Saturday, September 28, 2019

"You Be Illin'" by Run-D.M.C.

Song#:  2905
Date:  10/25/1986
Debut:  86
Peak:  29
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rap

Pop Bits:  Hip-hop would never be the same after this trio's third album, Raising Hell. It was a turning point for the genre and it would be the first rap album to go multi-platinum. That was mainly thanks to the rap-rock crossover hit "Walk This Way," which got to #4 at Pop and #8 R&B. Up next was this third single from the album. It was an original work and it ended up doing fairly well getting to #12 at R&B and making it inside the Pop Top 30. "Walk This Way" certainly helped to open doors and it helped this song make a bit of an impact on the charts. More mainstream acceptance of rap was still a ways away, but the fact that these guys put a full-on original rap/hip-hop tune in the Pop Top 30 was a signal that times were changing.

ReduxReview:  I was so unhip at the time (I'm only slightly better these days) that I thought "you be illin'" meant the person was actually sick. Especially since the rap included food things like KFC. In reality, I was the one that was illin' as it really means acting foolish. Yeah, that's pretty much me. Despite me not being hep with the lingo, this was a pretty great track. The scratching, bass line, and the horn stabs were a solid foundation for a terrific rap. It should have been a Top 10 hit, but since pop radio was still reluctant to rap music as the time, Top 30 wasn't a bad result. Regardless of chart position, it was another classic from the trio.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  While many artists cover hit songs or classic tracks from various genres like pop, rock, R&B, jazz, etc., not as many take a stab at remaking a rap tune. Rap can be much more difficult to cover since it is nearly like trying to recite another artist's vision or poetry. Plus as artist has to be quite clever to figure out how to present a rap in a new way. There are several successful examples of rap tracks being remade by non-rap artists. "You Be Illin'" is one of them. It was covered by the Americana old-time string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Their folk-ified version was a bonus track on their 2012 album Leaving Eden. The trio had been together since 2005 and had released two albums before breaking through to a wider audience with their 2010 effort Genuine Negro Jig. The LP would reach #1 on the Bluegrass chart and #2 at Folk. It would also win the Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album. Lead singer and violin/banjo player Rhiannon Giddens branched out to a solo career in 2014. She would earn three Grammy nods with two of her releases being nominated for best Best Folk Album. (Note: I have a couple of favorite offbeat rap covers. Irish folk artist Luka Bloom did an excellent version of LL Cool J's 1987 #1 R&B/#14 Pop hit "I Need Love" for his 1992 album The Acoustic Motorbike. Singer/songwriter Tori Amos recorded a creepy version of Eminem's "'97 Bonnie & Clyde" for her 2001 covers LP Strange Little Girls. Look 'em up.)


Friday, September 27, 2019

"Like Flames" by Berlin

Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2904
Date:  10/25/1986
Debut:  93
Peak:  82
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Berlin hit a career peak when their Top Gun soundtrack tune, "Take My Breath Away," hit #1. The track would also go on to win the Oscar for Best Original Song. While the band had been divided on whether or not to record the song, as they didn't write it and it wasn't indicative of their sound, they could agree that the hit certainly put them in a new spotlight. More people would be paying attention to their next move. Yet when it came time to record their next album, the band (reduced to a core trio now) found themselves at odds again on direction. In the end, they brought in producer Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Kiss) and shifted from the new wave synthpop that got them noticed to an edgier rock sound. The album would be titled Count Three and Pray and this first single announced the band's new direction. Unfortunately, it seemed their new sound wasn't what folks wanted and the single disappeared after a few short weeks on the chart. The album sold a few copies thanks to the inclusion of "Take My Breath Away," but it stopped at a minor #61 and failed to reach any sales certifications like their previous two discs (gold and platinum). A second single failed to chart and Berlin's momentum after their smash hit quickly dissipated. The failure of the LP caused further internal struggles and later in '87 the band called it quits. A hits compilation, Best of Berlin 1979-1988 would be released in '88 and it would eventually be a gold seller.

