Saturday, August 31, 2019

"Jumpin' Jack Flash" by Aretha Franklin

Song#:  2877
Date:  09/27/1986
Debut:  61
Peak:  21
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock, R&B, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Franklin had a major career revival with her 1985 album Who's Zoomin' Who? and its #3 Pop/#1 R&B Grammy-winning hit "Freeway of Love." The album would be the first in Franklin's long career to receive a platinum certification. For its follow-up, Franklin decided to stay with Narada Michael Walden and together they came up with her thirty-first studio album, Aretha. To kick the album off, this cover tune would be issued out. In addition to being the LP's first single, it was also used over the end credits of the Whoopi Goldberg comedy flick Jumpin' Jack Flash. The track started off fairly well, but then lost momentum and stalled just shy of the Pop Top 20. At R&B, the tune was able to make the Top 20 - at #20. It wasn't too bad of a start, but Franklin was going to need a single to do better than this in order to keep album sales going. Her next single didn't really fit that bill, but the LP's third release would do the trick.

ReduxReview:  Franklin and Richards keep the rock elements of the song while adding more soul and R&B. Franklin also played piano on the track. As usual, she sounds great and rips it up at the end. Her take on the song is more relaxed than the urgent rock of the Stones' original. It's a solid take, but I'm not sure it was a great choice for a single. At the time folks were into Franklin's new brand of 80's R&B/dance-pop and this rock track didn't fit well alongside synth-driven tunes like "Freeway of Love." Still, it didn't perform too badly and it showed that Franklin could rock the house just as well as anyone else.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by The Rolling Stones. Their 1968 version was a #3 hit. It marked a return to their blues-rock roots after flirting with the psychedelic rock found on 1967's Their Satanic Majesties Request. For Franklin's remake, Stones members Ron Wood and Keith Richards played guitar while Richards produced the track.  2) This track was recorded for the comedy film of the same name. It starred Whoopi Goldberg and it was her first role following her breakout performance in 1985's The Color Purple, for which she received an Oscar nod for Best Actress. The movie was also the directorial debut of Penny Marshall. Critics didn't like the film, but audiences showed up and it became a minor box office hit. The Stones' version of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" would be used in the film while Franklin's remake would play over the closing credits. However, when it came to the released soundtrack, only the Stones' original would be included. Franklin's version would be issued out as a single and placed on her new Aretha album.


Friday, August 30, 2019

"Freedom Overspill" by Steve Winwood

Song#:  2876
Date:  09/27/1986
Debut:  81
Peak:  20
Weeks:  15
Genre: Rock, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Winwood's solo career reached a new level when "Higher Love," the first single from his fourth solo album Back in the High Life, made it to the #1 spot. It would also earn Winwood two Grammys including one for Record of the Year. The hit came nearly twenty-one years after Winwood first hit the Pop chart as a member of the Spencer David Group (1965's #76 "Keep on Running"). To follow it up, the label went with this track, which was already on its way to #4 on the Rock chart. The song would do fairly well at Pop just making it into the Top 20. It would help continue sales of the album, but Winwood and his label were probably looking for it to do better than it did. Luckily, they got a second shot at the Top 10 with the LP's next single.

ReduxReview:  This song has a nice groove and terrific production. It wasn't necessarily a bad choice for a single, but with at least two other better candidates on the LP, I'm a bit perplexed as to why they chose this one to follow "Higher Love." I've always thought it sounded akin to Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" and perhaps they wanted to get the audience that made that song a hit. The problem though was that this song wasn't nearly as good or hooky as Gabriel's #1. Frankly, I think they got lucky when it made the Top 20. Most of Winwood's hits have been staples on radio for years, but this is one that got left behind after its initial charting days.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Winwood was no stranger to supergroups forming the famous Blind Faith with Eric Clapton in 1969. That band would record only one album, but it would end up being a #1 classic. After Winwood left his band Traffic in 1974, he would end up in another supergroup of sorts that has kind of been forgotten. Japanese percussionist and keyboardist Stomu Yamashta had been combining classical, traditional Japanese, jazz, and rock into a World fusion style that got him record deals with Columbia and Island. In 1975, he began to compose and develop a project that would contain more pop elements. Eventually, he would bring in to the project Winwood along with Santana drummer Michael Shrieve. The band would then be filled out with former Tangerine Dream drummer and electronic music wiz Klaus Schulze and jazz fusion guitarist Al Di Meola. The project would be called Go and a debut album was issued out in 1976. The concept LP wouldn't produce any singles, but the names involved in the project got people interested and the LP would get to #60. The group would go out on tour and a live album would be pushed after. A second Go project would be recorded as Go Too in 1977, but it was done without Winwood as he had moved on to work on his solo debut album. The remainder of Go would head their separate ways after the second album.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

