Saturday, December 21, 2019

"Let's Wait Awhile" by Janet Jackson

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2988
Date:  01/17/1987
Debut:  75
Peak:  2
Weeks:  19
Genre:  R&B, Pop

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, Jackson's Control album had spawned four gold-selling Pop Top 5 hits. With the album still selling well, it was decided that a fifth single would be released. This ballad was selected for the job. It ended up being the right choice with the song hitting #1 at R&B and #2 at both AC and Pop. Although it didn't reach the gold-level sales mark like her previous four singles, Pop chart-wise it was the second highest peaking of the bunch with only the #1 "When I Think of You" doing better. While she wouldn't be the first artist to get five Top 5 singles from one album, she would accomplish it faster with the LP's first five singles going Top 5. Her brother Michael was the first to get five Top 5 singles from one album (Thriller), but they were not consecutive. The first four singles from the LP went Top 5, but the next two singles peaked at #7 and #10. The title track would then get him his fifth Top 5 from the album.

ReduxReview:  This single came out at just the right time. A song about abstinence in the era of AIDS was appropriate and well-received. Although the lyrics were inspired by a conversation co-writer Melanie Andrews had with her boyfriend about waiting to have sex, the song resonated with people in a time of fear and uncertainty. It was a lovely track that was perfect for Jackson's voice and featured a production that was nicely restrained. The song was also a good contrast to the previous four singles' upbeat R&B/dance-pop. Jackson would go on to write a couple of follow-up songs to this one: "Someday Is Tonight" from Rhythm Nation 1814 and "With U" from 20 Y.O.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was nearly the subject of a plagiarism lawsuit. Back when this song was released as a single, the road manager for the soft rock band America happened to hear it on the radio while driving his car. He thought the verse of the song was quite similar to the verse in the America song "Daisy Jane." That 1975 song was the band's follow up single to their big #1 hit "Sister Golden Hair." It would get to #4 at AC while reaching #20 at Pop. The song's writer, America member Gerry Buckley, was contacted and the similarities between the songs were enough for his camp to reach out to Jackson's camp. Unlike other recent plagiarism issues that ended up in court, Jackson and her team acknowledged the similarities and decided to reach a settlement with Buckley. It seems a financial agreement took place, but it did not include Buckley getting a writing credit on the song. Later reissues of the song and the Control album still listed the songwriters as Janet Jackson, Jam & Lewis, and Melanie Andrews. Jackson and Jam & Lewis would purposely revisit the America catalog later in 2001. They would sample the guitar riff heard in America's 1972 #8 hit "Ventura Highway" on the All for You album track "Someone to Call My Lover." That song would be the LP's second single and it would reach #3 at Pop. America member and songwriter Dewey Bunnell would receive a writing credit on the track.


Friday, December 20, 2019

"As We Lay" by Shirley Murdock

Song#:  2987
Date:  01/17/1987
Debut:  79
Peak:  23
Weeks:  18
Genre:  R&B, Soul, Quiet Storm

Pop Bits:  This gospel singer from Ohio got a break in the music business when she got picked up by another Ohio act, the R&B/funk band Zapp. She was hired on by the band's leader, Roger Troutman, as a backing vocalist in the early 80s. Troutman also enlisted Murdock to supply vocals for his own second solo LP (he recorded simply under the name Roger) in 1984, and on Zapp's fourth album the following year, which included the #8 R&B hit "Computer Love." Murdock had featured vocalist spot on that song and it quickly raised her profile. Her next stop was a contract with Elektra Records and a 1986 self-titled debut album produced by Troutman. Her first single, "No More," got to #24 R&B/#27 Dance. A follow-up failed to chart, but this third single became her major breakthrough. It got to #5 at R&B while making the Pop Top 30 and hitting #21 at AC. A follow-up single, "Go on Without You" would reach #5 R&B. The hits helped her album get to #9 R&B and #44 Pop. It would eventually be certified gold. Unfortunately, this song would be Murdock's only one to reach the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  This quiet soul ballad did well on the Pop chart, which was a little surprising. Although it had verses and a chorus, the melodies were drawn out with Murdock interpreting each a bit different. It nearly made for a rambling tune, yet somehow it all worked. A lovely tone was set from the beginning and Murdock gracefully guided you through the quiet parts while ramping up her vocals at the appropriate times showing off her range and pipes. For a song about infidelity, it's kinda romantic! It's a terrific quiet storm track that is rarely heard these days.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Murdock would release two more albums for Elektra each of which generated a Top 10 single at R&B. However, despite the hits it seemed album sales lagged and she wouldn't get the opportunity to record a fourth major label LP. She would then return to her gospel roots and release the album Home in 2002. It would make the Top 10 on the Gospel chart as would her 2007 effort Soulfood.


