Saturday, September 9, 2017

"20/20" by George Benson

Song#:  2157
Date:  12/15/1984
Debut:  85
Peak:  48
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:   Benson had been on a good run of success since his triple-platinum 1976 album Breezin'. Each successive album was certified gold or platinum. However, each one took Benson further out of the jazz arena into a more commercial direction. At some point, his commercial fortunes were going to wane and that point came with this first single from his LP 20/20. It did okay at R&B and AC getting to #15 on both charts, but it missed the Pop Top 40. It would end up being Benson's last song to reach the Pop chart. The album would reach gold level sales despite missing the R&B Top 10 and stalling at #3 on the Jazz chart, which ended a streak of five consecutive #1 Jazz LPs. Benson would continue to record and was able to grab one more R&B Top 10 in 1988 with a remake of the 1975 #1 hit by the Staple Singers, "Let's Do It Again." Benson's version would reach #8 at R&B. Later on Benson would turn back towards a more jazz-oriented sound and would get eight more #1 Jazz albums.

ReduxReview:  This is a good jam from Benson. It had a definite commercial lean thanks to producer Russ Titelman and near the end Benson gets in some good jazzy licks. It's a fine listen, but it just doesn't seem to stick in my mind for very long. It is certainly a pleasant listen, but there just wasn't enough to the song to make it cut through the clutter on the chart.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Another track on the album was Benson's remake of "Beyond the Sea," which was a #6 hit in 1959 for Bobby Darin. That song earned Benson a Grammy nod for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Male.  2) In 2006, Benson would team up with singer Al Jarreau for a collaboration album titled Givin' It Up. The album consisted of the duo performing new versions of each artists' former hits along with some new originals. The album would be Benson's best performing on the charts since 20/20 getting to #1 Jazz, #14 R&B, and #58 Pop. Benson would also earn two Grammy awards for his work. He won for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for Al Jarreau cover "Mornin'," and with Jarreau and Jill Scott would win one for Best Traditional R&B Performance for "God Bless the Child."


Friday, September 8, 2017

"Naughty, Naughty" by John Parr

Song#:  2156
Date:  12/15/1984
Debut:  87
Peak:  23
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  UK musician Parr honed his skills working the clubs with several bands. His first major break came when he got signed to a publishing deal. That led to a request from Meat Loaf for Parr to write some new tunes for his upcoming album. Two of those songs ended up on Meat Loaf's 1984 album Bad Attitude. Through that work, Parr ended up getting signed to Atlantic Records as a solo artist. He prepped a self-titled debut album and this track was selected to be the first single. It caught on at Rock and made it to #6 on that chart. That led to the song crossing over to the Pop chart where it peaked just outside of the Top 20. The album would then do well getting to #48.

ReduxReview:  I was hooked on this song with that opening keyboard lick that then got doubled by the bass. Then the explosive chorus came along and made it even better. The production on this tune is awesome. It sounds huge and is loaded with crunch keys and guitars. Parr's grizzly voice adds an additional rock edge to the tune. It's a sexed-up arena-ready anthem that should have easily gone Top 10. Why it did not at Pop is a mystery. The video was a hit on MTV and the song sounded damn good on the radio. It should have been a bigger hit.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Parr co-wrote the song "Don't Leave Your Mark on Me" with Julia Downes for Meat Loaf. The song appeared on his Bad Attitude album. It was not issued as a single. Parr did his own version of the tune for his debut album. After his success with "St. Elmo's Fire" in 1985, the song was issued as a single in a few European countries. It did not chart.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

"All Right Now" by Rod Stewart

Song#:  2155
Date:  12/15/1984
Debut:  88
Peak:  72
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After a bit of a slump, Stewart was back in the game with his latest LP Camouflage. The album would be a gold seller thanks to a pair of Top 10 singles ("Infatuation" and "Some Guys Have All the Luck"). To try and keep the ball rollin' this third single was issued. Unfortunately, it didn't have the spark of the previous two tunes and it barely got out of the bottom quarter of the chart.

