Saturday, May 11, 2019

"Sweet Freedom" by Michael McDonald

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2765
Date:  06/14/1986
Debut:  76
Peak:  7
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Blue-Eyed Soul, Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  McDonald's solo career started off quite well in 1982 with a gold album that featured the #4 hit "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)." However, he hit a bump in the road with his second LP, 1985's No Lookin' Back. The title track single stalled just inside the Top 40 and that caused the album to tank at a low #45. Luckily, 1986 would prove to be a better year. First, he scored a #1 Pop/AC hit with "On My Own," a duet with Patti LaBelle. Then he found himself back in the Top 10 with this stand-alone single that he recorded for the soundtrack to the Billy Crystal comedy Running Scared. The song would slowly wind its way into the Pop Top 10 while making it to #4 AC and #8 Dance. It would also be McDonald's second solo song to reach the R&B chart where it peaked at #17. McDonald would grab a Grammy nod for the song in the Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, category. While both hits boosted McDonald's career, the unfortunate thing is that he didn't have anything new on the horizon to capitalize on the momentum. This single would be his last of the decade and also his final Pop Top 10. He wouldn't release a new album until 1990 and by that time interest in McDonald had waned. The LP Take It to Heart and it's title track single would barely register on the Pop charts. Over the years he would grab a few AC Top 10's, but his days as a Pop chart hit maker ended with this single.

ReduxReview:  Written and co-produced by Rod Temperton, this was a perfect vehicle for McDonald. It was a mature sounding single that was balanced with a slick verse and hooky chorus. It was just right for mid-80s pop radio. McDonald is a great songwriter, but it just seemed he was having trouble fitting his 70s blue-eyed Doobie Brothers soul into the more synthpop oriented 80s. He needed a boost from an outside writer and Temperton had the right song. (They had collaborated once before on the #19 "Yah Mo B There" and that resulted in a Grammy win). McDonald had a chance to possibly score a couple more hits right after this, but for some reason he waited four years before putting something else out and by the time the 90s hit, hardly anyone was interested in McDonald's smooth AC tracks.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Running Scared was an action-comedy that starred Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. It received mixed reviews and did modestly well at the box office. It was only Crystal's second starring role in a film. His first was the 1977 box office bomb Rabbit Test. While Running Scared wasn't a major hit, it did show that Crystal had potential to be a movie star. He would then hit it big with three box office winners, 1987's Throw Mama from the Train, 1989's When Harry Met Sally..., and 1991's City Slickers.  2) McDonald would release albums in 1993 and 2000, but neither charted. He made it back to the chart in a significant way in 2003 when he did a covers LP titled Motown. It was the right album at the right time for him and it would become a platinum seller that reached #14. It would also earn him two Grammy nominations. He followed it up in 2004 with Motown Two, which would reach #9 and go gold. He would do one more covers album in 2008 titled Soul Speak (#12). When he returned to original material with 2017's Wide Open, folks were less interested and the album failed to chart.


Friday, May 10, 2019

"Higher Love" by Steve Winwood

#1 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2764
Date:  06/14/1986
Debut:  77
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Rock, Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Winwood's second solo album, 1980's Arc of a Diver, was a #7 platinum seller thanks to the #7 hit "While You See a Chance." His follow-up LP, Talking Back to the Night, failed to capitalize on the success of Arc and disappeared soon after a low #28 peak. Winwood needed to do something to gain back his audience. First, he penned more commercial friendly songs with his long-time collaborator Will Jennings. Then instead of handling everything on his own as he had done for all three of his solo LPs, Winwood brought in some guest players to help out including Nile Rodgers, Joe Walsh, Chaka Khan, James Taylor, James Ingram, and Dan Hartman. He even brought in a horn section. The results became his fourth album Back in the High Life and this first single, featuring Khan on background vocals, kicked the set off in a big way. The track climbed to the #1 spot at both Pop and Rock while getting to #7 at AC. It would be Winwood's biggest hit to-date as a solo artist or as a member of any of his previous bands (Spencer Davis Group, Blind Faith, Traffic). The song would also earn Winwood two Grammys, one for Record of the Year and one for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male. The song would be nominated for Song of the Year while the LP would get a nod for Album of the Year. Winwood and co-producer Russ Titelman were nominated in the Producer of the Year category.