Thursday, December 19, 2019

"Deep River Woman" by Lionel Richie

Song#:  2986
Date:  01/17/1987
Debut:  84
Peak:  71
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  Richie's "Ballerina Girl" would be the fourth single lifted from his album Dancing on the Ceiling. It would be his thirteenth consecutive (and last) Top 10 at Pop reaching #7. However, the single served a double purpose. While "Ballerina Girl" was being hawked to a mainstream audience, it's flip side, "Deep River Woman," got promoted at Country radio. Featuring background vocals by country superstar band Alabama, the tune did well enough to reach #10 on the Country chart. It was Richie's first and only Top 10 at Country as an artist (he had previously hit #1 at Country as a songwriter on Kenny Rogers' 1980 single "Lady"). However, Pop and AC radio picked up on the tune and began spinning it as well. Since it was commercially available as a single, the song was able to get on the Pop chart. It only stayed for a month and peaked low, which broke Richie's string of Top 10s. It also interrupted his string of Top 10s at AC by stopping at #28. 

ReduxReview:  Even though "Lady" was recorded by Kenny Rogers, I don't think Richie set out to write a country song. Same with "Stuck on You" (see below). However, this song does sound like that was his intent. The intro guitar, the song title, the "lord" part, and the addition of Alabama screamed that Richie was looking for some country-style cred along with expanding his fan base. The ploy paid off well with the track going to #10 at Country. It seemed a bit forced to me when I first heard it back in the day, but hearing it now I have to say in the long run it ended up being one of the better tracks on the album. "Better" is relative because there was very little I liked on the LP. While I'm not completely sold on the song, it wasn't necessarily a bad effort.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This wasn't Richie's first or last single to reach the Country chart. He first made the chart in 1984 with "Stuck on You" (#3 Pop). That song was able to reach #24. Later in 2012, Richie released an album titled Tuskegee on which he revisited a bunch of his old Commodores and solo hits. Each track featured a guest artist. For the LP, Richie reworked "Deep River Woman." and enlisted the help of another hot country band, Little Big Town. Although the track was not promoted as a single, some country stations spun the song following the release of the album and that airplay made the song hit #60 on the Country chart. It would only stay on the chart for one week.


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

"Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2985
Date:  01/17/1987
Debut:  85
Peak:  2
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  When the New Zealand band Split Endz ("I Got You," #53, 1980) broke up in 1984, members Neil Finn and Paul Hester decided to start a band of their own. They brought on two more musicians and became The Mullanes in 1985. The quartet got signed to Capitol Records, but one member left soon after and they were reduced to a trio just before work began on their self-titled debut album. It was finished in the summer of '86 and released in a few countries including Australia. Three singles were issued out from the LP. They all charted in Australia, but none went higher than #23. Then this fourth single got released and it became a bigger hit reaching #8. It got to #1 in New Zealand. With their profile raised, it was time to try and expand to other territories including the US. The song would be the first taste of the band in the States and it was well liked nearly topping the Pop chart while getting to #9 AC and #11 Rock. The hit would help their debut LP reach #12.