ReduxReview:  This classic rock track (see below) gets a slick update from Stewart. If the original didn't exist, I'd probably think this was a pretty good track. However, as a remake it just doesn't sound quite right. It's like the soul and funk from Free's original got totally zapped by modern electronics. I think this is a great song for Stewart to cover, but not in this way. He really needed to coat the song with his rock edge instead of spraying it in 80s day-glo synths. An opportunity missed.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally done by the band Free. That classic 1970 single got to #4 on the Pop chart. It would be the UK band's only significant hit in the US. In addition to Free and Stewart, two other artists have reached the Pop chart with this song. In 1975, soul singer Lea Roberts did a version that got to #92 Pop and #54 R&B (which is really great, BTW). Then in 1986, UK dance-pop duo Pepsi & Shrilie (former Wham! backup singers) did a take on the song that got to #66 at Pop.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

"Lonely School" by Tommy Shaw

Song#:  2154
Date:  12/15/1984
Debut:  89
Peak:  60
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Shaw's first solo album, Girls with Guns, started off positively when the title track got to #6 Rock and #33 Pop. Hoping for another good performing single, this power ballad was selected as the follow up. Although the video got a decent push at MTV, the song didn't fully catch on at Pop and it stalled in the bottom half of the chart. It was unable to chart at Rock.

ReduxReview:  This is a nice track from the album, but it just didn't have a strong enough hook to draw in and retain listeners. It would have been nice to have it pop inside the Top 40, but it just wasn't gonna do it. The album had a couple of other possible candidates for single contention, but those were rock tunes and the label probably wanted to featured Shaw in a different way and figured this song would do the trick. It didn't, but the track still sounds nice.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  As a kid growing up in Alabama, Shaw would often listen to the Grand Ole Opry shows on the radio. That country influence would follow him through to his rock 'n' roll days with Styx and beyond. His love of country music finally caught up with him in 2011 when he issued his first bluegrass album. Titled The Great Divide, Shaw would write or co-write all of the songs in addition to playing guitar and mandolin. A couple of big name guest stars, Alison Krauss and Dwight Yoakam, stop by to lend a hand. The album would get some good notices and would reach #2 on the Bluegrass chart.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

"Treat Her Like a Lady" by The Temptations

Song#:  2153
Date:  12/15/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  48
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Although highly successful in the 60s and 70s, the Temptations were having a rough go of it in the 80s. Up to this point, they scored only one R&B Top 10 ("Standing on the Top (Part 1)" with Rick James) and had been unable to get inside the Pop Top 40. Internal struggles didn't help and after firing one of their lead singers, Dennis Edwards, for a second time, the Temps regrouped and forged ahead. Their next album, Truly for You, was a fresh step for them that was produced by two members of Earth, Wind and Fire. This first single kicked things off and it brought them back near the top of the R&B chart where it reached #2. It also did well at Dance getting to #13. The tune's popularity allowed it to cross over to the Pop chart, but once again they were denied entry into the Top 40. Despite the lack of Pop support, the album sold well and got to #3 at R&B.

ReduxReview:  The Temps truly join the 80s with this synthy jam and it worked well for them. The tune was a showcase for new lead singer Woodson (see below), yet it still retained the group's well-known vocal harmonies. Why this didn't do better at Pop is a mystery. There was still a lack of support for R&B at both pop radio and MTV at the time, but this song seemed like it could have transcended that. It's an overlooked gem in the group's catalog and easily one of their best efforts of the decade.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  After Dennis Edwards was forced out of the group, they brought in new member Ali-Ollie Woodson. Woodson had worked with the group on their previous album supplying lead vocals on a song due to Edwards being unable to complete the task. That got his foot in the door and after Edwards was gone, it was easy to bring Woodson in. Not only did he supply the lead vocals on this track, he also co-wrote it with original Temps member Otis Williams. Woodson would take the lead on the majority of the group's singles through the balance of the 80s.


Monday, September 4, 2017

"I Want to Know What Love Is" by Foreigner

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Song#:  2152
Date:  12/08/1984
Debut:  45
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  In 1981, Foreigner unleashed their fourth album, appropriately titled 4. The LP would be a six-times platinum #1 hit that boasted four Top 30 singles including two Top 10's. They then had the difficult task of following up that career-defining album. Three years later they came up with Agent Provocateur. To introduce the album, this power ballad was released as the first single. It debuted in the top half of the Pop chart and proceeded directly to the #1 spot. It would be their first and only #1 single on the chart. The song would also hit #1 at Rock and #3 AC. It would even briefly cross over to the R&B chart where it got to #85. Foreigner would later earn a Grammy nod for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Duo or Group.