ReduxReview:  The groove, the hook, the horns, Chaka Khan - what's not to love? This was a brilliant single and one that was far, far better than anything from his previous album. He went in a different direction collaborating with others and focusing on creating more radio friendly fare and it really paid off. Sometimes doing everything on your own is not the best thing and I think he figured that out after the dreary Talking Back to the Night.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:   Will Jennings had written songs with Winwood since Arc of a Diver. Winwood handled the music while Jennings mainly contributed lyrics. Jennings had previously had success writing hit songs for Dionne Warwick and Barry Manilow. He earned the first of two Oscars for Best Original Song with the 1982 #1 duet "Up Where We Belong" by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes from the film An Officer and a Gentleman. His second win was for the theme song to a little film called Titanic. He co-wrote Celine Dion's 1998 #1 "My Heart Will Go On" for the movie's soundtrack. The song would also earn him two Grammy awards. He would win a third Grammy with "Tears in Heaven" (#2 Pop) his 1992 collaboration with Eric Claption that won for Song of the Year. Jennings would co-write further hits, but he would score the most with Winwood co-writing five Top 10's.


Thursday, May 9, 2019

"Rumors" by Timex Social Club

Top 10 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  2763
Date:  06/14/1986
Debut:  81
Peak:  8
Weeks:  19
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  This four-man Berkeley, California, group was initially formed by Marcus Thompson in 1985 as the Timex Crew. After a couple of personnel changes, the name was changed to the Timex Social Club and the quartet began to work on songs with lead singer Michael Marshall writing or co-writing the bulk of the tunes. They got hooked up with producer Jay King and began recording tracks. This debut single was pushed out and it was able to reach #1 at both R&B and Dance. The attention on those charts led to the song crossing over to the Pop chart. It steadily climbed until it reached the Top 10. The unexpected hit brought along some complications for the group and they wouldn't be able to issue out further singles or their debut album, Vicious Rumors, until later in '86. The delay didn't allow the band to fully capitalize on the momentum they built up with "Rumors." Their two other singles from the album both got to #15 at R&B, but failed at Pop. The album would be a modest seller reaching #35 R&B while also missing at Pop. More music business issues would dog the group and it wasn't long before they dissolved leaving them a one-hit wonder on the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  This one was bound to be a hit. It's got a great groove, fun lyrics with a message, and a hooky chorus. Plus the cartoon-enhanced video was cool with the adorable Michael Marshall lip syncing his lead vocal. It's still a solid blast from the past that I enjoy hearing. It's a shame they got caught in the whirlwind of the music business as they had potential. Their second single, "Mixed-Up World," was a worthy (if lesser) follow-up that might have done better if it came on the heels of this tune, but the delay after such a strong hit and behind-the-scenes problems really kind of wrecked things for them. Luckily we can still groove to this juicy tidbit from the era.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  There are varying stories as to what happened with Timex Social Club and how they went from #1 to breaking up. When they got involved with Jay King, King was forming his own label and the group was to be signed. "Rumors" was issued out under the Jay Records name, but after it became an unexpected hit, things went awry. King had apparently never formally signed TSC and that left them dangling as "Rumors" was hitting. So they took their business elsewhere and signed on with the Fantasy Records sub-label Danya. This didn't sit well with King, so he then decided to start his own group initially titled Jet Set. After finding out that TSC broke up, King then change the group's name to the snide Club Nouveau (more or less French for "new club"). King then took some material and sounds he had been working on with TSC and used them for Club Nouveau. Not only did the new group sound like TSC, but King even commissioned artwork for the album cover that had the same look as the artwork done for TSC's "Rumors" 12-inch. Club Nouveau would end up winning a Grammy and scoring four R&B Top 10's, but like TSC they would only have one major Pop hit, the 1987 #1 remake of "Lean on Me." Despite all the bad blood and music business issues, at least TSC's Michael Marshall gained a couple of things from Club Nouveau. He is credited as songwriter on the groups #8 R&B debut single "Jealousy," an answer song to "Rumors," and he along with Club Nouveau's former lead singer Samuelle now perform together under the Timex Social Club name.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

