Saturday, January 6, 2018

"Welcome to the Pleasuredome" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Song#:  2277
Date:  04/06/1985
Debut:  84
Peak:  48
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave, Dance

Pop Bits:  After finally snaring their first US Top 10 with a reissue of their first single "Relax" (#10), the band chose to issue this title track from their debut album. It didn't quite have the same appeal as the previous hit and it failed to crack the Top 40. It did a little more business at dance getting to #31. Unfortunately, it would be the band's final single to reach the US chart. Despite not having a second hit, the album did well thanks to "Relax" and it reached gold-level sales. The band would release a new album, Liverpool, in 1986, but it's first single, "Rage Hard," failed to chart and the album disappeared quickly after a minor #88 peak. Soon after, the band called it quits.

ReduxReview:  I like this intense, dark tune, but it's not really single-worthy. Actually, the double-album doesn't have a lot of single material. Despite that, the album is quite good and I played it quite a lot back in the day and still spin it on occasion. This track is actually over twelve minutes long on the album and is better than this shorter version, but they didn't do too bad of a job chopping it down. Still, it's nothing that was going to catch on in a big way.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In the UK, the third single from the album was the ballad "The Power of Love." It became their third single in a row to reach #1. For whatever reason, the ballad was not select for release in the US. Instead, the title track was issued. The title track then became the fourth single in the UK and it was nearly their fourth #1, but it stopped just shy at #2.


Friday, January 5, 2018

"Walking on the Chinese Wall" by Philip Bailey

Song#:  2276
Date:  04/06/1985
Debut:  87
Peak:  46
Weeks:  12
Genre:  R&B, Pop

Pop Bits:  Bailey's third album outside of his group Earth, Wind & Fire, Chinese Wall, became a gold-seller thanks to the #2 duet with Phil Collins, "Easy Lover." For the follow-up, this title track was chosen. Although not a duet, it does featured Collins on drums and background vocals. This time around the magic wasn't there and the song petered out shy of the Pop Top 40 while only getting to #56 at R&B. It would end up being Bailey's final solo single to reach the Pop chart. Bailey recorded a follow-up album title Inside Out, but it failed to make a major impact since the LP's only charting single, "State of the Heart," could only reach #20 at R&B.

ReduxReview:  I've always liked this rolling, meditative song. The production by Collins is top-notch with the punctuated horns and his drums adding depth to the mix. The song just has a lovely feel to it and Bailey's vocals fit in well. However, I think it may have been too subtle of a song for Pop radio. I'm actually surprised that AC didn't jump on this. It seemed to fit that format the best, but it failed to chart there. An overlooked follow-up single.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In addition to his solo pop/R&B career, Bailey also had success in the gospel market. He did several collaborations in the early 80s and then released his first solo gospel album in 1984 titled The Wonders of His Love. It did well reaching #17 on the Gospel chart and #13 on the Contemporary Christian chart. His follow-up LP, Triumph (#18 CC, #34 Gospel), netted Bailey a Grammy award. He won in the Best Gospel Performance, Male category. He would record one more gospel album in the 80s, 1989's Family Affair (#37 Gospel).


Thursday, January 4, 2018

"Steady" by Jules Shear

Song#:  2275
Date:  04/06/1985
Debut:  89
Peak:  57
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  As an artist, Shear's career never really took flight. Despite attempts with the Funky Kings, his own band the Polar Bears, and a solo effort, nothing clicked. He got a break when his song "All Through the Night," which originally appeared on Shear's 1983 solo debut LP Watch Dog, got picked up and recorded by Cyndi Lauper. The track became a single and it reached #5 on the Pop chart. With a little momentum built up, Shear returned to the studio to record a second album. He came up with The Eternal Return and this song was selected as the first single. Returning the favor, Cyndi Lauper co-wrote the tune with Shear. Despite Lauper's involvement and label support, the single couldn't make a significant impact and it stalled in the lower half of the Pop chart. It would be Shear's only song to reach the chart. However, a track from the album, "If She Knew What She Wants," would become a moderate hit (#29) for the Bangles the following year.

