Saturday, April 13, 2019

"Mountains" by Prince & the Revolution

Song#:  2737
Date:  05/24/1986
Debut:  58
Peak:  23
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Prince grabbed his third #1 on the Pop chart with "Kiss," the lead single from his album Parade. The album also served as the soundtrack to his second film Under a Cherry Moon. While the film would be a bust, the album would be a double-platinum seller that reached #3. Next up from the album was this track, which played over the closing credits of the movie. It didn't attract the same audience as "Kiss" and it stumbled a bit peaking outside the Pop Top 20. It did a little better at Dance (#11) and R&B (#15).

ReduxReview:  The Parade album was critically liked at the time and still is, but like his previous LP Around the World in a Day, it was a bit experimental. Therefore, it was not chock full of immediate hits with the exception of "Kiss." This tune was probably the most single-worthy of the remaining tracks, but it still wasn't in the same commercial league as his previous major hits. Its dense sound seems to make it drag and the chorus isn't all that memorable. The jazzy horn break doesn't help things from a pop radio perspective, but for me it's one of the most interesting parts of the song. It took me a long while to warm up to it, but I do like this tune. It just wasn't a very good single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Prince was often nebulous when it came to songwriting credits. While most of the composer credits attributed to him were true and legit, there were times when he listed someone else as the writer or co-writer when that person had no involvement in composing the tune. He might also use a pseudonym instead of his own name, such as when he used the name Christopher as the composer credit for The Bangles' #2 hit "Manic Monday." Then there were times that he didn't credit someone who actually did work on the tune or as in the case of this song and all others on Parade gave the general credit of being composed by Prince & the Revolution. Yet this song was actually written by three people. The musical team of Wendy & Lisa, who were members of the Revolution, had written the music for this song and played it for Prince. He liked it well enough to write lyrics and include it in his Under the Cherry Moon film and soundtrack. However, the credit for the song as listed on the original album was by Prince & the Revolution. The same credit was also on the single version of the song. However, when it came to the royalties of the song, the actual composers were listed and registered with whichever music rights organization Prince used for composer payouts. Indeed a quick search for the licensing of this track for use shows that it was written by Prince Rogers Nelson, Lisa Coleman, and Wendy Melvoin.


Friday, April 12, 2019

"Secret Separation" by The Fixx

Song#:  2736
Date:  05/24/1986
Debut:  77
Peak:  19
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  The UK band's third album, Phantoms, was a gold seller thanks mainly to the #1 Rock/#15 Pop track "Are We Ourselves?" Follow-up singles didn't do well so the album sold less that its platinum predecessor Reach the Beach, which contained three Pop Top 40 hits including the #4 "One Thing Lead to Another." Hoping to keep the gold-level sales going, the band set out to record their fourth album, Walkabout. This song was selected to be the first single and it did well at Rock becoming their second #1 on that chart. However, like "Are We Ourselves?," the track stalled inside the Pop Top 20. A second single failed to make the Pop chart and that led to the album peaking at #30 and failing to go gold.

ReduxReview:  I love the two chord rolling rhythm of this song. It got my attention back in the day. Where the tune kinda loses me is with the chorus. It's a bit dull after the charging verse. I still like the song in general, but I think it might have been a bigger hit had it contained a more forceful chorus.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  On the CD version of the Walkabout album, there was a "hidden" track that followed about forty seconds after the album's last listed track ended. The bonus song, "Peace on Earth (Do What You Can)," was a message tune about folks taking the time to work towards righting the wrongs that they see and making the world a better place. The plea for peace on earth has sometimes gotten this track tagged as a holiday tune, but it contains nothing specifically related to Christmas except the peace on earth sentiment.


Thursday, April 11, 2019

"Headed for the Future" by Neil Diamond

Song#:  2735
Date:  05/24/1986
Debut:  83
Peak:  53
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Diamond's sixteenth studio album, Primitive, was a bit of a stumble. Although fans would make it a gold seller, the album was his lowest peaking (#35) since 1969. With only one of the album's three singles barely doing anything on the Pop chart (the #62 "Turn Around"), it seemed that 80s pop radio was leaving Diamond behind. He tried to rectify that situation with his next LP Headed for the Future. While Diamond still co-wrote more than half of the LP's songs, he brought in a couple of tunes from hot-at-the-time writers like Martin Page and even the Bryan Adams/Jim Vallance songwriting team. Diamond even incorporated propulsive synths and effects to the title track in trying to stay with current trends. That track was issued out as the first single and while it did better than "Turn Around," it still couldn't break into the top half of the Pop chart. As usual, the AC crowd showed their support and the song made it to #10 on that chart. A second single, "The Story of My Life," failed at Pop while reaching #11 at AC. Yet the songs did well enough to make the album a gold seller that reached #20. Sadly, this would be Diamond's last song to reach the Pop chart. He would still do pretty well at AC grabbing a couple more Top 10's before the decade was out, but after that radio had little interest in Diamond. Thanks to his rabid fan base, his albums would continue to sell well and go gold despite featuring no hits.