"Voice of America's Sons" by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band

Song#:  2762
Date:  06/14/1986
Debut:  83
Peak:  62
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  The band's second album, Tough All Over, could nearly be called their debut. That's because the first LP they recorded was a soundtrack effort for the sleeper hit film Eddie & the Cruisers. The new LP did fairly well at trying to get the band out from Eddie's shadow. It featured two singles that hit the Rock Top 10 including the #1 (#22 Pop) title track. Three singles were released from the album and it seemed like that would wrap up things up, but then this track from the LP was selected by Sylvester Stallone to be on the soundtrack to his action film Cobra. Just prior to the film's opening, this song was pushed out as a single to help promote the movie. It hung around the Pop chart for a couple of months, but couldn't really make any headway. It would be two years before Cafferty and his band would release another album.

ReduxReview:  If Springsteen got mashed with "Mony Mony," this might be the result. It's fine and not a bad listen, but I just feel like I've heard it all before. There's not much here to make it stand out on its own. Cafferty was having a hard time trying to shed the comparisons to Springsteen and a song like this wasn't necessarily going to help. Between Springsteen and Eddie, Cafferty and his band were having a difficult time trying to cut a distinct path for themselves

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was released at the same time as another track from the Cobra soundtrack, Jean Beauvoir's "Feel the Heat." Stallone was probably looking for another hit soundtrack like the one done for his previous film Rocky IV. That album got four singles on the Pop chart including the Top 10's "Burning Heart" by Survivor (#2) and "Living in America" by James Brown (#4).  It also included Cafferty's solo effort for the film, "Hearts on Fire" (#76). Cobra ended up being a sizable hit, but that didn't seem to spur interest in the songs. The singles by Cafferty and Beauvoir tanked and that left the soundtrack album peaking at a paltry #100.


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

"With You All the Way" by New Edition

Song#:  2761
Date:  06/14/1986
Debut:  84
Peak:  51
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Pop

Pop Bits:  The vocal group's third album, All for Love, reached platinum certification just a few days prior to the release of this third single. While the LP's first two singles went Top 10 at R&B, neither made much of an impact at Pop, which was disappointing after their previous album scored three Top 40 hits including the #4 "Cool It Now." This third single didn't do much to change things. Once again it was a winner at R&B getting to #7, but at Pop it stalled just shy of the halfway point. The album would remain at single platinum status, which was a drop from the double platinum sales of their previous LP. The teens would experience growing pains over the next couple of years as they tried to transition from bubblegum pop/R&B to something more mature.

ReduxReview:  This was an appropriate song for them at the time. It's a sweet song without being too saccharine. There's very little in the way of participation from the group as a whole, so the tune basically turns into a Ralph Tresvant solo effort and he does well. His young voice keeps this a bit on the bubblegum side of things, but overall it works. It's not a fantastic song, but for this point in their career it wasn't a bad little track.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Group member Ronnie DeVoe would later marry Shamari Fears in 2005. Fears had been a member of the R&B vocal trio Blaque. That group scored a pair of Top 10 hits in 1999 including the #8 Pop/#4 R&B hit "808." Their self-titled debut album would go platinum. The trio experienced label issues and other problems after that LP and would only ever be able to get one more album released in 2002. They would eventually break up in 2008. In 2018, Fears got a shot at becoming a reality TV star. She became a cast member on the 11th season of the hit show The Real Housewives of Atlanta. DeVoe would make occasional appearances on the show.


