Saturday, January 11, 2020

"Have You Ever Loved Somebody" by Freddie Jackson

Song#:  3009
Date:  02/07/1987
Debut:  96
Peak:  69
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B, Quiet Storm

Pop Bits:  Jackson's second album, Just Like the First Time, lived up to its title. Like his debut, it would be a #1 R&B album and its first two singles would also reach #1 at R&B. "Tasty Love" would hit the top spot to kick things off and then this follow-up would also do the trick. Unfortunately, Pop didn't embrace these two singles as well. The first two singles from his debut LP made the Pop Top 20, but both "Tasty Love" and this one failed to even reach the Top 40. Still, Jackson retained enough crossover appeal to make the album get to #23 and become his second platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  This is a sleek ballad that is well-crafted and showcases Jackson's terrific voice. But like Luther Vandross at the time, Jackson was having trouble breaking through to a larger, more mainstream audience. His first album started to get him noticed with a pair of Pop Top 20's, but the material on his second album didn't expand his sound and there wasn't much that was going to play well on pop radio. Still, it didn't really matter because his star continued to rise with R&B fans who handed him a fifth #1 with this single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In addition to his two Grammy and one American Music Awards nominations generated by his first two albums, Jackson also grabbed two nominations at the inaugural Soul Train Music Awards. He was up for Album of the Year, Male, and Single of the Year, Male. The awards show began in 1987 and has grown in popularity over the years. The makers of the successful Soul Train music program developed the awards to honor achievement in black music. In addition to R&B, the awards have also included categories for jazz, gospel, and hip-hop/rap. The hosts for the very first awards show were Dionne Warwick and Luther Vandross, who would go on to win the Album of the Year, Male, award for Give Me the Reason. Janet Jackson's Control would win Album of the Year, Female.


Friday, January 10, 2020

"Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Starship

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3008
Date:  01/31/1987
Debut:  64
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  This new iteration of the Jefferson Airplane/Starship lineage took the band in a new pop-oriented direction and that resulted in two #1 hits, "We Built This City" and "Sara." After singles were exhausted from the associated album Knee Deep in the Hoopla, the band got an opportunity to record a song for an upcoming rom-com flick titled Mannequin. They recorded this tune with producer Narada Michael Walden and it would be issued out as a single a couple weeks before the movie's opening. It would end up being Starship's third song to top the Pop chart while being their second to reach #1 at AC. It also got to #16 at Rock and would be their second single to hit gold-level sales. An official soundtrack album from the movie would not be released, but this song would be included on the band's next LP No Protection, which would arrive in the summer of '87.

ReduxReview:  I admit it - I fell for this song back in the day. It was just a damn good pop song that was happy and uplifting. It was well-written and had a nice 80s production by Walden. The sing-a-long chorus was hooky as hell and it appealed to a wide audience. There was just no doubt that this song would top the chart. As for the movie, well...yeah. I thought it was awful. But I do have friends who saw it as teens and loved it. They still quote from it. I just thought it was ridiculous. But at least it did spur this song. I'm less enamored with the tune these days since it got played to death (and still gets played a lot), but I still like it and it certainly put Diane Warren's career in high gear (see below).

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This song was written specifically for the film by Albert Hammond and Diane Warren. Warren's career as a songwriter was taking off at the time with many big-named artists picking up her songs. By this point, she already had two Top 10 hits to her credit, "Solitaire" by Laura Branigan and "Rhythm of the Night" by DeBarge. This movie theme became her first #1. It would be nominated for a Grammy and would be the first of ten (as of this posting date) Oscar nods for Warren in the Best Original Song category (she has yet to win).  2) Starship's Mickey Thomas and Grace Slick shared lead vocals on the song. With the tune hitting #1, it made Slick the oldest female lead vocalist to top the Pop chart at age 47. She would hold that record until 1999 when Cher hit #1 with "Believe." Cher was 52 at the time. As of this posting date, she still holds the record.  3) The film Mannequin starred "brat pack" member Andrew McCarthy and future Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall. Critics didn't like the movie, but audiences showed up anyway and made it a sizable hit easily besting the Sylvester Stallone flop Over the Top, which debuted the same weekend. It did well enough to get a sequel green-lit. In 1991, Mannequin Two: On the Move was released. McCarthy and Cattrall did not appear in the film, but Meshach Taylor, who played the flamboyant Hollywood Montrose in the original, did return. Kristy Swanson and William Ragsdale took on the lead roles. The film was a bomb with critics and at the box office.


Thursday, January 9, 2020

"That Ain't Love" by REO Speedwagon

Song#:  3007
Date:  01/31/1987
Debut:  73
Peak:  16
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's eleventh album, Wheels Are Turnin', ended up being a double platinum seller thanks to the #1 hit "Can't Fight This Feeling." The song basically saved the album since its lead single, "I Do' Wanna Know" stalled early on the Pop chart (#29). A little over two years later, the band returned with their next album Life As We Know It. This first single was released and it did well at Rock reaching #5. The reception at Pop was a bit more tepid with the song stalling inside the Top 20. The lack of a stronger hit didn't bode well for the album and unfortunately they didn't have a song on the LP like "Can't Fight This Feeling" that would turn it around. In the end, the album would peak and #23 and go gold, which was a far cry from their three previous multi-platinum successes.

