Saturday, September 1, 2018

"Wrap Her Up" by Elton John

Song#:  2514
Date:  10/26/1985
Debut:  53
Peak:  20
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  John was bouncing back a bit in the 80s with two platinum albums in a row. Each LP featured one Top 10 hit plus two other Top 40 entries. Hoping to keep the streak going, John next issued out Ice on Fire, an album that reunited him with producer Gus Dudgeon. Dudgeon produced all of John's album output from 1970-1976 (ten albums, six consecutive #1's), which was his most successful period. But the reunion didn't provide the same results and this first single set the tone. It just barely made the Pop Top 20 while missing all other charts. This in-turn made the album stop at #48, which was a career worst for John. Eventually, the album would go gold thanks to the success of a second single, but the results certainly killed the momentum he built up from his two previous releases.

ReduxReview:  As much as I love Elton John, he recorded some wolf-wolf dogs along the way and this was one of them. In fact, the album is pretty terrible overall. This pseudo-pop/blues jam has a dense, yet tinny production that that borders on obnoxious. George Michael's ball crushing forced falsetto didn't help matters. Then there was the stupid list of ladies that went on way too long. I guess these were meant to reflect the women described in the lyrics, but it just didn't work. For me this ranks as one of the worst Elton John singles to have actually become somewhat of a hit.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  John got a helping hand from another famous singer on this track and another from the album. Recognize the voice? It belongs to newly minted star George Michael. The Wham! leader lent his pipes to this track (uncredited) and also made an appearance in the song's associated video. Near the end of the song, the pair began a list of over 20 female celebrities that included Marlena Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, and Brigitte Bardot. Another name mentioned was Kiki Dee, John's duet partner on the 1976 #1 hit "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart." Dee also makes a cameo in the video and even sang background vocals on the song.


Friday, August 31, 2018

"Do It for Love" by Sheena Easton

Song#:  2513
Date:  10/26/1985
Debut:  68
Peak:  29
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Dance

Pop Bits:  Easton's career reached at all-time high with her album A Private Heaven. Bolstered by two sexy Top 10 hits including the Prince-penned "Sugar Walls" (#9), the album would be her only studio album to reach platinum status. When it came time for her follow-up LP, Easton got paired with producer Nile Rodgers, who was hot property following his work on Madonna's Like a Virgin album. It seemed like an ideal pairing, but instead of staying with the catchy pop of her previous two hits, Rodgers took Easton into dance/club territory and came up with Do You. This first single was issued out, but unfortunately the new direction wasn't so popular. The song barely made the Pop Top 30 while getting to #21 Dance and #39 AC. Despite the results of the single, enough fans showed up to buy the album and it was able to go gold, which was still a disappointment after the success of A Private Heaven.

ReduxReview:  Although fans liked this album and reviews were somewhat favorable, even Easton later said that it was a misstep. Easton wasn't Madonna and yet Rodgers (and probably her label) led her down that path. I've always though this song sounded just like something Madonna would have done around this time. I can even hear her singing it. Madonna might have been able to take this higher on the chart due to her massive popularity, but it just wasn't the right fit for Easton especially coming on the heels of her juicy pop confections from A Private Heaven. The song wasn't all that strong either. I remember being disappointed the first time I heard it. It would be two years before she'd have another big hit, thanks to Prince.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:   This song was written by Adele Bertei and Mary Kesler. Bertei had played in bands since the late 70s including the all-female punk/funk band The Bloods. She later got into dance music and was signed to Geffen for a short bit. Her lone single for them, "Build Me a Bridge," was a #5 Dance hit produced by Thomas Dolby. Although an album failed to materialize, she continued to work with Dolby and appeared on his album The Flat Earth specifically supplying the backing vocals for his single "Hyperactive." A second attempt at a solo career happened in 1988 when Bertei was signed to Chrysalis. This time she was able to get an album out titled Little Lives. The track "Little Lives, Big Loves" would get to #40 on the AC chart. She would have one more Dance chart entry in 1994 when she did the vocals for (and co-wrote) the Arthur Baker track "Kiss the Ground (You Walk On)." It got to #34. In addition to this Sheena Easton tune, Bertei also had songs recorded by The Pointer Sisters, Matthew Sweet, and Jellybean.


