Saturday, December 29, 2018

"Overjoyed" by Stevie Wonder

Song#:  2632
Date:  02/22/1986
Debut:  76
Peak:  24
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Wonder got his 27th and final Pop Top 10 hit with "Go Home," the second single from his album In Square Circle. The album would earn Wonder his 13th Grammy. He would win for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, which was his 4th win in that category. This third single from the album would be a big winner at AC reaching #1. It was his eighth and last song to hit the top spot on that chart. The tune would also get to #8 at R&B. However, Pop was less receptive of the ballad and it stalled before it could reach the Top 20. However, the three songs did well enough to earn Wonder his first multi-platinum album (2x) since his 10x platinum 1976 classic Songs in the Key of Life.

ReduxReview:  I initially ignored this tune when it first came out, but over the years it has grown on me. I think it may have started to get my attention when an American Idol contestant sang it on the show ages ago. I remember thinking, "wow, that is actually a nice song!" It's one of Wonder's loveliest tunes and I'm glad that I rediscovered it. The chord progressions are really interesting and Wonder wrote a terrific melody over them. I kind of ride the fence about the production. While the environmental sounds keep the tune grounded in its roots (see below), it's a bit schlocky. I kind of like the water drop acting as a sort of metronome, but the birds and such are a little much. However, none of it gets in the way of the actual song. I also like the Wonder doesn't over-do his performance. Overall, it is one of Wonder's best late-career tracks.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Wonder wrote this song for his 1979 album Stevie Wonder's Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants," which served as the soundtrack for the documentary film "The Secret Life of Plants." He recorded the song, but in the end it was left off of the double LP. For In Square Circle, Wonder revived the song and re-recorded it. It has since become a popular entry in his catalog with many artists covering the tune including Celine Dion, who did a duet version with Wonder for her 2013 album Love Me Back to Life. Wonder's Journey album featured one main hit, "Send One Your Love," which reached #4 Pop, #5 R&B, and #1 AC in 1979.


Friday, December 28, 2018

"In My Dreams" by Dokken

Song#:  2631
Date:  02/22/1986
Debut:  93
Peak:  77
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  Although it only peaked at #45, Dokken's third album Tooth and Nail became a platinum seller thanks to three Rock chart hits including the #20 "Alone Again" (#64 Pop). That set them up well for their next effort, Under Lock and Key. The first single from the LP, "The Hunter," was able to get to #25 Rock, but it just wasn't right for Pop radio. This second single fit the bill a tad more and it was able to chart at Pop for a few weeks while getting to #24 Rock. These were not huge hits, but combined with MTV exposure and their reputation as a great live act, Dokken gained more fans and that resulted in a second platinum selling album.

ReduxReview:  Instead of a power ballad, the guys released this mid-tempo, radio-ready track. It's a good song, but it's just not as hooky or memorable as it needs to be to pass muster at pop radio. Luckily for the band they had built a solid fan base that showed up to buy records. They were never really able to get that one big mainstream hit, but with three platinum albums under their belt, I doubt they were complaining.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In the summer of '86, Dokken was on tour opening for Judas Priest. One of their stops was at the Capitol Centre in Landover, Maryland. Two aspiring film makers, Jeff Krulik and John Heyn, decided to film the people and what goes on at the tailgating that happens in the parking lot prior to the show. They turned their footage into the documentary short Heavy Metal Parking Lot. Done on VHS tape, they couldn't really get it shown much anywhere, but bootleg copies of the film started to make the rounds over the years. Later in the 90s, it had become an underground classic and was even touted by other film makers and even bands like Nirvana. With the cult of Parking Lot growing, the makers finally secured the rights to formally issue the film on DVD in 2006. These days you can catch the documentary on YouTube.


Thursday, December 27, 2018

"A Little Bit of Love (Is All It Takes)" by New Edition

Song#:  2630
Date:  02/22/1986
Debut:  94
Peak:  38
Weeks:  15
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  New Edition's third album, All for Love, got started with the #2 R&B hit "Count Me Out." While that was a solid showing at R&B, the song fizzled at Pop getting only halfway up the chart (#51). This was a disappointment considering that their previous LP featured three Pop Top 40 singles including the #4 "Cool It Now." They needed this next single to do better and it did, but not by a lot. The song made it inside the Pop Top 40 before fading away. The track was another winner at R&B reaching #3 and it also got to #16 at Dance. It would help the album reach platinum status, but that was half of what their previous one sold.

