Saturday, August 17, 2019

"I Feel the Magic" by Belinda Carlisle

Song#:  2863
Date:  09/20/1986
Debut:  90
Peak:  82
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Carlisle's first solo single after leaving The Go-Go's, "Mad About You," would be a solid success reaching #3 at Pop. It would also be a minor hit at AC (#25) and Dance (#21). For a follow-up, this Motown-inspired track was selected. Unfortunately, this one couldn't catch on and it stalled near the bottom of the chart. Still, Carlisle's debut solo album, Belinda, would be a gold seller that got to #13.

ReduxReview:  This somewhat blue-eyed soul tune was a good album track, but it wasn't the best choice for a single. It just didn't have that extra zest that made something like "Mad About You" stand out. In other words, it wasn't very memorable. I think "Band of Gold" (see below) might have done a bit better as a follow-up. Instead, it was the third single and after this one failed, no one at Pop radio was particularly interested in spinning the tune.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Carlisle's third single from her album was "Band of Gold," a remake of a song originally recorded by R&B singer Freda Payne. Written by Edythe Wayne (a pseudonym for the famous Holland-Dozier-Holland writing team) and Ron Dunbar, Payne's 1970 single would get to #3 Pop and #20 R&B. Carlisle's version would fail to chart at Pop, but a remix of the tune that featured Payne on background vocals would get to #26 Dance. Earlier in '86, another artist attempted to have a hit with the song. Bonnie Tyler released her remake as the third single from her album Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire. It also failed to chart at Pop. No other artist has been able to put a cover version of the song on the Pop chart. However, American Idol contestant Kimberley Locke released a version in 2007 that would get to #1 at Dance and #9 AC.


Friday, August 16, 2019

"Runaway" by Luis Cardenas

Song#:  2862
Date:  09/20/1986
Debut:  92
Peak:  83
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This drummer first gained notice as a member of the Whittier, California, rock band Renegade. The band was notable for being among the first Hispanic rock bands to have some success. The young age of the members (teens/early twenties) got them tagged as teen heartthrobs and they appeared in magazines such as Tiger Beat in the early 80s. They would go on to release four albums beginning with 1983's Rock n' Roll Crazy, yet despite buzz, good press, and a solid L.A. following, the band didn't break through to the mainstream in the US. However, they did have success in Latin American countries where they were known as Los Renegados. As '86 came along, Cardenas set out to record a solo album. It was titled Animal Instinct and this first single was issued out. The remake (see below) gained a little attention, but not enough to push it far up the chart and it stalled in the bottom quarter. An original song by Cardenas, "Hungry for Your Love," was pushed out as the second single, but it failed to chart. Without a solid single to support it, the album came and went. Cardenas would then continue on with Renegade. Although they wouldn't be household names in the US, the band would rack up sales of over 30 million records worldwide.

ReduxReview:  Usually when a lead single is a cover song, that means the record company didn't hear a track good enough on the album to become a hit and requested (or demanded) one that might. That may or may not be the case here, but it was probably a good choice to do the cover. It's not a bad remake and Cardenas' more rock-oriented take with his drums leading the way was kind of interesting. If it had been promoted better, it might have had a shot at the Top 40.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Although Cardenas' single wasn't a major hit, its associated video got noticed. The expensive video, which featured cameos by Del Shannon and Donny Osmond, would garner a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video, Short Form.  2) As Cardenas drumming skills increased, so did the size of his drum kit. Eventually, it would grow to have anywhere from 70 to 100+ pieces and would nearly surround Cardenas. The set can be seen in the video for "Runaway." It was so large that in 1986 Cardenas was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as having the biggest drum kit being used by a professional musician.  3) This is a remake of a song originally co-written and recorded by Del Shannon. His version would reach #1 in 1961. Many other artist would cover the song and four others besides Cardenas would make it to the Pop chart with their versions. Bandleader Lawrence Welk would cover the tune in 1962 and get to #56. The trio Dawn featuring Tony Orlando would record the song in a medley with "Happy Together" and get to #79 in 1972. Pop singer Charlie Kulis would make it to #46 with a version in 1975. Finally, Bonnie Raitt would do a remake of the song in 1977. She would take it to #57.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

