Saturday, March 9, 2019

"Innocent Eyes" by Graham Nash

Song#:  2702
Date:  04/26/1986
Debut:  94
Peak:  84
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop, Synthpop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Throughout the 60s and into 1970, Nash scored several hits with his two bands, The Hollies and Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Young for 1970's Déjà Vu). It wasn't until 1971 that he issued out his first solo album Songs for Beginners. It would be a #15 gold seller. He would bounce around with his other three CSNY band mates in various iterations over the years and in between he would put out two more solo discs. The 80s would see Nash having success with Crosby, Stills & Nash (the platinum Daylight Again in 1982) and a reunited Hollies. With both of those projects done for the time being it seemed like an opportune time to record a fourth solo album titled Innocent Eyes. Opting to keep up with trends, Nash added modern 80s touches like synths and programmed drums to songs with commercial appeal such as this title-track first single. The ploy worked fairly well at Rock where the song made it to #14, but it couldn't find a more mainstream audience and the song stalled early on the Pop chart. It would be Nash's last solo song to reach the Pop chart. He would not issue out another solo album until 2002 with Songs for Survivors, which generated the #28 AC track "I'll Be There for You."

ReduxReview:  Nash was no stranger to commercial pop music thanks to his hits with The Hollies, but after his years writing and performing acclaimed folk-leaning tunes that were based on experiences, social issues/events, and even politics, Nash had a reputation as being an artist with something to say. He and his CSNY band mates basically helped to provide a soundtrack for the late 60s/early 70s generation. His reunion with The Hollies in '83 put him back in the commercial pop spotlight and that bled over into his solo album. While keeping current, having a little fun, and trying for some pop chart recognition wasn't a bad thing, it was still a bit jarring to hear Nash's voice floating above the synths and fake drums of this pop track. He's certainly not the first respected artist of a different generation to succumb to the new trends in music, but it's just weird to hear the guy who wrote "Chicago," "Just a Song Before I Go," and "Our House" sing this fluffy 80s tune. The song itself is fine. It's not particularly memorable but it and the production are a minor step up from some of the tracks from the Hollies' reunion LP. Yet it still just ends up being an odd footnote in Nash's career overshadowed by far superior work.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally recorded by Swedish singer Björn Skifs. Written by Paul Bliss, Skifs recorded it for his 1984 album If...Then..., an English language disc that featured pop/rock originals and cover tunes by artists like Bryan Adams, Walter Eagan, Michael Bolton, and Eric Clapton. The album was a Top 10 success in Sweden. While Skifs never made a name for himself as a solo artist in the US, he did top the US Pop chart with his band Blue Swede. Their remake of "Hooked on a Feeling," originally a #5 hit in 1968 for B.J. Thomas, made it to #1 in 1974. Many remember Blue Swede's gold-selling version thanks to the "ooga chaka" chant that came courtesy of an earlier 1971 remake of the song by UK singer Jonathan King. Blue Swede's version was prominently featured in the 2014 hit film Guardians of the Galaxy. The band could have easily become a one-hit wonder, but they escaped that tag by reaching #7 the same year with another remake, "Never My Love," which The Association took to #2 in 1967.


Friday, March 8, 2019

"Say It, Say It" by E.G. Daily

Song#:  2701
Date:  04/26/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  70
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  E.G. Daily first broke into entertainment via acting. A few bit parts led to better roles in films like Streets of Fire, Valley Girl, and Pee Wee's Big Adventure. She had a solid singing voice and songwriting skills and along the way she was able to get a deal with A&M Records. The label paired her with hot-at-the-time producers like Harold Faltermeyer and Keith Forsey and the result was her debut LP Wild Child. Yet despite the catchy pop she co-wrote and recorded with Faltermeyer and Forsey, it was this collaboration with two of Madonna's former cohorts Stephen Bray (co-writer) and Jellybean Benitez (producer) that was selected to be the LP's first single. The song would be a winner at Dance getting to #1 on that chart. It was able to cross over to the Pop chart where it resided a while, but it just couldn't quite made it out of the basement. It would be her only song to reach the Pop chart. Another track from the album, "Love in the Shadows," would reach #6 at Dance and her song from the soundtrack to the film Summer School, "Mind Over Matter," would hit #7. Her follow up album in 1987 wouldn't generate the same kind of hits and it disappeared quickly along with her A&M contract. She would continue to sing and record, but her voice would soon be heard in millions of homes in a completely different way (see below).