ReduxReview:  I've mentioned in other posts that even the greatest of songwriters/artists will have bumps in their careers and turds in their catalogs. It's inevitable and for Diamond the mid-80s were not the best of times. He couldn't shake the stigma of being an non-hip older adult artist and he just wasn't able to make his songs fit with the day's sounds. He certainly tried with this song, but it just didn't work. I think he was going for a big "America" style of tune, but he came up short...way short. The opening is kind of promising, but once the real song starts it just goes downhill. Frankly, it is a goofy tune with a silly 80s production. It sounds like a forced bizarre effort to try and stay current. I'm a Diamond fan, but this one makes me cringe. It also makes me sad that it was his last Pop chart entry. He really should have simply written his own material from the heart, chucked all the multiple producers, and put out a focused effort regardless of hit song potential. It would have served him so much better. In fact, the best song on the LP (despite its cheezy 80s produciton) is "The Story of My Life," which was solely written by Diamond. It was pure Diamond and he should have been doing more on his own like that. It sounded true and real as opposed to the rest of the manufactured tunes on the album. He'd finally get back to basics later in 2005 (see below), but until then his career would be a mishmash of styles and themed projects. (Note - if you want to hear Bryan Adams' attempt at writing an AC tune, check out the odd "It Should Have Been Me" on the album - yikes.)

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  After Headed for the Future, Diamond continued to put out a new studio album about every two years through to 2001's Three Chord Opera. Each one would be a gold seller and would have varying themes. He would do an album of songs from films, one where he remade tunes from Brill Building writers/artists (of which he was one in his early career days), and even a country album titled Tennessee Moon. That 1996 LP did quite well getting to #14 Pop and #35 Country. Following Three Chord Opera, Diamond happened to meet Rick Rubin, who had become a highly sought after producer. Rubin was a Diamond fan and wanted to work with him. The two began collaborating and it resulted in the 2005 album 12 Songs. The more stripped down LP had Diamond writing and performing some of his best material in decades and it was met will all kinds of accolades. It also became his first LP to hit the Top 10 (#4) since 1982's Heartlight. The pair then worked on a follow-up titled Home Before Dark. Again, the album was a critical success and it ended up hitting #1. Surprisingly it was the first time in his career that one of Diamond's albums topped the chart. Since then, Diamond has released two more regular studio albums, one remake LP and one of originals, both which reached the Top 10. Diamond had always been a top draw when it came to his live shows, but in 2018 he abruptly stopped his touring. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and decided to retire from performing. Although he said he would continue to do music projects, as of this posting date (early 2019) he has yet to release any new studio recordings.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

"You Should Be Mine (The Woo Woo Song)" by Jeffrey Osborne

Song#:  2734
Date:  05/24/1986
Debut:  84
Peak:  13
Weeks:  19
Genre:  R&B, Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Over the course of three solo albums, Osborne scored seven R&B Top 10's and was able to take six songs into the Pop Top 40. Surprisingly, none of his Pop chart tracks made the Top 20 with the #25 "Don't You Get So Mad" being his best effort in 1983. He was still in search of his first Pop Top 10 when he recorded his fourth album Emotional. This first single would end up being the closest he would get to the Top 10 on his own. The tune would peak a few spots shy of the Top 10 while getting to #2 at both R&B and AC. The hit made the album his third gold seller in a row. Three more single from the album would be issued out, but even though they made the R&B chart, none would cross over to the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  I really thought this would be the song to get Osborne into the Pop Top 10. It's a silky smooth tune with a lovely 80s production and that indelible "woo woo woo" chorus. If he couldn't break into the Top 10 with this one, then it just wasn't going to happen. And ultimately it didn't. His career started to fizzle after his next album. I think it was a case that his style of music was on the wane and he didn't do much to move along with trends of the day. When an artist doesn't do that, their career can have a limited shelf life. Still, Osborne had a solid run in the 80s and for me this song was  a career peak.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The second single from the Emotional album was the anti-apartheid song "Soweto." It was co-written by Elizabeth Lamers, Frank Musker, and Hamish Stuart. Stuart had been a member of the Scottish R&B/funk group Average White Band. He co-wrote the band's biggest hit, the 1974 instrumental "Pick Up the Pieces" (#1 Pop/#5 R&B). "Soweto" was written from the point of view of children who were caught up in the fight to end apartheid in South Africa and the recording featured a children's choir. The single would get to #18 at R&B, but it did best at Dance where it reached #11. The political-based tune wouldn't make the Pop chart.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

