Saturday, February 17, 2018

"Tough All Over" by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band

Song#:  2319
Date:  05/11/1985
Debut:  53
Peak:  22
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Cafferty and his band got pushed into the spotlight thanks to their soundtrack contributions to the film Eddie and the Cruisers. With that successful experience behind them, the band then had the opportunity to record their first official album under their own name. They came up with Tough All Over and this title-track became the first single. It was greeted with open arms at Rock with the song becoming their second #1 on that chart. It also did fairly well at Pop just missing out on the Top 20. While the album didn't sell nearly as well as the Eddie soundtrack, it did respectable business and demonstrated that they had more to offer than just being the band was Eddie and the Cruisers.

ReduxReview:  This a good pop/rock tune and it helped establish a career for Cafferty away from Eddie. However, where Cafferty's tunes on Eddie sounded like Springsteen-lite, this one leans towards Jackson Browne territory. Cafferty obviously wears his influences on his sleeve, but he manages to maintain his own identity without sounding like a clone or weak knock-off. Cafferty didn't have spectacular tunes that were gonna wow the critics, but he did have a bit more to offer than the typical "they're a good bar band" critique that they got saddled with on occasion.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The Eddie and the Cruisers soundtrack was on the Scotti Bros. label and it was a no-brainer for them to sign Cafferty to a record deal following the album's success. The band would do two albums for the label along with delivering a soundtrack to the Eddie sequel. After diminishing returns, the label ended up dropping the band. However, they were not done with the band's material. In conjunction with a new reissue of the Eddie soundtrack released in 1993, Scotti Bros. also reissued the two albums the band had done for the label. But instead of issuing them with the original front cover artwork, the label decided to capitalize on the Eddie tie-in and created new covers that stated "From the Voice of Eddie and the Cruisers." The Eddie and the Cruisers part was in a much larger and bolder font than that of the band's actual name. In addition, the covers featured images of Eddie from the film, not the band. It was corporate marketing at its best!


Friday, February 16, 2018

"Crazy in the Night (Barking at Airplanes)" by Kim Carnes

Song#:  2318
Date:  05/11/1985
Debut:  65
Peak:  15
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Carnes' eighth album, Cafe Racers, didn't perform well. Although it featured the #9 AC track "I Pretend," the only song to crack the Pop Top 40 was the #40 "Invisible Hands." The lack of single support made the album her worst performing since 1979. She really needed a hit and one came courtesy of this track from her next album Barking at Airplanes. The tune became her first to reach the Pop Top 20 since her 1981 #1 signature hit "Bette Davis Eyes." It also got to #24 at Dance. The single helped sell some albums and it got to #48, which was her second best showing following her #1 LP Mistaken Identity. Unfortunately, this song ended up being her last to reach the Pop Top 40.

ReduxReview:  Being a big Carnes fan, I was so excited when I found out she had a new album coming out. I believe I ran out and got this single as soon as it was released heard it for the first time via the 45. I really wasn't sure what to make of it. The song was catchy, but lyrics and melody sounded like something from a child's nursery song. I liked it, but was confused as to why this was a single. I thought for sure it would tank. I didn't think this sing-song ditty would catch on. Call me surprised when it crept up and nearly made a bid for the Top 10! I think it may have been more popular in certain markets because I never heard it on the radio where I resided at the time. Once the album came out I bought it and thought it was excellent. It was the first one Carnes produced (with Bill Cuomo) and it's a consistently enjoyable disc with some solid writing. It should have done a lot better especially since this kooky song caught on.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Not long before writing this post, singer David Cassidy died. He was a huge star back in the days of his TV show The Partridge Family and in addition to recording albums under The Partridge Family name, Cassidy also set out on a solo career, which included tours. Back in 1971 when Cassidy first started to tour, a producer friend of Carnes' got hired as Cassidy's musical director. He contacted Carnes and her and her husband Dave Ellingson to do background vocals for Cassidy's show in addition to performing as an opening act. They accepted the job and started to work with Cassidy. A friendship developed between the three and there were many times Cassidy would stay at Carnes/Ellingson's house. While there, the trio would occasionally write songs together. Four of those songs ended up on two of Cassidy's solo albums. By 1974, Carnes was pregnant and signed to A&M Records. With her personal life and solo career taking over her time, Carnes along with Ellingson had to quit touring with Cassidy.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

