Saturday, May 4, 2019

"Land of La La" by Stevie Wonder

Song#:  2758
Date:  06/14/1986
Debut:  90
Peak:  86
Weeks:  3
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Wonder's album In Square Circle would be his first multi-platinum (2x) effort since his 1976 classic Songs in the Key of Life. The boost in sales was due three charting hits including the #1 "Part Time Lover." His label tried to keep the hits coming by issuing out this fourth single. It was a mediocre hit at R&B reaching #19, but it was virtually a non-starter at Pop bubbling near the bottom of the chart for a few weeks. It would be the last single issued from the album in the US.

ReduxReview:  The beginning sounds like something played during a Jane Fonda workout tape. It has a real aerobic exercise vibe. This song wasn't a good candidate for a single. It just kind of rambled on with the only real hook of any kind being the title. As a result, the tune wasn't very memorable. They should have wrapped things up with just three singles, but the label tried to eke out a fourth hit. It was unnecessary.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Wonder has won 25 Grammys in his career. He has been nominated for 74 awards. As of this posting date, those totals has him tied for fourth place for most Grammy wins and most Grammy nominations. He is also one of only three artists to have won the Grammy for Album of the Year three times. He won in 1974, 1975, and 1977. The wins also made him the only artist to win Album of the Year for three consecutive releases. The other two artists to win the category three times are Frank Sinatra and Paul Simon. However, Simon's first win was when he was part of the duo Simon & Garfunkel so his wins were as a solo artist and as part of a group. Wonder won his thirteenth Grammy for In Square Circle in the Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, category.


Friday, May 3, 2019

"Feel the Heat" by Jean Beauvoir

Song#:  2757
Date:  06/14/1986
Debut:  92
Peak:  73
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Beauvoir is probably best known for being a member of the infamous punk band The Plasmatics. It was while he was in the band that he created his signature look - a large blonde Mohawk that he would sport for most of his career. Being in a highly influential and talked about band such as The Plasmatics was great exposure for bassist Beauvoir, but he had aspirations for something more. After two albums with the band, he left to start a solo career. Unfortunately, it seemed no one was interested in Beauvoir as a solo artist. He got offers to perform with other artists such as Prince and Billy Idol, but that wasn't what he was looking for. He was finally convinced to join another band when Springsteen cohort Steven Van Zandt came calling. Beauvoir joined Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul and stayed with them for two albums. With that experience under his belt, Beauvoir was then able to secure a solo deal with Virgin Records in the UK. He then recorded his debut solo album Drums Along the Mohawk, which was issued out around Europe. The LP got the attention of Columbia Records and they picked it up for release in the US. Also around this time, Sylvester Stallone had heard the track "Feel the Heat" and wanted it in his upcoming film Cobra. Everything came together in the summer of '86 with this song being pushed out as a single along with the release of Beauvoir's album and the Cobra soundtrack. The song got a bit of attention and was able to reach the Pop chart, but only for a couple of months. Beauvoir's album would get to #93 while the soundtrack would make it to #100. The song would be Beauvoir's only one to reach the Pop chart. He would do one more album for Columbia/Virgin that failed to make an impression before heading up two bands, Voodoo X and Crown of Thorns, and working as a songwriter/producer for many major artists.

