Saturday, May 18, 2019

"I Wouldn't Lie" by Yarbrough & Peoples

Song#:  2772
Date:  06/28/1986
Debut:  98
Peak:  93
Weeks:  4
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  This duo was last on the charts in '84. They nearly cracked the Pop Top 40 for a second time with "Don't Waste My Time" (#1 R&B), the lead single from their third album Be a Winner. It took two years for them to come up with their fourth album, Guilty. The title track would be issued out as the first single and it did well at R&B reaching #2. Unfortunately, it didn't cross over to the Pop chart. This follow-up also did well at R&B peaking at #6. This time around the single was able to make it to the Pop chart, but very briefly. It bubbled around the bottom of the chart for a month before disappearing. It would be the duo's last song to reach the Pop chart. The album topped out at #13 R&B, but with little mainstream support the LP missed the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  For this album, Y&P hooked up with a new songwriting/production team (Jimmy Hamilton & Maurice Hayes from the R&B group Prime Time) and the results were a bit mixed. The first single, "Guilty," was just okay. It got to #1 at R&B, but it really wasn't strong enough to make it at Pop. This second single was better. It had a good groove and nice production that wouldn't be out of place on a Gap Band album. The little keyboard lick is a bit Prince-like, but it works. I do wish the chorus had something to make it stand out more from the verses. Basically, this is just the same long groove under the verse and chorus, so when that happens there needs to be something to make the chorus pop and I'm missing that here. Otherwise, it's a fine groove that should have done better on the chart.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This duo of Calvin Yarbrough and Alisa Peoples would get one more R&B charting single from Guilty. After everything with the album was wrapped up, the pair would choose to call it quits and leave the spotlight. They would marry in 1987 and make the move back to their original hometown of Dallas. There they would perform shows on occasion and would start their own production company. Later in 2007, the couple would secure roles in the off-Broadway production Blind Lemon Blues. Both would serve as musical arrangers and also perform on stage. Peoples would be part of the ensemble cast while Yarbrough would portray blues legend Lead Belly. The show received positive notices and would return for another run in 2009.


Friday, May 17, 2019

"Suzanne" by Journey

Song#:  2771
Date:  06/21/1986
Debut:  63
Peak:  17
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock, Pop

Pop Bits:  After a three-year gap, Journey returned with their ninth studio album Raised on Radio. It got off to a good start thanks to the #2 Rock/#9 Pop hit "Be Good to Yourself." For a follow-up, this next track was selected. The more pop-oriented song didn't do quite as well, but it still made an impression getting to #11 at Rock while cracking the Pop Top 20. In time the album would sell over two million copies to become their sixth multi-platinum album in a row.

ReduxReview:  "Be Good to Yourself" was a strong shot of arena rock that fit well in the band's catalog. Yet besides it and the title track there were no traces of the band that put out rockin' albums like Escape and Frontiers. The balance of the tracks dove into mainstream pop/rock territory. I didn't necessarily mind that the band was evolving, but the problem was that the material just wasn't all that interesting. This single certainly announced a change in direction. There are a lot of tinkling keyboard sound and even hand claps (!) driving this pop tune. It's not a bad song. The dark verse advances the tune and the chorus is good, but there is nothing special or Journey-like about it save for Perry's vocals. I will say that the way he and the backup vocals say "Suzanne" kind of drives me nuts - sooo-zahhhhn. Overall, this might have been a fine single for another middle-of-the-road artist, but it wasn't what I wanted from Journey.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Long time Journey drummer Steve Smith ended up being fired from the band as the Raised on Radio sessions began. Instead of going through the long process of finding a new drummer, the band decided to hire a session musician in order to complete the album. They secured Larrie Londin for the work. He had previously worked on Steve Perry's solo album, so it seemed logical to bring him in for Journey. Londin's career began to take off when he was asked to sit in with Motown's famous backing band the Funk Brothers. Their drummer had suffered a heart attack and while he recovered, Londin took his place. Londin played on many Motown tracks including ones by The Supremes and Marvin Gaye. He later got involved with country artists and ended up moving to Nashville where he became a top session player. The list of artist Londin has worked with was extensive. It included Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Dan Fogelberg, Rosanne Cash, Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, Ronnie Milsap, B.B. King, Dave Loggins, the Carpenters, Emmylou Harris, Glenn Frey, and many others. Sadly, he died in 1992 at the young age of 48 due to a heart attack.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

