Saturday, June 24, 2017

"Don't Stop" by Jeffrey Osborne

Song#:  2080
Date:  10/13/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  44
Weeks:  15
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Osborne's second album, Stay with Me Tonight, boasted two R&B Top 10's that also reached the Pop Top 30. The hits helped it become his most successful album. His third LP, Don't Stop, would do well, but did just slightly less business than Stay. That was mainly due to the album's singles getting locked out of the Pop Top 40. This title-track served as the LP's first single and it was able to reach #6 at R&B. However, it couldn't match the results of his previous two hits and stalled outside of the Top 40. The following year, Osborne would get his second Grammy nomination for his work on the album. He would be nominated in the Best Male R&B Vocal Performance category.

ReduxReview:  I think this song is quite good and has a solid chorus, but it seems held back by the weak production. It's definitely a product of its day and not too far off from some of the productions Luther Vandross was doing, however even for the time the sound and arrangement just didn't fully support the song. Osborne makes the best of it and turns in a hot vocal performance, but I just wish there was more meat on the production to really sell the tune. I would have slowed the tempo down just a tad, got rid of some of the tinny synth sounds, added some screamin' guitars and beefed up the bass. Had that been the case, I think it would have been a bigger hit at Pop. Still, it's a nice tune and as always, Osborne is great.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Osborne was the last in line of twelve children. Although Jeffery would be the most famous family member, some of his other siblings carried on musical careers as well. His eldest brother, Clay, was a singer and piano player who performed around the family's hometown of Providence, Rhode Island. He was also a featured vocalist with the John Allmark Jazz Orchestra and performed on that band's 2001 self-title CD. Another brother, Billy, got his start alongside Jeffrey in their group L.T.D., who would score five R&B Top 10's in the late 70s including three #1's. The two brothers left the band in 1980 with Jeffrey stepping out on a solo career and Billy having success as a songwriter/producer.


Friday, June 23, 2017

"Medley: Love Songs Are Back Again" by Band of Gold

Song#:  2079
Date:  06/13/1984
Debut:  92
Peak:  64
Weeks:  7
Genre:  R&B, Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Band of Gold was a Dutch studio group assembled by producers Paco Saval and Pete Wingfield. Saval co-wrote a song titled "Love Songs Are Back Again" and used it to introduce a medley of older Pop/R&B hits such as "Betcha By Golly Wow," "Oh Girl," and "Reunited." Saval's tune would bookend the medley, similar to others of the same ilk like "Medley" by Stars on 45. The song was released in the UK and it charted there getting to #24. When it reached the States, AC picked up on the tune and it reached #34 on that chart. Pop and R&B were less enthused and the single stalled at #64 and #62, respectively. It would be Band of Gold's only single to chart in the US. They would push out two more singles in Europe, a follow-up medley by Saval called "In Love Again," and a medley produced by Stars on 45's mastermind Jaap Eggermont titled "This Is Our Time." Both were very low level performers on the UK chart.

ReduxReview:  Noooooo!!! I thought we were done with these awful medley's. Yet, here is another one from the Netherlands, home of Jaap Eggermont, the guy who started this whole mess with Stars on 45. Like many of the singles from the medley heydays, this one was completely unnecessary. However, I will say that the vocalists are pretty solid. I wouldn't mistake any of these snippets as the originals, but the singers do a good job. This single is part of a 10-minute version that appeared on an album and frankly, these 4 minutes were plenty. It's not as horrible as some of the other medleys, but again, it was kind of pointless. If anything good came from this it would be that folks may go back and buy the full songs from the original artists. If you put those into a playlist, it would be damn great.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Most times these studio groups are just made up of session performers that lend their talents to the projects. Most remain nameless and/or faceless to the public. Band of Gold were not necessarily that different. Although it did seem to consist of two male vocalists and two female vocalists, not much is known about them. Through searching, it does appear that the two male vocalists were Omar Dupree and Forrest (aka Forrest Thomas). Both were American-born singers that found their way over to Europe to do session work. Both men have released some solo work, but nothing seemed to hit. The identities of the female vocalists remains unknown.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

"Purple Rain" by Prince & the Revolution

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2078
Date:  10/06/1984
Debut:  28
Peak:  2
Weeks:  16
Genre:  R&B, Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" was in its second and final week at the #1 spot when this third single from the Purple Rain soundtrack debuted. It blasted right into the Top 30 in its first week, which was rare for the time period. The big ballad raced up the chart and got stuck in the #2 spot behind the #1 Wham! hit "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go." The song would also get to #4 at R&B and #18 Rock. At the time, the soundtrack was nearly at the halfway point of its massive 24-week run at the top of the album chart. This classic track would go on to be one of Prince's signature songs and would often close his live performances.