Thursday, August 30, 2018

"Emergency" by Kool & the Gang

Song#:  2512
Date:  10/26/1985
Debut:  77
Peak:  18
Weeks:  16
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Kool & the Gang's sixteenth studio album Emergency would end up being their biggest selling going double-platinum thanks to three Top 10 Pop hits including the #2 "Cherish." They kept sales rolling along with this title-track single that was able to get inside the Pop Top 20. It was their twenty-second Top 10 at R&B getting to #7 while making a brief #41 appearance at AC. With the album only containing seven tracks, this fourth single would be the last issued from the LP.

ReduxReview:  This album opener has a bit of a "Misled" feel to it in the verses which I like, but it switches to a smooth synthpop sound for the chorus and the song kind of looses me there. For a song titled "Emergency," the chorus should be intense and urgent. It's still a pretty good song from the band, but in their catalog of hit singles this one ends up being forgettable.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The Gang's 1974 album Light of the Worlds was their second gold-seller thanks to two R&B hits including the #1 "Higher Plane" (#37 Pop). However, it would be another track on the album that would perhaps have the most longevity. "Summer Madness" would not be issued out as a single from the album, but it was selected to be the b-side to the first single and title track of their next album Spirit of the Boogie. While that song would end up getting to #1 at R&B, the b-side started to get some attention and soon it got to #36 on its own. On the Pop chart the two songs would be a double-sided entry that would get to #35. "Summer Madness" would also be used in the Oscar-winning 1976 film Rocky, but it was not included on the soundtrack album. The song would remain a popular entry in the band's catalog and in 1991, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince would sample the track for their #4 Pop/#1 R&B hit "Summertime." That song would go on to win a Grammy for Best Rap Performance, Duo or Group.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

"Charm the Snake" by Christopher Cross

Song#:  2511
Date:  10/26/1985
Debut:  79
Peak:  68
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  The pop music landscape had certainly changed since Cross first hit it big with his multi-Grammy winning, 5x platinum 1979 self-titled debut album. His smooth SoCal sound that vaulted songs like "Sailing" to #1 was definitely being pushed out by the brasher sounds of new wave, rock, synthpop and even rap. He eked out a Top 10 entry with "Think of Laura" from his second album, but the success of that song had mainly to do with its use in the hugely popular daytime soap General Hospital. With his second LP only getting to gold status, Cross had to take a different approach in order to survive the new MTV 80s. With his producer Michael Omartian, Cross recorded a new album that pretty much ignored his AC soft rock sound in favor of tunes that had more of a rock flare to them. Every Turn of the World would be issued out and this first single would be released. Unfortunately, pop audiences didn't buy into the song and neither did his AC fans from back in the day. Because of that, the song faltered quickly at Pop while not even making the AC chart. Follow-up singles tanked completely and that left the album stalling at a painfully low #127. Cross would never rebound from the poor showing making this tune his last to hit the Pop chart. He would continue to record over the years and grab a couple of minor AC song entries, but his days in the Pop spotlight ended here.

