Saturday, December 8, 2018

"Let Me Be the One" by Five Star

Song#:  2612
Date:  02/08/1986
Debut:  94
Peak:  59
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This British family group started to break through a bit on the US charts with the #16 R&B track "All Fall Down" (#6 Dance, #65 Pop). The song was taken from their debut album Luxury of Life as was this follow-up single. This one did better and it got the group their first R&B Top 10 with the song hitting #2. It would also become their second Dance hit getting to #9. The single crossed over to Pop, but like than their previous release, it stayed in the bottom half of the chart. A third single, "Love Take Over," would be their second R&B Top 10 getting to #9 while making a minor impact at Dance (#30). It failed to reach the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  This pretty much stays within the lines drawn by their previous single except it has a little more funk. The groove is fine and the tune is better than "All Fall Down," however, it's nothing that really grabs my attention. While certainly capable singers, their vocals don't make much of an impression either. It's all good, just not great or very memorable.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song (not to be confused with the 1987 #7 hit of the same name by Exposé) was covered later in 1999 by pop singer Mandy Moore. It appeared as a track on her debut album So Real. That album featured the #41 single "Candy." The album would be certified platinum and she would follow it up with two more gold albums. Moore began to transition into acting in the 2000's. She appeared in many films and TV shows and has done voices for animated films like 2010's Tangled. These days she is mainly know for her role as Rebecca Pearson in the hit NBC TV show This Is Us. What's odd about this is that her character's last name is the same as that of the siblings that made up Five Star.


Friday, December 7, 2018

"I Need You" by Maurice White

Song#:  2611
Date:  02/08/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  95
Weeks:  1
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The Earth, Wind & Fire founder grabbed a #6 R&B (#11 AC, #50 Pop) hit with "Stand By Me," the first single from his debut solo album. For a follow-up, this next track was selected. Although it was not as big of a hit, it did fairly well getting to #20 AC and #30 R&B. The action on those charts let the song crossover to Pop, but only for one very short week. A third single, "Lady Is Love," was pretty much a non-starter only making it to #89 at R&B. The album would be White's only solo effort. After a three-year hiatus, White would revive Earth, Wind & Fire and continue with them up until his death in 2016 from Parkinson's disease.

ReduxReview:  Many artists who found fame as part of a group have recorded solo projects. More often than not, the solo efforts don't necessarily work out. Not everyone can be a Lionel Richie or Sting. Even Mick Jagger's solo work has been less than stellar. Although Earth, Wind & Fire were a superstar outfit, White didn't have the same name recognition as those folks, so it was going to take something pretty great to make people pay attention. His solo debut album had tons of big names involved and he worked with top-notch, of-the-moment writers like Diane Warren and Martin Page. However, it all didn't gel into something that was going to make him a solo star. Perhaps that wasn't his goal, but for me I expected something better than what ended up on his album, which includes this tune. It's just a mediocre song that could have made its way to any AC/R&B crossover artists' album. In other words, there is nothing special about it. White does excellent vocal work and tries to sell the song, but I just find it all a bit bland an unmemorable. White did far better work with other artists and with his own EWF.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  When White began in music, he started out as a drummer playing with various artists on the Chicago club scene. In the 60s, he began doing session work at the famous Chess Records studios. He ended up playing on records by such famous artists as Etta James and Chuck Berry. His drumming can also be heard on several hits including "Rescue Me" by Fontella Bass (1965, #1 R&B/#4 Pop) and "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" by Jackie Wilson (1967, #1 R&B/#6 Pop). Of course White would put his drumming to good use after he founded Earth, Wind & Fire, but he later became more known for vocal, songwriting, and production work.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

"Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)" by Scritti Politti

Song#:  2610
Date:  02/08/1986
Debut:  97
Peak:  91
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This band broke through on the US chart with "Perfect Way," a single from their second full-length album Cupid & Psyche 85. The tune peaked at #11 Pop while making it to #6 at Dance. This follow-up single was one that had already made the rounds. The song was first released in the UK in early 1984. It reached #10 there. Later in the year it was pushed out in the US as the first single from the album and it did well at Dance hitting #4 in combination with another track titled "Absolute." However, the tune didn't crossover and it failed to make the Pop chart. With the success of "Perfect Way" putting the band in the spotlight in the US, it seemed logical to go back and reintroduce "Wood Beez" to the new audience. Nearly two years after it's original release in the UK, the song finally got on the US Pop chart. Unfortunately, the ploy didn't work all that well and the song only managed a brief stint at the bottom of the chart.

