Saturday, March 23, 2019

"Don't Walk Away" by Robert Tepper

Song#:  2716
Date:  05/10/1986
Debut:  88
Peak:  85
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Tepper's career got a boost when his tune "No Easy Way Out" was selected to be on the soundtrack album to the Sylvester Stallone vehicle Rocky IV. The song would be a #12 Rock/#22 Pop hit for the artist. In addition to the soundtrack, the song was also slated to be on Tepper's debut solo album of the same name. Once the LP was set to go, this second single was pushed out. Unfortunately, it didn't get very far barely scraping the bottom of the Pop chart for a few weeks. In turn, the album faltered at a low #144. Still, his label (Scotti Bros.) thought he had the goods to do better and sponsored a 1988 follow-up album Modern Madness. Tepper and the label were at odds about the material on the record and that led to lack of label interest, promotion, etc. The issue plagued album then tanked upon release along with Tepper's chances at further chart hits.

ReduxReview: "No Way Out" was an excellent slice of radio-ready rock. This follow-up had a similar sound but the song itself just wasn't as good. This time around the heavy-handed 80s production sounded like it was necessary to make the track more interesting rather than being an enhancement. Tepper is a good songwriter and this song it not bad at all. It's just not as memorable or single-worthy as his previous hit.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Both of Tepper's albums were produced by Joe Chiccarelli. By the time Chiccarelli was working on Tepper's Modern Madness album, he had already produced a record by a new synthpop band that was signed to Atlantic Records. The band was called Y Can't Tori Read and their 1988 self-titled debut would quickly come and go to little notice. They broke up after the failure, but Chiccarelli was still in contact with lead singer/songwriter Tori Amos. After her band split, Amos wasn't sure what to do and while she was mulling over options she worked as a backup singer. Chiccarelli brought Amos in to sing background vocals on Tepper's album. She also worked for other artists like Sandra Bernhard, but she still had contractual obligations with Atlantic and finally in 1992 she issued her debut solo album Little Earthquakes. The LP steadily gained fans and established Amos' career. It would eventually become a double-platinum seller.


Friday, March 22, 2019

"Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel

#1 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2715
Date:  05/10/1986
Debut:  89
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Rock, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Gabriel's fourth album, known as Security in the US, generated his best single to-date with the #24 Pop/#1 Rock track "Shock the Monkey." It helped the former Genesis front man expand his audience and set him up well for his fifth album, So. Leading things off was this funky first single. The horn-driven tune struck audiences as did its groundbreaking MTV video. Listeners and record buyers would push the single to the #1 spot on the Pop, Rock, and Dance charts. It would also make a minor showing on the R&B chart at #61. The song would help send the album to #2 and over time it would end up being a 5x platinum seller. The album would be nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year while the song would get a trio of nominations (Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Rock Vocal Performance, Male).

ReduxReview:  I don't think anyone really expected this from Gabriel. Although he had a few pop-leaning tracks in his catalog, he wasn't necessarily a hit-making artist like his old Genesis cohort Phil Collins. However, for So he aimed for something more accessible and the most obvious example of that was this soul-influenced track. It hit radio like a...well...sledgehammer and crushed the competition to get to #1. It showed that Gabriel, if he wanted to, could put his experimental side on pause and write something with mass appeal. Yet he still fed his creative side with the amazing video for which he apparently laid under a sheet of glass for sixteen hours while individual photo frames were shot. Unlike some videos from the day, it still holds up well (the roller coaster segment is my favorite part). This would be Gabriel's only Pop #1. Oddly, this song replaced Gabriel's former band Genesis' "Invisible Touch" at the top of the chart where it spent one week. It would also be the band's only Pop #1.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The song's associated video played a big part in the single's success. Done in a stop motion animated style, the video was endlessly fascinating and is still considered one of the best music videos ever made. The British animated film studio Aardman did much of the work on the video. Aardman would later produce the Wallace & Gromit film shorts with 2005's full-length feature Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit taking home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. They also had a major hit with 2000's Chicken Run, which is still the highest grossing stop action animated feature of all time (followed by Were-Rabbit). Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" was the studio's first foray into music videos.  2) The video was nominated for a record ten MTV Music Video awards. It would go one to win nine of them. The only one it didn't win was the Viewer Choice Award, which went to U2 for "With or Without You." Gabriel's nine wins set a record for most wins in one night. He also received a non-competitive Vanguard award making his total ten for the night. He still holds the record for most wins on a single night and most wins for a single video. For years Gabriel solely held the record for most nominations in one year (ten), but then in 2010, Lady Gaga tied that record when she got ten nominations. Her nods were split between two videos; "Bad Romance" and "Telephone." She would win eight awards that year with seven going to "Bad Romance" and one to "Telephone."


