Saturday, February 2, 2019

"Love and Rock and Roll" by Greg Kihn

Song#:  2667
Date:  03/29/1986
Debut:  96
Peak:  92
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After several successes with the indie label Beserkley, Greg Kihn decided to take a chance on a major label deal. Signing with EMI America, he released the album Citizen Kihn, which was the first LP credited solely to Kihn and not The Greg Kihn Band. The single "Lucky" did fairly well getting to #24 Rock and #30 Pop and the album sold enough for EMI to sponsor a follow-up. Kihn then recorded Love and Rock and Roll and the LP's title track would serve at the first single. Unfortunately, the song just wasn't as...well...lucky as his previous hit and the best it could do was float near the bottom of the chart for just over a month. It didn't even reach the Rock chart. The failure of the single made the album a non-starter and it never reached the chart. With those results, Kihn's time at EMI came to an end. Kihn would record a few indie albums over the years, but he started a new day job in 1996 as a morning DJ for a San Francisco radio station. He would also write several horror novels.

ReduxReview:  This tune sounds like Kihn was channeling Buddy Holly. It's like an old rock 'n' roll tune updated for the 80s. I smell a little Dave Edmunds in there too. It's a good little song, but it just wasn't one that was going to punch through to the masses at Pop. Kihn had a flare for writing radio-ready rock tunes with enough pop hook flare to score some good hits, but this wasn't one of them. Retro rock wasn't the flavor of the day and that made it a hard sell. Still, it was a good last charting blast from Kihn.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Prior to recording Love and Rock and Roll, Kihn's band had some personnel changes including a new guitarist. Joe Satriani was a local San Fran musician/guitar teacher who had just released a debut instrumental rock album titled Not of This Earth. Sales of the album were not going to recoup the debt Satriani incurred during the recording and when offered a gig to play in Kihn's band, he took it. The job would end up being short-term when the resulting album tanked, but it helped Satriani's situation and it allowed him to recorded what would be his breakthrough solo album, 1987's Surfing with the Alien. Critical response was positive with Satriani being haled as a new "guitar god," and two tracks from the album made it on the Rock chart including the #22 "Satch Boogie." The album would get to #29 and eventually it would be certified platinum. Satriani would earn two Grammy nominations including one for Best Pop Instrumental Performance (for the track "Always with Me, Always with You") and one for Best Rock Instrumental Performance (for the album). The album kicked off Satriani's career in a big way. Over the years he would gain four more gold albums and two Top 10 Rock hits. To-date, Satriani has been nominated for 15 Grammys, but he has yet to win one. His 15 nods and no wins puts him high up on the list of most nominations without a win. He is currently tied in fourth place on the list with Björk. Snoop Dogg and Brian McKnight are tied at #2 with 17 nods. Topping the list is Norwegian sound engineer Morten Lindberg, who mainly works in the classical genre. Lindberg has had a whopping 26 nods and no wins.


Friday, February 1, 2019

"Stick Around" by Julian Lennon

Song#:  2666
Date:  03/22/1986
Debut:  72
Peak:  32
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock, Pop

Pop Bits:  As John Lennon's son, there was a lot of focus on Julian Lennon when he decided to pursue a music career. There was a ton of scrutiny surrounding his first album, Valotte, but it ended up being a hit getting some favorable critical notices while generated two Pop Top 10 hits including the #5 "Too Late for Goodbyes." The album would eventually become a platinum seller. With his music career starting out on the right foot, Lennon then had the difficult task of following it up. Once again utilizing the talents of producer Phil Ramone, Lennon recorded his second album The Secret Value of Daydreaming. To introduce the new LP, this track was selected to be the first single. Rock radio welcomed the song heartily and the track made it to the #1 spot. That seemed to bode well for another hit at Pop, yet the song stumbled before it could reach the Top 30. To make things worse, two follow-up singles failed to chart at all. Still, enough folks showed up to make the album reach #25 and go gold. Unfortunately, this would end up being Lennon's final single to reach the Pop Top 40.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't all that hep on Lennon's debut album. The two singles were solid, but other than that, I wasn't impressed. So I wasn't necessarily all that interested in this single when it came out. Yet the tune kind of surprised me with its more rock-oriented sound and beefier production. I liked it enough to buy the single, but it wasn't enough to convince me to buy the album. The problem was that Lennon just didn't have enough solid songs to maintain the momentum he gained with his first LP. He could have benefited by working with a few more outside established songwriters instead of handling everything on his own. It also might have helped to work with a more inventive producer. Phil Ramone is a legend, but his slick pop production wasn't quite the right fit and it sounded like he was desperately trying to muscle up Lennon's weak tunes. This one was easily the best of the bunch and I still like it - well, all except for Lennon's nasally "ah-ah's."