ReduxReview:  I like this song, but I want to like it more than I do. The title is cool and attention getting while the production is top-notch. Even Green Gartside's high pitched vocals were ear catching. So what's holding me back from loving this track? I think maybe I was looking for something with a stronger hook. The song doesn't stay with me all that long. I can hear it a few times and then after time passes I've forgotten the tune. I find the whole album to be like that. I enjoy it while I'm listening to it, but then the songs just kind of disappear out of my head. Really, the best part of it all is Arif Mardin's production. I think it all sounds better than it actually is. Still, both this single and the album are fun listens.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song in which the singer states there's nothing he wouldn't do to be with the person he is infatuated with also served as a bit of an Aretha Franklin tribute. The subtitle is a reference to Franklin's 1968 remake of "I Say a Little Prayer." That single reached #10 Pop/#3 R&B in the US while in the UK it got to #4 and was Franklin's biggest charting hit there. In a bit of a twist, Arif Mardin, who arranged Franklin's hit, was the producer of Scritti Politti's track. The longer remix of "Wood Beez" labeled as "(Version)" actually featured Franklin's voice. Samples of Franklin's vocals from her 1971 #9 Pop/#2 R&B hit "Rock Steady" (that was co-produced by Mardin) were plugged into the latest hot music tech equipment at the time, the Fairlight. In the mix, sections of the song are punctuated with blasts of Franklin's voice via the Fairlight.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

"R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. (A Salute to 60's Rock)" by John Cougar Mellencamp

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2609
Date:  02/01/1986
Debut:  54
Peak:  2
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  By this time, Mellemcamp's Scarecrow album had generated two #6 hits with "Lonely Ol' Night" and "Small Town." Looking for a third single to join them, this album closing track was selected. It would end up surpassing the previous two songs to reach #2 on the Pop chart and become the third biggest single of his career. It would also get to #6 at Rock and #36 AC. The hit would help sell more albums and eventually Scarecrow would be certified 5x platinum, which tied it with 1982's American Fool as his best selling album.

ReduxReview:  This short blast of rock was exactly that - a blast. The energy from Mellencamp and band practically jumped off the vinyl. Mellencamp had his band learn a bunch of old hits prior to recording the album and that learning lesson paid off the best on this track. In less than three minutes there was history, admiration, respect and lessons all projected in Mellencamp's lyrics and a hot band. Whether you appreciated what Mellencamp was saying or just tuned in for fun (or both), there was just no denying that this was a cool-as-shit song and one of his best crowd-pleasing singles.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  As the subtitle of the song states, Mellencamp wrote this as a tribute to the sounds and artists from the 60s that influenced him. It also is about how these bold artists took risks in their lives and careers to push the boundaries of music. In the song, eight specific artists that inspired Mellencamp were called out including James Brown, Mitch Ryder, and Martha Reeves. One other artist mentioned was Bobby Fuller. Fuller had at #9 hit in 1966 with "I Fought the Law" (credited to the Bobby Fuller Four), a song that certainly inspired Mellencamp to write his "Authority Song" (#15, 1984). Fuller and his band were popular in Texas in the early 60s, but it took a few years to prove themselves worthy of a major label deal. After gaining some attention with the song "Let Her Dance," they issued out "I Fought the Law." It made the Top 10 in March of '66. However, the band's career would come to a halt a few months later in July when Fuller was found dead in his mother's car that was parked outside of his Hollywood apartment. He was only 23. His death was ruled as an accidental suicide from asphyxiation from gas fumes, but there has always been speculation that he was murdered. Some people say that Charles Manson was involved with Fuller's death while others think it was hit related to a record deal that Fuller had backed out of and the other party in the deal had Mafia ties. The case has been the subject of a book and was even featured on the TV show Unsolved Mysteries.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

"Goodbye Is Forever" by Arcadia

Song#:  2608
Date:  02/01/1986
Debut:  64
Peak:  33
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  The Duran Duran offshoot band led by Simon Le Bon was able to score a #6 hit with "Election Day," the first single from their one and only album So Red the Rose. To follow it up, this next track was selected for single release. It was unable to replicate the success of the first hit and ended up stalled just shy of the Pop Top 30. It would be the band's final single to hit the chart. The band never toured and besides supplying the song "Say the Word" to the soundtrack of the 1986 comedy film Playing for Keeps, they didn't do any further recordings. After their side project was over, Le Bon and Nick Rhodes went back to their Duran Duran day job while drummer Roger Taylor would step away from Duran Duran and basically retire. He'd officially rejoin the band in 2001.