ReduxReview:  I've always been a bit torn about Count Three and Pray. I do think it was absolutely the wrong album to release as the time. They were coming off a huge international synthpop hit and radically changing their sound was a mistake. Not only did they alienate folks who loved "Take My Breath Away," but they also lost a chunk of their fans who jammed to the band's new wave synthpop. An intense rock album wasn't what either wanted. The album was basically a career (and band) killer. What I get torn about is that I absolutely loved the LP. I played that thing constantly and it quickly became one of my all-time favorites (still is). While I still adored their previous synthpop discs, this album took the band to a whole new level. Ezrin gave them a meaty sound and Nunn never sounded better. Their lyrics were sharper and there was a new maturity showing through. They were forced to put "Take My Breath Away" on the LP, but it really shouldn't have been there as it didn't belong. Besides that, the album is an absolute gem. This lead single got things revved up in a big way and I used to play it about as loud as my car speakers would tolerate. I wasn't sure if it would be a hit, but I thought it would do far better than #82. I just think that since it wasn't "Take My Breath Away, Pt. 2," people didn't want to hear it and DJs didn't want to play it. What a shame. It's a rockin' tune that deserved a better fate, as did the album.


Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) After Berlin folded, lead singer Terri Nunn settled on a solo career and put out a debut album in 1991 titled Moment of Truth. It failed to chart. She would then buy the Berlin name and form a new band. Under that moniker, Nunn would release three albums. In 2019, Nunn got back together with original members John Crawford (who wrote the majority of the band's songs) and keyboardist David Diamond. They released a reunion album titled Transcendance.  2) This song wouldn't quite be Berlin's last to reach the Pop chart. In 1992, a remix of "Take My Breath Away" was issued out. It was credited to Berlin featuring Terri Nunn. This was most likely spurred by the song becoming a hit again in the UK the previous year. The song was originally a #1 hit when first released '86. Then near the end of 1990, the song regained popularity thanks to Top Gun being aired on TV in Britain along with its use in a car commercial (for Peugeot). A reissue of the original song got it back on the chart where it peaked at #3.  3) "Like Flames" has been covered by a couple of artists. In 2000, rocker Alannah Myles (of "Black Velvet" fame) released a version. A German broadcast network hired producer Frank Peterson to record the song for use during their coverage of European football. Peterson got Myles to sing the tune. It briefly charted in Germany (#98). Dutch eurodance group Twenty 4 Seven recorded a version in 2007. It did well reaching #20 on the Dutch chart.


Thursday, September 26, 2019

"When the Rain Comes Down" by Andy Taylor

Song#:  2903
Date:  10/25/1986
Debut:  94
Peak:  73
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  After leaving Duran Duran and following the breakup of Power Station, guitarist Andy Taylor set out on a solo career. Among his first efforts were three songs that were featured on the soundtrack to the film American Anthem, including the #24 Pop hit "Take It Easy." That led to Taylor supplying a song for use in the hit TV show Miami Vice. This tune would be featured in the show while also being the first single from the second soundtrack released from the show. The first Miami Vice soundtrack reached #1 thanks to a couple of major hits including Jan Hammer's #1 "Miami Vice Theme." The second album in the series would not do that well. Taylor's song couldn't make any waves on the chart and disappeared after a few weeks. Another single, Gladys Knight & the Pips' "Send It to Me," got to #14 at R&B, but failed to reach the Pop chart. Without much to support it, the album stopped at a low #82. However, the soundtrack label, MCA, signed Taylor and in '87 he would issue out a debut album titled Thunder. It would peak at #46 thanks to two tracks that made the Rock chart. Neither reached the Pop chart. Taylor would return in 1990 with a covers album titled Dangerous, but it came and went to little notice. After that, Taylor mainly concentrated on production work. Over the years he would help revive Power Station and also rejoin Duran Duran.

ReduxReview:  This wasn't a bad tune, but it certainly wasn't in the same league as "Take It Easy." That song had a big ol' sing-a-long hook that drew folks in. This one by comparison isn't as memorable. It apparently was written specifically for Miami Vice and it probably worked well in the context of the show and as a track on the album, but it wasn't single-worthy. The Miami Vice music fad quickly came to an end after this one tanked on the chart.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In 1989, Andy Taylor was working with a new UK rock band on some demos. They didn't have a name yet, but ended up settling on calling themselves Thunder. The band's name came about because their guitarist, Luke Morley, had written a song titled "Distant Thunder," and Thunder was the title of Andy Taylor's debut solo album. The band would get signed to EMI and Taylor would produce their debut album, 1990's Backstreet Symphony. The album didn't make much of a splash in the US, but it did generate the #10 Rock/#55 Pop track "Dirty Love." At home, the band was more successful. Along with amassing 17 Top 40 entries, the band's albums did well resulting in five Top 10 entries. Taylor co-produced the band's second album, 1992's Laughing on Judgement Day, which still to-date is their highest peaking on the UK chart (#2). Except for their debut LP, the band has been largely ignored in the US.


