Saturday, November 25, 2017

"You Send Me" by The Manhattans

Song#:  2233
Date:  03/02/1985
Debut:  89
Peak:  81
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Two years after their last album, Forever By Your Side, spawned the #4 R&B hit "Crazy," The Manhattans returned with their new album Too Hot to Stop It. This first single got things started. The cover tune (see below) just barely made the Top 20 at R&B (#20), but the high nostalgia factor got folks hooked at AC and the song peaked at #8 on that chart. The action at AC most likely helped the single get on the Pop chart for a few short weeks. It would be the group's final song to chart at Pop. They managed to get six more low-peaking singles on the R&B chart throughout the remainder of the decade, but their albums stopped charting after Too Hot to Stop It.

ReduxReview:  If you are gonna revive a chestnut like this (especially in the 80s), you'd better add something new to it. Otherwise, why bother? The original is just fine and an unremarkable remake just ain't gonna do the song (or the covering artist) any favors. The Manhattans try to dress up the tune by adding a sax section along with some modern production touches, but it's really not enough to make it stand out. It's nothing that hadn't already been done by countless cover bands. Basically, they didn't make the song their own and it resulted in a forgettable single.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of an original song written and recorded by R&B legend Sam Cooke. It would be Cooke's debut single and in 1957 the song would reach #1 at both R&B and Pop. It would be the first of nineteen R&B Top 10's for Cooke that including four #1's. The song would later be included on the list of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. It would also make Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (at #115).  Cooke's life would be cut short when he was shot to death in December of 1964.  2)  Manhattans member Gerald Alston left the group in 1987 for a solo career. From 1988 to 1995, Alston got ten singles on the R&B chart with three of them hitting the Top 10. Unfortunately, none of the songs could cross over to the Pop chart.


Friday, November 24, 2017

"Scientific Love" by Midnight Star

Song#:  2232
Date:  03/02/1985
Debut:  93
Peak:  80
Weeks:  7
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  Midnight Star grabbed their biggest overall hit with the #1 R&B/#18 Pop track "Operator." It was taken from their fifth album Planetary Invasion as was this follow-up single. Unfortunately, it didn't have the same appeal as the previous hit and it missed the Top 10 at R&B getting to #16 while hanging out near the bottom of the Pop chart for a few weeks. It also got to #19 on the Dance chart. A third single, "Body Snatchers," would later get to #31 at R&B. The album would be a gold seller, but it was quite a drop from their previous album, No Parking on the Dance Floor, which sold over two million copies.

ReduxReview:  This is not a bad jam, but it lacks the hook quality of "Operator" and therefore couldn't attract the same audience. I expected something a bit quirkier due to the title, but that didn't happen. It's just a basic 80s R&B tune with some solid vocal work from singer Belinda Lipscomb. "Body Snatchers" was more fun, but I think it was a bit too similar to their previous hits like "Freak-a-Zoid" and they were trying not to rely on that sound for hits. Maybe they should have.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Band member Reggie Calloway would go on to write and produce songs for other artists including Levert, Teddy Pendergrass, Natalie Cole and his own group Calloway. One of his compositions earned the song's performer a Grammy. In 1987, Gladys Knight & the Pips had a #1 R&B hit (#13 Pop) with the Calloway composition "Love Overboard." The song would earn Knight & the Pips a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group. Around the same time, Calloway's song that he wrote and produced for the group Levert, "Casanova" (1987, #1 R&B/#5 Pop), would get Calloway a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Song.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

"Along Comes a Woman" by Chicago

Song#:  2231
Date:  02/23/1985
Debut:  60
Peak:  14
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Chicago got two of their biggest hits when "Hard Habit to Break" and "You're the Inspiration" both reached #3. These were the second and third singles, respectively, from their album Chicago 17. With those results, it was decided that a fourth single might be prudent, so they decided to break out of the ballad mode and issued this upbeat tune. Rock radio was happy about the change and the song ended up at #10 on that chart. It played about the same at Pop stopping just short of the Top 10.  AC preferred the ballads and left this one stalling at #25. It would be the last single released from the album and the last one co-written and sung by Peter Cetera. By the summer of '85, Cetera had decided to leave the band he had been with since 1967 in favor of a solo career. The band would go through a couple of other personnel changes and return to the charts later in '86.