ReduxReview:  Epic, emotional, and iconic. This is arguably Prince's peak moment as a performer, musician, and songwriter. He would have hits after this, but it just seemed that all he had worked for since his debut album culminated in this track. Results from a Rolling Stone readers poll on the best Prince songs had this one at the top of the list. Many consider it his masterpiece. Indeed it is an amazing track, but I do have to say it would probably rank at the low end of my Top 10 favorite Prince songs. He's just done other work that I could listen to at any given moment. This one takes a little time and commitment and occasionally I'm just not in the mood. However, it is a bona fide classic.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This was one of three songs used on the soundtrack that Prince recorded live in concert. The other two were "Baby I'm a Star" and "I Would Die 4 U." The songs were recorded in 1983 at the First Avenue club in Minneapolis. Later when prepping the songs for the film and soundtrack, additional overdubs were added and there were some alterations to the songs. "Purple Rain" was actually over eleven minutes long, but then Prince removed a verse and it reduced the running time of the song to over eight minutes.  2) Following Prince's death in 2016, this song became popular enough to get back on the Pop chart. It would peak at #4 while topping the iTunes songs chart.  3) As mentioned in an earlier post, Prince was worried this song sounded too much like Journey's "Faithfully" and sought out Jonathan Cain's advice and approval before moving forward with the tune.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"All Through the Night" by Cyndi Lauper

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2077
Date:  10/06/1984
Debut:  49
Peak:  5
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Lauper was three-for-three with Top 10 singles from her debut album She's So Unusual. Looking for a fourth one, this mid-tempo ballad was released. It proved to be the right choice when the song hit #5 on the Pop chart. In doing so, Lauper became the first female artist to get four Top 5 hits from one album. The tune also became her second Top 10 at AC reaching #4.

ReduxReview:  Here's another winner by Lauper. She transformed Jules Shear's song (see below) into a lovely pop moment. The chorus is very strong and the production with that looping synth line really made the tune. Actually, the song was also made better by a mistake the Lauper apparently made. In Shear's original, the chorus is all sung in harmonies and blended. It included Shear's original melody line and also a harmony line that contains higher notes that the melody. When Lauper got the song, she though that higher line was the melody and used that one. Whether it was really a mistake or a choice she made, it certainly made the song better.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was written and originally recorded by singer/songwriter Jules Shear. Shear was part of two highly regarded bands early in his career, the Funky Kings and Jules and the Polar Bears. Yet, despite critical support, the bands failed to sell a lot of records. After the Polar Bears folded, Shear decided it was time to try for a solo career. His 1983 debut LP, Watch Dog, was another critical success, but sales were slow. However, one of the tracks on the album, "All Through the Night," got the attention of The Cars (thanks to Shear's friendship with Cars member Elliot Easton). The band recorded the song, but in the end up on the shelf. It then got to Cyndi Lauper who changed the slightly upbeat tune into a ballad that fit her style and personality. Shear even sings backup vocals on the recording. The song clicked as a single and became a hit. Another song from Shear's debut LP, "Whispering Your Name," would later be a UK #18 hit in 1994 for singer Alison Moyet.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"Penny Lover" by Lionel Richie

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2076
Date:  10/06/1984
Debut:  54
Peak:  8
Weeks:  18
Genre:  R&B, Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Richie's album Can't Slow Down was a major success already boasting four Top 10 hits including two #1's. With the album still selling well and firmly planted in the Top 10, it was decided that a fifth single from the album would be released. This tune was chosen and it would be Richie's third ballad in a row to be issued as a single. Like the previous two, "Hello" and "Stuck on You," this song would reach #1 on the AC chart. It also cracked the Pop and R&B charts peaking on each at the same #8 spot. It would end up being the last song to be released as a single from the album. Can't Slow Down would eventually sell over 10 million copies and go on to win the Grammy for Album of the Year.

ReduxReview:  I had kind of reached Richie-fatigue by this point. I liked the album (but didn't love it) and the best songs had already been issued as the first two singles. With a string of follow-up ballads, I was just getting a little bored. Granted, Richie was an expert at writing these treacly tunes, but I was just over it at the time. This final single is a lovely song, yet I wouldn't rank it among his best.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Although Richie's streak of five Top 10's from the album was not a record (Michael Jackson had seven from Thriller), it was still a significant achievement. Beside Jackson, Richie would be the only other artist to get five Top 10's from one album. However, in about a year Richie and Jackson would have some company when Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. would tied Jackson's record of seven Top 10 hits. By the end of the decade, Jackson's sister Janet would also tie the record with the seven singles from her LP Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814. As of this posting, the two Jacksons and Springsteen still hold the record for most Top 10's from one album and they still remain the only three to accomplish the feat.


