Saturday, July 27, 2019

"Earth Angel" by New Edition

Song#:  2842
Date:  08/23/1986
Debut:  71
Peak:  21
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B, Doo Wop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  This teenage vocal group were doing quite well scoring eight R&B Top 10's including three #1's. This led to two of their albums selling in the platinum territory. But it all wasn't sunshine and roses for the group. In addition to label/management issues, member Bobby Brown was ejected from the group at the end of 1985. Now functioning as a quartet, their first assignment was this cover tune that they recorded for the soundtrack to The Karate Kid, Part II. It would be issued out as a single and once again the group found themselves in the R&B Top 10 (#3). The tune would cross over to the Pop chart where it became their fifth Top 40 entry. The success of the single prompted the group to do a full covers album of doo wop classics. Under the Blue Moon would be released later in November and although it wouldn't be as big of a hit as their previous two albums, it did well enough to go gold.

ReduxReview:  This was a good choice for the vocal group. Having a new school R&B group of teens doing an old school doo wop tune was a fun idea and if it worked it would introduce a young audience to a classic song. It did work out and it led to a full album of remakes that did pretty well. While the song choice was solid, I wasn't a fan of the production. It was a near cheezy/karaoke background that didn't do anything for the tune or even for the vocalists.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally recorded by The Penguins in 1954. Theirs would be the first version to reach the Pop chart where it got to #8. The Crew-Cuts would follow it up closely early in 1955 and their version would reach #3. Three other artists would hit the Pop chart with the song: Gloria Mann in 1955 (#18), Johnny Tillotson in 1960 (#57), and the Vogues in 1969 (#42). New Edition would be the sixth artist to get the song on the chart (and to this posting date, the last to do so). The classic tune was instrumental in shaping early rock and roll music and is considered one of the best doo-wop songs of all time. It's even played a role in pop culture as being the song that the dance band was playing in the hit film Back to the Future (where Michael J. Fox is sitting in on guitar in a pivotal scene).


Friday, July 26, 2019

"Give Me the Reason" by Luther Vandross

Song#:  2841
Date:  08/23/1986
Debut:  84
Peak:  57
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Vandross' popularity continuously grew over the course of four albums. He would grab nine R&B Top 10's, including one #1, and each of his albums would hit #1 at R&B. His 1985 LP The Night I Fell in Love would end up being his first to reach double-platinum status. While his star continued to rise, the one thing he had yet been able to do was to score a significant hit at Pop. His best solo effort was the #29 "'Til My Baby Comes Home" in 1985 (a duet with Dionne Warwick, "How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye," got a couple notches higher in 1983). Vandross was hoping that would change with this title track first single from his fifth album. The tune would also be included on the soundtrack to the hit film Ruthless People. The song became a hit at R&B getting to #3, but like his other Pop chart entries, it didn't fully launch and the single stalled outside of the Top 50. Luckily, the LP's second single would finally help Vandross break through.

ReduxReview:  This song really should have put Vandross on the Pop chart map. It was worthy of at least a Top 20 showing. I'm not really sure why it did not break wider. My only guess might be that it wasn't a forceful, hook-heavy pop tune. It was a more subtle, yet groovy track with a solid chorus that was slightly mysterious. It's a terrific tune that was well-done all around by Vandross (vocal, writing, production). It easily should have been his first significant hit at Pop.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  By this point in time, Vandross had already received four Grammy nominations in his career including one for Best New Artist. This song would up his total to six nods. Vandross would be nominated for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, while both Vandross and co-writer Nat Adderly, Jr. would get a nomination for Best R&B Song. Vandross would rack up three more nods over the next few years before finally winning his first Grammy in 1991. In his career, Vandross would garner thirty-three Grammy nominations. He would win eight of the awards.


Thursday, July 25, 2019

"The Hunter" by GTR

Song#:  2840
Date:  08/23/1986
Debut:  92
Peak:  85
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Prog Rock

Pop Bits:  This supergroup formed by guitarists Steve Howe (Yes/Asia) and Steve Hackett (Genesis) scored a #3 Rock hit with "When the Heart Rules the Mind," the first single from their self-titled debut album. The song also did well at Pop reaching #14. For a follow-up, this next track was selected. It did fine at Rock getting to #14, but it just wasn't the right fit for Pop and the song stalled low on the chart. The album would reach #11 and eventually go gold, and their supporting tour would be successful. This should have lead to a second album, but things began to fall apart and in the end, GTR would end up just being a one-off project.