Monday, May 6, 2019

"Words Get in the Way" by Miami Sound Machine

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2760
Date:  06/14/1986
Debut:  88
Peak:  5
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The Latin-pop band's ninth album, Primitive Love, broke them to a mass mainstream audience thanks to two Top 10 gold records, "Conga" (#10) and a remix of "Bad Boy" (#8). They would keep the streak going with this next single. Although it would be their third consecutive Pop Top 10 hit and the highest peaking thus far, it just missed out on the gold-level sales mark. It would also become their first song to reach #1 on the AC chart. The hit kept album sales steady and over time it would become a triple platinum seller despite only peaking at #23 on the chart.

ReduxReview:  This was such a smart choice for a third single. After two upbeat jams, this ballad was refreshing and it brought in an even bigger adult audience. It was a lovely, well-written tune that highlighted Estefan's voice. While I liked their first two singles, this would be the one that made me go out and buy the 45. It was an easy, breezy effort that deservedly got the band into the Top 5 for the first time.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The bulk of the songwriting for the Primitive Love album was done by the team of Lawrence Dermer, Joe Galdo, and Rafael Vigil. Suzi Carr would lend a hand on a couple of tracks. Drummer Enrique Garcia contributed a track as did guitarist Wesley Wright. The band's lead singer, Gloria Estefan, had previously written songs that appeared on their albums and this track was her lone contribution to Primitive Love. It was her first major hit as a songwriter. It must have given her a confidence boost as more of her contributions would be included on further albums by the band and by her as a solo artist. Over the next few years, Estefan would write or co-write seven songs that would make the Pop Top 10 including three #1's.


Sunday, May 5, 2019

"The Best of Me" by David Foster and Olivia Newton-John

Song#:  2759
Date:  06/14/1986
Debut:  89
Peak:  80
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, Foster had become a well-known hit making songwriter and in-demand producer. He helped revive the band Chicago and wrote/produced hits for several artists including Boz Scaggs, The Tubes, Chaka Khan, DeBarge, Peter Cetera, and Barbra Streisand. Prior to his behind-the-scenes work, Foster had been a member of a few bands including Skylark ("Wildflower," #9 Pop, 1973) and Airplay. He did record an indie album in 1984 titled The Best of Me, but it didn't get much attention. A solo career seemed a bit more plausible the following year when a song from his score to the film St. Elmo's Fire became a left-field hit. "Love Theme from St. Elmo's Fire" got released as a single and went to #15 Pop/#3 AC. With his career at a new high, it seemed like the right time to record another solo album. He signed on with Atlantic Records and assembled a self-titled major label debut. The LP was mainly an instrumental effort that contained some new material along with tracks that had been previously recorded for films like The Color Purple and White Nights. It also featured two vocal tracks including this song which Foster originally recorded for his first solo album. Foster re-recorded the tune for the new album and recruited Olivia Newton-John to be a duet partner. The two had previously worked together when Foster produced the soundtrack to Newton-John's film Two of a Kind. The ballad got picked up at AC and did well reaching #6. However, it wasn't as embraced by a larger audience and it stayed in the basement of the Pop chart for a couple of months. The album barely scraped the chart at #195.

ReduxReview:  Foster is a good songwriter and an excellent producer, but I find this song so boring. I'd easily rate its snooze-factor at a 10. Even Newton-John, whom I adore, can't save it. It's a bit rambling and there is little that is memorable. I've heard this by other artists that I love like Kenny Rogers, Barry Manilow, and Michael BublĂ©, but it still makes me sleepy. Foster probably made a good bit o' money off this tune, however I'm just not buying it. Who needs Sominex or melatonin when you can just listen to this.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Despite not being a hit, the LP generated two Grammy nominations. One was for Foster in the Best Pop Instrumental Performance category. Humberto Gatica got the other nomination in the Best Engineered Recording category.  2) UK superstar Cliff Richard chose this song to record and be released as his 100th single. It was issued out in 1989 and made it to #2 on the UK chart.  3) The other vocal track on the album was "Who's Gonna Love You Tonight." Richard Page from the band Mr. Mister provided the vocals on the song. It was issued out as the LP's second single. It made it to #38 at AC, but failed to chart at Pop.