ReduxReview:  This is one of those songs that makes me think, "what went wrong?" This is a terrific song by an artist who was getting attention, and it had an assist from a big star at the time (Cyndi Lauper). It had a lot going for it and deserved to be a much bigger hit, so why did it fall flat? I admit that I didn't catch on to the song until years later thanks to an 80s compilation, but had I heard it back in the day I would have jumped on it. Perhaps there just wasn't enough support from the label or MTV. Or maybe the slow tempo on such a big song just didn't grab listeners. I'm not really sure what the issue was, but it's sad that this song didn't get more attention. In years later, I became a big fan of Shears due to a couple of excellent, critically well-received albums he pushed out. The low-key acoustic affairs Between Us (1998) and Allow Me (2000) are gems that show off Shear's skill as a songwriter. Both are highly recommended as is this stab at 80s power pop that didn't get its due.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Around this time, Elliot Easton (lead guitarist for The Cars) was working on a solo album. He enlisted the help of Shear the the pair co-wrote Easton's 1985 self-titled debut album. Shear also provided background vocals on the tracks. Unfortunately, the only song to make any impact was "(Wearing Down) Like a Wheel," which got to #36 on the Rock chart. Without a solid song to support the album, it quickly disappeared. It would be Easton's only solo effort.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

"Magical" by John Parr

Song#:  2274
Date:  04/06/1985
Debut:  90
Peak:  73
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Parr grabbed a #6 Rock track with "Naughty, Naughty," the first single from his self-titled debut album. The song was able to cross over to the Pop chart where it just missed out on the Top 20 getting to #23. For a follow-up, this next track was selected. Once again, Rock responded well and it barely missed the Top 10 there peaking at the dreaded #11. However, Pop wasn't as interested this time around and the singled stalled just inside the top quarter of the chart.

ReduxReview:  This is a solid rock track, but it's just not as hooky as the fun and sleazy "Naughty, Naughty." I was actually familiar with this song via Bucks Fizz (see below). I'm a fan of that vocal group and it appears on one of their hits albums. Parr's version is not all that different except that it has a slightly beefier sound. It's a quality album track, but it just doesn't have that extra hooky oomph needed to be a hit.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia: While Parr was assembling his debut album, he was also busy writing songs for Meat Loaf's 1984 LP Bad Attitude. One of the songs written for the album was this single. It was co-written by Parr with Meat Loaf. However, Meat Loaf ended up not recording the song so Parr chose to include it on his upcoming album. It would serve as the album's opening track and second single. Apparently, it remains the only song that Meat Loaf wrote (or co-wrote) that he did not record. Later in '86, the popular UK vocal group Bucks Fizz covered the song for their album Writings on the Wall. It was issued as that album's second single, but it could only manage a #57 peak. Bucks Fizz was a highly successful group in the UK following their 1981 UK #1 Eurovision winner "Making Your Mind Up." They would go on to score two more #1's and five more Top 10's. Despite their popularity in the UK, the group's music never translated to the US and they failed to get a song any chart.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

"One Lonely Night" by REO Speedwagon

Song#:  2273
Date:  03/30/1985
Debut:  65
Peak:  19
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The band earned their second #1 single with "Can't Fight This Feeling," the second single from their album Wheels Are Turnin'. The big ballad revived the flailing LP and helped to turn it into a double-platinum hit. To follow it up, the band decided to stay in ballad mode and issued this track. It did well at AC where it became their second Top 10 entry reaching #10. It didn't do quite as well at Pop and Rock where the song could only manage a Top 20 showing on each chart (#17 Rock, #19 Pop). Still, the middling hit did well enough to keep album sales steady.

ReduxReview:  I guess since "Can't Fight" revived the album, they decided to push out another ballad-leaning track. This one is not as grand as the previous single, but it's not too bad. I actually kind of prefer it to "Can't Fight," which was never a favorite of mine. It's still not as awesome as their prime stuff from Hi-Infidelity, but it's a pretty good single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  With the exception of their very first album in 1971, the vast majority of the songs that appeared on their albums were written by two members - Kevin Cronin and Gary Richrath. They mainly wrote separately, but on rare occasions the two would collaborate. However, for the Wheels Are Turnin' album, another bandmate wrote this song. Original member Neal Doughty co-wrote songs with the band for their 1971 debut LP, but only contributed a few songs after that. This was one of his own compositions and it was his first to be issued as a single. Doughty would also write a song for the band's next album and that track would also be issued as a single.