"One Step Closer to You" by Gavin Christopher

Song#:  2733
Date:  05/24/1986
Debut:  85
Peak:  22
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, R&B

Pop Bits:  This Chicago-born singer/songwriter first gained attention when he was a member of a band called Lyfe. That group featured an up-n-coming singer named Chaka Khan. When she left to join Rufus, Christopher then helped to form the band High Voltage. Oddly, two members of that band also defected over to the Rufus camp. By 1974, Rufus' second album was a gold seller that featured the major hit "Tell Me Something Good" (#3 Pop/#3 R&B). Since Gavin had a relationship with several members of the band, he had a direct line to submit some of his songs and indeed the band picked up his tune "Once You Get Started" for their third LP. It served as the lead single and it got to #10 Pop/#4 R&B/#2 Dance. That success led to Christopher getting his own record deal. A self-titled debut album on Island Records came out in 1976, but it failed to generate interest. Christopher then moved to RKO Records for a second self-titled LP in 1979. It too sank away quickly. Meanwhile, he was still supplying songs to Rufus who took Christopher's "Dance Wit Me" to #39 Pop/#5 R&B in 1976. Christopher would work with other artists like Herbie Hancock and Curtis Mayfield, but he still had solo aspirations. He signed on with Manhattan in the mid-80s and was able to record a third album titled One Step Closer. This first single from the LP gained an audience and it would go on to hit #9 at Dance and #25 at R&B while nearly getting inside the Pop Top 10. The success of the single led to a follow-up album that featured the #10 R&B hit "You Are Who You Love," but it seems that wasn't enough to sustain label interest and the LP became Christopher's last solo effort. He would continue to work in the music business up until he died from congestive heart failure in 2016.

ReduxReview:  The shuffle-style groove of this song is ear-catching and I've always wondered if Michael Jackson was paying attention to it because his "The Way You Make Me Feel" sounds suspiciously similar. This is a smart song that was well-done by the production team (see below) and Christopher sounds very good. I remember back in the day that I came close to buying this single. I'm guessing I didn't because I lacked money enough to buy it along with other singles. It's a song that has kind of been forgotten these days, which is too bad. It's a solid tune and it probably should have done better on the chart. It's also too bad that this was Christopher's only Pop chart entry. He's a good songwriter and a terrific vocalist and it's unfortunate his solo career didn't fully take off. This is a lost little gem from the era.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song and its associated album was one of the first big successes for the songwriting and production team of Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers. The pair would continue to work with many artists including Stephanie Mills, Jennifer Holliday, 98 Degrees, Ruben Studdard, Kelly Clarkson, and many others. They also work with Donny Osmond for his comeback single "Soldier of Love" (1989, #2 Pop) and with NSYNC for their hit "(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time on You" (1998, #8 Pop). Along the way, the pair also formed their own band called Rythm Synidicate. The band's 1991 debut album would featured the #2 Pop hit "P.A.S.S.I.O.N." But perhaps their biggest success and claim to fame was discovering superstar Rihanna. Rogers found the fledgling singer while in Barbados and brought her to the States. She was signed by Def Jam and the Sturken/Rogers team would oversee her 2005 debut album Music of the Sun. The LP featured the singer's first Top 10 hit "Pon de Replay" (#2 Pop) which Sturken and Rogers co-wrote and produced. They also headed up her second LP, the double-platinum A Girl Like Me, and contributed the song "Shut Up and Drive" (#15 Pop) to her 6x platinum seller Good Girl Gone Bad.


Monday, April 8, 2019

"Female Intuition" by Mai Tai

Song#:  2732
Date:  05/24/1986
Debut:  90
Peak:  71
Weeks:  7
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This Dutch vocal trio originally consisted of Jetty Weels, Mildred Douglas, and Caroline de Windt. The three had become friends while working as vocalists in various bands and for other artists. At one gig, Weels happened to meet guitarist/producer Jochem Fluitsma. He liked Weels' voice and invited her to his studio to record. Weels then recruited Douglas and de Windt to form a group and along with Fluitsma and his writing/production partner Eric van Tijn, they began recording songs. An initial single in 1983 titled "Keep on Dancin'" didn't make many waves, but the following year they put two songs in the Dutch Top 30 and an associated debut album made it to #12. Two other songs from the album, "History" and "Body and Soul," became Top 10 hits in the UK with "History" also doing well on the US Dance (#3) and R&B (#37) charts. With a bit of momentum built up, the group went back into the studio to record a follow-up album titled 1 Touch 2 Much. The title track was issued out as the first single, but it failed to make an impression anywhere. However, this second single from the LP gave them their first Dutch Top 10 and it had some minor success in a few other countries including the US. It was able to reach #49 at R&B while crossing over to the Pop chart for a few weeks. A third single also hit the Dutch Top 10, but it tanked elsewhere. The trio would record one more album before calling it quits in 1988.