ReduxReview:  Any Plasmatics fans who were looking for some punk-ish rock from Beauvoir's debut were going to be disappointed. Thanks in part to his time with Van Zandt, Beauvoir decided to go down the AOR lane and this first track led the way. Filled out with 80s synths, the song sounded like a good fit for Rock radio, yet it got ignored there. It tried to make inroads at pop, but besides the repeated title, there wasn't much to really hook in listeners. It worked well for a film song, but if Stallone was looking for a Rocky-sized hit a la Survivor, this one was not it. The tune just wasn't all that memorable.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Beauvoir got his break in punk rock and he stayed in rock music after with his solo efforts and work with artists like Kiss and The Ramones. Later on he got offers to branch out to different areas of music and ended up writing songs for artists like Nona Hendryx, John Waite, and NSYNC. His 2003 solo album Chameleon even featured a co-write with Lionel Richie titled "I Wanna Know." Beauvoir has adapted as music tastes change and perhaps his most surprising venture has been in the world of K-Pop. He co-wrote a track for the K-Pop group Shinee's EP Everybody in 2013. The EP would reach #1 in Korea and #2 on the Billboard World Albums chart. Two years later, Beauvoir contributed to the debut solo EP by Shinee member Jonghyun. He co-wrote the song "Crazy (Guilty Pleasure)," which made it to #5 in Korea and #15 on the Billboard World Songs chart.  2) Prior to Beauvoir moving to NYC and joining up with The Plasmatics, he had been working in an entirely different style of music. In his mid-teens, Beauvoir was selected to be a member of the old doo-wop vocal group The Flamingos. That group's heyday was in the late 50s and early 60s when they scored several charting song including their #3 R&B/#11 Pop version of the classic standard "I Only Have Eyes for You." Over the years, the group would continue to tour with various members drifting in and out. Beauvoir became the youngest member to ever be in the group when he toured with them.


Thursday, May 2, 2019

"Hanging on a Heart Attack" by Device

Song#:  2756
Date:  06/14/1986
Debut:  93
Peak:  35
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Holly Knight had been having some great success as a songwriter penning hits like "Love is a Battlefield" for Pat Benatar and Scandal's "The Warrior." Yet it seemed that she still longed to be known as an artist as well. Her first attempt was with the band Spider, but success was limited with their best effort being 1980's "New Romance (It's a Mystery)" (#39 Pop). After gaining some traction as a songwriter, Knight decided to give stardom another shot. She along with vocalist Paul Engemann and guitarist Greg Black formed the trio Device. They got signed to Chrysalis Records and with Knight's frequent co-writer Mike Chapman producing, the band came up with their debut album 22B3. This first single, written by Knight and Chapman, got issued out and it was able to make it inside the Top 40, barely edging out Spider's single to make it Knight's highest charting single as an artist. The song would help get the album to a minor #73.

ReduxReview:  I remember hearing this song on Casey Kasem's American Top 40 show, which I listened to religiously on the radio back then. It really struck me and I ran out to buy the single. I liked the production, Knight's little spoken part, and the hooky chorus. I thought it was headed to the Top 10, yet it stopped way short. I was kind of surprised. It seemed to be a hit on the west coast, but just couldn't break through in a wider way. Although I'm not as enthusiastic about the tune these days, I still enjoy it and like when it circles through on one of my 80s playlists. It's a shame that Knight was never really to breakthrough as an artist. I think her best material ended up with other artists or, as in the case with a couple of Spider tunes, were remade better by other artists ("Better Be Good to Me" by Tina Turner).

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Knight and bandmate Greg Black co-wrote three song for the album. None would be formally issued out as singles, but another song they co-wrote was on its way to the Top 10 at the same time this song was on the chart. The pair, along with Mike Chapman, co-wrote "Love Touch." The song got picked up for use in the film Legal Eagles and was recorded by Rod Stewart. Another Knight/Black composition had recently been a Top 10 hit as well - Heart's "Never."


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

"Headlines" by Midnight Star

Song#:  2755
Date:  06/14/1986
Debut:  96
Peak:  69
Weeks:  7
Genre:  R&B, Rap

Pop Bits:  It took five albums worth of songs, but Midnight Star finally grabbed a significant Pop hit when "Operator" reached #18 (#1 R&B). It was from their album Planetary Invasion, which became their second LP to reach gold level sales. Hoping to keep their hot streak going, the band reconvened and recorded their sixth album Headlines. The title track would be issued out as the first single and it did well at R&B reaching #3. Unfortunately, the song didn't click as well at Pop as "Operator" and it ended up stuck in the bottom half of the chart for only a few weeks. The track would also briefly make it on the Dance chart at #34.

