Saturday, July 16, 2016

"Yah Mo B There" by James Ingram with Michael McDonald

Grammy Alert!
Song#:  1720
Date:  12/10/1983
Debut:  86
Peak:  19
Weeks:  18
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  After having success singing with and for other artists, the time came from Ingram to break out on his own. The first official solo single from his Quincy Jones-produced album, It's Your Night was the upbeat tune "Party Animal." The synthpop-ish jam was certainly different from the AC-leaning ballads he had become known for and audiences were not biting. The song could only get to #21 at R&B while missing the Pop chart completely. Needing a hit, James went back to having a duet partner and issued this collaboration with ex-Doobie Brother Michael McDonald. Co-written by the pair along with Rod Temperton and Quincy Jones, the R&B tune attracted listeners with its smooth groove and odd title. It reached #5 at R&B while hitting #10 at AC and Top 20 at Pop. The single saved the album, which would eventually go gold.

ReduxReview:  I had no idea what the title meant. I figured it was something spiritual based on the lyrics, but I didn't really care. I loved the song and ran out to pick up the single. McDonald is a terrific partner for Ingram and their vocals combined with the groove and the chorus, complete with those "up n' oh we oh's," made this hard to resist. Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton, fresh off of Thriller, gave it a sound and sheen that made it sound like a Michael Jackson outtake. Although it wasn't a huge hit at the time, it has lasted far passed it's chart days and has become a bit of an iconic song - thanks mainly to that title.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) So what's up with that title? Apparently, Ingram and McDonald wanted to write a spiritual-leaning song and thought that using "god" in the lyrics/title might turn some listeners away. Instead, they turned to the Hebrew word for God - Yahweh. They began with the title "Yahweh Be There," which is basically saying "God will be there." It eventually evolved into "Yah Mo B There." The usual title certainly helped the song become an 80s classic and it has been referenced in film (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) and on TV (American Dad).  2) Ingram would grab two Grammy nods for this song. One for Best R&B Song and one for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group. He and McDonald would win the latter category. Ingram would also get a nod for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male for the album.


Friday, July 15, 2016

"The Sound of Goodbye" by Crystal Gayle

Song#:  1719
Date:  12/10/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  84
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  In 1982, Gayle issued her first album for her new label Elektra, True Love. The album did well thanks to three #1 Country singles. But changes at her label pushed her over to Warner Bros. for her next effort Cage the Songbird. The album got off to a great start when this first single became her thirteenth #1 Country hit. It would also do very well at AC reaching #10. It got enough attention to crossover to the Pop chart, but it was a minor entry that stayed for only a few weeks. The song would end up being her last to reach the Pop chart and her last to go Top 10 at AC. The album would also be her last to reach the Country Top 10 peaking at #5. Although Gayle would get four more Country Top 10 singles over the next few years, this album marked the point where her charting career began to decline.

ReduxReview:  I kind of feel the same way about this song as I did about her previous Pop chart entry "Baby, What About You." Both are good songs (I actually like this one better), but there is just something lacking in the production. This was already prepped to be a crossover single, so why not push it even further with a more rockin' arrangement. I think it would have benefited both the song and Gayle. I think this song is just screamin' to be unleashed but is trapped in a typical Country/AC cage. Still, the song is very good and deserved to do better at Pop.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The title track to Gayle's album Cage the Songbird was a cover tune. The original was co-written and recorded by Elton John in 1976. It was included on his double-LP Blue Moves. Prior to that album, John's association with singer Kiki Dee began when he signed her to his Rocket label in 1973. She released four albums for the label and would make appearances on several of John's recordings. Of course, their most famous collaboration would be the duet "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," which hit #1 in 1976. That same year, Dee prepped her new solo disc. It would be titled Cage the Songbird and would feature her cover of that John tune. Unfortunately, the album seemed to not meet the expectations of the label and the project got shelved. Dee would return to the studio with a new set of songs and create her 1977 self-titled LP. It would do well in the UK thanks to a pair of minor charting singles. Dee's Cage the Songbird album would eventually see the light of day in 2008 when EMI would issue the long lost album.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

"Touch a Four Leaf Clover" by Atlantic Starr

Song#:  1718
Date:  12/10/1983
Debut:  93
Peak:  87
Weeks:  7
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Atlantic Starr grabbed their first Pop Top 40 hit with "Circles" (#38), the first single from their fourth album Brilliance. The song was a #2 smash at R&B and hit #9 at Dance. The album topped the R&B chart and was their first gold seller. The band then issued their follow-up LP Yours Forever. This song was issued as the first single and it did well at R&B getting to #4. However, this time around the crossover audience was less interested and it could only bubble around the bottom of the Pop chart for a few weeks. The lack of a bigger hit kept the album to a #10 showing at R&B and it would not get to gold level. It was a slight dip in popularity, but they would significantly rebound with their next album.