"You Give Good Love" by Whitney Houston

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2317
Date:  05/11/1985
Debut:  67
Peak:  3
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  This singer went from singing in church as a kid, to performing with her mom in nightclubs, to being a backup singer, to being a model, to doing her own club shows, all before becoming a worldwide superstar. Although she had been offered recording contracts even when she was in her teens, it wasn't until 1983 when Clive Davis offered her a home at Arista that Houston inked a deal. Davis knew there was something special about the singer and took his time developing her career. She got her first taste of success when she was teamed up with Teddy Pendergrass for the duet "Hold Me," which got to #5 R&B, #6 AC, and #46 Pop. From that point on, Houston began to record solo tracks with various producers that would make up her self-titled debut album. The first shot over the bow was this silky tune that was mainly chosen to help establish Houston in the R&B market and indeed the song was a smash on that chart getting to #1. Expectations were not set high for the Pop market, so it came as a surprise when the song caught on and got to #3 at Pop and #4 at AC. It would end up being the first of ten consecutive Pop Top 10's for Houston. The song would also earn a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Song while Houston would get a nod for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female. Her superstar was only just beginning to rise.

ReduxReview:  This is the song that began Houston's solo career and sadly it gets overlooked in her catalog. I never hear this tune anymore and I think it ranks among her best. It's smooth, sexy and has a lovely maturity about it that would lead you to believe it was sung by someone older than a 21-year-old Houston. The song is quality to begin with, but Houston just takes it to another level without going overboard. Kashif's production is also top-notch. Although she'd have some great hits ahead, I've always found it sad that she kind of lost this style of R&B along the way. She ended up recording commercial-leaning pop/dance-pop followed by a detour into more urban territory. While there were great moments, nothing really sounded like this song. The same could be said about Mariah Carey and her debut single "Vision of Love." She never captured that sound again either. The Whitney on this song is the Whitney that I loved.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  This song was written by La Forrest Cope, aka La La. She had originally written the tune with Roberta Flack in mind, but when Flack's camp wasn't responding back, she marketed the song to Houston via producer Kashif. La La and Kashif had history together as she wrote a song that appeared on his self-titled 1983 debut solo album. The song was a perfect fit for Houston and Kashif produced the track. La La would write songs for other artists, but none would be as big as this one. She later parlayed her success into her own solo deal with Arista and issued a self-titled debut album in 1987. It spawned two minor R&B charters, including the #22 "(If You) Love Me Just a Little." She moved to Motown for a second solo disc in 1991, but it came and went quickly.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"Everytime You Go Away" by Paul Young

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2316
Date:  05/11/1985
Debut:  70
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Young's debut LP, No Parlez, was a big #1 hit in the UK thanks to three Top 10 hits including the #1 "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's Home)." The album wasn't as successful in the US with only "Come Back and Stay" (#4 UK) getting anywhere on the Pop chart (#22). Young had new material ready near the end of '84 and issued two new singles in the UK, both of which hit the Top 10. They would eventually be included on his second LP The Secrets of Association. However, neither of those songs were picked to be the lead-off single for the US market. Instead, this ballad was selected. It took a little bit of time for the tune to catch on, but it eventually took over the airwaves and reached #1 on both the Pop and AC charts. It also got to #14 at Rock. The single would go gold as would the album, which got to #19.

ReduxReview:  I think the arrangement of this song is what really sold it. The fretless bass and sitar nearly stole the show from Young. It was a vast improvement from the original's (see below) more gospel-leaning take. It was a beautifully written tune that sounded great on the radio. I certainly loved it enough to buy the album, but I ended up totally burnt out on the song after radio stations played it to death. It's still a lovely song that is nice to hear once in a while.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally written by Daryl Hall and recorded by Daryl Hall & John Oates. The song appeared on their 1980 album Voices, which included the #1 hit "Kiss on My List." The album spawned a total of four singles, but "Everything" was not one of them. Although the song was one of Hall's favorites that the duo recorded, he regarded it as an album track that had no single potential. Once he heard Young's more commercial pop version of the song, Hall realized that it had a lot more to offer than he initially thought. Perhaps in part due toYoung's revival of the song, Hall & Oates included a live version of it on their '85 LP Live at the Apollo.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

