Saturday, June 18, 2016

"I Still Can't Get Over Loving You" by Ray Parker, Jr.

Song#:  1692
Date:  11/12/1983
Debut:  81
Peak:  12
Weeks:  19
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Parker, Jr.'s first solo album, The Other Woman, was a #11 Pop/#1 R&B gold record thanks mainly to the title track hit (#4 Pop/#2 R&B). After a stop-gap Greatest Hits LP that showcased his new solo songs along with singles from his former group Raydio, Parker, Jr. was ready to issue his second solo disc. Titled Woman Out of Control, it was preceded by this first single that would peak at the same position at both Pop and R&B. AC would take it two notches higher to #10, but it wasn't a major hit like his first solo single. Two follow-up singles failed to make the Pop chart while barely getting out of the basement of the R&B chart. Without a significant Top 10 at Pop or R&B, the album faltered and could only get to #14 at R&B and a lowly #45 at Pop. It was his first real miss after five consecutive gold studio albums - four with Raydio and one solo.

ReduxReview:  I like this song better now, but I was kind of pissed at it back in the day. I thought it was copying other songs. The rolling synth drums seemed to be an imitation of "Chariots of Fire" and the lines "every breath you take, I'll be watching you" and even the meaning of the song were lifted from The Police's "Every Breath You Take." It wasn't enough to call for a lawsuit, but it sure seemed like he was taking liberties and getting "inspiration" from other people's songs. It irritated me, so I pretty much skipped this song. It doesn't bother me as much today and the rolling mid-tempo groove is kind of nice. However, I think he still copped stuff from other composers for this tune. He'd get in trouble for that on his next big hit.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In addition to his music career, Parker, Jr. tried to branch out into acting. He made appearances in few TV shows and films, but hit biggest role was in the 1987 action flick Enemy Territory. Co-starring Gary Frank and Jan Michael Vincent, the film centered on an insurance guy who gets trapped and terrorized in an NYC housing project building by a street gang called the Vampires. Parker, Jr. plays the building's handyman who helps the salesman through the nightmare. The small indie film came and went quickly as did Parker, Jr.'s acting career. Over the years he would end up making several cameo appearances as himself on various TV programs.


Friday, June 17, 2016

"Magnetic" by Earth, Wind & Fire

Song#:  1691
Date:  11/12/1983
Debut:  85
Peak:  57
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  EWF's previous album Powerlight was another gold album for them, thanks to the #17 Pop/#4 R&B hit "Fall in Love with Me." Despite that success, it signaled a dip in popularity and they hoped their next album, Electric Universe, would turn things around. This first single was issued and it was able to just make the R&B Top 10 at #10, but it failed at Pop not even getting into the top half of the chart. The bad news continued when the follow-up single "Touch" could only get to #23 at R&B while missing the Pop chart completely. With the lack of a solid crossover hit, the album stalled at #40 Pop (#8 R&B) becoming their worst showing on the chart since 1972. It also became their first since then to miss going gold.

ReduxReview:  Written by Martin Page, who had another song on the chart at the time with "Invisible Hands" by Kim Carnes, this tune definitely leans more towards synthpop/rock than EWF's usual R&B/funk sound. It's an interesting recording, but I don't think it fits the band very well. I like robotic nature of the song with its chilly staccato feel, but then the band tries to inject some soul into it with the vocals (especially near the end) and it just doesn't work. It's an interesting experiment, but ultimately one that really wasn't gonna go anywhere.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  EWF's founder, producer, and main songwriter Maurice White was a session drummer for the famed Chess label in the 60s. His work led to a spot in the Ramsey Lewis Trio, a jazz/funk/pop outfit headed up by pianist Ramsey Lewis. Just prior to White joining the group, the trio had their biggest hit in 1965 with "The 'In' Crowd," an instrumental remake of an earlier hit by Dobie Grey (#13 Pop/#11 R&B, 1964). The song would reach #5 at Pop and make Lewis and his trio stars. The recording would also net them a Grammy. But after the hit, there was a change in personnel and White was hired to take over on drums in 1966. He remained with the trio until 1969 when he went off to form his own group that would eventually evolve into EWF.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

"Lick It Up" by Kiss

Song#:  1690
Date:  11/12/1983
Debut:  87
Peak:  66
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  After a streak of platinum albums in the mid-to-late 70s, Kiss' fortunes began to slowly dwindle. Their 1980 album Unmasked managed to go gold, but their concept album Music from The Elder and their next effort Creatures of the Night failed to even do that (Creatures would eventually go gold in 1994). Their tours started to see diminishing returns as well and the band knew they needed to do something to turn things around. They did so in dramatic fashion when they decided to ditch their trademark stage makeup for their next LP Lick It Up. The album cover, interviews and tour were all done minus their makeup and associated personas that began with their 1974 self-titled debut album. As expected, the image makeover got a lot of attention including on MTV where the band debuted their fresh faces on the video network the day the album was released. The ploy worked. The album went gold a couple months after its release (it would eventually go platinum) and this first title-track single would get to #19 at Rock while making an appearance on the Pop chart. The band would remain unmasked until a 1996 reunion that featured the original lineup in their makeup and costumes.