"Walk Like an Egyptian" by The Bangles

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2875
Date:  09/27/1986
Debut:  82
Peak:  1 (4 weeks)
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  The Bangles' second album, Different Light, was in a precarious position at this time. It had peaked at a solid #12 thanks to the #2 lead single "Manic Monday," but sales started to quickly slide after the second single, "If She Knew What She Wants," faltered at #29. They needed something to turn the album around and they gambled on this near-novelty track for the third single. Bolstered by a quirky video that gained favor on MTV, the song began to take off. It moved its way up the chart and eventually hit the #1 spot. The single remained there for four weeks and that combined with its weeks on the chart would end up making it Billboard's #1 Pop chart song for 1986. In addition to being the band's first #1, it would also be their first gold single. They also made chart history by being the first all-female band to reach #1 on the Pop chart (The Go-Go's came close in 1982 when "We Got the Beat" hit #2). The hit certainly did turn the album around and it rebounded up the chart to #4. Over time it would become a triple platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  I didn't hate this song, but I did think it was just plain silly (and not in a good way). I was totally shocked that it got to #1. I think the video had a lot to do with that because it was all over MTV for quite a long time. People thought it was fun and it created an Egyptian-walking/dance craze for about a nanosecond, but I didn't buy into it. I especially thought it was just too quirky for the Bangles. They had real musical chops and songwriting skills that were far better than this novelty dreck. This is a song that should have been a one-hit wonder for some fledgling artist instead of a dorky chart topper for a talented band. However, the song pushed the band's star even further in the sky and it helped get them a triple-platinum album. That's not a bad thing.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was written by Liam Sternberg. Inspiration for the song came from a time when Sternberg was riding a ferry and observed people struggling to walk around the deck. They would hold out their arms to try and get their balance in check and they reminded him of ancient Egyptian figures. Sternberg wrote the song in '84 and recorded a demo of it with singer Marti Jones. The tune was sent to Toni Basil to record, but she declined. New Wave performer Lena Lovich picked up the song and actually recorded it, but in the end it got shelved. The Bangles' producer David Kahne presented the song to the band after finding the demo.  2) This song has been cited as one of the first cracks that would eventually cause the collapse of the Bangles. The four women saw themselves as a unit and shared lead vocal duties on their songs. For "Walk Like an Egyptian," drummer Debbi Peterson was to take the lead. However, producer David Kahne came up with the idea to have a different member sing a verse. He had them each sing the lyrics and then assigned a verse to a member. Since there were three verses, only three members got a lead vocal part. Kahne apparently didn't like Debbi's voice and she was relegated to the background. Adding insult to injury, Kahne also decided to use a drum machine instead of having Debbi perform. Kahne freezing Debbi out of the song caused tension in the group, yet it seemed they all acquiesced and moved on. They ended up with a #1 hit, but it came at a bit of a cost.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

"Goin' Crazy!" by David Lee Roth

Song#:  2874
Date:  09/27/1986
Debut:  85
Peak:  66
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Roth's first single from his full-length debut solo album Eat 'Em and Smile, "Yankee Rose," returned him to his hard rock roots and it paid off by getting to #10 at Rock and #12 Pop. For a follow-up, Roth chose this track, which was another rockin' tune he co-wrote with guitarist Steve Vai. It would do nearly the same business as "Yankee Rose" at Rock getting to #12, but it didn't connect as well at Pop and the single fizzled in the bottom half of the chart. Still, the album would hit #4 and reach platinum sales.