ReduxReview:  I've always kind of considered this the 80s version of Procol Harum's 1967 #5 classic "Whiter Shade of Pale." The organ was a tip off that the Procol Harum song was definately an influence. It worked very well. The opening lines of this song were indelible, especially "try to catch the deluge in a paper cup." The verse then led to the lovely "hey now" chorus that made the song even more memorable. The tune's folk-rock feel wasn't necessarily normal for pop radio at the time so it stood out. It was an excellent debut and one that has lasted long past its initial hit days.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The video for this song was a winner as well. It was nominated for four MTV Music Video Awards. It won the band the Best New Artist trophy.  2) When it came time for the band to record the album, they flew to L.A. for the sessions headed up by producer Mitchell Froom. The three band members were given a place to stay in a small home located in the Hollywood hills. There was not a lot of room to spare with three guys, luggage, instrument, etc. When their label requested that the band change their name, as they didn't like The Mullanes, the members thought of their tiny digs and decided to rechristen the band Crowded House.


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

"Hooked on You" by Sweet Sensation

Song#:  2984
Date:  01/17/1987
Debut:  96
Peak:  64
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Freestyle

Pop Bits:  This female vocal trio from The Bronx consisted of Betty LeBron and sisters Margie and Mari Fernandez. A chance encounter with the hip hop group The Boogie Boys ("A Fly Girl," #6 R&B, 1985) got them hooked up with Boys member Joe "Romeo J.D." Malloy, who began working with the trio along with producer David Sanchez. Among the first songs they worked on was one titled "Could It Be." This tuned ended up getting reworked and turned into "Hooked on You." The song helped the trio get signed to the indie dance label Next Plateau Records and it was issued out as single. The tune got a little bit of attention and was able to spend three months on the Pop chart. A second single, "(Goodbye Baby) Victim of Love," made a minor dent on the Dance chart at #44. The results were good enough to draw major label interest and the trio signed on with ATCO and began work on a debut album.

ReduxReview:  Sweet Sensation were among the first of the 80s/90s cluster of female vocal groups doing freestyle and other varieties of dance/R&B music. Soon would come Exposé, Seduction, En Vogue, etc. Several of the groups were assembled for projects by songwriters/producers. While Sweet Sensation were pretty much already a group, their songs were mainly written and/or produced by Malloy, Sanchez and Ted Currier. The team didn't necessarily offer anything new, but they did a pretty good job on this track. It had a good chorus and it featured a clean, 80s freestyle production. The solo vocal is a little on the weak side, but the voices together were nice and strong. While it was not a standout, it was a good introduction for the trio.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  If you were thinking that this song did better on the chart than #64, you are right. Their debut album's fourth single "Sincerely Yours," would be their breakthrough hit reaching #14 early in '89. The label thought the hit needed a follow up and decided to release a remixed version of "Hooked on You." It would end up doing much better on its second go-around getting to #23 in the summer of '89. 


Monday, December 16, 2019

"Summertime, Summertime" by Nocera

Song#:  2983
Date:  01/17/1987
Debut:  91
Peak:  84
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Dance, Freestyle

Pop Bits:  This Italian singer/songwriter moved to the States when she was 18 and it only took her about a year to secure a recording contract. She signed on with the indie dance label Sleeping Bag and began to record music. Nocera co-wrote and co-produced this first single with Floyd Fisher. It was released in the fall of '86 and it got to #2 on the Dance chart in November. Around the same time it got to #47 at R&B. By the end of the year it began to get picked up by pop radio and after the new year it cracked the Pop chart. It didn't stay long, but it was enough to call for a full album and Nocera's Over the Rainbow got released later in the year. A second single, "Let's Go," became another dance hit for Nocera late in '87 getting to #8. It would get to #70 at R&B, but fail to make the Pop chart. While the album didn't chart, Nocera got the green light to record a follow-up. Unfortunately, Sleeping Bag went out of business and that killed Nocera's second LP and contract. She would then move over to being a background vocalist for several acts including Information Society. Nocera headed up a couple of bands along the way while becoming a successful club DJ in New York.