ReduxReview:  This was a good jam that incorporated the band's signature style along with a bit of rap. I can see where this would be a winner at R&B, but it was just a tad too urban for pop radio at the time. After they got a Pop hit with "Operator," I would have thought the band might have released something that had a bit more of a mainstream appeal in order to keep that audience interested. They could have done that if they had released "Midas Touch" first, but they chose to release this title track instead and in the process lost some of the ground they gained at pop radio. The lengthy album version was a bit too long in the tooth so the more concise single version sold the song better. Either way, it wasn't one of the band's best songs.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The band's home label for all of their prime era albums was SOLAR Records. They were signed by label founder Dick Griffey after he saw them at a 1978 talent showcase. Griffey started SOLAR in 1977. The label name was an acronym for Sounds of Los Angeles Records. Griffey and SOLAR's heydays were in the 80s. The label signed several hit-making acts like Midnight Star, Shalamar, Dynasty, The Deele, Klymaxx, Lakeside, and The Whispers. SOLAR was also the launching pad for Babyface who, along with L.A. Reid, became the label's main production team from 1986 to 1989. The label started to experience a decline near the end of the decade partially attributed to changes in music and by 1992, SOLAR had issued their final LP, the soundtrack to the crime drama Deep Cover. The soundtrack is mostly known for its title track, which got to #4 at Rap and #46 R&B. It was the first solo single by former N.W.A. member Dr. Dre and it also featured the first appearance of a new rapper on the scene, Snoop Doggy Dogg.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

"Modern Woman" by Billy Joel

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2754
Date:  06/07/1986
Debut:  54
Peak:  10
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Joel had been churning out albums nearly every year since 1971, so it was only right that he took a little break after the success of his multi-platinum album An Innocent Man. He would return three years later with his tenth studio album The Bridge. The eclectic collection showcased a variety of styles (pop, R&B, jazz, new wave) along with a list of guests including Ray Charles and Cyndi Lauper. It even featured this movie soundtrack tune. Selected for use in the black comedy Ruthless People, the song would serve as the first single from Joel's album and from the film's soundtrack. The track made its way up the Pop chart and was able to just barely scrape the Top 10. It also did well at AC getting to #7 while making it to #34 at Rock. It was Joel's ninth Pop Top 10. Although it performed well, the single wasn't a huge hit and that seemed to curtail album sales a bit. The LP would stall at #7 and eventually go double-platinum, which was the same results as his 1982 "serious" album The Nylon Curtain. It was a definite drop in sales as compared to An Innocent Man. That album had already sold over 4 million copies by the time The Bridge was released and would go on to sell another 3 million. The soundtrack to Ruthless People would do well making it to #20 and going gold.

ReduxReviewThe Bridge was a strange, inconsistent album. It was as if Joel just wanted to mess around and record whatever kind of cool idea he thought he had. While the songs aren't all that bad, they aren't all that great either. This kooky track is certainly one of Joel's actual hits that has long been forgotten. After a while it seemed Joel wanted to forget it too as it has been left off of most of his hits collections in favor of other lower charting songs. The cheezy synths remind me of the Seinfield theme song and the sax sounds like a poor attempt to infringe on Huey Lewis territory. Joel was an artist who typically had songs with some substance, but this one was pure cotton candy fluff. I certainly don't mind some of the sticky stuff once in a while, but it has to be something I wanna ruin my diet for and this song just wasn't it.

ReduxRating:  4/10

TriviaThe Bridge contained the jazzy big band-style track "Big Man on Mulberry Street." That song would be featured in an episode of the hit TV show Moonlighting. The song would not only be in the show, but it would also serve as the episode's title. The episode contained a dream sequence that featured an extended dance routine to this song between Bruce Willis and actress/dancer Sandahl Bergman.


