Saturday, November 23, 2019

"We're Ready" by Boston

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2961
Date:  12/06/1986
Debut:  62
Peak:  9
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This band whose second album was released in 1978 proved they could still rock in the 80s when their third LP, Third Stage, generated the #1 hit "Amanda." The hit helped the album reach #1 for four weeks. It was a major return for Tom Scholz and his Boston crew after years of recording and legal wrangling. To keep things going, this next single was released. It would also do very well reaching #2 at Rock and becoming the band's fourth Top 10 hit at Pop.

ReduxReview:  While "Amanda" was well-written commercial rock hit that had staying power, I actually preferred this track. I think it featured more of the rockin' Boston sound and I loved the ebb n' flow of it. Of course it sounded great thanks to Scholz's immaculate production, which I appreciated. I wondered how well this track would do on the chart because it wasn't your typical pop single. Luckily, it caught on and went Top 10. "Amanda" was the slick crowd pleaser, but I'd still prefer to hear this one.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Just a couple months prior to Third Stage being released, Boston's self-titled 1976 debut album was certified at 9x platinum. By 2003 it would hit the 17-million mark. It was the biggest selling debut album in US music history and it maintained that record all the way up to 2008 when another debut LP finally eclipsed it. In 1988, Guns N' Roses would issue out their debut album Appetite for Destruction. Over the years, its certifications would continue to rise, but Boston's debut seemed to be able to keep pace and retain the title of biggest selling debut album. That changed in 2008 when Appetite was certified for sales of 18 million. With it certified a million more than Boston's LP, Guns N' Roses' Appetite became the biggest selling debut in the US. It also claims that title on a worldwide scale with certified sales of nearly 30 million. Boston's LP was a phenomenon in the US, it wasn't quite as popular worldwide with only a 3 million increase to 20 million. Because of that, it ranks a bit lower for debut sales worldwide being bested by debuts from artists like Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, Linkin Park, Norah Jones, and the Spice Girls.


Friday, November 22, 2019

"Ballerina Girl" by Lionel Richie

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2960
Date:  12/06/1986
Debut:  76
Peak:  7
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, R&B

Pop Bits:  Richie's album Dancing on the Ceiling had already produced three Top 10 hits and he kept the ball rolling with this fourth single. It would do well at Pop becoming his thirteenth consecutive Top 10 while reaching #5 at R&B. The news was even better at AC where the song became his eleventh #1. It remained in the top spot for four weeks. Unfortunately, the song would prove to be his last Pop Top 10 and his last AC #1.

ReduxReview:  Richie aims for the heartstrings here and for many folks he hit the mark. I wasn't one of them. The sap practically dripped off of this one. Boil that sap down and you'll end up with a vat of saccharine. Don't get me wrong - I definitely enjoy a bit of sap every now and then, but I didn't care for what Richie was serving up here. I especially disliked the ending. It just kind of...stops. The tune sounds unfinished to me. It's a bit of a slight song too for a single, but AC radio played the hell out of it so it became a crossover hit. This one really did show that Richie had little left in the tank. Indeed it would be his final Pop Top 10. Not a great one to go out on.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Richie wrote this song for his daughter Nicole. She would have been around 4 or 5 years old at the time and he wrote the song after seeing Nicole in her ballet classes. At the time, Nicole was not actually Richie's daughter. She began living with Richie and his first wife Brenda when she was 3. Her real parents, Karen Moss and Pete Escovedo (Sheila E's brother), let Nicole live with the Richies because they could not take care of her. The Richies would then fully adopt Nicole when she was nine. Of course, Nicole went on to be a reality TV star on The Simple Life with her childhood best friend Paris Hilton.


Thursday, November 21, 2019

"I'll Be Alright Without You" by Journey

Song#:  2959
Date:  12/06/1986
Debut:  79
Peak:  14
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  With three Pop Top 20 hits including the #9 "Be Good to Yourself" to its credit, Journey's Raised on Radio album was certified platinum in July of '86. Hoping to sell a few more copies, their label issued out this fourth single. It was a good choice to do so as the tune became the second highest peaking single from the album on the Pop chart while becoming the second AC Top 10 of the band's career (#7). It also got to #26 at Rock.