ReduxReview:  I never got into Kiss. Their brand of bawdy hard rock just wasn't my thing. However, through their career they would occasionally toss off a song that would get my attention. This was one of them. Of course, the unmasking was quite the news o' the day, so it was difficult to avoid them or this song. Luckily, they began their new fresh-faced era with this solid anthematic tune. It was heavy on the commercial rock side and sounded terrific. With hard rock getting more airplay on pop stations and bands like Quiet Riot moving up the chart, I thought this could easily become one of their bigger hits and was a bit surprised when it stalled in the bottom half of the chart. Despite that result, it does remain one of their most popular concert tracks.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  So where did their legendary stage looks come from? As Gene Simmons mentioned in an interview, back in the early 70s when the band was just beginning, glam rock and its almost androgynous look was taking off. The band wanted to stand out, so they tried something similar. It didn't work. Simmons said that they were not thin, smaller guys and their 6-foot frames couldn't carry off the glam look. He said they looked more like drag queens than rockers. Simmons then just started experimenting and before long the pattern that would grace his face developed. Without any direction or marketing forethought, the other members followed suit and soon they established their own makeup patterns and personas to go with them. Gene Simmons was known as the Demon, Paul Stanley was the Starchild, Ace Frehley was the Spaceman (or Space Ace), and Peter Criss was the Catman. Two other future members also adopted a look and persona - Eric Carr was the Fox and Vinnie Vincent was the Wiz (or the Ankh Warrior).


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

"Blue World" by The Moody Blues

Song#:  1689
Date:  11/12/1983
Debut:  88
Peak:  62
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  After the Moodies got their second #1 album with Long Distance Voyager, they issued the new disc The Present. The LP's first single, "Sitting at the Wheel," was a moderate hit getting to #27 at Pop while going to #3 at Rock. The song wasn't really making the album sell so they hoped this follow-up would help it along. Unfortunately it didn't. The tune barely made it out of the basement at Pop and could only muster a #32 showing at Rock. In their UK homeland, the single would get to #35 and become their final Top 40 hit there. It would push the album to #15 there, but in the US it stopped at a disappointing #26.

ReduxReview:  Although I really like this song, it makes for a weak single. It pales in comparison to their more recent hits like "Gemini Dream" and "The Voice." It also takes a couple minutes for it to rev up and arrive at the chorus, which is not good for Pop radio. It seems caught between a ballad and something more uptempo and exciting. I would have liked for the song to do better on the chart, but the peak is not surprising. Lovely tune, just not a good single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The lead singer and songwriter on this track and a good chunk of the band's hits is Justin Hayward. When the band took breaks between albums and tours, Hayward did his own side projects including solo works. His first solo LP, Songwriter, came out in 1977 and did moderately well in both the UK (#28) and US (#37). The following year Hayward lent his voice to the prog rock classic Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of War of the Worlds. The concept album, based on the H.G. Wells story, was developed by British producer/composer Jeff Wayne. It featured the song "Forever Autumn," which was sung by Hayward. It ended up being a UK hit reaching #5. It would reach #47 in the US. The album was a big success in the UK hitting #5 and spending 290 weeks on the chart. The disc would also hit #1 in several European countries and Australia. Unfortunately, it didn't capture the imagination of US record buyers and it failed to reach the album chart. After the LP's success, Wayne set out to produce Hayward's next solo album. Night Flight was issued in 1980, but it was not received well (#41 UK, #166 US) and it quickly disappeared.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"Let the Music Play" by Shannon

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  1688
Date:  11/12/1983
Debut:  91
Peak:  8
Weeks:  24
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  Shannon Greene was performing with the New York Jazz Ensemble while attending York College. She sang with other bands as well and while performing in a studio she was spotted by producers Mark Liggett and Chris Barbosa. Soon the trio was working together on a song that would eventually evolve into "Let the Music Play." The results got Shannon signed to Mirage Records and the single was issued. It would end up topping both the R&B and Dance charts while getting into the Pop Top 10. Hitting at multiple formats helped sell the single, which would be certified gold. Her album of the same title was also a hit that reached gold level as well. Unfortunately, Shannon would never visit the Pop Top 40 again and it got her tagged as a one-hit wonder (#43 on VH1's list of Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80s). Despite not getting another major Pop hit, Shannon did grab one more R&B Top 10 and two more #1 Dance hits. But those would pale in comparison to this smash that defined her career. Shannon would also get a Grammy nod in the Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female, category for the album.

