Wednesday, May 27, 2020

"Can't We Try" by Dan Hilll with Vonda Shepard

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3146
Date:  06/06/1987
Debut:  91
Peak:  6
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  This Canadian singer/songwriter got his first break when he signed with RCA Records in 1972. Unfortunately, nothing came from his association with the label and after getting out of the contract he gave it a go with the indie label GRT. His 1975 self-titled debut album yielded three charting singles in Canada. 20th Century Fox picked Hill up for distribution in the US and one of his singles, "Growin' Up," made a minor impression on the US Pop chart at #67. A second album wasn't quite as successful, but a single from his third album, 1977's Longer Fuse, would turn him into a star. "Sometimes When We Touch" would top the Canadian chart while getting to #3 US Pop and #10 US AC. The hit would help send his album to #21 in the US. After that, things tapered off quickly for Hill in the US with only the 1978 song "All I See Is Your Face" doing anything (#41 Pop/#8 AC). Hill would grab a few minor chart entries in Canada through to 1983, but after two label changes over the course of three albums, Hill's career stalled. Then in 1986, Columbia Records decided to give him a shot at a comeback. He recorded his second self-titled album and this first single was issued out. It debuted low on the Pop chart and began a long, slow climb. Aided by it being used in the soap opera Santa Barbara, the tune ended up cracking the Pop Top 10 while hitting #2 at AC for three weeks. The hit would help Hill's album reach #90, his first showing on the chart since 1978. It would take ten years, but Hill would finally lose the tag of being a one-hit wonder.

ReduxReview:  This is a terrific late 80s AC ballad. It was well-written and wonderfully performed by Hill and Shepard. I also appreciated the arrangement and production, which made the song sound grand and emotional without going over the top. Imagine if David Foster was in charge. His bigger-is-better approach would have buried the tune and the vocalists. Luckily, that didn't happen and what we got was one of the best AC ballads of the late 80s. On a side note, even though this song got locked out of the top spot at AC, its three weeks at #2 and longevity on the chart made it the #1 AC charting song for 1987. It was quite rare for the top song of the year for any chart to have not peaked at #1.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Joining Hill on this track was singer/songwriter Vonda Shepard. Shepard had been working with other artists as a backup singer and/or keyboard player and had a couple of close calls at getting a solo career going. In addition to being considered for the lead in the film Light of Day (Joan Jett got the part), Shepard was also a candidate for Peter Cetera's duet partner on "The Next Time I Fall," but someone suggested Amy Grant and she got the job. Then she was tipped off that Dan Hill was looking for a duet partner for a song he was recording at a local studio that Shepard frequented. She auditioned and the next day recorded the song with Hill. This hit helped Shepard secure a deal with Reprise Records and her self-titled debut came out in 1989. Unfortunately, it only yielded the #17 AC entry "Don't Cry Ilene" and her time with Reprise came to an end. The next eight years found Shepard touring with other artists, putting out a couple of indie albums, and performing solo club shows. It was at one of those club shows that Shepard was spotted by TV writer/producer David E. Kelly. He cast her and her and her music in his new show Ally McBeal. Shepard would co-write and perform the show's theme song "Searchin' My Soul." The show was a hit and by the time the first season was ending in 1998, the theme song became a #22 hit on the AC chart (#16 Pop Airplay). The associated soundtrack album, which featured Shepard doing cover tunes, her theme song, and another original was an even bigger success getting to #7 and going platinum. A second soundtrack would get to #60 and go gold the following year.



  1. That's a pretty song that I don't remember. It's nice to read about talented people finding some success after some people would have written them off.