ReduxReview:  For me, this one is closer kin to Van Halen material than "Yankee Rose." It's a good rockin' tune that was catchy and I thought it might do a bit better than a minor #66. Roth was getting known for his oddball videos and I think that helped boost some of his other singles, but the video for this song was more or less just a staged performance video and that may not have helped in promoting the tune. It was easily the best track on the LP to follow-up "Yankee Rose," yet I think because he wasn't Dave the showman in the song or the video, it didn't exactly excite folks.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  At the time Roth started to develop his full-length debut, he had the idea to make it an album that could stand on its own, yet also serve as a soundtrack to a film. Roth pitched a film idea and CBS bought into it. Roth then developed a screenplay titled Crazy from the Heat, which had been the title of his 1985 EP. In the film, Roth was set to play a rock star named Dave (natch) who goes to a place called Dongo Island with his manager and they get into all kinds of odd situations. Oh, and there would be lots of bikini-clad women. Each of the songs that would make up the album would be a production number. The script was finished with storyboards and costumes already underway when the $20 million project was scrapped. Apparently this was due to CBS Studios being taken over/combined with another studio and projects being reassessed. The film never got made, but Roth did utilize the title for his 1997 autobiography and the songs intended for the film were pushed out as Eat 'Em and Smile. This single was meant to be the film's theme song.


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

"(Forever) Live and Die" by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Song#:  2873
Date:  09/27/1986
Debut:  87
Peak:  19
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This British outfit snagged their first and only US Top 10 with "If You Leave" (#4), a single released from the soundtrack to the teen rom-com Pretty in Pink. The unexpected hit put a big spotlight on the band and they were promptly sent into the studio to record their seventh album, The Pacific Age. Thanks to label pressure to quickly capitalize on their new hot status, the album was a rushed affair that was not greeted well by critics. However, the one bright spot was this first single, which gave them their third US Top 40 entry. It also got to #25 at AC. Back over in the UK, the song would be their best effort in nearly two years reaching #11. Unfortunately, no other single from the LP would hit the US Pop chart and that left the album stopping at #47.

ReduxReview:  Had this song been an actual follow-up to "If You Leave" (i.e. both songs were on the same album and "If You Leave" was the first single and this was the second), it would have been suitable and the results pretty good. However, it truly served as the first single from their next album and as such it falls short. It's not a particularly strong song to introduce an album. I find it lackadaisical and somewhat forgettable. They needed to make a statement with this song and let people know they had a lot more to offer than a hit movie theme. They just didn't accomplish that with this tune.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  While the second single from the album, "We Love You," would miss the Pop chart, it caught on a bit in clubs and peaked at #16 on the Dance chart. As their fortunes at Pop diminished, they still had success in US clubs with four of their songs reaching the Top 10 at Dance and a fifth one hitting #11. Perhaps the most unusual one of the bunch was one titled "Brides of Frankenstein." The track was a one-off 12" that was basically a medley of some of their hits mixed together by Mike "Hitman" Wilson and Steve "Silk" Hurley. It was released in 1988 and got to #7 on the Dance chart.


Monday, August 26, 2019

"Count Your Blessings" by Ashford & Simpson

Song#:  2872
Date:  09/27/1986
Debut:  93
Peak:  84
Weeks:  4
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  This husband and wife duo scored their biggest hit at Pop when their 1984 single "Solid" reached #12 (#1 R&B, #15 Dance, #34 AC). It would make their album of the same name become their fourth to go gold. Two years later they would return with their follow-up album Real Love. It would go on to become their ninth R&B Top 10 getting to #4. Unfortunately, the tune couldn't catch on at any other radio format and it stalled after a month on the Pop chart while missing AC completely. It would end up being the duo's final single to reach the Pop chart. Their next album, 1989's Love or Physical, would generate the #2 R&B hit "I'll Be There for You," but after the LP failed to sell it became their last major label effort. They would return in 1996 for an indie album, but not much came from it. Over the years the duo would continue to tour and perform while working on various other projects. In 2011, Nick Ashford died from complications stemming from throat cancer.