Thursday, March 21, 2019

"Living on Video" by Trans-X

Song#:  2714
Date:  05/10/1986
Debut:  90
Peak:  61
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Synthpop, Hi-NRG

Pop Bits:  This Canadian act mainly consisted of electronic musician Pascal Languirand. He originally worked with Steve Wyatt as a duo, but when Wyatt left in 1983, Languirand did most everything himself and hired on Laurie Ann Gill as a vocalist. The same year, Trans-X assembled and released their first album titled Message on the Radio. One single from the album, "Living on Video," began to get attention and in '84 it made the charts in a few countries including the UK where it got to #9. There was little interest in the song at the time in the US, but then ATCO Records discovered Trans-X and took them on. An updated version of the album titled Living on Video was created and the title track was given a new remix and pushed out as a single. The associated MTV video helped the song along and it ended up cracking the US Pop chart. Although it hung around for three months, the tune just couldn't manage to fully break into a major hit. The album was not able to chart and after one more Canadian release that went nowhere, Languirand pulled the plug on Trans-X. He would go on to do solo work in the New Age genre and occasionally revive the Trans-X name.

ReduxReview:  At the time, this probably sounded cool with all its synthesized sounds and effects. Now it sounds so dated and cheezy. These days with the advancement of technology, musicians are making sophisticated recordings that sound ten-times as better in their own living rooms. When Languirand first recorded this in the early 80s, synthpop was just really starting to emerge and it wasn't all that easy to do. He threw in the kitchen sink on this one with all sorts of sounds coming from all directions. It's a goofy tune with a Europop feel and schlager influenced keyboard melodies. There was nothing like it on US radio and I'm not sure stations knew what to do with the thing. As a song, it's pretty awful. Yet there is something so endearingly fun about it that I can't help but smile when I hear it. It reminds me of the days when I had my little 4-track synth/drum machine/sequencer setup and was recording synthpop experiments. I kinda get where he's coming from and I can appreciate what he did with this track.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Languirand was influenced by electronic music pioneers like Giorgio Moroder, Tangerine Dream, and Kraftwerk. In fact, it was an album by Kraftwerk that inspired the name Trans-X. In 1977, Kraftwerk released their sixth studio album Trans-Europe Express. Languirand was a fan of the band and the album and took a shorthand approach to the album's title for his own work, hence Trans-X. Kraftwerk's album received positive notices when it was first released, but save for a couple of countries it wasn't a big chart success (#119 in the US). However, its stature and influence has gained momentum over the years. It has been cited on many historical "best of" lists including Rolling Stone's 500 Best Albums of All Time (#325).


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

"Listen Like Thieves" by INXS

Song#:  2713
Date:  05/10/1986
Debut:  92
Peak:  54
Weeks:  9
Genre:  New Wave, Rock

Pop Bits:  The Australian band grabbed their first US Top 10 hit with "What You Need," the second single from their album Listen Like Thieves. For a follow-up, this title track would be pushed out. It did well at Rock getting to #12, but it didn't quite click the same way at Pop where it missed out on the top half of the chart. A fourth single, "Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down)" was later released and it made it to #24 on the Rock chart. However, it failed to get on the Pop chart. Despite not being able to secure a second big Pop hit, the album did very well reaching #11. It would eventually be certified double platinum.

ReduxReview:  This was another groovy track from the band that wasn't too far from the feel of "What You Need." It just wasn't quite as catchy as that killer single. Still, it was a good tune that should have at least cracked the Top 40.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The b-side to this single was a song titled "Different World." The song was not included on the Listen Like Thieves album, but it was used in a film. The tune can be heard in the hit action comedy Crocodile Dundee. The movie, which starred Australian actor Paul Hogan, was released in the fall of '86 and it became a runaway hit. It would end up being the second biggest box office film of the year (behind Top Gun) and it made a star out of Hogan. He would go on to win a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical. Hogan would also earn an Oscar nomination as part of the writing team who were up for Best Original Screenplay. The film would spawn two sequels but neither would do as well as the original. Although the INXS song was used in the film, it was not included on the official soundtrack album.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"Like No Other Night" by 38 Special

Song#:  2712
Date:  05/03/1986
Debut:  75
Peak:  14
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Southern Rock

Pop Bits:  Between 1979 and 1983, this band pushed out four studio albums (three of them platinum) and did massive amounts of touring. They needed a break and took one after recording the #25 Pop hit "Teacher, Teacher" that was done for the soundtrack to the film Teachers. Their previous albums included three Pop Top 20 hits and seven Rock Top 10's (including two #1's) so the pressure was on to churn out more hits when they returned to the studio to record their seventh album Strength in Numbers. They hoped that this first single would continue their streak of hits and it did by getting to #4 at Rock and cracking the Pop Top 20. Eventually, the album would be a gold seller for them, but that was a dip from their previous platinum efforts.

ReduxReview:  While I've enjoyed some of 38 Special's previous hits, by this point in time it seemed they were really trying to force the commercial side of their music and it was becoming a bit formulaic. An artist continually doing what they do best isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it can become a bit boring for listeners if the material isn't as good or better. This track is just okay. It easily follows in the footsteps of their other singles, but it's like I've heard it all before.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  While the band did co-write most of their own material, on occasion they would reach out to other seasoned vets to help them along. For this album, the band looked to songwriter Jim Vallance for some assistance. Vallance and his main writing partner at the time, Bryan Adams, had been having success writing hits for Adams while supplying songs to other artists. The band was familiar with Vallance since he and Adams co-wrote their chart hit "Teacher, Teacher" and brought him on board to help shape things up. Vallance would end up co-write six songs for 38 Special's album, including this one, and would also supply a bit of drumming.