"A Kind of Magic" by Queen

Song#:  2770
Date:  06/21/1986
Debut:  85
Peak:  42
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Following their well-received performance at Live Aid in 1985, the band returned to the chart with "One Vision," a song that would later be featured in the film Iron Eagle. It wouldn't be a major hit in the US, but elsewhere it did well including a #7 showing in the UK. As they began to gather ideas for their next album, the band was offered the opportunity to write songs for the upcoming fantasy-adventure film Highlander. They wrote several tracks for the movie and expectations were that they would appear on a soundtrack album. However, that LP never materialized and so the band decided to include the songs they wrote for the film in their next album A Kind of Magic. The disc would contain six songs from Highlander, two new tracks, and their previous single "One Vision." To make the album more commercial friendly, some of the track were spruced up from their film versions including this title-track single. Once again, the song would reach the Top 10 in many European countries including #3 in the UK, but in the US it stopped shy of the Top 40. The album would reach #46, which was their lowest showing since 1974. Despite not performing well, the album would continue to sell copies over the years and later in 2002 it would reach gold certification.

ReduxReview:  I've always liked this song and I even bought the single back in the day. The verse is quite strong and I like how Freddie Mercury sells it all. The problem with it being a single is that there isn't an actual hooky chorus. It just kind of cruises along with the song title being repeated in the background. This didn't prevent it from being a hit in other countries, but it just wasn't going to work for the US market who were used to ear wormy tunes with memorable choruses. While it doesn't rank among their best songs, I still think it's a nice listen.

ReduxRating:  7/10

TriviaHighlander was the first major film directed by Russell Mulcahy. Mulcahy had made a name for himself as a music video director helming popular videos by Duran Duran, Elton John, Kim Carnes, Culture Club, The Tubes, Bonnie Tyler, and many others. The film starred Christopher Lambert and featured Sean Connery. The original story came from a UCLA undergrad named Gregory Widen who wrote the script for a class project. It was critically panned and initially didn't do well at the box office failing to make back its budget. However, the film got a second life via home video and became a cult favorite. This led to a sequel in 1991 with four more that followed. It also spawned a TV series that lasted six seasons, a spin-off series, an animated series, two animated films, video games, books, and comics. Not bad for film that was originally written as a college assignment and failed at the box office. Widen would go on to write a film that became a hit in 1991 - Ron Howard's Backdraft. Widen based it on his experiences as a firefighter, which he did as a job during his college years. Backdraft would be a big hit that earned three Oscar nods in the technical categories.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

"Baby Love" by Regina

Top 10 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  2769
Date:  06/21/1986
Debut:  88
Peak:  10
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This Brooklyn-born singer/songwriter first got her start in a band she assembled called Regina Richards and Red Hot. The new wave group got signed to A&M in 1980 and with producer Richard Gottehrer (The Go-Go's, Blondie) they recorded a couple of singles followed by a self-titled debut album. The records didn't get anywhere and Richards decided to then work as a songwriter rather than a performer. Through her band, she struck up a friendship with drummer Stephen Bray. Bray had been working with another band Emmy & the Emmys, which used space in the same building where the Red Hots rehearsed. That band was headed up by Bray's former girlfriend, a soon-to-be superstar named Madonna. After Madonna hit it big with her debut album, she brought in Bray to help out on her second LP Like a Virgin. The pair would write four songs for the album along with the soundtrack tune "Into the Groove." Bray then reconnected with Richards and the pair began to write songs together. They recorded a demo hoping to sell the songs to other artists. One song in particular, "Baby Love," was written with Madonna in mind. Bray presented the song to Madonna, but she passed on the tune. In a weird twist of fate, the demo found its way to Atlantic Records who then wanted to sign Richards as an artist. Although she had resigned herself to working in the background, Richards decided to give it a shot and signed her second major label deal. Work began on a debut album with Richards writing or co-writing all the songs. It would include two she penned with Bray including this first single, which Bray produced (Leslie Ming would handle production duty on the rest of the tracks). Released as by Regina, the song initially confused a lot of listeners. Due to the vocals, the dance-pop structure, and the production, many people hearing it for the first time thought it was a new Madonna track. Despite the similarities, the tune started to catch on and it began to climb the charts. It would become a #1 Dance hit while reaching the Pop Top 10 and getting to #30 at R&B. The hit was certainly great for Regina, but the Madonna comparisons took their toll and further singles failed to make the Pop chart leaving her as a one-hit wonder.