ReduxReview:  I'm sure that both Cross and his record company wanted hits and for Cross to stay on the charts and sell albums, but dressing up Cross' AC tunes in synth-rock sounds was a bad idea. The kids weren't buying into it and his older fans weren't thrilled either. Plus, it certainly didn't help that Cross was not MTV-ready. He didn't have a marketable look like a Simon Le Bon (in fact, his first three album did not have him on the covers) and he didn't like making videos. He relented a couple of times, but Cross was just not going to fit in the new era of pop music. Had he and his label recognized the situation, they might have done better by really aiming at the AC market. Hits there could still sell albums and he probably would have been much better off. Instead, we ended up with this chuggin' diddy that really didn't have a chorus and was overblown with synths that tried to make up for it. It's not a bad song, but it wasn't gonna be a hit and it just didn't fit Cross very well.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Cross found himself a bit back in the spotlight thanks to the hit TV show 30 Rock. In one episode, the character Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) says, "I know that I'm a sour person, and I don't like a lot of people, but I liked Floyd. And I guess in the back of my mind I thought we'd end up together someday that the whole thing would turn out like a movie where Christopher Cross sings a song like, 'All my days I've been waiting for you to come back home, in the moonlight of New York City.'" That last line she sings and it inspired Cross to actually write a song that opens with that line. The song "Lemon's Theme" would be featured on the 30 Rock soundtrack album. Perhaps as a shout-out to Christopher Cross, Fey's Liz Lemon character ends up marrying a guy named Criss Chros, played by actor James Marsden.  (P.S.: Do yourself a favor and look up "Lemon's Theme." It's actually one of the best things Cross has written/recorded.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"You're a Friend of Mine" by Clarence Clemons & Jackson Browne

Song#:  2510
Date:  10/26/1985
Debut:  80
Peak:  18
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Clemons, known as the "Big Man" due to his 6'5" stature, became part of Bruce Springsteen's famous E Street Band in 1972. He played sax alongside Springsteen for many years and his work can be heard on such classics as "Born to Run" and "Jungleland." With Springsteen's career in ultra-high gear thanks to the phenomenal success of Born in the U.S.A., the spotlight also turned to E Street members like Clemons. He ended up getting a few other gigs like providing the sax for Aretha Franklin's comeback hit "Freeway of Love." It was with that track that Clemons met with producer/songwriter Narada Michael Walden and a plan was hatched for Clemons to do a solo album. Walden would produce Clemons' album Hero and co-write six of the LP's nine songs including this first single. To add a little star power, rocker Jackson Browne was tapped to be a duet partner for the song. Thanks in part to Browne and the Springsteen connection, the song made the Pop Top 20 while also getting to #16 Rock and #21 AC. The song helped sell a few albums and it got to #62. Unfortunately, it would be Clemons' only single to reach the charts. Clemons would collaborate with Walden for a follow-up album in 1989 titled A Night with Mr. C, but it failed to do anything.

ReduxReview:  This was the right song for Clemons and adding in Browne was a great idea. While Clemons is one helluva sax player, he doesn't have the most attractive singing voice. He's certainly capable, but having Browne there as a good counterpart made the song work. The sentiment is great, the production solid, and Clemons' sax work is impeccable. I appreciate this song now more than when it first came out.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) At the time this song was being recorded, Jackson Browne was dating actress Daryl Hannah. Hannah ended up providing backing vocals on this track and also appeared in the song's associated video. Browne and Hannah would split up later in 1992.  2) This wasn't Clemons' first attempt at a solo career. With his own band called the Red Bank Rockers, he issued out the album Rescue in 1983. While no singles would get any attention, the album did briefly appear the chart at a low #174. Clemons' E Street boss, Bruce Springsteen, would contribute the song "Savin' Up" to the album. Springsteen would also produce the track.  3) Clemons would continue to work with many artists over the years and in 2011 he made contributions to Born this Way, the second album by new pop phenom Lady Gaga. He performed sax on the track "The Edge of Glory," which would be the album's third single. Clemons also would appear in the song's video. Unfortunately, not long after shooting the video, Clemons would suffer a stroke. He would be unable to recover and passed away five days later on June 18, 2011.