ReduxReview:   I was a little surprised by the nice, slinky groove of this one. Based on their previous song "Circles" and the four-leaf clover theme, I pegged it for something a bit more upbeat that might have bled into teen synthpop territory. But it's actually more mature than that and I like its silky sound. It fit will with R&B, but I think it was almost too sophisticated and subtle to really hit at Pop during the early 80s. It deserved to do better. Enjoy this last gasp of the ol' Atlantic Starr because their next album would definitely take them down a more pop-oriented road.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Atlantic Starr's Yours Forever and their previous two albums were produced by James Anthony Carmichael. Carmichael began as a successful studio musician before adding arranging to his skills. He soon became a contracted arranger at Motown and worked with artists like Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, and Gladys Knight. He began to move over into the producer's chart and soon had an opportunity to work with a group called The Commodores. Carmichael would helm the band's biggest hits and remain with them for eight albums. When Lionel Richie chose to leave the Commodores for a solo career, Carmichael moved on with him and co-produced Richie's first three albums. The pair would win Grammys for Producers of the Year and Album of the Year for Richie's mega-hit album Can't Slow Down. The Yours Forever LP would be Atlantic Starr's last collaboration with Carmichael.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

"Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1717
Date:  12/03/1983
Debut:  52
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Culture Club's "Church of the Poison Mind," the first single from their second LP Colour By Numbers, had just hit the Pop Top 10 when this second single debuted on the chart near the halfway point. It didn't take long for the single to get into the Top 10 and then to #1 for three weeks. The tune would crossover and hit #3 at AC and #67 at R&B. It would be the band's biggest hit and only #1. In the UK, the song would do even better spending six weeks at #1 to become the year's best selling single there. It would be a sensation worldwide and end up hitting #1 in over thirty different countries. It would be Culture Club's peak moment with the song becoming an 80s classic and their signature piece.

ReduxReview:  Looking back, I'm still amazed at how well this song did. I mean, it's a good song with a terrific warm-chorded, sing-a-long chorus, but it was certainly a surprise to me that it was so well embraced worldwide. The hugely popular video certainly helped and it put Boy George-mania in full swing. I still don't think a lot of people really understood, or even accepted, the whole Boy George thing, yet it seemed to not matter much because they loved the song. I remember people called Boy George some pretty awful names, but yet there they were in their cars singin' "Karma Chameleon." It was all very strange. In the end, Culture Club certainly left its mark in this world and left us with a handful of 80s classics like this one. I still prefer "Church of the Poison Mind," but I gotta give props to a hit that was more than just a song. It had a lot of cultural significance at the time and opened the eyes of a lot of people.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  When does a person know that they created a pop culture moment? When they are parodied, of course! That is what happened to Boy George after "Karma Chameleon" became a major hit. A couple good ol' boys of country music, Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley, took on a satirical song based around Boy George. Titled "Where's the Dress?," the singers first talk about Boy George and how they didn't understand the whole boy-dressed as girl thing, but then realize he is making tons of money. So they think about following in Boy George's footsteps in order to get famous and make money. The song would be the first single from the pair's third album together, The Good Ol Boys Alive and Well. It would end up hitting #7 on the country chart. A comical video of the song would end up winning video of the year from the American Video Association. However, the opening part of the song got them in a bit of trouble. It was basically the exact same opening as "Karma Chameleon" and the use of that song without permission didn't sit well with Boy George. He ended up suing for copyright infringement. A settlement followed.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"Remember the Nights" by The Motels

Song#:  1716
Date:  12/03/1983
Debut:  67
Peak:  36
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock, Pop

Pop Bits:  The band's album Little Robbers featured their second Top 10 hit, "Suddenly Last Summer" (#9 Pop, #1 Rock, #18 AC). As a follow-up to that single, this mid-tempo ballad was released. It began quite well, but then faltered once it got into the Top 40. It did better at Rock where it got near the Top 10 reaching #12.