"California Dreamin'" by The Beach Boys

Song#:  2861
Date:  09/20/1986
Debut:  93
Peak:  57
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Back on Capitol Records, the Beach Boys' first album for the label would be a compilation titled Made in U.S.A. The double-LP featured their hits along with a couple of newly recorded tunes that would be issued out as singles. The first one, "Rock 'N' Roll to the Rescue," would be a minor Pop chart entry getting to #67. This second single would do slightly better at Pop (#57) and found favor at AC getting to #8. Former Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn plays guitar on the track. He also appears in the video for the song along with songwriters and former Mamas & the Papas members John Phillips and Michelle Phillips.

ReduxReview:  I'm not really sure about the song choice here. The Beach Boys are known for their sunny, sometimes quirky, hits and I would have thought that this darker classic wouldn't be a good fit for them. I don't think I'm necessarily wrong about that, but I will say that this remake isn't too bad. The arrangement is far, far better than the awful "Rock 'N' Roll to the Rescue," but the near staccato delivery doesn't fit the song very well. The vocals just sound stiff and nothing like the hazy, laid-back approach of the Mamas & the Papas. While it is an improvement over their previous single, it's still a forgettable entry in their catalog.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song that was a hit by The Mamas & the Papas. Their take was the group's first charting single and it reached #4 in 1966. It was also their first gold record. Despite it's #4 peak, the song would be listed as Billboard's #1 charting song of 1966. The song, written by members (and husband/wife at the time) John and Michelle Phillips, became a classic of the era and was ranked #89 on Rolling Stones' 2004 list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. However, The Mamas & the Papas were not the first to record the song. The Phillips' wrote the tune in 1963 and it was originally recorded by Barry McGuire for his fourth album, 1965's This Precious Time. Around the time of the recording, The Mamas & the Papas got signed to Dunhill Records and recorded their own version. The song has been covered by many artists, but only two others beside The Beach Boys have reached the Pop chart with their version. Soul singer Bobby Womack's take on the tune reaching #43 Pop/#20 R&B in 1969. Later in 1979, the soft rock band (reduced to a duo by this point) America got to #52 Pop with their version. They recorded it specifically for a film titled California Dreaming. The film starring Glynnis O'Connor and Dennis Christopher was a box office bomb upon release.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

"Human" by The Human League

#1 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2860
Date:  09/13/1986
Debut:  71
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Synthpop, Blue-Eyes Soul

Pop Bits:  The Human League was having issues. After their 1984 album Hysteria failed to live up to expectations (#62 US), the band went through some changes including the loss of Joe Callas, who had co-written most of their material with leader Philip Oakey (and Philip Wright on some tracks as well). They went in the studio to record tunes for a follow-up album with producer Colin Thurston, but the sessions didn't work out and they were scrapped. In flux with direction and creativity, their label suggested that they team up with the hot new production/songwriting team of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, who were having great success at the time with Janet Jackson. The band decided to give it a whirl and headed to Minneapolis to record. Although these sessions had their own set of issues (see below), an album titled Crash was completed. This first single, written by Jam & Lewis, was issued out and it slowly caught fire. The song would become their second chart topper at Pop while also reaching #3 AC and #3 R&B. A remix of the tune would hit #1 at Dance. It was a major comeback for the band and it put them back on the map again, but only for a short while. It would be their last single to hit the Top 10 in the US. The song helped sell some albums, but not enough for it to go gold. It would peak at #35 and be their last album to reach the US chart.

ReduxReview:  As soon as I heard that opening chord and the drum pattern, I knew this was something special. It was so unique and different. That feeling was additionally enhanced because I adored The Human League. Jam & Lewis had been perfecting their writing and production style for a while and they hit on a winning formula by the time they worked with Janet Jackson. However, this track was different. It was like every snare beat of the song pounded out a seal in cement that this was Jam & Lewis' signature sound at the time - even more so than anything from Jackson's Control LP. It also showed that they could pull it off with any style of artist, even a British electronic synthpop outift. Critics either loved or hated this song and were divided on the spoken word part, but the general public loved it including me. I still adore this song and sometimes get chills when I hear that opening chord. Despite the troubles the two factions had when making the album (see below), the pairing of Jam & Lewis with the band was inspired and it resulted in this 80s classic.