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

"Hip to Be Square" by Huey Lewis & the News

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2902
Date:  10/18/1986
Debut:  42
Peak:  3
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's fourth album, Fore!, got off to a strong start with its doo wop-ish first single, "Stuck with You," reaching #1. It was the band's second chart topper. For a follow-up, this more rollicking track was selected. It fit the bill at Rock becoming their third #1 on that chart. It also was a winner at Pop getting to #3 for a couple of weeks. The week this single debuted on the Pop chart, the album reached #1. It would only stay in that spot for a week, but it would be a consistent seller over the next year and would eventually go triple-platinum.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't the biggest fan of "Stuck with You" and this next single didn't tickle my fancy either. I thought it was kind of dorky and was a bit too similar to some of their other material like "The Heart of Rock & Roll." The band was pretty much staying the course, which worked out fine for them, but their retro-ish R&B-rock sound was wearing thin on me. I pretty much ignored this tune back in the day, but it's really not a bad song. It is well done and has some goofy appeal. I can appreciate it a little better these days, but it's still nothing I'd get a hankerin' to hear.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Near the end of the song, Lewis says "tell 'em boys" and a group of guys are heard responding. Do the voices sound familiar?  Probably not, but they do come from famous folk. Lewis and the band were from the San Francisco area and as their career took off they got opportunities to get friendly with members of the local pro football team the 49ers. Lewis brought in a few members of the team to do some background vocals including Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, and Dwight Clark. They are heard on this song as well as another upcoming hit from the LP, "I Know What I Like."  2) If you've seen the video for this song then you are familiar with all the odd close ups and camera angles. How did they achieve the strange camera work? Directors Kevin Godley and Lol Creme (of 10cc fame) chose an unusual camera to get the images. They used a medical scope - the type that is used inside the human body during certain medical procedures. The camera was so small that Godley & Creme had to have the band perform the song as close as possible to it, which then produced unusual viewpoints. Because it was tiny, it allowed Godley & Creme to get other unusual shots like going down the center of a spring-like amp cord or looking down a drum stick as it was being played. Their creative efforts earned them an MTV Video Awards nomination for Best Experimental Video.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

"You Know I Love You...Don't You?" by Howard Jones

Song#:  2901
Date:  10/18/1986
Debut:  69
Peak:  17
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Following his successful second album, the platinum Dream Into Action, Jones unexpectedly scored his biggest US hit with a new version of the album track "No One Is to Blame." The song would reach #4 Pop and #1 AC and it would be included on a stop-gap EP titled Action Replay that made it to #34. The hit gave Jones time to finish up his third studio album One to One. This first single got pushed out and initially it start to do quite well, but then progress slowed and the song stopped inside the Pop Top 20. It was also a minor entry at Rock getting to #46.

ReduxReview:  I loved this song when it came out. It was an excellent jam with a memorable synth riff and chorus. It chugged along at a frantic pace and was an exciting tune. I thought for sure this was an easy Top 10 entry and for a while it looked like that was going to happen. But then it petered out in the Top 20. I was surprised. I'm not sure why it didn't do better. My guess is that "No One Is to Blame" pushed him in different direction and folks who loved that tune weren't all that interested in a charging synthpop track. On the bright side though, the sections of the song with the synth riff got used quite a bit as intro/outro music during televised sporting events. I especially remember hearing it a lot during basketball games coming in and out of halftime reports and commercials. Hopefully Jones made a few bucks off of that. In my opinion, this should have been a much bigger hit.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  With a few minor exceptions, Jones played all the instruments (usually keyboards and drum machines) on his first two albums himself. He had producer Rupert Hine on board for both to help shape the music. For One to One, Jones got an opportunity to switch things up. Famed producer Arif Mardin (Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan) was available and wanted to work with Jones and Jones jumped at the chance. While Jones will still supply a lot of the keyboard/synth/drum machine work, Mardin brought in several musicians to expand Jones' sound. Even a few famous folks helped out including Nile Rodgers (guitar), Gary Burton (vibraphone), and Steve Ferrone (drums). One of the songs, "A Little Bit of Snow," even got an actual string arrangement. It was a positive experience for Jones who would continue to evolve his sound over his next couple of albums.