Monday, March 18, 2019

"The Heat of Heat" by Patti Austin

Song#:  2711
Date:  05/03/1986
Debut:  83
Peak:  55
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  After her #1 hit duet with James Ingram, 1982's "Baby Come to Me," Austin had troubles getting another significant hit on the Pop chart. She'd get another Top 10 at R&B and one at Dance, but nothing clicked at a more mainstream level. For her sixth studio album, Gettin' Away with Murder, her label, Quincy Jones' Qwest Records, set her up with some of the day's top songwriters and producers including Russ Titelman, Michael Bolton, Terry Britten, Steve Porcaro, and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. The LP's first single, "Honey for the Bees," was a remake of a song originally co-written and recorded by Alison Moyet. It would be a #6 Dance hit, but would only get to #24 R&B while missing the Pop chart. The title track would be issued next, but it failed to do much of anything stalling at #72 R&B. Surprisingly, the label decided to push out a third single and selected this track written and produced by Jam & Lewis. Overall, it did better than the previous two singles by getting to #13 at R&B, #14 Dance, and nearly cracking the top half of the Pop chart. Yet it still wasn't the sizable hit needed to generate further interest in Austin or the LP. It would end up being Austin's last single to reach the Pop chart. She would go on to have one more Top 10 at both AC and Dance and that wrapped up her days on the mainstream singles charts.

ReduxReview:  The chorus of this song had a Jam & Lewis vibe, but the rest sounds like they were channeling a post-Disco style of Chic. It's fine, but I wouldn't count it among their best efforts. I think the problem is that Quincy Jones and the label were trying to make a big crossover dance/pop/R&B star out of Austin and it just wasn't working. There were too many cooks trying to make the album and it ended up over-seasoned and inconsistent. Austin can sing anything and make something from nothing, but when the majority of tracks are bland to begin with, there is only so much she can do. Luckily, she found her groove again when she returned to more jazz oriented material.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  By the end of the 80s, Austin would retreat back to her jazz roots and mainly record albums in that vein. She would end up with eight Top 20 albums on the Jazz chart including four Top 10's (her 1981 album Every Home Should Have One also made the Jazz Top 10). She would add three more Grammy nods to her credit for a total of six. Her one nomination in 2007 would net Austin her first Grammy win. Her LP Avant Gershwin would secure Austin a win for Best Jazz Vocal Album.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

"I Must Be Dreaming" by Giuffria

Song#:  2710
Date:  05/03/1986
Debut:  84
Peak:  52
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Gregg Giuffria and his band had a successful self-titled debut album in '84 that reached #26 thanks to the #15 Pop/#3 Rock single "Call to the Heart." Their label, MCA, was pleased enough with the results to call for a second album. The band retreated to the studio and came out with Silk + Steel. This first single was issued out and it got a little attention, but far less than their previous hit. The song got to #28 at Rock while stalling near the halfway mark at Pop. A second single failed to chart and that doomed the album. They recorded demos for a third album, but then the band left MCA and decided to split up. Gregg Giuffria would later have some minor success with his next band House of Lords.

ReduxReview:  I'm familiar with the Mink DeVille version of this song (see below) and I have to say that Giuffria really rocks this one out. I like Mink DeVille's original, but I actually prefer this remake. The beefed up production sends the song to arena rock territory and David Glen Eisley's lead vocal is just killer. It's a shame this song didn't catch on more. It deserved to go further up the chart. It doesn't necessarily have a hooky chorus, but I don't think it needed one. For me it even outshines their lone Pop hit "Call to the Heart." It's kind of a lost gem.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1)  This is a remake of a song originally written by Willie DeVille and recorded by his band Mink DeVille. It was done for their 1985 album Sportin' Life. It was issued as a single, but it did not chart. The album was Mink DeVille's final one. After that, Willie DeVille moved forward with a solo career releasing albums under his own name.  2) Giuffria recorded two songs for the soundtrack to the 1985 film Gotcha!. The comedy-action film, which starred Anthony Edwards and Linda Fiorentino, was not a critical or box office success. Gregg Giuffria and lead singer David Glen Eisley also recorded a third song for the film that was credited to Camelflage. The main theme, "Gotcha!," was written specifically for the film and was recorded by Thereza Bazar. It was issued out as a single, but it failed to chart. Bazar was one-half of the UK duo known as Dollar. While they would only have one charting song in the US (1979's #74 "Shooting Star"), they were stars in the UK getting nine Top 20 hits including five Top 10's. Along with the song from the film, Bazar would also record a solo album with producer Arif Mardin. Titled "The Big Kiss," it was a highly anticipated release in the UK. However, release date and distribution issues stymied promotional efforts and the album disappeared quickly.