ReduxReview:  It was strange that each successive single from Raised on Radio moved further and further away from Journey's trademark arena rock and towards a more mainstream, soft rock/AC sound. They started out with a bang with "Be Good to Yourself," but things tapered off from there until they finally pushed out this mid-tempo pop tune. The band had certainly changed and I wasn't all for it. I preferred the band rockin' it up rather than slinging out songs that would go Top 10 at AC. Yet, I really didn't mind this song. It was well-written and performed. It's just that it belonged on a Steve Perry solo album - you know, the one your parents would buy and listen to after the latest Michael McDonald release...

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  When sessions commenced for Raised on Radio, two of the band's long-time members, bassist Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith, disagreed with the musical direction of the band and were eventually fired. They both went off to do their own projects, but later in 1990 they got together with another former Journey member, original lead vocalist/keyboardist Gregg Rollie, and formed a band called The Storm. Also brought on board was Kevin Chalfant, who had been the lead singer for 707 ("Mega Force" #62 Pop/#12 Rock, 1980), and guitarist Josh Ramos. They got signed to Interscope and released a self-titled debut album in 1990. Their first single, "I've Got a Lot to Learn About Love," was a success reaching #6 at Rock and #26 Pop. A follow-up single, "Show Me the Way," got to #22 on the Rock chart. A second album, Eye of the Storm, was completed, but after changes at the label, it ended up getting shelved (it was issued out on an indie label later in '96). After that, the band split. Valory and Smith would join back up with Journey in 1996 for their comeback album.


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

"I Need Your Loving" by Human League

Song#:  2958
Date:  12/06/1986
Debut:  88
Peak:  44
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Synthpop, Electro-Funk

Pop Bits:  The UK band scored their second #1 hit with "Human," the lead single from their fifth album Crash. The song was a different sound for them thanks to the songwriting/production team of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. While Jam & Lewis' song got the League to the top of the chart, the relationship between the band and the producers wasn't the best with Jam & Lewis asserting their control over most everything, which most likely included the choice of singles to be released. This follow-up was another Jam & Lewis composition (along with members of their Flyte Tyme band/production crew) and it was selected for release over any of the album's tracks written by the band. It proved to be the wrong choice when the song failed to reach the Pop Top 40. It also made an appearance on the R&B chart at #52. Without a second strong single, album sales took a hit and it ended up missing the gold-level mark. The band would return in 1990 with the album Romantic?, which spawned the #29 Pop single "Heart Like a Wheel." In 1995, they would release Octopus. The single "Tell Me When" would get to #31 Pop. It would be their last song to reach the US Pop chart. Back in the UK, "Tell Me When" did far better getting to #6. It created a resurgence in popularity for the band there and the album would also get to #6 and go gold.

ReduxReview:  My guess is that Jam & Lewis tried to do a funkier take on the band's new wave synthpop style. Critics didn't particularly like it, but I thought it was okay. I just didn't think it was the right choice for a single. Obviously, they needed to release something that was a counterpoint to the balladry of "Human," but this one just wasn't the right song for the job. The problem was that there wasn't another sure-fire hit on the album so the next single would have a difficult time anyway. I would have chosen the band's own "Jam" to push out. I think it had more potential than this one and a good remix of it might have scored on the Dance chart. Even the Motown-ish "Love on the Run" might have done better. The problem just came down to a power struggle and Jam & Lewis won out, therefore their works were going to be released over the band's material and it led to this dud single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  A third single would be released from Crash, but it was issued out just over two years after the album was released. Late in 1988, the band's first compilation, Greatest Hits, was issued out. To help promote the collection, an edited version of "Love Is All That Matters" from Crash was included on the album and pushed out as a single. It didn't chart in the US and neither did the album. However, the song got to #41 in the UK and the collection was a hit getting to #3. It would be a double-platinum seller there. Like the previous two singles from Crash, "Love Is All That Matters" was written and produced by Jam & Lewis.


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

"Graceland" by Paul Simon

Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2957
Date:  12/06/1986
Debut:  92
Peak:  81
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  The week this single debuted, Simon's album Graceland was initially peaking at #6. Solid reviews of the worldbeat-style LP along with three Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year, contributed to sales. But it still had yet to spawn a significant single. The LP's first one, "You Can Call Me Al," just missed out on the Pop Top 40 at #44 (a reissue in '87 would do better). This title track second single could barely get off the ground. It did better at AC (#34) and Rock (#38), but it just wasn't something that was going to boost album sales. However, Graceland would win the Grammy for Album of the Year early in '87 and that helped turn the LP around.