Monday, September 23, 2019

"Foolish Pride" by Daryl Hall

Song#:  2900
Date:  10/18/1986
Debut:  75
Peak:  33
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Hall's second album without his partner John Oates, Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine, would produce his biggest solo hit, the #5 "Dreamtime." It was a good effort that showed he had more to offer than what fell under the Hall & Oates brand. The question then was could he score another hit. He gave it an attempt with this second single from the LP. Unfortunately, it just didn't catch on as well. The song was able to crack the Pop Top 40, but it couldn't get any further. It did slightly better at AC where it got to #21. It also spent a few weeks on the R&B chart at a minor #91. While not a bad result, it didn't necessarily ignite sales of the album, which couldn't quite hit the gold-level sales mark.

ReduxReview:  While I liked "Dreamtime" and bought the single, it didn't prompt me to buy the album. I waited to hear this next single and if it tickled me right, then I would pick up the album. Well, I didn't buy the album. It wasn't that this single was bad, I just found it to be a track more suitable for a Hall & Oates disc. One that would be a good add to an album, but not selected as a single. Yes, it was inevitable that some tracks on Hall's solo disc would have an H&O vibe, but "Dreamtime" didn't and that is what made it stand out. This got him back into H&O territory, but it wasn't something that could compete with the duo's top hits. It was worthy of its Top 40 appearance, but not much more than that.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The famed duo of Daryl Hall & John Oates wasn't Hall first brush with the music industry and being signed to a major label. In 1968, he was in a rock band named Gulliver. Hall co-founded the band with Tim Moore. Both musicians lived in Philadelphia and were hired into the same production company as staff writers. They had a connection and ended up developing Gulliver with two other musicians. The band got signed to Elektra Records and recorded a self-titled debut album. It was released in 1970, but it failed to make any waves. With not much in the way of results, the band split. Not long after, Hall reconnected with Oates and the pair were off and running. Tim Moore would embark on a solo career and record five albums. Between '73 and '77, Moore would get four songs on the Pop chart. His best effort was 1974's #58 entry "Second Avenue."


Sunday, September 22, 2019

"Shake You Down" by Gregory Abbott

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Song#:  2899
Date:  10/18/1986
Debut:  76
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  R&B, Quiet Storm, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Although he learned music at a young age, NYC-born Abbott didn't really start honing his skills as a professional musician until his college years. To help pay his tuition, Abbott developed and performed with his own band. After college, Abbott got a job teaching English at the University of California, Berkeley, yet his love for music drove him to pursue a career in music. He built his own studio and began writing, producing, and recording his own music. In 1976, Abbott married soul singer Freda Payne ("Band of Gold," #3 Pop, 1970) and that led to him co-writing a few songs for two of her late 70s albums. The pair split in 1979, but the connection helped Abbott get some other work and by 1986 he signed his own recording contract with Columbia Records. Unusually, Columbia allowed the new artist to fully write and produce his own debut album, Shake You Down. The title track would be issued out as the first single and it would be a major hit at R&B reaching #1. A week prior to the track getting to the top of the R&B chart, the song crossed over and debuted on the Pop chart. It slowly caught fire and eventually topped the chart. It also hit #2 at AC. With the song remaining on the various charts for months, sales stayed strong and the single would eventually become a platinum seller. The album would also do well getting to #5 at R&B and #22 Pop. It would reach gold level sales early in '87.

ReduxReview:  This silky smooth jam was quite irresistible. It was well-crafted by Abbott with an indelible chorus and production that didn't overwhelm the tune. I always thought that the song sounded like a more innocent version of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" (#3 Pop, 1982). Abbott had a nice voice that fit the song perfectly. It seemed he was on his way to a long, successful career, but then it didn't happen. This debut single would end up being the peak moment of his career. If it wasn't for a couple more R&B Top 10's, Abbott could have easily been considered a one-hit wonder. Even if he was, this was certainly a great song to have as your lone hit.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Abbott had another Hollywood connection early on through his cousin. Diahnne Abbott was a single, divorced mother who decided to try and break into acting. She snagged a small role in the film Taxi Driver, which was shot in the summer of '75. She met the film's star Robert De Niro and the following year they were married. She would go on to have roles in two more De Niro films, New York, New York and The King of Comedy. The pair would have a son and De Niro would adopt Abbott's daughter Drena. The couple would end up divorced in 1988. Abbott would grab a few more film roles and appear in the TV series Crime Story, but her acting career never fully caught fire. Drena De Niro would later catch the acting bug and would begin to take small roles in films starting with 1996's Grace of My Heart. Along the way she would appear in a few of her father's films. She also had a small role in the hit 2018 Lady Gaga remake of A Star Is Born.