ReduxReview:  I have to admit, I thought this was a just a big dump of sentimentality. The more I heard it, the more annoying it got. Because of excessive airplay, I ended up just hating the song. However, it was a near-perfect song for the masses. The dark verse into hopeful chorus, the terrific easy-to-sing hook, the big build, the choir, and Lou Gramm's soulful vocals all worked to sell this song to anyone who would listen. Tons of music artists would have sold their soul to be the writer of this song. I would have too if I didn't have to sing it and was just able to collect all the royalties! Alas, I didn't so I'm just sittin' here bloggin' about it. Therefore, I can say that I still find this song cloying and annoying. I'm glad that it was a hit for the band and that millions of folks love it, but y'all can keep it for yourselves.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1)  The backing vocals on this song were done by the New Jersey Mass Choir. The solo voice was performed by Dreamgirls Tony winner Jennifer Holiday. Tom Bailey from the Thompson Twins contributed keyboard work.  2) This song has been covered by many artists. A few have reached the charts with their takes. The first version to chart came from the New Jersey Mass Choir. After getting exposure via the hit, they recorded their own version, which was mostly marketed to a gospel audience. The single would get to #37 at R&B. Foreigner's Mick Jones, who wrote this song, added a new section and produced the song for Australian singer Tina Arena. It would be a hit in France getting to #13. Country singer Wynonna Judd would do a version in 2004 that got to #14 AC/#12 Dance. In 2009, Mariah Carey would do her take on the song. That single would reach #10 AC, #40 R&B, and #60 Pop. The last artist to get on the Pop chart with the song was singer Terry McDermott. He was the runner-up on the third season of the vocal competition show The Voice in 2012. He sang this song in the show's finale and the single version of it got to #84 on the Pop chart.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

"The Heat Is On" by Glenn Frey

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2151
Date:  12/08/1984
Debut:  81
Peak:  2
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Frey's post-Eagles solo career was going fine. He had two gold albums under his belt along with a pair of Top 20 Pop singles. Yet, he still hadn't broken through with a major hit like his former bandmate Don Henley. That changed when this song from the soundtrack to the hit Eddie Murphy film Beverly Hills Cop was released. The song started a little slow, but the success of the film boosted the song and soon it became Frey's first Pop Top 10 single. It would also reach #4 at Rock. The soundtrack album wouldn't be released until the following spring, but once it was it sold very well and would reach #1 for two weeks during the summer. It would be certified double-platinum. Later on, the soundtrack would win the Grammy for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.

ReduxReview:  I think Frey got lucky here. This is the song that established him as a true solo star. It was also beneficial that he had an open mind to sing a song that he did not write that was going to be featured in a big commercial film. Doing this was considered by some artists as "selling out," but Frey dove in and came out on top. At the time I was just "eh" about the song. Especially after it was incessantly played on the radio. I tired of it real quick. However, it is a really solid tune. Frey pulls it off very well even though the sound of this is more in line with Huey Lewis. My guess is that Faltermeyer and Forsey wrote this with Lewis in mind. It also helped that it fit the film like a glove.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  In an interview, Frey relayed the story of how this song came about. His manager encouraged him to attend an early screening of Beverly Hills Cop in hopes that Frey might be able to get a song on the soundtrack. Other artists, like Stevie Wonder and The Pointer Sisters, attended the same screening. Frey thought there was no chance he could get a song in the film. But then a couple of months later he got a call asking if he would listen to a song that was written by Harold Faltermeyer and Keith Forsey. They asked if he would be interested in providing the vocals to the track. Frey thought the song was good and the style seemed to fit him, so he agreed. Frey went into the studio and did the vocals. The next day he did some background vocals and provided a guitar solo. He was paid for the work and that was it. The quick work ended up becoming Frey's first Top 10 hit. The song would be Frey's first, and only, charting single that he didn't write or co-write.