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In 1986, Lennon performed on the original concept album to the musical The Hunting of the Snark. The following year, he would also perform in a one-off concert rendition of the musical for a charity event. The Hunting of the Snark was a musical written by British singer/songwriter Mike Batt. In addition to his own solo albums, Batt has written and produced songs for many artists including Cliff Richard. Batt also added lyrics to the title song from Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera and produced the original single of the song by Sarah Brightman and Steve Harley, which became a Top 10 hit in the UK. But Batt may be most known for creating and performing the music to the successful 1970's British TV show The Wombles. Batt would develop the band called The Wombles and they would go on to record several albums that resulted in five UK Top 10 hits. Batt's musical The Hunting of the Snark was based on Lewis Carroll's 1876 poem of the same name. The show was performed a few times as a costumed concert. It wasn't until 1991 that the show became a full musical production. The West End production got some good notices, yet it seemed interest in the show lagged and it closed after a seven-week run. The song Lennon recorded for the original concept album, "Midnight Smoke," was released as a single late in 1986, but it failed to chart.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

"All I Need Is a Miracle" by Mike + the Mechanics

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2665
Date:  03/22/1986
Debut:  74
Peak:  5
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Mike Rutherford's side project outside of Genesis grabbed their first hit with the eerie single "Silent Running" (#6 Pop/#1 Rock), which was taken from the band's self-titled debut album. This more upbeat and poppy track was selected to be their second single and it would also be a winner getting into the Pop Top 10 while hitting #6 Rock and #7 AC. The song would also earn the band a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Performance, Duo or Group.

ReduxReview:  They couldn't have put out a better follow-up song to the dark "Silent Running" than this. It was a really well-written and produced pop tune that sounded so fresh and bubbly on the radio. Rutherford certainly proved that Phil Collins wasn't the only member of Genesis who could write tasty, mainstream chart hits.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The lead vocals for the band's songs on their debut album would end up being handled by three different singers: Paul Carrack, Paul Young, and John Kirby. Carrack sang the lead on "Silent Running." For this song, Paul Young was the main voice. The name confused some folks at the time as there was a solo artist named Paul Young who was having solo hits at the time like "Everytime You Go Away." The Mechanics' Paul Young was a different artist who had a little bit of success with his other band Sad Café. They had a big #3 hit in the UK with 1979's "Every Day Hurts." They were less successful in the US and could only manage to get two minor entries on the Pop chart - 1979's "Run Home Girl" (#71) and 1981's "La-Di-Da" (#78). Young would stay with Sad Café until 1989. He remained with Mike + the Mechanics until his sudden death from a heart attack in 2000.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

"Restless" by Starpoint

Song#:  2664
Date:  03/22/1986
Debut:  85
Peak:  46
Weeks:  12
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  It took seven albums, but Starpoint finally got their first R&B Top 10 and Pop crossover hit with "Object of My Desire" (#8 R&B/#12 Dance/#25 Pop), the first single from their album Restless. Their follow-up single, "What You Been Missin'" followed into the R&B Top 10 (#9), but failed to reach the Pop chart. Things turned around a bit with this title-track third single. It just missed out on the R&B Top 10 at #11 and made it to #13 at Dance. It nearly became their second Pop Top 40 entry, but it stalled just shy of that mark. The hits would help the album become their biggest seller (#14 R&B/#60 Pop).