Trivia:  Depending on what you read and who said it, the sessions for Crash were not all peaches and cream. Apparently, the band members and Jam & Lewis all got on just fine as people. However, when it came to work, it was a different story. Jam & Lewis were having grand success writing and producing songs for other artists and that got them used to having complete control in the studio. Yet The Human League, in particular Philip Oakey, wanted control over the band's music and that created conflicts, especially when it came to songs written by Jam & Lewis as they viewed those as their product, not necessarily the band's. Along with that, the producers would bring in session players to perform instead of using band members and that rankled some feathers. "Human" drove a bigger wedge in the divide between producers and artist when Jam & Lewis brought in singer Lisa Keith to do the background vocals. This did not sit well with the band's two female singers, Joanne Catherall and Susan Sulley. Arguments ensued about the use of Keith on the song, but Jam & Lewis stuck their ground and said that was the sound they wanted and that was the way it was gonna be because it was their song. In the end they got their way, but this issue and others lead the band to departing Minneapolis as soon as they could and just leaving the tracks with Jam & Lewis to finish, which they did. Despite all the acrimony, the two sides agree that "Human" was a great song and Oakey has even said that the hit helped to revive the band's career and kept it going for years after.


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

"Word Up" by Cameo

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2859
Date:  09/13/1986
Debut:  81
Peak:  6
Weeks:  21
Genre:  R&B, Electro-Funk, Dance

Pop Bits:  Between 1979 and 1985, this New York funk outfit delivered seven Top 10 R&B albums that generated nine R&B Top 10 singles. The albums were all gold sellers and the band accomplished this without any support from Pop. In fact, during that time only one of their singles, 1984's "She's Strange," made the Pop chart (#47). The band continued its evolving, winning formula with their twelfth album, 1986's Word Up! The title track would be the first single and it would be a major hit at R&B becoming their third chart topper. It was also a winner at Dance getting to #1. This time around, pop radio paid attention and the tune eased its way up the chart finally cracking the Top 10. The hit would send the album to #1 at R&B and #8 Pop. It would end up being the band's best selling album going platinum. Nearly ten years after their first album, the band finally had a legit mainstream hit.

ReduxReview:  I think it only takes about two beats of this song to recognize it. The band hit the exact right sound with their production, but it also helped that they created an unforgettable party anthem. The singing/rapping lead vocal was spot on and the hook was undeniable. The spelled-out title along with the little whistle (see below) just added to the listening experience. This was easily the band's top moment and it paid off big time for them. It still sounds great today.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) If the little whistle part heard during the song sounds familiar, it may be due to a famous movie theme. It is basically the opening of the theme from the 1966 Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The theme was written by Ennio Morricone and it was turned into a hit single in 1968 by orchestra leader Hugo Montenegro. His pop-style version reached #2.  2) This song has been remade several times. The Scottish hard rock band Gun did a version in 1994 that got to #8 in the UK. Former Spice Girl Mel B recorded the song in 1998 for the soundtrack to the film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. The single got to #13 in the UK. British girl group Little Mix made it to #6 in the UK with their 2014 version. While no cover of the song has made the Pop chart in the US, American nu metal band Korn did record the song in 2004 and it got to #16 on the Rock chart.


Monday, August 12, 2019

"Can't Wait Another Minute" by Five Star

Song#:  2858
Date:  09/13/1986
Debut:  89
Peak:  41
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This British sibling vocal group's debut album, Luxury of Life, performed well in the US spawning two R&B Top 10's including the #2 "Let Me Be the One" (#57 Pop/#9 Dance). The LP would be a platinum seller in the UK and that set them up well for their follow-up Silk & Steel. Again using a variety of producers and songwriters, they would hit a high mark on the Pop chart in the US with this first single. It would just miss out on the Top 40 peaking at the dreaded #41. It would be their best performing single on the chart. It would do better at R&B (#7) and Dance (#5). In the UK, the single would be the second in a streak of four Top 10 hits there.