ReduxReview:  "When the Heart" was a radio-ready track that was hooky enough to lure in a pop audience. The band needed that track to establish themselves and to get album sales going. It worked well for them. However, the balance of the album didn't contain anything else that was as catchy or mainstream. This track did fine at Rock, but it just wasn't going to make waves at Pop. It's a nice slice of AOR prog rock and lead singer Max Bacon tosses on a top-notch vocal, but ultimately it wasn't all that memorable.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  To produce the GTR album, Steve Howe sought out his former Asia bandmate Geoff Downes for the job. Downes would produce the album and would also write this song for the project. Downes would later record his own version of the track with Asia. It would be included on the 1997 collection Anthology. That LP had issues of its own. It was supposed to be a compilation of Asia's best songs in their original versions. Unfortunately, the co-writer of and the voice on Asia's biggest hits, John Wetton, who had left the group (for a third time) in 1991, objected to the use of the songs with his voice and filed a lawsuit. Therefore, the current version of Asia could not use those track for Anthology. So instead of leaving those tracks off the collection, the band did re-recorded versions of the songs with their current vocalist John Payne. Apparently, Wetton let bygones by bygones and in 2006 he would rejoin Asia with the other three original members. Wetton would stay with Asia until his death in 2017.


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

"Angel in My Pocket" by One to One

Song#:  2839
Date:  08/23/1986
Debut:  93
Peak:  92
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This Canadian duo of Louise Reny and Leslie Howe first got their start as members of a popular cover band named Mainstream. Wanting to do more, the pair broke off from the band and began writing their own tunes. Demos of the songs would help them get signed to the indie label Bon Aire. Their debut album, Forward Your Emotions would do well in Canada with its first single, "There Was a Time" reaching #14. This second single would get to #24. The duo got picked up for distribution in the US by Warner Bros. and this song would hang on for a month at the bottom of the Pop chart. The success of the album and singles would earn them a Juno nomination for Most Promising Group of the Year while Howe would get nods for Producer of the Year and Recording Engineer of the Year.

ReduxReview:  This is a nice, mid-80s synthpop tune with a bit of Europop flare that sounds like it should have been from some teen rom-com flick. It's well-produced and Louise Reny's voice is a nice compliment to the synths. It caught on in Canada, but it just couldn't break wide in the US. The tune wasn't Top 10 material, but it was good enough to get into the top half of the chart. Too bad it fizzled early. Not as much on this song, but on their first Canadian hit "There Was a Time," Reny sounds quite a bit like a future superstar - Gwen Stefani.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In the late 80s, Leslie Howe would meet a talented teenage singer/songwriter that was starting to get noticed. Her name was Alanis Morissette. Howe and Morissette began writing songs and their demos eventually got Morissette signed to MCA. Howe would co-write and produced her first album, Alanis, and it would become a hit in Canada. It would also earn her a Juno award for Most Promising Female Vocalist. Because of her young age and dance-pop sound, Morissette was often compared to Debbie Gibson and Tiffany at the time. A second album also co-written and produced by Howe, Now Is the Time, failed to do as well as her debut album and she was let go from MCA. Of course it is now well-known that Morissette would reinvent herself and return three years later with the LP Jagged Little Pill. It would go on to sell over 16 million copies and win the Grammy for Album of the Year.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

"Weatherman" by Nick Jameson

Song#:  2838
Date:  08/23/1986
Debut: 95
Peak:  95
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:   Musician/songwriter Jameson grew up in Philadelphia and while there joined a band called The American Dream. They got signed to the indie Bearsville Records and recorded a self-titled psychedelic rock album in 1970. The LP just happened to be Todd Rundgren's first ever gig as a producer after he started working for the label as well. Nothing much came from the album and the band would eventually split. Jameson then got involved in production and ended up producing the fourth album by the British rock group Foghat (who were also on Bearsville), 1974's Rock and Roll Outlaws. The following year Jameson joined the group and produced their follow-up album Fool for the City, which contained their biggest US hit, 1975's #20 "Slow Ride." Jameson left the band but stayed on at Bearsville as a solo artist. He issued out a debut album titled Already Free, but it quickly came and went. Jameson continued on working as a producer for a couple of Foghat albums in the early 80s, but then it seemed his time with them and at Bearsville came to an end. Still longing for a solo career, Jameson found himself signed to Motown Records. He would write and produce his second solo album A Crowd of One. This first single was issued out and it just barely dented the Pop chart for a couple of weeks. The album didn't sell and Jameson was let go from Motown. His career as a musician was pretty much over, but he'd find success in another medium (see below).

ReduxReview:  Until now I didn't know this was the original version of the song. I knew it from the remake artist (see below). I like this slice of West Coast/yacht rock. It's an easy listen with a good chorus. I think the issue with the track is the production. Jameson does a good job trying to get the song into the 80s, but it just needed a more punchy production to sell the tune. In a couple of years, Roxette would break through with a song called "The Look" and their style of production would have made this song stand out. Still, it's not a bad listen. What's odd is that Jameson really switched gears for this album. He went from the heavy blues-rock of Foghat to the AOR-blue-eyed soul of his debut album to this synthpop ditty. He tried his best to be a pop star, but it just wasn't in the cards. Luckily, his voice got him a more successful second career.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although you may not know Jameson by name, you may recognize him from his other career. As the 90's began, Jameson began working as a voice-over artist. As a kid, he lived in various places in Europe with his family and had exposure to various dialects. His ability to pick up accents and create various voices would lead him to doing voice work on several animated series including The Critic. The voice work eventually led to acting jobs and he appeared on shows such as Seinfeld and Lost. Most folks would recognize Jameson from his role as Russian president Yuri Suvarov on the hit show 24. He would play that role for three seasons on the show.  2) If this song sounds familiar to you, it may be because of a different artist. Jack Wagner would record the song in 1987 for his third album Don't Give Up Your Day Job. It was released as the LP's first single and it would reach #67. Jameson wrote the song along with Kim O'Leary.