ReduxReview:  This is a pretty good track from the band, but it's nowhere near as catchy or memorable as "Object of My Desire." The band reached their pinnacle with this album thanks in part to producer Keith Diamond (Billy Ocean) who got a great sound out of them. He also wrote or co-wrote several of the album's tracks including this one. Unfortunately, the band would never be able to replicate the success of Restless.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Later in the 80s, Starpoint member Ky Adeyemo co-wrote and produced a song for a studio group he was part of called Numarx. The tune got some attention in Europe and a German record producer decided to record a version for a project he was working on. The song would be part of an infamous scandal that rocked the music world. Adeyemo is listed as a co-writer on the 1988 #2 hit "Girl You Know It's True" by Milli Vanilli. Producer Frank Farian recorded that song and others with a set of studio singers, but then created the duo Milli Vanilli (Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan) to be the lip syncing face of the project. The fallout from the ruse that followed became a legendary music business story. Adeyemo was not the only person from Starpoint who had a song done by Milli Vanilli. Band member Ernesto Phillips' "More Than You'll Ever Know" was recorded by Farian and his studio singers and placed on the Girl You Know It's True album.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

"On My Own" by Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert1
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2663
Date:  03/22/1986
Debut:  88
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, R&B

Pop Bits:  Since going solo in 1977, LaBelle's chart career was a bit spotty. She would grab a few minor Top 40 entries at R&B, but was never able to chart at Pop. Things started to change when she scored her first R&B #1 in 1983 with "If You Only Knew." She'd follow that hit up with a couple more Top 10's but nothing really clicked at Pop. She finally made a more mainstream breakthrough with "New Attitude," a song from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. It got to #3 at R&B while becoming her first significant hit at Pop (#17). This helped to set her up for even better success and with her new label, MCA, she set out to record her eighth studio album Winner in You. This duet with former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald was the first single lifted from the album and after a slow start, the song suddenly caught fire and bolted to #1 at R&B and Pop while hitting #2 at AC. It was a major victory for LaBelle returning to the #1 spot twelve years after her first chart topper in 1974 with "Lady Marmalade" (as part of the trio known as Labelle). The song would help take her album to #1 and it would turn into a platinum seller. It would also earn LaBelle and McDonald a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Duo or Group. The hit cemented her superstar status, but unfortunately it would be her last one to reach the Pop Top 10. She'd gather up seven more R&B Top 10's after this, but nothing would every really click again at Pop.

ReduxReview:  What I love about this song is it just breathes. Bacharach's signature extra measures help give the melody space and nothing is rushed. And then the amazing voices of LaBelle and McDonald tell the story. They both keep it simple and understated until near the end when the emotions take over. They really sell the song at the end without going overboard. The pair were the perfect artists for this tune. It's easily one of the best duets of the decade and even beyond.


Trivia:  This song was written and produced by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager. It was initially given to Dionne Warwick to use for her Friends album. She did record the song, but in the end it was set aside and not used. Bacharach and Sager then took it over to LaBelle for her album. LaBelle recorded the song as a solo piece, but she felt that it just wasn't working out. Then it was suggested that the song might work better as a duet. LaBelle wanted to give it a go and when asked who her #1 choice as a duet partner would be, she answered Michael McDonald. Luckily, McDonald accepted the invitation to do the song. However, they did not meet up in the studio for the recording. Each recorded their part separately (on different coasts) and their performances were then spliced together. The accompanying video for the song was then done in a similar fashion with McDonald filmed on the west coast and LaBelle back east. The video used a split screen effect to show them singing together during their duet parts. This seemed like a surefire Grammy winner for Pop Vocal Performance, but they got aced out by another Bacharach/Sager composition, "That's What Friends Are For," by Dionne & Friends (as in Dionne Warwick who decided not to use this song).


Monday, January 28, 2019

"Your Smile" by René & Angela

Song#:  2662
Date:  03/22/1986
Debut:  89
Peak:  62
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The duo of René Moore and Angela Winbush were experiencing their biggest success with their third album Street Called Desire. It would be a gold seller thanks to the #1 R&B hit "Save Your Love (For #1)" and it's follow-up "I'll Be Good" (#4 R&B/#47 Pop). They continued the streak with this third single, which became their second #1 at R&B. The tune was able to cross over to the Pop chart, but it wasn't as successful as "I'll Be Good." The song would also be a minor entry on the Dance chart at #47 (in combination with another album track "Drive My Love").