Monday, April 29, 2019

"Glory of Love" by Peter Cetera

#1 Alert!
Song#:  2753
Date:  06/07/1986
Debut:  62
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  The 80s comeback of the band Chicago was mainly orchestrated by producer David Foster over the course of two albums. It put a bigger spotlight on Cetera who had worked closely with Foster and happened to have been the lead singer on all the hits from both LPs. With some name recognition coming his way, Cetera had interest in doing solo work. He also wanted to remain with Chicago, but in order to do both the heavy touring schedule of the band would have to be cut back. This caused further friction in the band that was already at odds over the new direction of the band headed up by Foster and Cetera. In the end, Cetera decided to leave Chicago and head out on his own. He began work on a solo disc with producer Michael Omartian and among the first songs they recorded was this single that was picked up for use in the hit film The Karate Kid, Part II. It would be released as a single to promote the film, its soundtrack, and Cetera's solo album Solitude/Solitaire. At first, many folks thought it was a new Chicago song because it sounded similar to the band's recent hits, but soon everyone figured out it was Cetera on his own. The big ballad became a major hit reaching #1 at both Pop and AC. It would also earn Cetera an Oscar nod for Best Original Song (along with co-writers David Foster and Diane Nini). Cetera's album would get to #23 and eventually go platinum while the film soundtrack would reach #30.

ReduxReview:  I will say that this big AC ballad is well written, produced, and performed. It's like a big, lovable can of spray cheez that you wanna cozy up to with a package or Ritz. I can certainly appreciate it, but I can't say that I actually like it. In fact, when this came out I kind of hated it. I thought it was just a rehash of stuff Chicago had already been doing with Foster. Even Omartian's production practically mimicked Foster's style. I'm guessing the original intent was that Chicago would record this song but then the fallout happened and Cetera claimed it as his own. It became a big hit thanks in part to the movie doing well, but for me I was like - been there, heard that, yawn.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although many people assumed it was, Solitude/Solitaire was not Cetera's first solo album. In 1980, Chicago was at a low point in their career. Their popularity had been in slow decline over the past few years and then their album Chicago XIV tanked at #71, the worst showing of their career and their first album not to at least reach gold level sales. Around this time, Cetera decided to do a solo album. It was to be issued out on the band's label Columbia, but then after Chicago XIV nosedived, the label bought the band out of their contract and let them go. The work Cetera did for his album would then be shelved. Luckily, Warner Bros. scooped up the band and agreed to releasing Cetera's solo disc. The unfortunate part was that Cetera had to buy the rights to the work he already did when with Columbia. Once everything was settled, Cetera's self-titled debut album was released in the fall of '81. The more rock-oriented LP featured the song "Livin' in the Limelight," which was able to reach #6 at Rock. The album only got to #143. Both might have done better had Warner Bros. promoted them, but the label wasn't interested in Cetera as a solo artist at the time and was more focused on getting Chicago back on track. That happened when David Foster stepped in and led the band to their second #1 hit "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" in 1982.  2) Cetera has said that this song was originally written to be the final song for the film Rocky IV, but the movie studio rejected the song for that film and instead pushed it over for use in Karate Kid, Part II.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

"All the Love in the World" by The Outfield

Song#:  2752
Date:  06/07/1986
Debut:  76
Peak:  19
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock, Power Pop

Pop Bits:  This UK band couldn't do much in their home country, but their American sounding rock played well in the US and they grabbed a Top 10 hit with "Your Love," the second single from their debut album Play Deep. For a follow-up, this next track was selected for release. It would do well getting to #14 at Rock while also cracking the Pop Top 20. The hit would help sales of the album continue and soon it would be certified platinum (and over time, multi-platinum).

ReduxReview:  This was a solid follow-up for the band. It may not be quite as hooky as "Your Love," but it's just as good as that hit. The background guitar line reminded me of The Police's "Every Breath You Take," but it was different enough to not seem like a copy. It probably should have gotten closer to the Top 10, if not just inside of it.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The Outfield's debut album was produced by William Wittman. Wittman would work as a producer and/or engineer for many artists over the years including Pat Benatar, The Fixx, Joan Osborne, Mick Jagger, The Hooters, Scandal, and Loverboy. His career got a significant boost when he worked on Cyndi Lauper's hit debut album She's So Unusual. Wittman continued to work with Lauper on eight of her albums over the years. His association with her would lead to him winning a Grammy award. Lauper would go on to write the music to the 2013 Broadway hit show Kinky Boots. When it came time to record the cast album for the show, Lauper brought in Wittman to help on production. Lauper and Wittman would co-produce the LP along with arranger Stephen Oremus and Sammy James, Jr. The recording would win the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.