ReduxReview:  Arcadia was basically an experiment from three Duran Duran members just wanting to do something different, therefore the album was not going to be chock full of marketable singles and it certainly showed. "Election Day" was really the only radio-ready track on the album. There were a couple of interesting tracks on the LP, but nothing that was going to top the charts including this mid-tempo tune. It feels too slow, is a bit clunky and it casts a dour shadow. Those descriptors are ones you don't want to have when trying for a Pop hit.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  The cover for So Red the Rose was created by fashion illustrator and photographer Tony Viramontes. For the cover, Viramontes drew an image of performer/model Violeta Sanchez. He also did portraits of the Arcadia band members for the inside album sleeve. Viramontes would design several album covers including ones for Janet Jackson (Control) and The Motels (Shock). His works were seen in various magazines and newspapers including Vogue. Unfortunately, Viramontes passed away at the age of 31 in 1988. His death was AIDS-related.


Monday, December 3, 2018

"Needles and Pins" by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers with Stevie Nicks

Song#:  2607
Date:  02/01/1986
Debut:  75
Peak:  37
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Petty and his band were certainly known for being a solid performers, so after six studio albums, it seemed like the right time to showcase their concert skills via their first live album Pack Up the Plantation: Live! The double LP mainly featured songs from a show they did at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles in the summer of '85 with a few tracks of older performances tossed in. One of those tracks was this tune which was recorded at The Forum in L.A. in 1981. During that show, Stevie Nicks made a guest appearance and sang on a couple of songs including this one. The recording was selected to be released as a single in order to help promote the album. It did okay getting to #17 at Rock and just making it into the Pop Top 40. The album would made it to #22, but would fall short of being certified gold. The band wouldn't release another live album until 2009.

ReduxReview:  This jangly tune is an excellent one from the 60s (see below). Although it never made the Top 10, it was quite popular and has been covered a lot over the years. I always remember it because in most versions everyone sing it as "needles and pin-za," which is kind of funny, yet makes it very memorable. This was a good choice for Petty and the addition of Nicks is always a bonus. However, the performance is just kind of average. Like most live recordings (which I'm not the biggest fan of), it was probably better in-person. I do like that they pushed out a cover song instead of relying on a live version of a previous hit. That was a smart move as it played like something brand new from the band instead of a retread. I just wish the performance was a bit more lively.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song that was written by Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono (of Sonny & Cher) and first recorded by singer Jackie DeShannon. Her original take on the tune would be a very minor Pop chart entry that got to #84 in 1963. The song then got picked up by the British band The Searchers, who happened to have heard it performed by another artist in a club in Hamburg, Germany. The Searchers had already scored two major hits in the UK including the #1 "Sweet for My Sweet" (1963) and wanted "Needles and Pins" for their next single. They got it recorded and the song was another winner in the UK for them hitting #1. It would end up being their first major hit in the US reaching #13. The next time the song was on the chart was in 1977 when the English rock band Smokie covered the tune. It would get to #10 in the UK while only getting to #68 in the US. Petty's version would be the fourth and thus far final version of the song to hit the US Pop chart.


Sunday, December 2, 2018

"I'm Not the One" by The Cars

Song#:  2606
Date:  02/01/1986
Debut:  80
Peak:  32
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  The Cars' Greatest Hits LP featured a lot of their charting songs along with a few that didn't including the new track "Tonight She Comes," which served at the first single. The tune did well reaching #7. For a follow-up this track that originally appeared on their 1981 album Shake It Up was selected. It was not originally issued as a single when that album was released. When looking for another track to possibly push out as a single from the Hits package, this track was chosen. It was spruced up with a new remix and issued out. It was able to get into the Pop Top 40, but that was all it could do. It did slightly better at AC (#24) and Rock (#29).

ReduxReview:  This was a good album track when it was first released on Shake It Up. As a single five years later, it's not all that great. The mid-tempo tune was just too weak to really make an impression at Pop. The remix really didn't add all that much, so it kind of sounded stuck in the early 80s. I think they should have rallied and recorded a second new tune for the LP if they wanted to have two singles. Rehashing something that's been out for years just seemed a bit lazy.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The Cars' keyboarist Greg Hawkes later became very proficient on another instrument - the ukulele. He began to apply his skills to popular songs including ones from The Cars catalog. This led to him recording an instrumental album in 2008 titled The Beatles Uke. For the LP, Hawkes performed fifteen Beatles hits on the ukulele. To get a fuller sound, Hawkes layered tracks of himself playing various parts. It made the songs sound like they were done by a ukulele band. Hawkes would do a second ukulele album in 2015. The holiday themed album was titled Jingle Ukes.