ReduxReview:  This reminds me of some of the hits the pair wrote for Motown artists back in the 60s/70s. I thought this was a terrific song. It seemed just right for Pop and AC, but for some reason it didn't get its due on those charts. I loved the ebb and flow of the tune along with the vocal trade off. I also like the hooky sections that are basically like two separate choruses. Where it lacks is production, which didn't need the 80s influences. I'd love to hear this in a more traditional Motown arrangement. I think the song would soar even more. This has always been an underrated gem for me.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Ashford & Simpson had been working together since the mid-60s and composed several major hits including two R&B #1's in 1968 for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" (#8 Pop) and "You're All I Need to Get By" (#7 Pop). Prior to stepping out and recording as a duo in 1973, Valerie Simpson attempted a solo career. She was signed to Motown's Tamla label and pushed out albums in 1971 and 1972. Only one of her singles did anything, 1972's "Silly Wasn't I," which got to #24 R&B and #63 Pop. With the solo career not taking flight, Ashford joined in and the duo released their debut album in 1973. They would remain a duo until Ashford's death in 2011. In 2012, Simpson released her first solo album in 40 years, Dinosaurs Are Coming Back Again. The songs on the LP were made up of tracks that were recorded earlier in the decade for a new Simpson solo effort. One of the songs, "Make It Up As We Go," was recorded in 2001 as a duet between Simpson and their friend, the legendary Nina Simone. Simone was living in France at that time and had been battling illness. Ashford and Simpson had written "Make It Up As We Go" and though it was a great fit for Simone. She agreed to singing and playing piano on the song, so Ashford and Simpson flew to France to get it recorded. It ended up being the last recorded vocal performance done by Simone. She was battling breast cancer at the time and ended up passing away in 2003. The tracks Simpson recorded ended up getting shelved and it wasn't until after Ashford's death in 2011 that they were unearthed and released in 2012.


Sunday, August 25, 2019

"Who Says" by Device

Song#:  2871
Date:  09/27/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  79
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Songwriter Holly Knight made it to the Pop Top 40 first in 1980 with Spider and then for a second time in '86 with her next band Device. They would reach #35 with "Hanging on a Heart Attack," the lead single from their debut album 22B3. Next up for release would be this track. The song, written by Knight with producer Michael Chapman, just wasn't able to maintain the audience of their first single and it sputtered out in the bottom quarter of the Pop chart. The album would make it to #73. With not much in the way of results that would call for a second album, Device then split up.

ReduxReview:  This band was nearly there. They had a solid, 80s synth-rock sound, a great vocalist with Paul Engemann, terrific production with Mike Chapman, and songs co-written by Holly Knight. Everything was in place for this trio to hit big, yet they walked away with mediocre results. If there was anything to blame, I'd probably have to say that they didn't have the 2 or 3 standout songs needed to break them wider. "Hanging" was a good tune, but in the end it wasn't strong enough to truly cut a path up the chart. This song was pretty good, but weaker in comparison so it wasn't going anywhere. There are a couple of other good tracks on the album, but they were not hits either. It always seemed that Knight could knock out a hit for another artist, but when it came to her own projects the material just wasn't fully there. The Device album is worth checking out if you like 80s synth-rock, but it is one that just wasn't as good as what would be expected from the folks involved.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia: After Device dissolved, each member of the trio went their own way. Guitarist Gene Black would do a lot of session work and tour with stars like Tina Turner and Joe Cocker. Singer Paul Engemann would replace Bill Wadhams as the lead singer of Animotion and score a #9 hit in 1989 with "Room to Move." Knight would record a self-titled solo album in 1988, which spurred the #59 Pop entry "Heart Don't Fail Me Now." She would also continue as a hit songwriter and in 2013 would be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.