ReduxReview:  Thanks to Bray and Benitez, this certainly sounded like a Madonna clone tune. Even Daily's voice seems influenced by the diva on this track. Yet Daily's voice is far stronger and as the song goes along she gets a chance to flex her muscles a bit. It's odd because the balance of her album doesn't really sound like this song. I'm sure the label wanted their own Madonna-ish star and/or hit and though Daily could do it. Bringing in Bray and Benitez was a way to make sure that happened. It kind of did since the tune got to #1 at Dance, but by this time the sound of this song was almost like "old" Madonna and fickle pop fans had moved on (as had Madonna). Still, it's a pretty solid knock off and it helps when a good vocalist like Daily is leading the way.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Daily would continue to sing and act after her major label days ended, but sometime in the early 90s her career took an odd turn. Her unique voice began to get her work as a voice over artist. Things really broke wide for her when she provided the voice of Tommy Pickles in the hit Nickelodeon animated series The Rugrats. She would do the voice of Tommy and other characters for the full nine season run of the show (1991-2004). That led to a long list of voice over credits that included TV shows like The Powerpuff Girls. She also provided the voice for Babe in the film Babe: Pig in the City. Her voice is heard practically daily by many people in the syndicated reruns of the hit TV show Two and a Half Men. She dubs the voice of the character Jake in the show's opening theme song. Daily may not have been a pop diva for long, but her voice certainly provided her with an extensive and successful career - just in a different way.


Thursday, March 7, 2019

"Lead a Double Life" by Loverboy

Song#:  2700
Date:  04/26/1986
Debut:  96
Peak:  68
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  For the first time, the Canadian band scored two Top 10 hits from one album. Lovin' Every Minute of It featured the #9 title track and the #10 power ballad "This Could Be the Night." However, the hits were not consecutive. In between was the LP's second single, "Dangerous," which posed no threat to other chart songs and fizzled at a low #65. Since "This Could Be the Night" got things turned around, it seemed logical to issue out a fourth single. Three of the band's members helped co-write this track which was selected for release. Yet like "Dangerous," it just wasn't clicking with listeners and it stalled in the bottom third of the chart. It even failed to make the Rock chart something which the previous three singles were all able to do. In the end it didn't really matter as the album had already become their fourth multi-platinum Top 20 hit in a row.

ReduxReview:  What is this? On first listen I had to verify that I had called up the right track. How do I describe this? It's like a new wave synth track on speed covered in a faux punk-ish arena rock cloak. Actually, it nearly sounds like a rejected song from Styx's Kilroy Was Here album. It's so odd and nothing like what I expected from Loverboy. And what is up with Mike Reno's lead vocals? I guess he is using his lower range in an odd processed way. Then there is a smokin' hard rock guitar solo in the middle of this mess. Not to mention lyrics  - "I had a champagne milkshake for breakfast" - whaa? It actually took five people to write this thing...five! As a kooky, experimental album track, I guess this is okay. I'd consider it filler. But who in the hell green-lit this one for a single? The fact that it even made the Pop chart is a freakin' miracle. I'd dump this one into the "what were they thinking" file...and then burn the file.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Back in 1984, lead singer Mike Reno stepped away from the band to record a duet with Ann Wilson of Heart. "Almost Paradise" would be a #7 hit from the soundtrack to the film Footloose. Four years later, Reno would climb back on board the soundtrack bandwagon and record solo tracks for three different films. In 1988 he recorded "Chasing the Angels" for Iron Eagle II and also did "Dream Machine" for Watchers. The following year he contributed "Whenever There's a Night" to the soundtrack for Dream a Little Dream. Unfortunately, all three films were critical and box office failures, which didn't help the songs at all. "Whenever There's a Night" was the only one officially issued out as a single, but it failed to chart.


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

"There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)" by Billy Ocean

#1 Alert!
Song#:  2699
Date:  04/19/1986
Debut:  61
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Ocean scored his fourth Top 10 hit with "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going," the lead single from his sixth album Love Zone. The song also served as the theme for the hit film The Jewel of the Nile. To follow it up, Ocean went into ballad mode and released this track from the LP. It would end up hitting a chart trifecta reaching #1 at Pop, R&B, and AC. The dual hits would help made the album Ocean's second double-platinum in a row.