"Hold Me" by Menudo

Song#:  2315
Date:  05/11/1985
Debut:  85
Peak:  62
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, Latin Pop

Pop Bits:  This Puerto Rican boy band was developed in the late 70s by producer Edgardo Diaz. The group would basically become the eternal boy band with members' contracts ending when they turn sixteen and replacements hired. The group issued their first LP in 1977, but it wasn't until 1981 that the hits started coming. They quickly became huge stars in Latin America and soon they began to catch on in Europe. They slowly began to break into the US market a couple of years later performing in New York and getting music spots on ABC Saturday morning TV. Their first English language album, Reaching Out, appeared in 1984. While it got a lot of press and attention, the album and its first single, "If You're Not Here (By My Side)," failed to fully catch on. They tried again in '85 with a self-titled album that featured this single. The song finally got them on the Pop chart, but it was a minor entry and would end up being their only one to reach the chart. While they would continue to release English language versions of their albums over the years, Menudo just didn't catch on in the US. The group and its revolving door of members remains popular in many countries before calling it a day in 2009.

ReduxReview:  I have to admit that I've never heard a Menudo song until now. It seems surprising since they were all over the place around this time period. A ton of people knew about them, yet no one really wanted to listen to them. It could have had to do with all the promo and marketing that tried to sell them as teen heartthrobs (or really as product rather than actual music makers). I think folks tuned them out before giving them a chance. I was certainly one of those people who rolled their eyes at the mere mention of their name. However, if they had quality tunes and proper marketing, they might have made a bigger splash in the US. This song is actually not all that bad. The problem with it though is that it's too mature for them. It was written by Howie Rice, who supplied a song to The Pointer Sisters for their Break Out LP and it sounds like something the Sisters could have done. Not teenagers. I think people were expecting, fun, age appropriate boy band pop with a Latin twist and this wasn't it. Wrong material and bad marketing basically doomed the group in the US. At least later on we got Ricky Martin out of the deal (see below).

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  While several former members of Menudo tried to branch out to solo careers, only two of them became major stars. One became a Grammy-winning Latin artist who also helped another member become a worldwide star. Robi Rosa (aka Draco Rosa) and Ricky Martin both joined Menudo in 1984. Rosa would stay with the group until 1987, Martin until '88. Rosa first went solo in 1988 with a pair of successful albums in Brazil. After a stint in a rock band called Maggie's Dream, he returned to solo work. In 2013, his solo album Vida won the Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album. It also took home the Latin Grammy award for Best Album. Martin initially moved on to acting working on stage and on TV. He eventually struck out on a solo career with his first album in 1991, which would sell over 500,000 copies worldwide. He recorded two more solo albums while also maintaining an acting career that saw him star in two US TV shows. He was in the two-season sitcom Getting By and spent a couple of years on the soap General Hosptial. In 1998, he teamed up with Rosa and the pair worked on Martin's breakthrough album Vuelve. Rosa co-wrote and produced most of the tracks. The album would be a major success and would earn Martin a Grammy for Best Latin Pop Performance. They teamed up again for Martin's US #1 self-titled album, which featured the #1 hit "Livin' La Vida Loca." Rosa co-wrote that song with Desmond Child. The track would be nominated for both Record and Song of the Year at the Grammys. The album would be nominated for Best Pop Album. Martin would have one more highly successful album with 2000's Sound Loaded.