ReduxReview:  I thought this was a terrific follow-up to "Suddenly" and was sure it would go pretty far on the chart. It was a bit of a shock when it stalled at a lowly #36. There were a couple of rockers on the album that had potential as singles, but this one seemed to be the best for Pop radio.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Although The Motels and their lead singer/songwriter Martha Davis did not participate in the sessions for the USA for Africa benefit album We Are the World, a song co-written by Davis and bandmate Jeff Jourard did make it to the LP. A song from The Motels' 1979 self-titled debut album, "Total Control," was covered by Tina Turner and donated to the album. The Motels initially released the song as the second single from their debut album, but it failed to chart in the US. However, it was a hit in other countries including Australia where it reached #4.


Monday, July 11, 2016

"Take Me Back" by Bonnie Tyler

Song#:  1715
Date:  12/03/1983
Debut:  75
Peak:  46
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Tyler got the biggest hit of her career with the epic Jim Steinman ballad "Total Eclipse of the Heart." The song spent four weeks at #1 and it boosted her album Faster Than the Speed of Night to platinum status. She then had the difficult task of following up that distinctive hit. "Take Me Back" was selected to be the next single and it was released a couple weeks after "Total" left the Top 10. Unfortunately, the song just didn't entrance listeners the way "Total" did and it peaked before it could even get into the Top 40. It failed to get on the AC and Rock charts as well. The results were disappointing and it was the second time that Tyler issued a miss following a major hit. When she reached #3 in 1978 with "It's a Heartache," her next single missed the chart completely and she didn't reach the chart again until "Total." At least this time the follow-up got into the top half of the chart.

ReduxReview:  Now, I do like this song, but it is also another entry in the "WTF?" catalog. This was definitely not the song to follow up "Total." In fact, I wouldn't even consider this song single-worthy. Why they chose this blues-rock tune to follow up a bombastic Steinman ballad is beyond me. To me, the obvious choice for the album's second single was Tyler's cover of "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" (see below). With a great piano lick by E Street Band member Roy Bittan, the uptempo tune had enough Steinman production flare to stand up to the legacy of "Total." And with a built-in audience of those who remember the song and who also dug "Total," it seemed like a slam-dunk choice. It may not have been a big hit, but I think it would have easily gone Top 40 (and further). Instead, we got this single that basically shut down the album. What a bummer. But, on the good side, this is a solid song that builds to a pretty terrific end. The drawback with it though is that the chorus plays more like another verse and doesn't contain the song's title until before the bridge. With nary a hook to snare a pop radio listener, this one was pretty much doomed in regards to chart contention.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Tyler's Faster Than the Speed of Night LP consisted of two original songs by Jim Steinman ("Total" and the title track) and seven cover tunes. While some of the covers were well-known songs, such as "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" by Creedence Clearwater Revival (#8, 1971) and Bryan Adams' recent hit "Straight from the Heart" (#10, 1983),  a couple were more obscure songs that had not reached a mass audience. "Take Me Back" was one of those song. Written by American guitarist Billy Cross, it was first recorded by a Danish band that he was a member of called the Delta Cross Band. The song was included on their 1981 LP Up Front. Prior to moving to Denmark in 1980, Cross had been a member of Bob Dylan's touring band and also worked with Meat Loaf. It was most likely his connection to Meat Loaf that got this song to Tyler since Steinman had worked with both artists.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

"(You Can Still) Rock in America" by Night Ranger

Song#:  1714
Date:  12/03/1983
Debut:  83
Peak:  51
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Night Ranger's debut album Dawn Patrol did well thanks to the #4 Rock track "Don't Tell Me You Love Me," which also made the Pop Top 40 at #40. It set them up well for their second album Midnight Madness. This first single did pretty well at Rock, hitting #15, and okay at Pop just missing out on the Top 50. It wasn't quite the results they were looking for, but their next single would push them to new heights.

ReduxReview:  I'm not sure why this song didn't do better. There's a lot of good going on here with a great opening riff, screamin' guitar solos, and the anthematic chorus. It should have been Top 10 at Rock and at least Top 40 at Pop. However, in the long run it didn't really matter because this song has lived on far passed its original chart days.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Lead singer and co-writer of this song Jake Blades has said that the inspiration for the tune came from a bunch of music magazines he bought on a break when touring for the band's first album. A lot of the magazines were going on about how with the advent of new wave, synthpop, videos, etc., that rock was pretty much dead. But from Blades' perspective, it certainly wasn't. They were playing for thousands of people each night who where there to rock out. He thought the magazines were publicizing something that just wasn't true, or at least that wasn't his experience, and that you can still rock in America. That last thought tipped his creative mind and soon a song was taking shape. He didn't write it with the intent of becoming an anthem, but the song certainly has become one for the band and the America sentiment continues to play well.