ReduxReview:  Well, her vocals are certainly unique. A bit shrill, a little girly, and carrying a fairly heavy accent. Granted, she hadn't been in the States all that long, but you could definitely tell she wasn't from around here. The vocals don't sound heavily processed so I would think this was her natural voice and she could sing, but she does remind me of some young girl who think she wants to be a singer and gets her parents to float a recording session to which she shows up all decked out in Madonna gear and sings some song put together by a studio owner/producer. Karaoke, basically. However, I strangely like her voice on this track and the fact that she co-wrote/produced the track says something. The tune is actually quite catchy and she does the octave jump on "" very well. With a different singer and better production, this could have been a hit. The clubs enjoyed the track, but I think it was just a hair too odd for pop radio.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was covered by American singer Corina. Her 1997 version would get to #64 R&B and #86 Pop. It would be her fourth and last Pop chart entry. Corina signed on with the indie label Cutting Records in '87 and issued out a few singles over the next couple of years. Her second single, "Give Me Back My Heart," did well enough to reach #26 on the Dance chart. As the 90s started, Cutting Records got picked up by ATCO and Corina was brought along. Her first single for them was 1991's "Temptation." It would be a hit getting to #6 on the Pop chart while going to #22 at Dance. Her debut album then got released and it would spawn two other lower charting Pop tracks. While the album didn't chart, it seemed like Corina had some momentum, yet something happened and her time at ATCO came to an end. She moved over to So So Def and recorded "Summertime, Summertime" for one of their compilations. Despite being able to chart at Pop and R&B, it seemed it wasn't enough for the label to continue her contract.


Sunday, December 15, 2019

"Coming Up Close" by 'til tuesday

Song#:  2982
Date:  01/10/1987
Debut:  90
Peak:  59
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Alternative Rock, Folk-Rock

Pop Bits:  This Boston band's second album, Welcome Home, got started with it's first single, "What About Love." While it would be a hit at Rock getting to #9, it didn't do as well at Pop where it fizzled at #26. It was a disappointing result, but hopes were high that this next single would do better. Unfortunately it stalled early at Rock only reaching #37 while not being able to crack the top half of the Pop chart. That left the album peaking at #49 and failing to reach the same gold level sales of their 1985 debut.

ReduxReview:  With the band shedding the new wave of their debut album for a more mature alt-folk rock sound, getting a hit single was going to be difficult. Indeed neither the first single nor this second one performed very well, which is too bad. Both were excellent tracks from an album that was far superior to their debut. Mann was feeling more comfortable in her writing and she grew leaps and bounds with Welcome Home and its follow up. Critics were handing out accolades, but pop radio and listeners didn't pay much attention. They were looking for "Voices Carry, Pt. 2" and it didn't happen. Yet it was probably a good thing. Mann went on to a brilliant solo career that earned her two Grammys and an Oscar nod (see below). That might not have happened had she stayed on the commercial 80s new wave/synthpop trail. This lilting folk-rock track was the logical choice for a second single from the album, but it just wasn't going to do very well on a chart that was being dominated by massively hooky tunes by the likes of Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Bon Jovi. Still, it was another quality song from Mann.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Following the band's 1988 third album, Everything's Different Now, they went out on tour. Personnel changes took place and they needed a guitarist. They hired on a musician who had recently moved to Boston named Jon Brion. After 'til tuesday broke up, Brion started to pick up session work. Then when it came time for Aimee Mann's solo album, Brion co-wrote three songs with Mann and co-produced the LP. He then co-write five songs for Mann's second solo effort and produced it. It raised his profile and more session and production work came his way. He would work for a big list of artists including Fiona Apple, Melissa Etheridge, Peter Gabriel, The Wallflowers, Macy Gray, and Rufus Wainwright. He also branched out to scoring music for films. In 1999, both he and Mann would work on music for the Paul Thomas Anderson film Magnolia. Brion wrote the score while Mann contributed songs. Their work on the film would earn them Grammy nominations while Mann would receive an Oscar nomination for the song "Save Me." Brion would go on to co-produce the 2005 album Late Registration by Kanye West. Brion would receive a Grammy for his work when the LP won for Best Rap Album