ReduxReview:  David Foster's production tries hard to make this thing rock out, but it doesn't really work. He even tries to incorporate the horn section, but their contributions are so clean and punchy that it nearly sounds like synth horns (I'm guessing a synth was used to boost the sound). For me it was all production and hardly any song. However, it had a decent hook and was a good choice for a single. I just wasn't diggin' it. Besides the two big ballads, there was nothing on Chicago 17 that kept my interest.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The Indiana Jones-style video for this song was direct by Jay Durbin. Durbin had previously done videos for Hall & Oates and Billy Joel. In 1980, Durbin directed the pilot to a proposed new series based on The Wombles, characters from a popular British book series and TV show. The original British TV show The Wombles was done in stop-action form and sixty shows between 1973 and 1975 were created. Musician Mike Batt was hired to do the music and he along with a cast of session musicians (including well-known guitarist Chris Spedding) recorded songs for the show that would get released as by The Wombles. Four albums by The Wombles were released during the run of the show with four singles hitting the UK Top 10. The success of the singles make The Wombles the top charting singles artist in the UK for 1974. The Wombles didn't necessarily translate well to the US, but their second album, Remember You're a Womble, was issued in the States and it did result in one charting single, "Wombling Summer Party," which reached #55 in 1974. The Durbin-directed reboot apparently didn't get picked up and no further episodes besides the test pilot were done. The Wombles returned to TV in animated form in 1997 for a fifty-two episode run. Apparently, The Wombles will make another return in CGI form sometime in 2017.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"All She Wants to Do Is Dance" by Don Henley

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2230
Date:  02/23/1985
Debut:  65
Peak:  9
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Henley's second solo album, Building the Perfect Beast, got off to a solid start when its first single, "The Boys of Summer," became his third Top 10 hit (#5). A fourth Top 10 came his way when this second single made it to #9. The song also became his second in a row to reach #1 at Rock while getting to #10 dance and #34 R&B. Oddly, even with two significant hits coming from the LP, it got shut out of the Top 10 at #13. Yet despite the peak, the album stuck around for a long while and would eventually sell over three million copies.

ReduxReview:  This is one of those songs that sounds so fun and happy, but the lyrics are actually quite political and dark. For the most part, this is pretty much all synthesizers here and they are cranked to 11. It's all rather brash, but also very memorable. It only takes about five seconds of the opening to recognize this song thanks to that synth bass line. It all sounded good on radio, but I often found the song annoying. It's quite repetitive, especially the use of the word "dance," which is said about 20+ times. Okay, we get it. She just wants to dance while the world is going to hell. Geez. Nothing like smacking you over the head with a point.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  For several tracks on the album, Henley enlisted some of his famous musician friends to lend a hand. For this track, backing vocals were provided by Patty Smyth from Scandal and Martha Davis from The Motels. Also making appearances on the album were Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham, The Go-Go's Belinda Carlisle, J.D. Souther, Randy Newman, and members of both Toto and Tom Petty's Heartbreakers band.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"Say It Again" by Santana

Song#:  2229
Date:  02/23/1985
Debut:  70
Peak:  46
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The 80s started off well for Santana with their album Zebop! hitting #9 and going platinum. However, their next LP Shango didn't get much support and it could only manage gold sales. It was the start of a significant slide down for the band, which continued with their next album, Beyond Appearances. Featuring a new band lineup and new producer, Val Garay (Kim Carnes, The Motels), the album tried to get some sales going with this first single. The track did okay at Rock (#15) and Dance (#19), but it stalled short of the Pop Top 40. It was Santana's first album since 1976 to not get a song in the Top 40. A second single couldn't even reach the chart. With little to promote the album, it stalled at #50, which was Santana's worst chart showing to-date. To make things worse, it was also their first album to not achieve at least gold level sales. Things just spiraled after this. The band's next three albums fared even worse and spawned no Pop chart singles. Following 1992's Milagro, the band stopped recording and just toured. However, they would experience a major revival soon after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

ReduxReview:  I remember buying this single not because I liked it (I hadn't heard it) or was even a fan of Santana's (I wasn't), it was due to producer Val Garay. I just loved his style at the time and what he did for Kim Carnes, The Motels, and even Dolly Parton. So I bought the single blindly thinking Santana might sound pretty cool with Garay at the controls. Well, I was sorely disappointed. There was no magic here and what made it even worse was that Garay co-wrote the tune. It just sounded like basic, bland pop. The tune wasn't very good to start with and the production was quite standard. After that, I stopped buying records based solely on the producer. Even now when there is a hot producer doing work with several high-profile artists, I take a listen first. When it comes down to it, no matter how good the production is you still have to have the songs behind it. Unfortunately, at this point in their career, Santana did not.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Following their induction into the Hall of Fame, there was some renewed interest in the band. Clive Davis at Arista Records had an idea to get the band back on track. He wanted to pair them up with several modern, popular artists and create an album that would carry appeal for older fans while bringing new ones on board. The resulting album, Supernatural, would end up being a massive hit thanks to the #1 song "Smooth," which was co-written and sung by Rob Thomas (Matchbox Twenty). The album would spend twelve non-consecutive weeks at #1, go 15x platinum, and win eight Grammys including Album of the Year. It would be the biggest hit of Santana's career. Three more Top 10 hits would follow along with a second multi-platinum album, Shaman. Although things have cooled since their massive comeback, the four of the five albums they have recorded since Shaman hit the Top 10.


