Saturday, June 9, 2018

"Dress You Up" by Madonna

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2429
Date:  08/17/1985
Debut:  36
Peak:  5
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, Madonna's second album Like a Virgin had already spawned three Top 10 hits and was still selling well hanging around the Top 20 of the album chart. A fourth single was planned and this track was selected for release. It debuted high inside the Top 40 and then quickly made its way up the chart to become her seventh Top 10 hit in a row. It also got to #3 Dance, #32 AC, and #64 R&B. It would be the final single released from the album. The associated video was a concert version of the song from Madonna's tour and it received an MTV Music Video award nomination for Best Choreography.

ReduxReview:  This was a solid choice for a single from the album. The dance track fell in line with the hits from her first album while melding well with her first two hits from Virgin. I thought it was a better song that her previous single, "Angel," and it sounded good on the radio. Looking at it within her catalog now, it's not one of her strongest songs and it wouldn't make the list of my favorite Madonna tracks. However, it's a fun little artifact from her early career.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song made the PMRC's famous "filthy fifteen" list. It was put on the list due to sexual content. Madonna was a prime target of Tipper Gore after she heard her daughter play the song. Gore would later state that pop culture is morally bankrupt and materialistic "and Madonna was the worst of all."  2) In addition to the songs for her Like a Virgin album, Madonna also contributed two new songs to the Vision Quest soundtrack, "Crazy for You" and "Gambler." Of course the film's producers wanted to get these songs out as singles, but Madonna's label was fearful of attention being drawn away from her album and saturating the market with competing singles. It was finally agreed upon to slot in "Crazy for You" following Virgin's first two singles. It was a good thing as the song sailed to #1, but they nixed turning "Gambler" into a single in the US and it wasn't even sent out for airplay. However, the song was released in many other countries and it did fairly well getting to #4 in the UK, #3 Italy, and #10 Australia. The song was solely written by Madonna. She had written several for her debut album and one for Like a Virgin. After this, any song she wrote had a co-writer. The lone exception was a 2007 charity single called "Hey You" that she wrote by herself.


Friday, June 8, 2018

"Saving All My Love for You" by Whitney Houston

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2428
Date:  08/17/1985
Debut:  58
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  R&B, Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  If Houston's silky smooth #3 hit "You Give Good Love" established her as a solo artist, this next single from her self-titled debut album made her a star. The big ballad was a multi-format smash hitting #1 at Pop, R&B, and AC. It would also be her first #1 over in the UK. Although the LP wouldn't reach the #1 spot until the spring of '86, it was already a big seller reaching platinum level a week after this single debuted. Over time it would eventually sell 13 million copies in the US alone.

ReduxReview:  I thought this was quite a mature ballad for the young Houston, but she ended up doing a terrific reading of the song. She basically lives every note of the tune and it comes across so well in the recording. She sold this song lock, stock, and barrel and that is what made it a hit. I don't think anyone else could have done this. It's definitely one of her best vocal performances and she deservedly won the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  At the time many folks did not realize this was actually a cover tune. Written by Michael Masser and Gerry Goffin, it was originally recorded in 1978 by Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. for their album Marilyn and Billy. The song was not issued as a single. The song came to Houston's attention via the song's co-writer Masser. Apparently via an invitation from Clive Davis, he saw Houston perform at a club and one of the songs she sang was "Greatest Love of All," which Masser had also co-written. Houston told Masser after the show that "Greatest" was one of her favorite songs. The pair got on well and soon Masser was hired on to produce some tracks for Houston's debut album. Reaching back in his catalog, Masser suggested that "Saving All My Love for You" would be great for Houston. At first, Houston and her mother were a bit concerned about the tune since it deals with a woman having an affair with a married man, but Houston eventually decided to record the song. Masser's simple arrangment pushed Houston's vocal up front and Masser knew the tune was a winner. Initially, it was not going to be the LP's second single, but a push from Masser via a bet he made with Clive Davis got the song selected. It would be the first of seven consecutive #1's for Houston.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

"Down on Love" by Foreigner

Song#:  2427
Date:  08/17/1985
Debut:  74
Peak:  54
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Foreigner's third single from their album Agent Provocateur, "Reaction to Action," couldn't make much headway on the chart stalling before the midpoint. Despite tepid results, the decision was made to push out this fourth single. Oddly, it exactly replicated the results of "Reaction" by peaking at the same #54 and spending eight weeks on the chart. Despite only featuring two Top 40 entries, the album would end up being a triple-platinum seller. By any means, that was a great result, but it was half the amount of their previous album 4, which featured four Top 40 hits.

