Saturday, June 17, 2017

"Say Hello to Ronnie" by Janey Street

Song#:  2073
Date:  10/06/1984
Debut:  76
Peak:  68
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  New York-born Janey Street (aka Janey Schramm) honed her skills around town as a teenager performing with her own band. A chance meeting with another musician, Dennis Pereca, led to them becoming a duo called Janey & Dennis. They got signed to Warner Bros. and issued a folk/blues oriented self-titled debut album in 1970. While their live performance were greeted well, the album didn't sell. They moved to Capitol Records and recorded a second LP, but it ended up shelved and that was the end of the duo. Street concentrated on a solo career and struggled for a few years before a song of hers got picked up for use on the TV show Fame. That led to a deal with Clive Davis and Arista Records. Street then recorded her solo debut album titled Heroes, Angels & Friends. All the tracks were written or co-written by Street including this first single. The song was able to get on the Pop chart, but for only a short period. Her next single, "Under the Clock," ended up getting some good attention at AC and the song made it to #18 on that chart. Unfortunately, Pop radio didn't pick it up and the tune failed to chart. The results seemed encouraging, but then soon after a move to California, Street found out that Arista dropped her from their roster. That ended Street's major label recording days. This song remains her lone Pop chart entry.

ReduxReview:  This reflective tune nearly sounds like something Springsteen might have come up with, except his would have been better and more epic. But I do mean that as a compliment because this is a good tune that plays like a slice of life like a lot of Springsteen songs. It's kind of a bummer it didn't catch on more, especially on Rock radio. This seemed like a natural fit for the format. She sounds good too. Her voice and music had shades of Rickie Lee Jones via Joan Jett. It's too bad Street never fully caught on. I think she had some good stuff to offer. I remember the name, but I know I never heard her song back in the day. In fact, I didn't realize Janey Street was a woman. For some reason, I thought it was the name of a hard rock band! It's actually a good name for one! Well, at least I've now discovered her.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  After being dumped by Arista, Street had a difficult time maintaining her music career. Although she would get occasional work through publishing companies for film and TV music, it wasn't enough to pay the bills. In between she had to do other work which included painting houses, serving at Cracker Barrel, and even a gig being a clown. However, there were bright spots along the way including the great Ruth Brown recording one of Street's songs for her Grammy nominated 1999 album A Good Day for the Blues. Street was later finally able to release a new album in 2009 with the blues-oriented The Street Less Traveled. She then signed with the Blue √Član label and released a new album in 2016.


Friday, June 16, 2017

"We Are the Young" by Dan Hartman

Song#:  2072
Date:  10/06/1984
Debut:  81
Peak:  25
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Dance

Pop Bits:  Hartman got the biggest hit of his career when a song he did for the film Streets of Fire, "I Can Dream About You," reached #6 on the Pop chart. With a hit under his belt, he quickly got in the studio to record a full album that was titled the same as his hit. With the LP ready to go, this next single was issued. It became a major club hit and got to #1 on the Dance chart, which was his third and last song to do so. Pop responded fairly well and the single found it's way into the Top 30. It even crossed over to R&B for a short period reaching #58. The two songs helped the album sell well and it got to #55 on the chart.

ReduxReview:  This song reached the Top 30, yet I have zero recollection of it. Not even the chorus sounded familiar to me. It has a good hook, but I don't think it is as strong as something like "I Can Dream About You," hence the forgettable aspect. However, it is a well-written and performed tune. It's wrapped up in a lot of 80s flourishes, which dates the song, but the production is solid enough to make it still sound good. It's an overlooked 80s charter.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Hartman wrote this song with Charlie Midnight. Hartman and Midnight met in 1982 and soon became writing partners. Most of the songs on Hartman's I Can Dream About You LP were co-written by the pair. They also wrote songs for other artists including the Grammy-winning "Living in America" by James Brown. Midnight continued to have a successful songwriting career after Hartman's death in 1994. Most recently, Midnight co-wrote the song "I Still Can See Your Face," which was featured on Barbra Streisand's Grammy-nominated 2015 album Partners. It was performed as a duet between Streisand and Andrea Bocelli.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