Monday, June 19, 2017

"The War Song" by Culture Club

Song#:  2075
Date:  10/06/1984
Debut:  56
Peak:  17
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  With two hit albums, six Top 10 hits, and a Grammy, Culture Club was a phenomenon of the times. But it didn't come without a price. There was turmoil within the group, Boy George's growing drug habit, and after a grueling tour in support of their 4x platinum album Colour By Numbers, their label was hounding them for new material to sell. The band reluctantly went in the studio and emerged with their third album Waking Up with the House on Fire. This first single got things started and in their UK homeland it was another hit getting to #2. Other countries around the world also pushed the track into their respective Top 10's, but the tune didn't quite mesh with US listeners and it faltered just inside the Pop Top 20. It would do better at Dance where it reached #7. After the album was released, it could only get to a lackluster #26. Although it would go platinum, it was seen as a commercial disappointment following Colour By Numbers. It was an unfortunate sign that perhaps their best days had come and gone.

ReduxReview:  I remember being highly disappointed with the reaction to Waking Up with the House on Fire and this song. True, the album was not nearly as good as Colour, but I thought it had some nice moments. For something they were kind of forced to push out, the results were respectable. But critics ripped it apart and those who were into Boy George for a minute moved on to the next artist-of-the-moment and Culture Club was kind of left in the lurch unable to really prove themselves as long-lasting artists. It was all unfortunate. This song probably wasn't the best one to release in the US. I'm sure it played well overseas, but for those wanting another dose of "Karma Chameleon," they were not going to get it here. Plus, I think some folks were even turned off by the chorus of "war is stupid and people are stupid." People wanted the fun Boy George, not one that issues a kind of protest song. Regardless, I always like the tune. My guess is that if it had different lyrics, it might have done better. Who knows. Perhaps US folks were just over the whole Culture Club phenomena. I wasn't. I saw them in concert supporting this LP and they were really great. I still have the big souvenir program from the show.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Due to their work with background singer Helen Terry on their Colours album, a lot of folks thought that the wailing vocal done on this song was Terry. However, it was not. The vocal passage was done by singer Claire Torry. Torry got work as a session singer in the early 70s and also served as a touring background vocalist for several artists. Her biggest claim to fame came in 1972 when engineer Alan Parsons tapped her to do some vocal work on a Pink Floyd session. With no words or melody to really follow, Torry riffed above the song "The Great Gig in the Sky." That tune would be a part of the landmark 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon. For her improvisational work, Torry was paid the standard wage for the day (around $30 at the time). Years later in 2004, Torry ended up suing Pink Floyd for royalties for her work. Since her contribution to the song was basically the melody, she thought a writing credit was in order. The courts agreed and a settlement was reached. Further pressings of the album now have her listed as co-writer.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

"Shangri-La" by Steve Miller Band

Song#:  2074
Date:  10/06/1984
Debut:  74
Peak:  57
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  In 1982, Miller scored his third (and last) #1 Pop hit with "Abracadabra," a single from his platinum album of the same name. Two years later, Miller was ready to unleash his follow-up LP titled Italian X Rays. This album dove even further into the synth sounds of the 80s and this first single was an example of that experimentation. Unfortunately, it was nothing like the catchy "Abracadabra" or Miller's previous hits and the song quickly peaked outside the Top 50 and disappeared. It also managed to miss the Rock chart completely. The failure of the single along with critical pans killed sales of the album and it would peak at a very low #106 - his worst performing album since 1972.

ReduxReview:  I'm all for artists pushing boundaries, especially in sound and technology. I may not even really like the artist, but appreciate something unique they did (i.e., the Neil Young synth-based oddity Trans). However, sometimes an artist can just stumble on these experiments and Steve Miller certainly did. The problem is that the technology took over and the songs themselves either got lost in the shuffle or seemed like afterthoughts. "Abracadabra" worked for a lot of folks because it was a solid song. There is nothing remotely close to it on the album. Therefore, nothing really worked because the base material was lackluster. There were also odd little instrumental tracks that made it feel like a concept album, yet there was no concept that I could discern. I think Miller just took one step more than he was capable of and the results nearly killed his career. He struggled to sell albums after this. It's a bit too bad as the sound of the LP is good and it has some cool spots, but when applied to clunky songs like this one, it's like one step forward, thirty steps back.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  With the advances in digital music recording and electronic instruments, Miller's label, Capitol, seemed keen on Miller experimenting with this new technology. According to Miller, the label provided a huge budget for the album, so he dove in and dressed up his songs in layers of digital sounds. Capitol seemed to love the album and touted it with a huge ad in Billboard magazine and called it "State-of-the-Heart Rock And Roll" and describing it as Miller taking his pop music to the next level using digital, computer generated, and electronic sounds. Basically, they probably thought they had a trailblazing LP on their hands. It didn't turn out that way. The album didn't connect with listeners, or even a lot of his fans, and it tanked. Although some people now like the album and champion it as an overlooked gem, most consider it a WTF moment in Miller's catalog.