ReduxReview:  The rock of "Reaction" didn't really work out, so for the next single this more radio-friendly, mid-tempo track was pushed out. It didn't work either. This tune was fine as an album track, but it just didn't have the extra hookiness and memorability needed to make it a chart contender. However, on an album that really lacked follow-up single contenders, it was probably the best of the remaining bunch. Still, the song wasn't gonna do anything and they probably should have skipped it.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Two members of Foreigner have their roots in two classic UK bands. Guitarist Mick Jones joined up with psychedelic rock band Spooky Tooth in 1972. That band had broken up in 1970, but reformed two years later with Jones joining in. While Spooky Tooth never had a charting hit song, their albums would sell well enough to hit the lower reaches of the chart. The second iteration of the band would break up in 1974. The band's lead singer Gary Wright would have better luck with his solo career. He grabbed two #2 hits in 1976 with "Dream Weaver" and "Love Is Alive." Foreigner member Ian McDonald would be an original member of the prog-rock band King Crimson. He would only stay with them for two years, but he performed on the band's classic debut In the Court of King Crimson, an album that has made many "best rock albums of all time" lists.


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

"First Night" by Survivor

Song#:  2426
Date:  08/17/1985
Debut:  76
Peak:  53
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Survivor's fifth album Vital Signs certainly breathed new life into the band. The LP already boasted three Top 20 hits including two Top 10's when this fourth single was released. Unfortunately, the song couldn't make it into the upper reaches of the chart like the others stalling just shy of the halfway point. The results didn't matter too much as the album had already been certified platinum two months prior to the song's release.

ReduxReview:  This was a worthy follow up to their #4 hit "The Search Is Over" and it should have made the Top 40. However, it had two things working against it. First, it wasn't quite as memorable as their previous three hits and second, the album had been out for a while and it was running on tired legs. I doubt that the band or their label expected three big hits from the LP, so a fourth was stretching it anyway. They probably should have stopped at three, but this certainly wasn't a bad attempt at another hit.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The roots of Survivor trace back to a late 60s Chicago band called The Jamestown Massacre. Future Survivor lead singer Dave Bickler was a member. They secured got a contract in 1972 with Warner and issued out a single titled "Summer Sun." While it was a local hit, on the national Pop chart it was a minor blip reaching #90. Around this time the band was also doing studio work for a local ad agency. Bickler became friendly with another guy working on the sessions, Jim Peterik, who had grabbed a #2 hit in 1970 with his former band The Ides of March. After the Jamestown failed to hit it big, three members left, including Bickler. The remaining members changed their name to Mariah and hired in new musicians including guitarist Frankie Sullivan. Mariah got signed to United Artists and issued a debut album in 1975 that didn't get a lot of attention. In 1978, Peterik was encouraged to start a new band and was introduced to Sullivan. They hit it off and the pair began to look for other members. Peterik remembered Bickler from the jingle work and asked him to join. Thus, Survivor was born. While members came and went over the years, Sullivan is the only original member to constantly remain with the band throughout its career.


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

"Dancin' in the Key of Life" by Steve Arrington

Song#:  2425
Date:  08/17/1985
Debut:  77
Peak:  68
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  In the mid-70s, this drummer/percussionist from Ohio was in San Francisco honing his skills playing gigs with members of the famous Escovedo family (Coke, Pete, and Sheila E.). He went back to Ohio in 1978 and joined up with the funk/R&B band Slave, who had just had a #1 R&B hit with their single "Slide." He started out doing backing vocals and playing drums, but he quickly took over the lead vocal position. The band grabbed three R&B Top 10's before Arrington decided leave and form his own band called Steve Arrington's Hall of Fame. After two successful R&B albums, Arrington then decided to go solo. His first effort was titled Dancin' in the Key of Life and it's first single was "Feel So Real," which was a Dance hit (#5) and a Top 20 entry at R&B (#17). It didn't make the Pop chart, but this second title-track single did. While the song didn't get very far at Pop, it would prove to be his biggest solo hit at both Dance (#2) and R&B (#8). After two more albums that produced tepid results, Arrington decided to leave the music business behind in 1991 to get involved with his church. He would return to music in 2009 with the album Pure Thang.

ReduxReview:  This song has a steady, repetitive groove that keeps things moving along just fine, but in the end the tune doesn't go anywhere. No matter where you drop the needle on this track, it is pretty much gonna sound the same. Arrington offers up some vocal ad libs near the end that spruce things up, but by that time my interest in the song had already waned. It's not a bad song at all. There just wasn't anything here that made me wanna hit the repeat button.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  A track from Steve Arrington's Hall of Fame's 1983 debut album would be later used in a Grammy nominated track. Rap artist Jermaine Dupri used a sample from Arrington's "Weak at the Knees" to help form the beat of his 1998 track "Money Ain't a Thang." The song was a collaboration between Dupri and Jay-Z. It first appeared on Dupri's album Life in the 1472. It would be the second single released from the album and it would reach #10 at R&B and #28 Rap. The track would later grab a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.