"Can't Let Go" by Stephen Stills with Michael Finnigan

Song#:  2071
Date:  10/06/1984
Debut:  85
Peak:  67
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Stills' sixth solo album, Right By You, produced the #12 Rock track "Stranger." The song was able to get on the Pop chart, but only for a few short weeks. Next up was this ballad that Rock ignored, but AC latched on to. It was able to get to #17 on that chart. Again, Pop wasn't so interested and it came and went fairly quickly. It would be Stills' last solo song and album to reach any chart. Stills would continue to perform and record some solo material while also performing with Crosby, Stills & Nash and a new band he co-formed called The Rides. Consisting of Stills with Barry Goldberg and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, the trio's debut album, Can't Get Enough, would hit #39 on the Album chart.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't that familiar with Mike Finnigan (see below), but he is really the only reason to listen to this song. His voice is so good that it transcends this pedestrian ballad. He also just walks all over Stills. Although Stills was essential to the harmonies of groups like Crosby, Stills & Nash, he was never a strong vocalist. That point is certainly made when Stills starts out and then Finnigan's big voice comes drivin' in. It was great to hear him sing, but the song itself is a snoozer.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was a duet between Stills and famed keyboardist Mike Finnigan. Finnigan was known for playing Hammond organ and had long been associated with Crosby, Stills & Nash along with many other major artists. Along the way he recorded two major label albums in 1976 and 1978, but neither sold very well. Later he formed the Phantom Blue Band, which backed several artists including Taj Mahal for the album Shoutin' in Key. Credited to Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band, the album won a Grammy in 2000 for Best Contemporary Blue Album.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"Centipede' by Rebbie Jackson

Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2070
Date:  10/06/1984
Debut:  88
Peak:  24
Weeks:  19
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Maureen Riellette "Rebbie" Jackson was the first born of the famous Jackson clan that included Michael and Janet. Although she studied music as a child, Rebbie did not have plans to go into the music industry like her siblings. She preferred to get married and start a family, which she did. However, later in 1974 when her brothers performed shows in Las Vegas, Rebbie signed on to work with them. She then also worked on The Jacksons TV variety show in addition to working as a backing vocalist for other artists. After a while, Rebbie had thoughts of starting her own solo career, but wanted to wait until her own children were older. By the time Rebbie was ready to step out on her own, she was 34 years old and Michael had unleashed Thriller. It seemed like the right time to give it a go, so Rebbie signed with Columbia and began work on her debut album. Of course, the family helped out with Michael, Tito, and Randy contributing as songwriters, producers, and musicians. Once completed, the LP was titled Centipede and this title-track was selected as the first single. Written and produced by Michael, the song took off and made it to #4 at R&B. It wasn't quite as successful at Pop where it got locked out of the Top 20. It did similar business at Dance getting to #29. Despite the low Pop peak, the single sold extremely well (thanks in part to Michael's participation) and it would be certified gold. It would be Rebbie's only song to chart at Pop. She would issue three more albums in the 80s and get four more singles on the R&B chart including the #8 "Plaything" in 1988.

ReduxReview:  Michael Jackson has certainly written a few oddball songs in his time, but I think this one ranks among his strangest. Have you even read the lyrics? A snake is "in the crawlin'" and something is coming through the bathroom window and the moon comes and goes. I dunno. It makes zero sense to me. And the music is weird as well. There is the groovin' opening with that synth lick followed by a nearly Prince-like stuttering verse that leads to a warm, very Jackson-ish chorus. Oh, and a harmonica break. It's like parts of different songs stitched together. Yet somehow this Frankenstein-ish, nonsensical thing actually works. I thought it a bit odd that it peaked so low at Pop. I'm guessing that sales were great (thanks to Michael's attachment), but airplay was low. I also think that besides Michael, Rebbie was arguably the best singer of the Jackson's. She seemed to have a bit more depth to her voice and some grit. I think she could have been a bigger star had she really wanted to be one. In the end, she probably enjoyed her brief solo career, but preferred to be with her family and kids. At least we got this oddball gem from her.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Although Rebbie would only have one single to chart at Pop, she continued to have some success on the R&B chart. Her follow-up album, Reaction, got to #6 at R&B thanks to its #16 title track. Her third album would yield her second R&B Top 10 hit when "Plaything" would reach #8 in 1988. She stopped recording soon after, but returned to record a fourth album a decade later. Issued on her brother Michael's own label, Yours Faithfully, would sell a few copies and get to #28 on the Pop Album chart. To-date it remains her last recording.  2) In addition to writing the song and producing it, Michael Jackson provided backing vocals as well. Also lending a hand with backing vocals was the dance diva duo The Weather Girls.  3) Around this time, there was a popular arcade video game called Centipede that was becoming highly successful on the new Atari game systems. Whether or not the game inspired Michael to write the song is not really known, but the timing seems to suggest that it most likely was. Unfortunately, no tie-ins between the game and the song happened.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"Wanted Man" by Ratt

Song#:  2069
Date:  10/06/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  87
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  This L.A. band broke through in a big way with their song "Round and Round," from their full-length debut LP Out of the Cellar. The song would be a #4 Rock hit while nearly making the Pop Top 10 (#12). For a follow-up single, this track was issued. It couldn't come close to replicating the success of "Round and Round" going to only #38 at Rock and stalling on the Pop chart after a brief few weeks. However, with the song's video doing well at MTV it still helped to sell albums and over time Out of the Cellar would be certified triple platinum. This song would also end up on the soundtrack to the 1985 comedy film Weird Science.