ReduxReview:  This isn't too bad of an 80s dance track. It has a Pointer Sisters feel to it and the chorus does its job. The problem is that we already had a Pointer Sisters and at the time the Sisters were even having trouble on the charts with their dance-pop sound and this one isn't much better than what that trio was already slinging out. The tune actually sounds like the theme something from some b-level comedy film. It's a well-done track, but one that ultimately doesn't rise above the pack.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Eric van Tijn and Jochem Fluitsma were a highly successful songwriting/production team in the Netherlands. The songs with Mai Tai were among their first successes. Much like Jam & Lewis in the States or Britain's Stock, Aitken & Waterman, the pair became a famous team known as Fluitsma & Van Tijn. Their success and standing in the music industry gave van Tijn the opportunity to be a judge on two major talent shows - the Dutch versions of Pop Idol and X Factor. Fluitsma wouldn't be a judge, but he did participate as a musician on Idol. The influential pair mainly worked with Dutch artists, but branched out on rare occasions. In the late 80s, they would do some songwriting and production work for a few US R&B/Dance artists like Sylvester and The S.O.S. Band.


Sunday, April 7, 2019

"Divided Hearts" by Kim Carnes

Song#:  2731
Date:  05/24/1986
Debut:  93
Peak:  79
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Carnes' 1985 LP Barking at Airplanes contained the #15 Pop entry "Crazy in the Night (Barking at Airplanes)." It was her biggest hit since her massive 1981 #1 "Bette Davis Eyes." With that favorable return to the chart, Carnes set out to capitalize on that momentum with her tenth album, Light House. For the LP, Carnes reunited with Val Garay, who had produced her #1 album Mistaken Identity, which featured "Bette Davis Eyes," and its 1982 follow-up Voyeur. Hopes were high for this first single, but it was unable to gain an audience and the record stalled near the bottom of the chart. A follow-up single failed to do anything and that doomed the album to a low #116 peak - Carnes' worst result since 1979. The song would be her last to chart at Pop and the album would be as well. Over the next couple of years, Carnes would change labels to MCA Records and deliver the more country-oriented LP View from the House in 1988. The album reunited her with Jimmy Bowen, who produced Carnes' 1971 self-titled debut. The disc would be a mild hit at Country reaching #35 and the its first single, "Crazy in Love," would reach #13 AC and #68 Country. Carnes would record a couple more solo albums over the years, but it would be her songwriting that would become her bread-n-butter after her 80's solo days (see below).

ReduxReview:  The production by Garay is notable on this single and the rest of the album as it's not too far off from the work he had previously done with Carnes. It's a bit denser than some of Carnes' previous outings and her rock side gets boosted on a few tracks. The problem is that Carnes got herself tagged as a synthpop diva so this first single is a continued reflection of that. Unfortunately, it's not the catchiest thing she's ever done. I like the tune just fine, but it was not something that was going to race up the Pop chart. Sadly, her more rock-country side that was apparent in tunes on Mistaken Identity never got pushed out as singles due to "Bette Davis Eyes" and so potential hits on Light House like "I'd Lie to You for Your Love" never got a fair shake. The album was more rock-oriented, but this first single wasn't a good representation of that. I think it was meant as a sort of bridge tune between synthpop and a fuller rock sound, but it just wasn't the right song. Carnes has been and will always be one of my favorite artists and I wish she would have been able to score a couple of more hits and stuck around on the charts longer as a solo artist.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) After her View from the House album, Carnes started to make a transition from hit maker to songwriter. Her first major songwriting success outside of her own recordings and other artists doing covers was the 1993 #1 hit "The Heart Won't Lie" by Reba McEntire with Vince Gill. Carnes co-wrote the song with Donna Weiss (who had co-written "Bette Davis Eyes" with Jackie DeShannon). With that success, other artists came calling and Carnes would help to supply songs to stars like Pam Tillis, Deana Carter, Matraca Berg, Tim McGraw, Mindy McCready, Tanya Tucker, Pam Tillis, Kenny Rogers, and others.  2) The second single from Light House was "I'd Lie to You for Your Love (And That's the Truth)." This was a remake of a song originally recorded by the Toronto-based rock band Champion in 1984. Their self-titled debut album contained the song, which was written by Frankie Miller and Jeff Berry, and it was issued out as a single. Neither the album or single made an impression. Michigan rocker Danny Spanos recorded the song and his 1985 version was a minor Rock chart entry at #42. The song was then picked up by star country duo The Bellamy Brothers. The brothers (David and Howard) added their own touches to the song, picked up songwriting credits, pushed it out as a single and it reached #2 on the Country chart in 1985. Carnes' version of the tune was unable to chart.