Monday, June 4, 2018

"I'll Be Around" by What Is This

Song#:  2424
Date:  08/17/1985
Debut:  79
Peak:  62
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This L.A. band was first formed by high school friends in the early 80s. They went through a few name changes before settling on What Is This, which was a phrase they had heard from folks who were hearing the band for the first time. After a few years of gigging around L.A., the band got offered a deal with MCA. An initial EP titled Squeezed came out in 1984 and the following year saw the release of their self-titled full-length debut LP produced by Todd Rundgren. This first single was released to promote the album, but it didn't make a huge impression. The song stalled short of the Top 50 which then caused the album to be just a minor blip on the chart (#187). A follow-up EP titled 3 of 5 Live got pushed out later in the year to little notice. The results weren't good and it wasn't long before the band decided to split.

ReduxReview:  This is a remake of The Spinners' 1973 #1 R&B/#3 Pop classic and I'm not exactly sure why this rock band with a lean towards funk decided to record the tune. I can only venture to guess that the band didn't have a good song for single contention and the label pushed them to do something more commercial and radio-friendly. I can't imagine any other reason because the song and even the arrangement isn't even close to anything they were doing on the album. It's so out of place. While the band does a nice job here, they don't offer anything new or interesting. A hundred other good no-name bands could have easily done the same thing, so it just leaves me with one question...why?

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia: Another superstar rock band has their roots in What Is This. In the early high school days of the band their original bass player left so they brought in a new guy named Michael Balzary, aka Flea. Then to help the band at shows, another classmate, Anthony Kiedis, was brought in as a roadie and a hype-man to get the crowds going at the band's shows. Flea ended up leaving the band and along with Kiedis and two other What Is This members, Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons, formed a band they titled Tony Flow and the Majestic Masters of Mayhem. The band was meant to just be a one-off lark and they intended to do one quick gig where the band improvised behind Kiedis who rapped some poetry he wrote. However, they got a great response and decided to keep the band together to see what might happen. At this point a better name was needed so they chose to be the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The new quartet kept playing shows and developing their sound. Slovak and Irons maintained dual membership between What Is This and the Peppers until both bands were offered major label contracts. Feeling that the Peppers were a side project, the pair left that band and stayed with What Is This. Kiedis and Flea didn't want to give up their band so they got two new members and moved ahead with their career. After What Is This folded, Slovak and Irons found themselves back in the Peppers. Slovak would unfortunately die of a drug overdose in 1988 and Irons, reeling from the loss of his best friend, left the band soon after. The Peppers continued on with new members John Fruscianti and Chad Smith. They would record their breakthrough album Mother's Milk in 1989. Irons would later join Pearl Jam in 1994 as their drummer and stay through to 1998.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

"Wise Up" by Amy Grant

Song#:  2423
Date:  08/17/1985
Debut:  86
Peak:  66
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop, Contemporary Christian

Pop Bits:  Grant's decision to expand her appeal from the CCM market into the pop mainstream began to pay off when the single "Find a Way" became her first Pop Top 30 entry (#29). The song increased her fan base who then helped her album, Unguarded, go platinum. This other upbeat track from the LP would be issued out as its second single. It would get on the Pop chart, but it just couldn't do as well as "Find a Way." However, it would be a #2 winner on the Christian chart while reaching #34 at AC.

ReduxReview:  Like "Find a Way," this song wasn't overtly Christian in its lyrics and that gave the song a chance to get played on mainstream radio. Unfortunately, it just didn't catch on as well as "Find a Way." Indeed the funky little tune isn't quite as catchy, but it was a quality track from an album that had a couple of other good choices for singles.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The third single from the album was the mid-tempo track "Everywhere I Go." It didn't make the Pop chart, but it did get to #4 Christian and #28 AC. It was written by Michigan-born singer/songwriter Mary Lee Kortes. The song would help her get work with other artists, but it would take until 1997 before Kortes would become an artist in her own right. Her band Mary Lee's Corvette would put out a self-titled EP that got some good critical attention. Two years later, a full-length album called True Lovers of Adventure would be released. More critical praise followed, but the album did not break through to the masses. The band's unexpected third album was the one that really garnered a lot of attention. An NYC club organized a series of shows where local bands would perform classic albums. Kortes and her band decided to participate and chose to perform Bob Dylan's 1975 #1 Blood on the Tracks in its entirety. It was a one-off gig and Kortes decided to record the show and perhaps burn some copies to sell at her shows. Word of the performance and the recording began to spread and soon she was inundated with requests for a copy. Bar None Records stepped in and issued a formal release of the CD in 2002. It was well received by critics, Dylan fans, and even Dylan himself who liked the performance enough to feature a song from the CD on his website and asked Kortes and her band to open a few of his shows.