ReduxReview:  For a one-hit wonder, this song certainly has a lot of interesting history attached to it (see above and below). In interviews with Regina from back in the day, she tried to brush off comparisons between her and Madonna, but c'mon - we pretty much know what happened here. At the time, labels were desperately seeking the next Madonna and when Atlantic heard the demo of this song that was shopped to Madonna, had production by Bray, and Regina nearly impersonating Madonna, they thought they may have found one (they also signed another Madonna-ish clone, Stacy Q, around the same time). There is just no mistaking that this was meant to sound like a Madonna song in order to capitalize on her success (and it wouldn't be the last time Bray would try to cash in on his Madonna connection - look up Breakfast Club or an album called Pre-Madonna). Setting all this aside, the song is actually not too bad. It's got a solid chorus and the sax solo is a nice addition. I think Madonna was right to pass on this as it sounded like a retread of what she'd already done, but it was still a hit-worthy tune.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Although she was a one-hit wonder on the Pop chart, Regina did get two other songs on the Dance chart. Her follow-up song "Beat of Love" would make it to #40. Two years later, she made it to #11 with the tune "Extraordinary Love." The song was the first single from her second solo album, but after the song failed to reach the Pop chart the album was shelved and remains unreleased. After releasing an indie single in 1990, Regina got married to a doctor and moved to Austin, Texas.  2) Although written with Madonna in mind, she was not the first artist to be offered the song. The Dutch vocal trio The Star Sisters recorded a version of the song for their 1985 album Danger. The Star Sisters were a product of Stars on 45 producer Japp Eggermont. The trio were known for their imitation of The Andrews Sisters. Eggermont produced two albums for them in the Stars on 45 medley style with the Sisters covering old pop standards in an Andrews Sisters way. The trio decided to ditch Eggermont and the Stars On format to record their first mainstream pop album, Danger, which contained this song. (Look it up - it is interesting because it is done as straight pop and not in a dance-pop Madonna way.)  3)  This song was covered by Australian singer Dannii Minogue in 1991. It was issued out as a single and it reached #28 in Australia and #14 in the UK. Dannii is the younger sister of hitmaker Kylie Minogue. Dannii would have a string of hits including nine Top 10's in the UK, but she was never able to crack the US charts. Kylie would grab two US Top 10's including the #3 gold remake of "The Loco-Motion" in 1988.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

"Touch and Go" by Emerson, Lake & Powell

Song#:  2768
Date:  06/21/1986
Debut:  93
Peak:  60
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Prog Rock

Pop Bits:  Between 1970 and 1978, the classic UK prog rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer pushed out nine gold albums. The band's melding of rock with classical music using the latest technology of the day quickly gained favor. They had a rabid fan base and sold all those albums without any major hit singles. Their best Pop chart effort was the #39 "From the Beginning" in 1972. As 1978 approached, the trio was fracturing. After they delivered one last contractual album, the reviled Love Beach, the band split. After a few years of doing other projects, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake wanted to revive ELP. Unfortunately, they were going to have to do it without drummer Carl Palmer who had contractual obligations with his other band Asia. Emerson and Lake set out to replace Palmer and finally brought on board former Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell. The new trio then recorded a self-titled debut album and released this first single. Rock fans seemed happy with the results and took the track to #2 at Rock. The tune was able to crossover to the Pop chart, but it didn't get very far. The album made it to #23 yet couldn't hit the gold mark. A tour followed, but for this iteration of the trio, it was a one-n-done deal.

ReduxReview:  Man, that is one giant, loud fart synth! I remember it sounding very regal back in the day - like it could be the theme music to some epic medieval TV show or film. If Game of Thrones had been a mini-series in the 80s, this might have been the opening song. Despite that synth sounding very dated now, I still like this tune. I had forgotten about it. I know I used to hear it on our local rock radio station and thought it was cool. Not sure why I didn't buy the single. While it had hooks and sounded cool on the radio, it didn't quite have the mainstream appeal needed to make it at pop radio in the way songs from other prog rock band like Yes and Asia were able to do. Still, it's a fun relic from the era. Near the end of '86 a song would come out with a big farting synth line that had more commercial appeal - Europe's "The Final Countdown" (#8 Pop).

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Emerson assembled a third version of ELP later in the decade. This time Palmer came back, but Lake did not. Emerson and Palmer then hired on guitarist/singer Richard Berry. They decided to keep the band name very simple - 3.  Yup. As in the third version of ELP. The band released an album in 1988 titled To the Power of Three. A track from the album, "Talkin' Bout," got to #9 on the Rock chart while the album topped out at #97. Again, that trio would only record one album. The original ELP lineup would finally reunite in 1991. They would issue out two albums before splitting again.


Monday, May 13, 2019

"You Don't Have to Cry" by René & Angela

Song#:  2767
Date:  06/21/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  75
Weeks:  7
Genre:  R&B, Quiet Storm

Pop Bits:  The duo's fourth album, Street Called Desire, would be their best selling effort going gold after reaching #5 R&B and #64 Pop. At this point in time, the LP had already produced three R&B Top 10's including two #1's. Those results were good enough to call for this fourth single. It was another winner at R&B getting to #2. It crossed over to the Pop chart, but couldn't make it out of the bottom quarter. A fifth single from the album, "No How - No Way," would be released, but could only manage a #29 showing at R&B. Although René & Angela were at the height of their career, they made the bold decision to split up. The pair were at odds with various accusations being tossed around. Unable to resolve their issues, they went their separate ways.