ReduxReview:  As a song, this was a highlight from the Graceland album. As a single, it didn't work. Of course, Graceland wasn't created to be a single-generating commercial effort, so it wasn't too surprising that this song couldn't make any headway even though it might have been the logical second attempt at a single. Still, as good as the song is, it should not have won a Grammy for Record of the Year (see below). Up to this point, nods in the Record of the Year category were nearly all hit singles. That's what helped them become Record of the Year winners. They were popular records that folks bought and heard on the radio. This song wasn't any of that. The fact it was even nominated was weird. But the Grammys were extra loyal to artists like Simon who were long established previous winners. It was like the old guard decided that rewarding Simon again for Graceland was better than giving more attention to an upstart rock band's #1 hit. Ugh. Well, that's the Grammys for ya. Anyway, good album track, not a good single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) For the 1987 Grammy Awards, this song was nominated in the Song of the Year category, which is one for composition. Songs nominated do not have to be released as singles. However, they do for the Record of the Year category. Unfortunately, "Graceland" was issued as a single after the deadline for the '87 Grammys. It was then eligible for the '88 Grammys and received a nomination for Record of the Year. It surprisingly won beating out the odds-on-favorite U2's #1 hit "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." It would be the lowest charting song to ever win in that category until 2009 when a non-charting single, "Please Ready the Letter" by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, won the award.  2) When Simon was forming this song, he used the word "Graceland" as a sort of placeholder until he could come up with other lyrics. But after its repeated use, he though it was meant to be in the song. Graceland was Elvis Presley's famous home in Memphis, Tennessee, and Simon had not been there before and decided he better go and tour the home. Part of this song was based on his trip to see the landmark.  3) The Everly Brother sang backup vocals on this track. Simon and Garfunkel were heavily influenced by the duo. They even included a live version of the Everly's 1957 #2 hit "Bye Bye Love" on their 1970 album Bridge Over Troubled Water. Oddly, the night before writing this post I was watching Ken Burns' Country Music documentary and at the point The Everly Brothers were discussed, Paul Simon showed up telling how he took an extensive 2-hour round trip back and forth twice in the same day to a record store to purchase "Bye Bye Love." He did it twice because when he got home with the single the first time, he accidentally scratched it after the first listen. Desperately wanting to hear it again he walked out the door and made the trek to the record store again.


Monday, November 18, 2019

"Jimmy Lee" by Aretha Franklin

Song#:  2956
Date:  12/06/1986
Debut:  94
Peak:  28
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Franklin's 1986 self-titled album was initially introduced by the single "Jumpin' Jack Flash," a remake of the Rolling Stones hit. It did fairly well reaching #20 R&B and #21 Pop thanks in part to it being used the Whoopi Goldberg comedy of  the same name. For a follow-up, this album-opening track was selected. It would do much better at R&B getting to the #2 spot. It also went Top 20 at AC (#17) and Dance (#19). However, the song wasn't as well received at Pop and it stalled just inside the Top 30. Luckily, Franklin had an ace up her sleeve and her next single from the LP would be a big winner.

ReduxReview:  This tune had a more retro R&B feel to it and I don't think that played as well on pop radio as her more mainstream hits from her previous album. It was a nice track and I liked the addition of the horns. Plus Franklin killed the vocals per usual and made the song more interesting that it really was. I guess I was just a bit confused as to why this one got released as the second single. With a much stronger pop contender in the wings, it seemed like this would have made a better third single. They probably wanted to reel in her R&B audience after the rockin' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and this song certainly did accomplish that with it nearly topping the chart. But it wasn't a good crossover contender.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Franklin's 1986 Aretha was actually the third album of her career to be released with that title. Her first Aretha album was her 1961 debut. She was signed to Columbia Records and the LP featured Franklin singing jazz and pop standards. It didn't chart, but it did feature her first two R&B Top 10s, "Today I Sing the Blues" (#10) and "Won't Be Long" (#7). Later in 1980, Franklin left Atlantic Records, where she became a superstar, for Arista. It seemed like a new, fresh start for her so her first release for the label was simply titled Aretha. It would be a #6 R&B album thanks to the #3 R&B hit "United Together" (#56 Pop).