ReduxReview:  The guys go for a cooler groove here than on their previous bubblegum single, which was just a rehash of "Cool It Now." The song and production are a bit more mature and it fit them well. They should have been advancing their sound as they were quickly moving from boys to men. The song was a good choice for them and it probably should have been the first single. Had it been, it might have been done better than a Top 40 showing at Pop. While it's not a fantastic song, it did show that the group could handle something better than the candy-coated material they were getting.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was co-written by Christine Perrin and Richard Wyatt, Jr. Under her maiden name of Yarian, Perrin co-wrote several songs in the 70s and 80s for artists like The Jackson 5, The Miracles, and Tavaras. A couple of these songs she co-wrote with her husband Freddie Perrin. While Freddie Perrin's name may not be as recognizable as writers like the Holland-Dozier-Holland team, Perrin supplied Motown with several major hits, some of which launched The Jackson 5 into stardom. As part of the writing team known as "The Corporation," Perrin co-wrote the Jackson's first three hit songs - "I Want You Back," "ABC," and "The Love You Save." All reached #1 at Pop and R&B. After Perrin left Motown, he scored more hits including "Boogie Fever" by The Sylvers, "Shake Your Groove Thing" and "Reunited" by Peaches & Herb, and most famously, "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor. That song would earn Perrin a Grammy. The biggest song Freddie and Christine would write together wouldn't become a hit until 16 years after it was first recorded. The Perrin's wrote "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" for the 1975 film Cooley High. It was recorded by singer G.C. Cameron. It was issued out as a single, but only got to #38 at R&B. Later in 1991 when a new vocal group named Boyz II Men were recording their debut album CooleyHighHarmony (yes, named after the film and the actual school), they covered this tune in an a cappella version. They released it as their second single and it hit #1 R&B and #2 Pop.


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

"What Have You Done for Me Lately?" by Janet Jackson

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2629
Date:  02/22/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  4
Weeks:  21
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  As a teen, Jackson was not necessarily ready for a career in music, but she got pushed into it by her father who had control over her career. After two mediocre solo albums that saw Jackson taking a backseat to everyone else, she had had enough. She fired her father as her manager, stepped away from her family, and took fate into her own hands. She was ready to assert herself as an independent woman and music artist. For her third album, her new manager introduced her to the up-n-coming songwriting/production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The duo had already begun to secure hits for other artists while developing their own brand of music. Jackson liked what Jam and Lewis had to offer, so she packed up and went to their Minneapolis studio to record her next LP, Control. It ended up being the exact right move at the right time and Control not only became a huge success, but it became a watershed moment for both Jackson and women in music. It all began with this first single. It wasn't an out-of-the-box hit, but once it picked up airplay and the video began to get exposure on MTV, it quickly climbed the charts. It got to #1 at R&B, #2 Dance, and became her first Pop Top 10 hit. It also made a #38 showing at AC. The song would get a Grammy nod for Best R&B Song while the album would get one for Album of the Year. Jackson would get a nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance Female for the album. Jam and Lewis would win the Grammy for Producers of the Year. Jackson would quickly become a worldwide superstar and it all started with this single.

ReduxReview:  It's hard to describe what it was like when this song came out and what a big deal it was. For the most part, folks knew Janet as the youngest Jackson who had appeared on the TV shows Good Times and Fame and not many paid attention to the teeny-bopper R&B albums she had recorded. Then this song hit the airwaves and it was like a blast of assertive independence that announced "I'm here!" Within a nanosecond, Jackson grew up and was a woman on a mission. Jam and Lewis were the perfect co-conspirators for Jackson. This was the album that they perfected their signature style and it was on full display with this track. The groove was excellent as was the arrangement and it sounded great on the radio (and also cranked to 11 on the home stereo). It just wasn't the typical pop/R&B fare of the time and it really made an impression. No one would view Jackson in the same way after this...including her father.


Trivia:  A new, up-n-coming choreographer created the dance segments throughout the video for this song. Paula Abdul, who also made a cameo in the video, got introduced to the Jackson family when she was hired in to do the choreography for The Jackson's "Torture" video and also for their Victory album tour. The success of this song led to Abdul choreographing three more videos for songs from the Control album. By the time that run of singles was finishing up, Abdul had signed on as a recording artist and was getting ready to release her own mega-selling debut album.