ReduxReview:  This slick quiet storm ballad is another quality track from the album. Although it was a good hit at R&B, it was going to be a tougher sell at Pop. Soul tracks like this had a hard time breaking through in a bigger way on pop radio at the time. Both vocalists sound good, but Winbush had that something extra to her voice that made her a standout. She really should have had a bigger career as a solo artist. She did well getting several R&B Top 10's, but she just couldn't crossover to the Pop chart. If you wanna hear her flex her vocal chords, check out her R&B #1 hit "Angel." Impressive.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  René Moore and Angela Winbush both set out on solo careers after they split. Winbush was first out of the gate with her 1987 solo debut Sharp. It featured two R&B Top 10's including the #1 "Angel." She would release two more albums that contained three further R&B Top 10's. She would also collaborate with The Isley Brothers on their albums and would eventually marry Ron Isley in 1993. They later divorced in 2003. Winbush also wrote and produced songs for other artists including two tracks for Sheena Easton's gold 1988 LP The Lover in Me. Moore would release a solo album in 1988 titled Destination Love. It was a middling seller that featured two R&B Top 20's. He would then turn to songwriting and producing for other artists including Michael Jackson. Moore would co-write two songs for Jackson - 1992's "Jam" (#3 R&B/#26 Pop) and 1995's "This Time Around," which was featured on Jackson's compilation album HIStory: Past, Present and Future Book I.  Moore would get a Grammy nomination for "Jam," which competed in the Best R&B Song category.


Sunday, May 12, 2019

"Take My Breath Away" by Berlin

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Oscar Alert!
Song#:  2766
Date:  06/21/1986
Debut:  96
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Synthpop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  The movie Top Gun was shaping up to be the hit of the year and its associated soundtrack was on its way to doing just as well with it's first single, Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone," closing in on the Top 10. For the second single, this ballad that was written for the film by Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock was selected. Performed by the band Berlin, who reached #23 two years earlier with "No More Words," the song was a slow starter debuting low on the Pop chart. It seemed the tune was going to stumble, but then it started to catch on and proceeded to make a steady climb to the #1 spot. It would also get to #3 at AC and eventually go gold. When awards season arrived, it was a big winner taking both the Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Original Song. Unfortunately, it would be Berlin's first and last time in the Pop Top 10. The distinctive ballad cast a shadow over their career and after one more album, 1986's Count Three and Pray, the band would break up.

ReduxReview:  As a big fan of Berlin, it was great that they were truly hitting the big time with this song. I was happy for them and was hoping it would make their career really take off. Yet I have to admit that I really didn't like the song all that much. The arrangement and Terri Nunn's vocals kept me interested, but I thought the song just kind of droned on and on. It also wasn't the type of material I was used to hearing from the band. A gooey pop love song just wasn't what they were know for and it set up unreal expectations from listeners who loved this tune. When Berlin's LP Count Three and Pray came out with big rockin' tunes such as "Like Flames," folks weren't biting. They wanted the lovely synthpop of "Take My Breath Away." It was great they had a huge Oscar-winning hit, but it really bit them in the ass later. The song was included on Count Three and Pray (one of my fave albums), but it is so out of place. I usually hit the skip button when this track comes on. With the band at a crossroads for direction, thanks to this tune, they split up. I was bummed. Nunn revived the Berlin name for 2002 album Voyeur, but without the band's main songwriter John Crawford, it just didn't work. I love Berlin and I appreciate this song, but it is definitely not a favorite. (P.S.: I saw Berlin in concert twice - once before the hit and once after. It was two of the loudest concerts I had ever seen. They were awesome though.)

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) When Top Gun wrapped up filming, it did not include a love scene between Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis. After test audiences felt let down that there was little in the way of romance between the characters, the producers decided to add one in. They needed a song for the scene and Moroder and Whitlock offered up this tune. Moroder originally wanted to get The Motels to do the song. Lead singer Martha Davis did a demo of the song, but that's as far as it went (the demo is available on the band's Anthologyland collection). Davis' take didn't make the grade with the film's producers so Moroder reached out to Berlin with whom he had worked with previously on a couple of tracks from their Love Life album including "No More Words." The band disagreed on whether to record the track or not as it wasn't reflective of their normal sound or material. They decided to give it a shot and ended up with a #1 song. It was a blessing and a curse as the hit would eventually lead to the breakup of the band.  2) In 2004, singer Jessica Simpson would do a cover of this song. It would do well getting to #10 at Dance, #20 Pop, and #23 AC. Like the original, it would be certified gold.