ReduxReview:  This group had the ability to push out likable, catchy, well-produced, dance-pop, but in the US they never had that one exceptional track that would break them out beyond the dance and R&B chart despite being major stars in the UK. Their second LP was a better effort and this song was a quality track from the Pearson siblings. It featured an urgent, solid lead vocal from sister Denise. It probably should have made it into the Pop Top 20, but it just didn't have that extra zing to make it catch on wider.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was released in April of '86 in the UK. It wouldn't get to the States as a single until September even though it had already been heard in a film earlier in the year. The tune was used in the 1986 Ron Howard flick Gung Ho. There was no official soundtrack album released from the film.  2) This is actually a remake, but just barely. The tune was written by Sue Sheridan and Paul Criten and originally recorded by another set of UK siblings, a trio called Lewis (Dee, Shirley, and Linda). According to the song's producer, Bobby Eli, the trio had recorded the song and intended to release it as a single, but then they heard that Five Star had recorded it and were pushing it out, so they opted to use it as a b-side to another tune called "If the Love Fits" (not the 1982 hit "If the Love Fits Wear It" by Leslie Pearl). Apparently, that single was issued out a month before Five Star's, which then made it appear like the Five Star version was a remake. Linda Lewis had already had a successful solo career before joining up with her sisters. Lewis scored six charting singles in the UK between 1973 and 1979 including her lone Top 10 hit, a #6 remake of "It's in His Kiss," aka "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)" a #6 hit in the US in 1964 by Betty Everett


Sunday, August 11, 2019

"The Rain" by Oran "Juice" Jones

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  2857
Date:  09/13/1986
Debut:  94
Peak:  9
Weeks:  19
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  This Houston-born, New York-raised singer/songwriter got involved in the music business via a friend named Kurtis Blow. Blow had scored big with his 1980 debut album and the gold single "The Breaks" and when it came time to record his follow-up LP, Blow worked up a song with his friend Jones along with David Reeves titled "Rockin'." Jones would then co-write a song for Blow's third album, which also featured a song co-written by Russell Simmons, the co-founder of the new hip-hop label Def Jam. Paths crossed and by 1986 when Def Jam was looking to expand beyond hip-hop, they signed Jones as their first R&B artist. Work began on Jones' debut LP with Simmons co-producing with Vincent Bell and Blow lending a hand co-writing a track. Bell would contribute four songs to the LP including this one. It would be issued out as the album's third single and it would be his breakout hit reaching #1 at R&B. Just a few weeks prior to it topping the R&B chart, it began to crossover to Pop. After a low debut, the song steadily climbed and made it into the Top 10. A remix of the song would also get to #7 at Dance. The crossover action made sales soar and Jones would end up scoring a gold record. His debut album, Juice, would make it to #4 at R&B and #44 Pop. It was a great start for the new artist, but unfortunately he just couldn't capitalize on it and further singles failed to reach the R&B Top 40 and none would make the Pop chart. Because of his one-and-done status at Pop and lack of any significant hits at R&B, Jones got labeled a one-hit wonder (#62 on VH1's list of the 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80s).

ReduxReview:  This song was kinda like a newfangled 80s quiet storm track. The chorus was memorable ("and him! and him!") and the groove scooted along quite well in a near synthpop kind of way. I liked the song up until the spoken word part. Once that started, I turned it off. To me it changed a solid, groovy jam into a novelty tune. Many people remember the song from the spoken word section, but I think it could have been a hit without it. I found it to be an unnecessary and silly addition and it nearly ruined the song for me.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In addition to Jones earning a #1 R&B hit and a gold record with this song, it also got him a Grammy nomination in the Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, category.  2) This song generated not one, but three answer tunes all of which came out in 1986. Two were on small indie labels. An artist by the singular name of Pamala recorded "Walkin' in the Rain, Yes You Saw Me" while Leot Littlepage issued out "The Drain." Neither got much attention, however, a rap artist named Miss Thang (real name Cheryl Sewell) recorded "Thunder and Lightning" for Tommy Boy Records. It ended up making the R&B chart peaking at #48.