ReduxReview:  While this is a solid rock tune, it's just not nearly as hooky or catchy as the excellent "Round and Round." That tune was loaded with commercial appeal and the associated video certainly helped it along as well. This one is well-produced and rocks out just fine, but without that extra oomph that made "Round" a hit, it falls flat as a single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  For the cover of their 1983 self-titled EP, the band needed a woman for the photo shoot. At the time, the band's guitarist Robbin Crosby was dating a girl who had been breaking into modeling. Her name was Tawny Kitaen and she ended up on the cover of the EP. It worked out so well that when it came time to do the cover for Out of the Cellar, she was asked to model again. Kitaen was also trying to start an acting career and in addition to doing some work in Ratt's music videos, she got a big break in 1984 when she co-starred with Tom Hanks in the comedy Bachelor Party. But she became a rock icon of sorts later in 1987 when the band Whitesnake (featuring Kitaen's then boyfriend David Coverdale) got her to perform in their music videos. Her appearances made her a star and an instant sex symbol. Kitaen continued to act in film and on TV, but most folks remember her from the Whitesnake videos.


Monday, June 12, 2017

"Out of Touch" by Daryl Hall & John Oates

#1 Alert!
Song#:  2068
Date:  09/29/1984
Debut:  48
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul, Dance

Pop Bits:  After issuing a hits package that included two new Top 10's, Hall & Oates had to get back to business and record their twelfth studio album. Armed with an significant budget, the pair used the latest technology to assist in the recording of Big Bam Boom. They even brought on star remixer/producer Arthur Baker to help give the tracks a more urban flavor and mix. It all worked out well for them when this first single became their sixth #1 hit. It would also top the Dance chart while getting to #8 AC and #24 R&B. The multi-format smash would be the duo's final one to reach #1 on the Pop chart. The album would get to #5 and become their third in a row to reach double-platinum status.

ReduxReview:  This was a hot track back in the day. It sounded so damn good. There just seemed to be some extra meat on the bones and I think that helped sell it on the radio (along with the duo's massive popularity at the time). Is it one of their best hits? I don't think so. I'd put the majority of their Top 10's above this one. In fact, I rarely hear it anymore. While many of their hits still get significant airplay, this one has kind of gotten lost. It's definitely an above-average song for them, but it falls short of being one of their classics.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Throughout their career, many folks simply referred to the duo as "Hall & Oates." A lot of people in the press and even on TV would use that shortened moniker when discussing them. However, that was not their official name. From the time of their debut LP in 1972, their full names were listed on any cover and in the credits. In fact, with the exception of their self-titled album in 1975, they didn't even use an ampersand. The credit on the cover was simply "Daryl Hall John Oates" in various layouts. The shorter Hall & Oates name seemed to get started in the media as it was an easier, quicker, and shorter reference. The pair never seemed to mind the shorter version, but it is not their official name.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

"It Ain't Enough" by Corey Hart

Song#:  2067
Date:  09/29/1984
Debut:  65
Peak:  17
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  This Canadian singer/songwriter got a major hit right out of the gate with his debut single "Sunglasses at Night" (#4). The classic 80s tune was from his album First Offense. For the follow-up, this ballad was chosen as the second single. It did well getting inside the Top 20 at Pop while also going to #19 AC and #36 Rock. In Canada, where "Sunglasses" would only reach #24, this song would do much better and become Hart's first Top 10 hit peaking at #4. The two hits in the US would help the album become his first gold seller.

ReduxReview:  This is a lovely and subtle song and it was the perfect follow up to the memorable "Sunglasses." That song was so unique that it could have easily overshadowed anything else Hart did and made him a one-hit wonder. Luckily, he had this pretty ballad in his back pocket and it got attention. It probably should have gotten into the Top 10, but just getting this to #17 was a definite win and set him up for success with his next album.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Hart's First Offense album was released in Canada first. When he got a distribution deal for the US, the album was released in a slightly altered version. "Sunglasses" appeared in a longer version and one track was dropped. In addition, a new remixed version of "It Ain't Enough" (which was the version released as a single in the US) replaced the original mix from the Canadian album. The main difference between the two is the repetitive guitar lick heard throughout the song. This guitar line was not part of the song on the original Canadian album. Later on in 1985, a second Canadian version of the album was issued. It featured an altered track listing with a song substitution, one song getting shortened, and the new US hit mix of "It Ain't Enough."