Monday, February 12, 2018

"Ways to Be Wicked" by Lone Justice

Song#:  2314
Date:  05/11/1985
Debut:  86
Peak:  71
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock, Alt-Country

Pop Bits:  This LA band was formed by singer Maria McKee and guitarist Ryan Hedgecock in 1982. Once the other positions in the band were filled out, they began performing cover tunes at various LA clubs. Soon they were incorporating their own original songs in their sets and started to gain a loyal following. Known for being a "cowpunk" band (i.e., one that combines elements of punk, rockabilly, folk, and country), they eventually got the attention of Geffen Records who signed them to a deal. Thanks to the band's reputation as a hot live act, McKee's big voice, and associations with artists like Tom Petty (via Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench) and Linda Ronstadt, Lone Justice received a lot of attention and were being touted as the next big thing. They even secured an opening slot on U2's Joshua Tree tour. Expectations were high for their self-titled debut LP that was recorded with producer Jimmy Iovine. It featured this first single, which was co-written by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell. Yet, despite all the hype, promotion and A-listers involved, the song and album fell flat. The single topped out at #29 at Rock while stalling early at Pop. In turn, the album suffered in sales and could only get to #56 (#62 Country). The results were disappointing for all involved.

ReduxReview:  I remember this album coming out. There was a lot of buzz surrounding it and the chatter caught my attention. I went out and bought the album without even hearing a track. I have to say that initially I was underwhelmed. Several critics thought the album just didn't capture the essence of the band and that everyone involved just tried too hard to make a great album. I realized what critics meant when I saw them open up for U2. They were fantastic and I immediately became a life-long fan of McKee. She was phenomenal. Yet there were good songs on the album like this one and I grew to really like the album over time. I think it was judged too harshly due to all the hype. Also, I'm not sure Pop radio was ready for the alt-country flavor of the band at the time. Had they broke a few years later when college radio made stars of artists like R.E.M., they might have had a better chance. Regardless, I still love the band and am a major fan of McKee's solo recordings. Her 1989 debut solo LP is still one of my all-time favorites.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  One song for the album, "Don't Toss Us Away," was written by Bryan MacLean. MacLean was a member of  late-60s/early 70s band Love. The band's 1967 album Forever Changes is often considered one of the best albums of the decade. It ranked #40 on Rolling Stone's 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. MacLean wrote the album's signature tune "Alone Again Or." So how did Lone Justice acquire "Don't Toss Us Away?" Easy - MacLean is McKee's half-sister. They share the same mother. Later in 1989, country singer Patty Loveless picked up the song and recorded it. She issued it as a single and it went to #5 on the Country chart. MacLean died of a heart-attack on Christmas day in 1998.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

"Meeting in the Ladies Room" by Klymaxx

Song#:  2313
Date:  05/11/1985
Debut:  89
Peak:  59
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Singer/songwriter/drummer Bernadette Cooper had a vision of creating an all-girl R&B band. After a year in college, she dropped out in order to pursue her dream. She eventually brought on board five other women to round out the band, which she ended up naming Klymaxx. The unique all-girl outfit attracted the attention of Dick Griffey and he signed them to his Solar Records label in 1981. Their first album, Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman, didn't get very far and a second LP, Girls Will Be Girls, did about the same. When the first single from their next album failed to chart, the album was scrapped and the girls figured it was time to make a change. They moved over to the MCA offshoot label Constellation and created their official third LP Meeting in the Ladies Room. The first single from the album, "The Men All Pause," took off and got to #5 R&B and #9 Dance. The song wasn't able to make the Pop chart initially (a reissue would make a brief appearance later). With a hit to their credit, this second single was issued. It did even better at R&B getting to #4 while going to #22 Dance and finally becoming their first Pop chart entry.

ReduxReview:  This jam sounds like something Prince should have written for one of his protégé artists. It also falls in line with material from Midnight Star (see below). It should have done better at Pop, but solid R&B outings like this were still having a hard time breaking though at Pop. I've quoted this song many times over the years. I've often gone out with friends and at some point when I had to use the restroom I've gotten up and said "excuse me, but I gotta meetin' in the ladies room." Or when a couple female friends head off to the restroom together I'll say "is there a meeting in the ladies room?" You know you've done your job as a songwriter if folks are quoting your lyrics when they are out partying.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Although Cooper and a couple of her band mates would write the majority of the material for the album (and produce four of the tracks), this song was written by Midnight Star members Reggie Calloway, Vincent Calloway, and Boaz Watson. The Calloways also produced the track. Midnight Star was having significant success of their own, but members had begun to branch out and work with other artists. This song was one of the first major hits that the Calloways and Watson had outside of their own band.