ReduxReview:  If you are gonna have one hit, why not make it a doozie? Shannon certainly did. I think she and her producers knew they were on to something big with this song and it paid off for them. At the time I remember folks talking about "that sound" (see below) and how cool it was. It really put dance music back on the Pop chart. I loved it and still do. It's one of the best dance tracks from the 80s (and actually beyond). It's a shame her career didn't last longer, but I doubt she is all that sad about it because so many people still remember her and this song.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Not only was Shannon's song a big hit, it would also be very influential. With disco absent from the Pop chart, producers and artists were looking for new ways to get dance music back into the mainstream. Liggett and Barbosa tinkered with the keyboard, drum, and bass sounds and rhythms for this song to create something distinctive and unique. What they created for this track initially became known as "The Shannon Sound." Others began imitating and/or creating their own grooves based around this sound. Eventually, the song would be credited as one of the early influences of "freestyle" music. It would be prominent on the Dance charts with several songs becoming hits at Pop. Songs from Exposé ("Come Go with Me," #5, 1987) and Pretty Poison ("Catch Me I'm Falling," #8, 1987) were hits that utilized the freestyle sound. 2) The actual hook of the song is not sung by Shannon. The main melody of the chorus is sung by Jimi Tunnell while Shannon does an answer part during that section. He was uncredited on the single. Tunnell would do many other "ghost" vocal appearances on pop songs, but he was mainly a jazz musician. His foray into the pop music world did result in one pop/R&B self-title album for MCA in 1985. He got a lot of studio and tour work and later on successfully wrote and performed music for a lot of commercials.


Monday, June 13, 2016

"I Like" by Men Without Hats

Song#:  1687
Date:  11/12/1983
Debut:  93
Peak:  84
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  This band hit big when their song "The Safety Dance" reached #3 on the Pop chart and #1 at Dance. The tune was from their full-length debut album Rhythm of Youth as was this follow-up single. Unfortunately, this song couldn't dig itself out of the basement of the chart and after three short weeks it disappeared. A third single was issued ("I Got the Message"), but no one was interested and it didn't chart. The band now had the difficult task of trying to follow-up their lone big hit. They would finally grab another chart hit, but it would take them almost four years to do it.

ReduxReview:  It was gonna be hard for them to follow-up such a quirky hit as "The Safety Dance." The song was different sounding and almost leaned slightly towards novelty. Coming up with something equally as good would be a major task and unfortunately they really couldn't do it. However, that's not to say that their other songs were bad. The Rhythm of Youth album was really good and contained some interesting songs, but none could match the appeal of "Safety." This song was probably the most likely candidate as it had a feel close to what Missing Persons was doing. It just didn't capture people's attention like "Safety" did.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  So, what's up with that band name? One story is that three of the band's members, brothers Ivan, Stefan, and Colin Doroschuk, were rather fashionable gents and they had the philosophy that style outweighed comfort. This became difficult during the cold Canadian winters, but they apparently would choose to be stylish and would typically not wear hats. Therefore, they were men without hats. However, lead singer/songwriter Ivan Doroschuk mentioned in an interview that he had a theory that every person wears a uniform and if you remove the hat, everyone looks the same. Put the hat on and people can identify you. Somehow they considered themselves "men without hats" and it became the band's name.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

"All the Right Moves" by Jennifer Warnes/Chris Thompson

Song#:  1686
Date:  11/12/1983
Debut:  94
Peak:  85
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Warnes topped the Pop chart in 1982 singing "Up Where We Belong" with Joe Cocker from the film An Officer and a Gentleman. It started a bit of a streak where she made contributions to film soundtracks. In the summer of '83, her song "Nights Are Forever" from the soundtrack to Twilight Zone: The Movie just missed the Pop chart, but hit #8 at AC. Next up was this duet with Chris Thompson that served as the theme song to the Tom Cruise movie of the same name. The single made a brief appearance on the Pop chart, but did better at AC getting to #19. It would be the third of five soundtrack songs Warnes would have on the AC chart.

ReduxReview:  Yeah, this sounds like a soundtrack song. The verse is simplistic with a melody and chord structure that are very stilted, just like some of those old 80s TV show themes. The chorus is actually good and I like that part, but I can barely stand to get through the verse. Warnes and Thompson do what they can here, but it's really not enough to save the song. Do yourself a favor and look up Warnes' "Nights Are Forever." It's not a fantastic song, but it is better than this one and should have been a moderate Pop hit.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Before the year was out, Warnes would issue another duet single from a soundtrack. With country star Gary Morris, the pair would sing "Simply Meant to Be" for the Bruce Willis film Blind Date. Once again, it missed the Pop chart, but it became her fourth soundtrack song to reach the AC chart. It was a solid hit that got to #3.