Monday, August 27, 2018

"Too Young" by Jack Wagner

Song#:  2509
Date:  10/26/1985
Debut:  86
Peak:  52
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The General Hospital actor showed off his musical talents and scored a #2 hit with "All I Need," which was the first track from his debut album of the same name. The song and album did well enough to call for a second album and Wagner headed back into the studio once again with producers Glen Ballard and Clif Magness. Lighting Up the Night would be Wagner's second LP and this track was issued out as the first single. While it did fairly well on the AC chart getting to #15, it just couldn't replicate the success of "All I Need" and the song stopped before the halfway point on the Pop chart. A second single, a duet with Valerie Carter titled "Love Can Take Us All the Way," also got to #15 AC, but failed to make the Pop chart. A few albums were sold, but the results were not what was expected after Wagner's breakthrough hit.

ReduxReview:  This is a nice ballad with a solid chorus and I liked it enough at the time to grab the single. However, the song takes a bit too long to rev up, especially with verses that are extra quiet. Wagner has a good voice, but his upper register is better than his low range, which he had to use on this song's verses. He lacks power there and that makes the verses lag and not stand out. Overall it's still a well-done pop tune that probably should have made the Top 40.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Jay Graydon, Steve Kipner, David Foster, and...Donny Osmond? Yup, the former teen idol is listed as a co-writer on the track. So how in the world did a song co-authored by Osmond make it onto Wagner's album? Osmond was last on the Pop chart in 1978 with "On the Shelf," a #37 duet with his sister Marie that was from their failed comedy caper film Goin' Coconuts. After that box office dud and the end of their weekly TV variety show, Osmond laid low. He wanted to return to music, but he had to shed his teeny bopper/idol image if anyone was going to take him seriously. In 1984, Osmond got teamed up with producer Jay Graydon and began some preliminary work for a comeback album. Although it's not been fully confirmed, it has been speculated that "Too Young" was a song that was slated to be on the album. When the album failed to materialize, it seems that Graydon may have revived the song for Jack Wagner. The Osmond/Graydon project remains vaulted, but portions of two songs "Take the Night" and "Chain Reaction" did slip through the cracks and can be found on YouTube. Although this album didn't work out, Osmond would later mount a successful comeback in 1989.


Sunday, August 26, 2018

"Shock" by The Motels

Song#:  2508
Date:  10/26/1985
Debut:  87
Peak:  84
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  The first single from The Motels' fifth album Shock was the #10 Rock hit "Shame." Unfortunately, the song couldn't match that result at Pop and stalled just shy of the Top 20 (#21). It wasn't a great kickoff for the LP and this second single didn't help. This title track was a non-starter that became a three-week blip on the chart. Despite only featuring a moderate hit, the album sold well and came close to the gold-level sales mark. The band then retreated back to the studio to begin working on a follow-up album, but as 1987 rolled around, lead singer Martha Davis decided to dissolve the band and head out on a solo career. Because of that, this song ended up being the band's last to reach the Pop chart. Years later in 1998, Davis would begin performing again with a new band as The Motels. Personnel changes would take place over the years, but Davis still fronts The Motels and issued out a new album in 2018 titled The Last Few Beautiful Days.

ReduxReview:  The beginning of this album opener is a bit menacing, yet it is quite effective. I really liked the track and thought it set a solid tone for the album. I didn't think it was Top 10 material, but it should have made it into the Top 40. It's hooky with dense synthpop production, but for some reason it just didn't connect with listeners. It may not have been promoted very well either, especially after "Shame" didn't perform as expected.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Davis' first post-Motels project was a duet with Sly Stone for the soundtrack to the 1986 film Soul Man. The two artists recorded a cover of the 1976 Joan Armatrading song "Love and Affection." While Armatrading's original didn't reach the US charts, it was a #10 hit in the UK. The movie Soul Man starred C. Thomas Howell as a student who tries to pose as an African-American in order to secure the last scholarship available that year to Harvard Law School. The film faced a lot of criticism due to the perception that Howell was playing blackface. Despite the controversy and poor reviews, the film ended up being a box office hit.