ReduxReview:  This really was the perfect follow-up to the rambunctious "When the Going Gets Tough." It hit the right tone and emotional level to draw in a wide swath of listeners. It also had a good chorus and Ocean sold it very well. It's a solid tune, but it's one that I can take or leave. I was never bowled over by it, yet I didn't mind hearing it either. Back in the day it certainly had a lot of people swayin' back-n-forth remembering those sad songs that made them cry.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Many artists begin their careers with small labels or as studio/demo singers. Ocean did both when he began and even had singles issued out under various names. He became a bit of a go-to guy for songwriter/producer Ben Findon in the early 70s. Ocean provided vocals for several of Findon's songs and even co-wrote a few with him. Some got issued out as singles, but nothing much came from them. Findon would then produce Ocean's self-titled debut album in 1976 after he was signed to GTO Records. The LP would produce the hit single "Love Really Hurts Without You" (#2 UK, #22 US Pop). But it wouldn't be until 1984's worldwide #1 "Caribbean Queen" that Ocean's career really took off. By that point, Ocean had long since moved on from working with Findon, but as what usually happens when someone hits the big time, folks grab whatever scraps they can in order to make a buck. That's what happened to Ocean in '86. Someone was able to cull his old work with Findon and make it into an album. It was released in various countries under different titles. In the US, the album was called Emotions in Motion. In other countries it was titled The Early Years. The album included songs Ocean sang for Findon including one titled "On the Run." That song was originally released as a single in 1974 under the name Scorched Earth. For the new compilation, Ocean's vocal was kept and a new "Caribbean Queen"-ish remix arrangement was created. It was issued as a single, but it went nowhere. Other songs were spruced up to give the old tunes a new sheen. One of the tracks doesn't even featured Ocean on lead vocals. "Black As He's Painted" was a song done by The Adlibs with a little assist from Ocean. While some of these projects state that they are something for the artist's fans, in reality they are just cash-in projects.


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

"Nothin' At All" by Heart

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2698
Date:  04/19/1986
Debut:  65
Peak:  10
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Heart's makeover into a mainstream 80s pop/rock act was fully complete when "These Dreams," the third single from their self-titled album, made it to the #1 spot. It was the first chart topper of their career. Its success prompted a fourth single to be released and this mid-tempo soft-rocker was selected. It ended up being another winner for the band getting into the Pop Top 10 while reaching #6 at Rock and #40 at AC. This gave Heart four Top 10 hits in a row, a feat they had never accomplished before and would not repeat.

ReduxReview:  This was another winner from the band. It was just a straight forward pop tune, but the production and Ann Wilson's voice gave it the oomph to make it a hit. Heart arguably were at their most popular during the mid to late 80s and I did enjoy a lot of the material they recorded. However, when I truly want to listen to the band I either go back to their early albums or their late career works like Red Velvet Car that had Ann and Nancy Wilson writing their own songs again. You just can't compare pleasant pop fluff like this (which I do like) with biting rock tracks like "Barracuda" or "Crazy on You." Yet I'm glad they took the detour into the mainstream as these songs might not have found as good of a voice as the Wilson sisters.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Mark Mueller. Mueller would compose songs for many artists including NSYNC, Amy Grant, Justin Timberlake, The Pointer Sisters, El DeBarge, and George Benson. Perhaps his best known and biggest hit came in 1998 when singer Jennifer Paige recorded "Crush," a song Mueller co-wrote with Andy Goldmark, Berny Cosgrove, and Kevin Clark. The song would reach #3 at Pop and go gold. It would end up being Paige's only song to reach the Pop chart making her a true one-hit wonder.


Monday, March 4, 2019

"Under the Influence" by Vanity

Song#:  2697
Date:  04/19/1986
Debut:  88
Peak:  56
Weeks:  7
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:   After singer Vanity left her namesake group, Vanity 6, and the Prince camp, she set out on a solo career. It started off a little shaky when her first single, "Pretty Mess," failed to crack the R&B Top 10 and stalled at #75 Pop. A follow-up track fared worse. Still, it was enough to keep her label interested and she went on to record her second LP Skin on Skin. On her first album, Vanity pretty much wrote and co-produced everything. This time around, she opted to just be the voice and gave up producing and songwriting. This first single introduced the album and it did well at R&B getting to #9 while making it to #6 at Dance. The song would be her best effort at Pop getting near the halfway mark. Unfortunately, follow-up singles failed to chart anywhere and the album slipped quietly away. Vanity would then set her sights back on acting and for a while maintained a career with small roles in films and TV shows. She would die of renal failure in 2016.