Monday, July 22, 2019

"Throwing It All Away" by Genesis

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2837
Date:  08/16/1986
Debut:  54
Peak:  4
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Soft Rock, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Although lead singer Phil Collins had hit #1 as a solo artist, his band Genesis had yet to reach the top of the Pop chart. That finally changed when "Invisible Touch," the lead single from their album of the same name, made it to #1. For a follow-up, the band changed the pace and selected this ballad for release. It did quite well becoming their third Pop Top 10, their second #1 at Rock, and their first #1 at AC. The hit kept sales of the album brisk. It would eventually sell over six million copies.

ReduxReview:  This soft rockin' track wouldn't be out of place on a Phil Collins album. It's an easy going song that was memorable and sounded good on the radio. I like the various sections of the song and they all fit together well. They even tossed in some sing-a-long "woo-hoo's" in for good measure. It continued to showcase the newer commercial pop sound of the band, which didn't necessarily thrill long-time fans who liked the prog-rock side of the old Genesis.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Although it was widely known that Peter Gabriel was a founding member of Genesis and stayed with the band until 1975, many folks forget that there was another long-standing member during the band's earlier years. Guitarist Steve Hackett joined up with Genesis in 1971, the year after Phil Collins was brought on board. Hackett stayed with the band until 1977. During that time, Genesis would get four of their albums on the US chart. However, their most successful period wouldn't arrive until the band became a threesome (Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, and Tony Banks) after Hackett departed. Hackett would go on to have a solo career and record several albums, yet his biggest success outside of Genesis was when he was a member of the "supergroup" GTR. That band reached #14 in 1986 with "When the Heart Rules the Mind."

Sunday, July 21, 2019

"Sweet Love" by Anita Baker

Top 10 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2836
Date:  08/16/1986
Debut:  74
Peak:  8
Weeks:  22
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary, Quiet Storm

Pop Bits:  Baker began singing in clubs around Detroit when she was in her teens. It was at one of her gigs that she was offered the chance to audition for the lead singing slot in a band. She got the job and fronted the funk band Chapter 8. They got signed to Ariola Records and issued a debut album in 1979. Soon after, Ariola was purchased by Arista and that led to the group being dropped by the new label. After a couple of years of doing menial day jobs, Baker was given the opportunity to start a solo career. She was signed to the Beverly Glen label by its owner, Otis Smith, whom she had known from her days with Chapter 8. By 1983, her debut solo album, The Songstress, was ready. It was a moderately successful album that yielded the #5 R&B hit "Angel." Unfortunately, issues with the Smith and Beverly Glen tied up her career and after a successful lawsuit to separate from the label, she was free to sign with Elektra Records. Finally after a three-year gap, Baker was able to record her second album, Rapture. It didn't get off to a good start as the first single, "Watch Your Step," stalled at #23 on the R&B chart. The label then issued "Sweet Love" as the follow-up. It was the exact right choice to release. The song took off and got to #2 R&B and #3 AC while becoming her first entry and first Top 10 hit at Pop. Seemingly overnight, Anita Baker had become a star. The album and single would yield Baker two Grammys - one for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female, for the album, and one for Best R&B Song for "Sweet Love" (Baker co-wrote the tune with Louis A. Johnson and Gary Bias). Rapture would go on to sell over five million copies.

ReduxReview:  Hindsight is 20/20 and now it seems obvious that this should have been the LP's lead single. It was a smart and sophisticated track that had mainstream appeal with its groove and modern production. Baker's unique tone and delivery also helped make the song a standout. Baker wasn't a powerhouse R&B vocalist like Patti LaBelle and that was a good thing. Her smooth, jazzy voice was perfect to sell this tune and it was like nothing that was on the radio at the time. It still sounds great and I think the production style helped it transcend the decades. It still sounds fresh to me. Baker couldn't have asked for a better song to finally kick her career into high gear.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Prior to her singles from Rapture, Baker had reached the R&B chart eight times. Her first three appearances were with Chapter 8. Their best effort was 1979's #38 entry "Ready for Your Love." Then five tracks from Baker's solo effort The Songstress managed to reach the R&B chart. As mentioned above, "Angel" would do the best at #5. "You're the Best Thing" would get to #28 while the balance of the songs would peak below the Top 40 mark.