Monday, November 20, 2017

"One Night in Bangkok" by Murray Head

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2228
Date:  02/23/1985
Debut:  81
Peak:  3
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, Dance, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  English actor/singer Murray Head began writing songs as a kid and in the mid-60s tried to get a music career started. He recorded several singles for various labels, but nothing came from them. Then in 1969, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice hired Head to sing on the concept album for their rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. Performing as Judas Iscariot, Head would sing what would be considered the opera's signature track "Superstar." The song was issued as a single prior to the album's release and it peaked at a low #74. Then nearly a year later as the show was being prepped for Broadway with Head in the Iscariot role, the song recharted for a minor three weeks, dropped off the chart, and then returned for a final run that would find the single peaking at #14. Following the song's success, Head tried to get a solo career going. He recorded seven album for five labels, but chart success eluded him. Then in 1983, Head was once again tapped to perform on another musical concept album that was co-written by Tim Rice (along with ABBA members Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson). Called Chess, the musical concept album had Head performing the pop/dance song "One Night in Bangkok." The tune was released as a single and it caught on in a big way hitting the Top 10's of many countries including the US (#5 Dance/#35 AC/#89 R&B). Later in '86, the stage version of the musical hit London's West End with Head performing in the cast. It would make it to Broadway in '88, but with a different cast. Head would continue to record albums over the years, but he remained off the charts. He would have a bit more success acting on stage, in TV shows, and in films.

ReduxReview:  I believe this song has the distinction of being the last song from a stage musical to hit the Pop chart that was performed by an original cast member. Some cover tunes from shows have reached the chart, but none by the originating artist. Even Hamilton with all of its success has not produced a charting single. I remember this concept album being talked up, especially since it involved half of ABBA, so when this single came out and got on the chart, it was quite the deal. What made the musical a bit different was that many of the songs were modern pop oriented and could function on their own outside of the show. This one in particular was certainly set up to be a potential hit when you consider the hooky chorus, the rap, and the driving dance beat. It got an extra boost from the odd lyrics and strange touches within the arrangement. It made for a bizarre hit that folks loved or hated. I thought it was a lot of fun and it made me buy the Chess album. It's now one of those relics from the decade that still gets some airplay and induces some chuckles and sing-a-longs. I prefer the song with its "Bangkok" orchestral opening left intact. (BTW - my favorite song from Chess was the wonderfully urgent "Nobody's Side" by the great Elaine Paige.)

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Head's younger brother, Anthony, became a successful actor as well. Although he has been in several stage productions, TV shows, and films, he is most likely best known to US audiences as the character Rupert Giles on the hit TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  2) Although this song was credited solely to Head, he only performs the rap portion of the song. The chorus was sung by Swedish singer Anders Glenmark. Glenmark became a highly successful songwriter/producer in Sweden working with many artists including solo work from ABBA's Frida.  3) This song was only able to make it to #12 in the UK. However, a duet from the Chess album, "I Know Him So Well" by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson, reached #1 for four weeks. It was issued in the US, but failed to chart. Whitney Houston recorded the song as a duet with her mother Cissy for Whitney's second album in 1987. The track was released as a single in a minor few countries (not the US) the following year. The best it did was #14 in the Netherlands.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

"The Bird" by The Time

Song#:  2227
Date:  02/23/1985
Debut:  83
Peak:  36
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  The Time's Ice Cream Castle LP was doing well thanks to the hit "Jungle Love" (#6 R&B, #20 Pop), which was featured in the film Purple Rain. The title track of the album served as the second single, but it didn't fare as well only reaching #11 at R&B and missing the Pop chart. This third single would do better at Pop, most likely due to it also being in Purple Rain, and it would get inside the Top 40 while going to #6 at Dance. The response wasn't as good at R&B were it topped out at #33.

ReduxReview:  It was probably smart to go with the live version of this song (see below). The Time were a hot live band and their skills were never on display on record at the time due to Prince controlling everything. So this was a nice change and it highlighted them as a band. It's also the kind of song that is better in concert. It's a fun jam, but there's really not much to it. Therefore, the band's performance is key to making it work along with Morris Day's vocals and ad-libs. Otherwise, it's a bit of a near-novelty, toss-a-way tune.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was recorded live in October of '83 when The Time was performing at the First Avenue club in Minneapolis. Later on, in preparation for the album, the song was recorded in the studio. That version had Prince playing all the instruments except guitar, which was handled by Jessie Johnson. It had been recorded for inclusion on the Ice Cream Castle album, but prior to its release the studio version was set aside in favor of the live version. It would mark the first time in three albums that the full band was actually heard on record. All their previous songs and recordings were mainly done by Prince with Morris Day singing over the top of the tracks.