Monday, January 1, 2018

"Axel F" by Harold Faltermeyer

Top 10 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  2272
Date:  03/30/1985
Debut:  69
Peak:  3
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Synthpop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  This German-born musician/engineer/producer/composer got is first big break when he was hired by Giorgio Moroder to arrange the music for the Moroder's score to the 1978 film Midnight Express. The score won Moroder an Oscar and boosted Faltermeyer's career. The pair would continue to work together on projects and along the way Faltermeyer started to get work producing records for other artists like Donna Summer. He also started scoring films and by 1984 he was working on the music for Beverly Hills Cop. The movie was a major hit as was its soundtrack which featured hits like "Neutron Dance" by the Pointer Sisters and "The Heat Is On" by Glenn Frey. While an album of the full score that Faltermeyer composed for the film was never issued, one theme from the score was selected to appear on the soundtrack. Originally composed for the scene in the movie where Eddie Murphy places a banana in a cop car tailpipe, "Axel F" got included as the final track on the album. With the soundtrack doing well, this theme gained some attention and soon it was decided that it should be a single. Issued as the LP's fourth single, the song slowly caught on became a multi-format hit. In addition to its #3 Pop peak, it got to #1 at AC, #1 Dance, and #13 R&B. Since it was a bit of a left-field hit by a composer/producer, it wasn't a big surprise that it became Faltermeyer's only Pop chart entry, thus making him a one-hit wonder. It would also earn him a Grammy for Best Original Score Album. While Faltermeyer would go on to compose more scores and work with artists like Pet Shop Boys, Laura Branigan, Billy Idol, and others, this single would remain his biggest claim to fame.

ReduxReview:  I don't know why, but I didn't like this little ditty back in the day. I thought the main theme with that goose honking keyboard sound was annoying. Therefore, I ignored it. Many years later I then began to appreciate how quirky, simple, and catchy the song was and understood its appeal. It's kind of fun to hear once in a while, especially if it is on a party playlist. Seems like every time it comes up in rotation, someone will start to sing the theme and go "boop-bee boop-a-be boop-bop." It's not a classic, but it is a memorable little theme from the decade.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Working with Moroder, Faltermeyer contributed to another huge soundtrack album, 1986's Top Gun. Faltermeyer wrote the main theme to the film and performed in along with guitarist Steve Stevens. The album track "Top Gun Anthem" would prove to be popular enough to be issued as a single, but it never fully caught on at radio and failed to chart. However, the song did earn Faltermeyer his second Grammy. He and Stevens were the winners in the Best Pop Instrumental Performance category.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

"Can't Stop" by Rick James

Song#:  2271
Date:  03/30/1985
Debut:  75
Peak:  50
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  After a nearly two-year break from recording, James returned with his eighth studio LP titled Glow. This first single was issued and it was well-received at R&B getting to #10 - his tenth Top 10 on that chart. The song would make an appearance on the Pop chart, but it stopped at the halfway point. Unfortunately, it would end up being James' final single to reach the Pop chart. The album would also get to #50 at Pop while reaching #7 R&B. It sold well, but in the end it failed to reach gold certification, which was his first to miss that mark since 1980. James would record three more albums in the decade (with the last one getting shelved at the time), yet each would result in diminishing returns. He would record one more album, 1997's Urban Rhapsody, before his death in 2004.

ReduxReview:  Although James always claimed that Prince ripped off his sound, I'd have to say that he was kind of returning the favor here. This song, especially the keyboard sound and guitar solo, sounded like a riff of what Prince had been doing with combining elements of R&B, rock, and synthpop. This is nothing like James' previous funk tunes and I have to say that it is a welcome change. Despite any comparisons to Prince, I like the song. James needed to refresh his stale sound and I think this worked. It's a shame it didn't do better at Pop. Is it excellent material? Nope. But it was certainly better than the bland funk he had been dishing out prior to this. Although I don't remember this song from back in the day, I do remember the follow-up title-track "Glow." At the time I was doing a singing telegram job and traveled around quite a bit. The company van just had an AM radio in it and there were very few stations available. The one that came in the best had an R&B format and I'd listen to it. They used to play "Glow" quite a bit and I remember thinking it was a pretty cool tune. It's a post-disco retro tune with a Prince feel. That single got to #5 at R&B, but failed to reach the Pop chart. The album is kind of an overlooked gem in James' catalog.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  After his next album The Flag performed poorly, James moved over to Warner Bros. for 1988's Wonderful. The album's first single, "Loosey's Rap" featuring Roxanne Shante, became a surprise #1 hit at R&B. It was his fourth and last #1 (and last Top 10) on that chart. While it caught on at R&B, it was a non-starter at Pop and didn't even get close to getting on that chart. Part of the reason for the lack of crossover support could be due to MTV not playing the video for the song. James had always been a long-time critic of the channel for not supporting black artists, but after Michael Jackson and Prince knocked down that door, it seemed that things were changing. However, MTV still had their standards and they deemed that James' video for "Loosey's Rap" was too sexual in nature to air. James balked and pointed out that sexual videos by Madonna and Cher were being played with no issues and speculated that race was the real issue. However, BET wouldn't show the video either (although it should be pointed out that MTV and BET were owned by the same company). Despite the lack of promotional support via the video, the song got to #1 at R&B. Yet in the age of MTV there is little doubt that the song would have done better at Pop had the video been in rotation on the channel. James' next album for Warner would end up getting shelved and soon he'd be dropped from the label, essentially ending his long-standing career.