stray Cats' album, they also went out on tour with the band. Later on, they would also support Whitney Houston on one of her European tours.


Monday, May 30, 2016

"What's New?" by Linda Ronstadt

Song#:  1673
Date:  10/29/1983
Debut:  84
Peak:  53
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Standards, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After her 1980 new wave influenced album Mad Love, Ronstadt's next project was to be an album of pop and jazz standards done in collaboration with famed producer Jerry Wexler. With the working title of Keeping Out of Mischief, Ronstadt recorded ten songs over a four day period with a small jazz combo. Both during and after the sessions, Ronstadt sensed that something was not right with the songs, the arrangements, and even her vocals. It just wasn't adding up. So she shelved the project and moved on to her next pop album Get Closer. Still, she longed to do the standards album and she set out to find the right collaborator for the project. That person turned out to be famed conductor and orchestration genius Nelson Riddle. It all was finally making sense and coming together. However, it wasn't making sense to Ronstadt's label Elektra. They were (rightfully) concerned that an album like this would alienate her rock fans (not to mention younger fans) and bring her career to a screeching halt. It was an uphill battle for Ronstadt, but in the end her adamant dedication to the project swayed the label and they okayed the album. The sessions took place and the results were what Ronstadt had hoped for. To announce the arrival of this unique album, this title-track song was issued as the first single. Of course, AC jumped right on it and the tune easily reached #5. At Pop, the song wasn't really expected to do much, but it ended up doing surprisingly well getting near the Top 50 mark. The album certainly made a splash and instead of warding off fans, it helped gain a whole new set of fans that perhaps had not been familiar with these classic standards. The album spent five weeks at #3 on the album chart and would eventually be certified triple-platinum, her first to achieve that level since 1977's Simple Dreams. The album was a bold move by Ronstadt, but it paid off quite well for her and Riddle.

ReduxReview:  I remember the hubbub around this album. Lot's of "what the hell is she doing," Ronstadt's Folly, and elevator music comments. The pop standard had pretty much disappeared since rock really took hold so why on earth would she do these moldy oldies? Little did Ronstadt (or anyone) know that her album would be the one to start a trend that continues through to today - that of the superstar standards album. Of course, she was not the first rock star to dabble in standards, but the scope of the project, the fact she was still a top pop/rock artist, and the high-selling results made the album a definitive notch on a music trends timeline. It still goes on even now. As it happens, the day I'm writing this post is the same day that Bob Dylan released his second Frank Sinatra tribute album. I wouldn't say that this is all due to Ronstadt, but I would say that because the album was a major hit, it made it okay for other major stars to branch out and do similar projects. I, of course, loved this album. Thanks to my parents' love of standards, I knew most of the songs already. But it was her voice and the impeccable arrangements that made the album a near-classic. Oddly, this title track was a tune I had not heard yet and I really fell for it. Kudos have to go to Ronstadt for following her vision and to her label for taking the chance, which is something they don't often do.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) If there was a sad side to all of this success, it is that this song would serve as Ronstadt's final solo single to hit the Pop chart. She would have hit duets in the coming years, but she was never able to land a single on her own again.  2) The project would earn Ronstadt another Grammy nomination. She would earn one in the Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female category. She would not win, but Riddle would get handed a Grammy for his arrangements.  3) This song was written in 1939 by Bob Haggart (music) and Johnny Burke (lyrics). Haggart had actually written the song as an instrumental the previous year with a trumpet solo doing the melody. It was recorded by Bob Crosby and His Orchestra with the title "I'm Free." Lyrics were added the next year by Burke and the Crosby orchestra recorded it again under its new title with vocalist Teddy Grace. It was a hit as were versions by Hal Kemp, Benny Goodman, and Bing Crosby.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

"Lady Down on Love" by Alabama

Song#:  1672
Date:  10/29/1983
Debut:  87
Peak:  76
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  Alabama's title-track to their second album The Closer You Get... was another winner for them hitting #1 at Country, #9 AC, and #38 Pop. The album would be their first and only Pop Top 10 (#10) and it would eventually sell 4x platinum.  On the downside, the single would be their last Pop Top 40 on their own. This follow-up single would be their eleventh consecutive Country #1 while doing well at AC going to #18, but Pop was less interested and it faltered in the bottom quarter of the chart.

ReduxReview:  Well, I guess this is a pretty ballad and I'm sure there are folks who can relate to the lyrics, however it is not appealing to me. I'm definitely not opposed to languid, thoughtful songs, but this one is a bit of a snoozer. It doesn't engage me. Other than being a gentle and pleasant listen, there's nothing here that is keeping my attention. It's far from being bad, which makes it difficult to judge. So I'll look at it like - is this a great pop single? For me the answer is no. It's just too understated to make an impact at Pop and I think the results prove that out.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although "The Closer You Get" would be the band's final Pop Top 40 single on their own, they would take part in two duets that would become hits. In 1999, the band joined up with the very popular boy band *NSYNC for "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You." The single, from Alabama's album Twentieth Century, would get to #3 at Country while hitting #29 at Pop. Then in 2011, Alabama assisted Brad Paisley on the song "Old Alabama." That song would top the Country chart while going to #38 on the Pop chart. It appeared on Paisley's album This Is Country Music.