Monday, December 24, 2018

"Le Bel Age" by Pat Benatar

Song#:  2628
Date:  02/15/1986
Debut:  73
Peak:  54
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Benatar's second single from her album Seven the Hard Way, "Sex As a Weapon," wasn't as big of a hit as she needed. Although it got to #5 at Rock, it stalled just inside the Pop Top 30 at #28 and that did not help to sell LPs. Seven would eventually go gold, but it peaked at a career low #26 for Benatar. This third single didn't help to boost sales either. It stopped at #19 Rock and couldn't even get close to the Pop Top 40. At the time this debuted on the chart, the song's co-writer Robert Tepper was inching up the chart with his own solo hit "No Easy Way Out" from the Rocky IV soundtrack. (Note - the song's title is French for "the beautiful age." All other lyrics are in English.)

ReduxReview:  Benatar's Seven the Hard Way was not an album chock full of radio-ready hits, so it was going to have a tougher time finding an audience than her previous efforts. It was also a bit over produced and over-arranged, which you can hear at the oddball beginning of this song. This track isn't too bad and it does have a fairly good chorus (although its a mystery why the French phrase was used), but it's a bit brash and overdone, especially where reverb is concerned. It's fine for an album track, but it wasn't going to make it as a single. By this point is just seemed that Benatar was floundering a bit and not sure where to take her music or her career.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  For the album, Benatar chose to include a cover tune. She selected  "7-Rooms of Gloom," which was originally recorded by The Four Tops. Their version was a #10 R&B/#14 Pop hit in 1967. At the time, the group was at their peak with their biggest album Reach Out. That LP featured three Pop Top 10 hits, including their #1 hit "Reach Out I'll Be There," and three Pop Top 20's, which included "7-Rooms." It was a big run of single with four of them written by the famous Holland-Dozier-Holland team. The Four Tops would remain popular through the 70s grabbing two more Pop Top 10's and twelve R&B Top 10's. Their last major hit would come in 1981 with "When She Was My Girl" (#1 R&B/#11 Pop).


Sunday, December 23, 2018

"Something About You" by Level 42

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2627
Date:  02/15/1986
Debut:  85
Peak:  7
Weeks:  27
Genre:  Synthpop, Sophisti-Pop

Pop Bits:  The roots of this band go back to three teenage friends from the Isle of Wight. They performed in various groups and after a move to London, they would develop a band that would eventually be called Level 42. Initially, their music was all instrumental and a bit experimental incorporating elements of jazz, R&B, pop, and funk. An initial charting single secured them a deal with Polydor and they recorded their self-titled debut LP in 1981, which featured a few vocal tracks alongside their instrumentals. The album was successful getting to #20 in the UK. Their next few albums were also solid sellers and they grabbed their first UK Top 10 hit in 1983 with "The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)." By 1985, Level 42 had refined their tunes to be more mainstream and their instrumentals had all but disappeared. Thanks to the years spent refining their skills, they also garnered a reputation of being an expert live act. While they were beginning to have success in other countries, they were still virtually unknown in the US. That is until this song from their sixth LP, World Machine, started to get them noticed. It had already been a #6 hit in the UK by the time it started to get promoted in the States. The song was a slow starter, but as weeks passed it just kept inching up the Pop chart until it finally landed in the Top 10. It was also a hit at Dance (#4) and AC (#10) while also scratching the Rock chart (#45). The single spent a long time on the chart (27 weeks), which was far above the average for a Top 10 hit. It helped the album become a solid seller that reached #18.

ReduxReview:  I thought this was a classy song that had wide appeal. The production, chord structure, and melodies just seemed to rise above the typical pop singles of the day. It was expertly crafted and even sounded like something "fun" from musicians whose skills were far above what was on display with this track. I loved this song (and still do), yet it didn't lead me to becoming a big fan of the band. I know some folks who have followed Level 42 for decades and even knew about them prior to this hit, yet I didn't jump on board the love train for the band. I should probably go back and explore their catalog a bit more. However, I'm still a big fan of this 80s classic.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The band name stems from the 1979 sci-fi novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. In it, a supercomputer was built to calculate the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. The answer ended up being 42 - hence Level 42. The Hitchhiker's Guide first began as a radio show on BBC 4 in 1978. It then expanded to a series of novels, a TV show (on BBC 2 in 1981), and a stage show. It took a long while but it was adapted into a movie in 2005 starring Sam Rockwell. It received mixed reviews and did mediocre business at the box office. The results stymied any hopes for sequels. The novel and its sequels have sold millions of copies with new fans still coming on board every year.