ReduxReview:  Since Vanity handled much of the work on her middling debut album, Motown probably took bigger control on the follow up and insisted on real producers and songwriters. It wasn't a bad move. The new LP took her a bit away from Prince territory and put her in a sleeker, R&B/Pop arena. Up-n-coming singer/songwriter Robbie Nevil co-wrote a couple of tunes for the LP including this one. The producers made her voice sound better for sure. She's a weak singer, so they layered her voice and buried it a bit. Actually, it makes her sound similar to another singer with minor vocal chops - Paula Abdul. The song is certainly much better than "Pretty Mess." It's more mature with a good chorus and a nice groove. There were a couple of other good tracks on the LP, but there still existed some Prince-ly via Sheila E nods as well. This song is better than "Pretty Mess," but that wasn't a difficult task to accomplish.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  For many years, Vanity lived the fast life. She dated Prince,  Adam Ant, and Billy Idol. Along the way she acquired a crack cocaine addition and it certainly didn't help matters when she was dating the also drug addicted Nikki Sixx from Mötley Crüe. In his book Sixx mentions his time with Vanity and basically said they were "drug buddies." The hard living took a toll on Vanity's health and in 1994 suffered kidney failure from a drug overdose. She came out of the ordeal with a new outlook on life and became a born-again Christian. She renounced her stage name and cut all ties with entertainment, including refusing residuals from her previous work. She wrote a book about her experiences and traveled around speaking at churches. She had a kidney transplant in 1997, but by 2016 her health was in decline and she died of renal failure.


Sunday, March 3, 2019

"The Love Parade" by The Dream Academy

Song#:  2696
Date:  04/19/1986
Debut:  91
Peak:  36
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Dream Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  This UK band scored a left-field hit with the folkish "Life in a Northern Town" (#7 Pop, #7 Rock, #2 AC). It was the first single taken from their self-titled debut album. For a follow-up this subdued tune was selected. It was a pretty good fit for AC where it got to #13, but it could only manage Top 40 showings at Pop (#36) and Rock (#37). Unfortunately, it would be the band's last single to reach the Pop chart. Their second album, Remembrance Days, would be released early in '87, but none of its singles would hit any chart and the album disappeared quickly. They would issue out one more album in 1990 before calling it a day.

ReduxReview:  This breathy, bossa-nova-ish track is a lovely listen, but I don't think it made for a very good single. It's just a bit too low-key to really crack the Pop chart. I'm surprised it even made the Top 40. I think there was a missed opportunity with "The Edge of Forever." Although they tested it out earlier in the year, after it was used in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (see below), it should have been pushed out as an official single and promoted. It may have not been a Top 10'er, but I think it might have gotten close. I have always been disappointed that "Indian Summer," the lead single from their second album, didn't chart. I thought it was a brilliant tune and was a worthy successor to "Life in a Northern Town." For some reason, it just got ignored. The rest of the album wasn't very good, but that song was a winner. I think it was their attempt to recapture the feel of "Life in a Northern Town" and for me it worked. I guess for the general public, it didn't.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In the summer of '86 the film Ferris Bueller's Day Off, starring Matthew Broderick, was released. The comedy would be a significant hit finishing at the 10th highest grossing film of the year. Two songs from The Dream Academy would be featured in the film. "The Edge of Forever," a track from their debut album, was used in a scene and their instrumental remake of The Smiths' "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" was used in another. The vocal version of that song was released as a one-off single in the UK and it got to #83. Prior to it being included in the film, "The Edge of Forever" had hit the US Rock chart getting to #37. It was not officially released as a single in the US, so it was unable to reach the Pop chart. Back in '86, there was no official soundtrack release for Ferris Bueller's Day Off despite it containing plenty of songs. Director/writer/producer John Hughes thought that the songs, though effective in the film, did not work together as an album. Later in 2016, a limited edition soundtrack for the film was released that included songs from the film (including the two by Dream Academy) and the musical score composed by Ira Newborn.