ReduxReview:  This ballad was probably a bit too soul-oriented to get picked up by pop radio, which is too bad as it is a pretty terrific song. It's sleek, sexy, smokey, and Winbush just slays it on the vocals. According to what I've read, Moore was not real happy that this turned into a Winbush solo vocal, but c'mon. It had to be. At the time the duo were more known for their groovy duets and Winbush always sounded good, but on this song she got to really spread her wings and fly. A great song with a highly underrated vocal performance.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Just prior to the formation of this duo, Angela Winbush wrote a song titled "The Power of Love" that got picked up by a female disco trio named Alton McClain and Destiny. It was recorded for their 1978 self-titled debut album. It was not issued as a single, but their song "It Must Be Love" would be a hit for them getting to #10 R&B, #32 Pop, and #25 Dance in 1979. A few years later, "The Power of Love" found its way to R&B star Stephanie Mills. She recorded it for her 1985 self-titled album. It was issued out as the album's second single and it would become Mills' first #1 on the R&B chart. Winbush herself would record the song for her 1989 solo album The Real Thing. It would not be released as a single. What's odd about the song is that when first done by Alton McClain & Destiny, Winbush was the sole composer listed. Yet when Mills covered the tune, the credit for composition on the LP was listed as being Winbush and Moore. Then on Winbush's solo album, she is solely credited for the writing. It's unclear as to why Moore's name was added to the Mills version, but it could have to do with agreements the duo had regarding songwriting at the time that were then negated once the duo split up.


Sunday, January 27, 2019

"Working Class Man" by Jimmy Barnes

Song#:  2661
Date:  03/22/1986
Debut:  94
Peak:  74
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, Jimmy Barnes was already a major star in his Australian homeland. From 1973 through to 1984, Barnes was the lead singer of the popular rock band Cold Chisel. The band secured a record deal in 1978 and went on to release five studio album, including two #1's along with a pair of Top 10 singles. But inner struggles and lack of international success caused the band to part ways in 1984. Barnes stepped out on his own for a solo career and his first album, Bodyswerve, was an instant #1 in Australia. That was all well and good, but Barnes still had his sights set on conquering the US. For his second album he reached out to the States for some assistance from hit rockers like Jonathan Cain (Journey), Steven Van Zandt (E Street Band), and Tony Carey. In Australia, the results came out as a double-LP titled Working Class Man. For the US, it was assembled into a single, self-titled disc. Cain would write and produce two songs for the album including this single, which went to #5 in Australia. In the States, the song got some airplay at Rock and made it to #22 on that chart. It was able to cross over to the Pop chart for a couple of months, but couldn't quite make it out of the basement. Without a bigger hit, the album faltered and could only get to #109 on the chart. Back home in Australia, the album would easily top the chart and would eventually be certified as 7x platinum there (equal to 490,000+ copies sold, the equivalent of a gold certification in the US). Barnes would go on to have a total of 11 #1 albums. Combined with his Cold Chisel #1's, Barnes would become the most successful Australian artist on the ARIA (Australian) chart. He would reach the US Pop chart two more times, but he was never able to achieve widespread success here.

ReduxReview:  This big-ass anthem was like a child of Springsteen and Seger with a little Mellencamp DNA on the side. Since all three of those artists were currently having hits, the timing of this one seemed spot on. Indeed the tune was in line with American heartland rock, but for some reason it just didn't click. Perhaps US ears didn't care for the Aussie's gruff voice and his wailing at the end. Maybe listeners just saw through the ruse of trying to sound like an American hit maker. I mean, c'mon - the second song Cain wrote for Barnes was called "American Heartbeat," for pete's sake. You can't tell me that wasn't intentional. While you don't have to be from a place to sing about it, this all just seemed a bit calculated. It was pandering to American tastes for the sake of a hit. Yet I really can't fault Barnes for it. He wanted to breakthrough in the US and this probably seemed like the best way to do it. In the end it didn't happen, but back at home this ended up being his signature song. It's really not a bad tune and Barnes does his damnedest to sell it. It just wasn't the one that was going to endear him to US listeners.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was picked up and used for the 1986 Ron Howard comedy Gung Ho. It played over the credits of the film. Howard was coming off of two major hits, Splash and Cocoon, and it seemed like this Michael Keaton-led movie would be another. Yet it was greeted with mixed reviews and lukewarm support from movie-goers. While it wasn't a total box office bust, it wasn't nearly as successful, critically or financially, as his previous two hits.  2) This song has been remade by a few Australian artists, but it was also recorded by an American country singer. For her 1986 album Highway Diner, country star Lacy J. Dalton recorded a more Southern-flavored version of the song. It would be the LP's first single and reach #16 on the Country chart.