Sunday, November 17, 2019

"Facts of Love" by Jeff Lorber with Karyn White

Song#:  2955
Date:  12/06/1986
Debut:  96
Peak:  27
Weeks:  16
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  Lorber was a jazz-based keyboardist who formed his own instrumental group, Jeff Lorber Fusion, in the mid-70s. They got signed to the NYC jazz label Inner City and released two albums in '77 and '78. Their smooth jazz sound became popular and for their third album they signed with Arista, a far bigger label that allowed them more exposure. Three more albums would follow all of which would find their way on to the Pop album chart. With Lorber's star rising, it came time for him to be billed as a solo act and the first album under just his name was 1982's It's a Fact. It became his best-selling album to-date reaching #73 on the Pop chart. Sensing that Lorber could be a bigger crossover act, Arista brought in R&B producer Maurice Starr to assist with Lorber's 1984 album In the Heat of the Night. It didn't expand his audience any further, so for his next effort, 1985's Step By Step, it was suggested Lorber collaborate with other more commercial writers and include songs with vocals. The title track, co-written by Lorber and Anita Pointer, would end up being a hit on the Dance chart getting to #4. It also got to #31 at R&B. Session vocalist Audrey Wheeler sang the tune. A second single, "Best Part of the Night" sung by Gavin Christopher, got to #15 on the Dance chart. Lorber also earned his first Grammy nomination for Best R&B Instrumental Performance for the track "Pacific Coast Highway." It all seemed to be working well, but pressure from Arista and the prickly Clive Davis made Lorber take off for Warner Bros. His first effort for them was 1986's Private Passion. It also featured some vocal tracks like this first single that was performed by session singer Karyn White. The song would go Top 10 at Dance (#9) while getting to #17 R&B and making the Pop Top 30. The hit would help the album get to #68 Pop, #29 R&B and #17 Jazz. It would be his peak crossover moment. But then Lorber decided that he'd had enough of trying to be a crossover star and retreated to session work for a while. He would return in 1993 in a more comfortable contemporary jazz fashion on Verve Forecast Records with Worth the Wait. More albums would follow and he'd reform Jeff Lorber Fusion in 2010. He would earn six more Grammy nominations finally winning in 2017 for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for the Fusion's Prototype.

ReduxReview:  This was a good, hooky tune that kick-started Karyn White's career (her 1988 debut album would spawn three Pop Top 10's). It also helped sell a few albums for Lorber. I'm not always sure what to think about singles like this though. Lorber was an excellent musician who helped bring smooth jazz to the masses and this track is nowhere near his usual fare. I think its a case of a label trying to force an artist to be a crossover star. I mean, they will sell more albums, they can have hits, yet they can sort of keep a bit of their writing and musical roots alive on other album tracks. I guess it is fine, but when it comes down to it this song could have been done by anyone. Lorber didn't write it (the production team Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers did). He plays keyboards, but not in a way that would truly identify him. Basically, it is a Karyn White single. Other fringe jazz or instrumental artists would do the same and score pop hits in the decade as well, but I just don't get it. People call it selling out. I'm not sure I agree. Why wouldn't you give it a try to help sell your own material and get people to your concerts? It just seems strange though because if you went to see Lorber in concert around this time, he would probably play this song, but the majority of the concert would be a bunch of smooth jazz noodling, which many folks didn't sign up for. Regardless, this was a solid track that was produced well, even though it is really selling Karyn White.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Whether you love or loathe soprano sax master Kenny G, you pretty much have Jeff Lorber to thank. Lorber brought Kenny Gorelick on board with the Fusion for their 1980 Arista album Wizard Island and its 1981 follow-up Galaxian. Lorber knew the young Gorelick had ambition and helped to sell him as a solo artist to Clive Davis. Davis finally bit and signed the newly christened Kenny G. In 1982, Kenny G would play on Lorber's first solo LP and release his own solo debut. It would do pretty well and his next two LPs increased his fan base. But it would be 1986's Duotones that would break him wide open as a crossover star. That album would go on to sell over five million copies.