ReduxReview:  This is not too bad of a song. The chorus is strong and Kevin Cronin puts out a solid vocal. The problem with it is the arrangement. They 80-fied it with cheap keyboards clanking all the way through along with little sound effects. I'm sure they were trying to keep up with the sounds of the time, but this song didn't need it. A straight-forward rock arrangement would have served the song much better. Instead, they moved more towards being Starship rather than REO. The material was there. They just didn't shine it in the best possible light.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  When REO Speedwagon recorded their first album in 1971, the lead vocalist for the band was Terry Luttrell. Issues within the band caused Luttrell to leave after one LP. He would then join the prog rock band Starcastle. The Illinois group got signed to Epic Records and released four albums between 1976 and 1978. They missed getting a single on the Pop chart by just a hair. Their 1976 track "Lady of the Lake" from their self-titled debut album bubbled under the chart peaking at #101. Kevin Cronin would step in as lead vocalist for REO after Luttrell's departure.


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

"Fire" by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

Song#:  3006
Date:  01/31/1987
Debut:  80
Peak:  46
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Springsteen was arguably at the peak of his career when he decided to unleash his first live album. The sprawling 5-LP box set Live/1975-1985 would debut at #1 thanks in part to its first single "War" (#4 Rock/#8 Pop). To follow it up, this next track was selected. It did well at Rock getting to #14, but it failed to crack the Pop Top 40. It put a halt to his streak of eight consecutive Top 10 hits. Yet it was just a temporary bump in the road. The box set would go on to be one of the best-selling live albums in rock and Springsteen's next album would return him to the Pop Top 10 twice more.

ReduxReview:  Sometimes things are just meant to be. While there was some potential for Springsteen to possibly grab a hit with this song (see below), it just wasn't meant for him. His decision to exclude it from Darkness allowed the Pointer Sisters to record their smouldering version of the tune. And honestly, they do a superior version to any done by Springsteen. It was just meant to be. This take on the song from a concert performance was just okay. Springsteen tries to be sexy and such at the beginning, but then he takes it in a rock direction and the fire just fizzles. Frankly, there really was no need for this single to be released. It was rare enough that a live version of a song got into the Top 10, so getting two was nearly impossible. Airplay at rock radio was plenty and probably did more to promote the box set than the actual single. Listen to this once, file it away, and then add the Pointer Sisters' version to your playlists.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This is a live remake of a song originally recorded by Springsteen, yet was a hit for another artist. Springsteen wrote and recorded a demo of this song in 1977. He initially intended it for Elvis Presley, but Presley died before a demo could get to him. It was then considered for inclusion on his fourth album Darkness on the Edge of Town, however despite the tune's commercial viability, Springsteen didn't think it fit in with the theme of the album and left it out. He then handed the song over to rockabilly artist Robert Gordon. Gordon recorded the song for his 1978 album Fresh Fish Special along with Link Wray and Springsteen on piano. The tune picked up some airplay, but it didn't get very far. Then producer Richard Perry played Springsteen's version of the tune for the newly reduced trio form of The Pointer Sisters. They recorded it for their 1978 album Energy. It would be the LP's first single and it got to #2 Pop/#14 R&B/#21 AC. It was a huge hit that kickstarted the trio's career. Although Springsteen at the time didn't release a version of the song, he would incorporate it into his shows. This single's performance was recorded on December 16, 1978, at the Winterland in San Francisco, just about a month after The Pointer Sisters debuted on the Pop chart with their version.


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

"Midnight Blue" by Lou Gramm

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3005
Date:  01/31/1987
Debut:  82
Peak:  5
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Singles from Foreigner's 1984 album Agent Provocateur kept them on the charts throughout a good chunk of 1985. This included their biggest hit, the #1 "I Want to Know What Love Is." After the associated tour wrapped up, the band took a little break. During that time, lead singer Lou Gramm decided it was the right time to record a solo album. He headed into the studio with producer Pat Moran and came out with a debut solo effort titled Ready or Not. This first single got issued out and it became a major hit at Rock getting to #1. Pop would also embrace the tune and it would go on to become Gramm's first Top 10 hit on that chart. While the album wouldn't be a major seller, it still did well reaching #27.

ReduxReview:  Gramm ramped the pop side of his songwriting for this track and it worked well. It doesn't sound like a Foreigner track, which is good. Mick Jones was the main songwriter for Foreigner with Gramm co-writing several tracks, so Gramm's solo album allowed him to flesh out his own ideas that may not have been right for Foreigner. This song sounded great on the radio and you knew what it was immediately when the tambourine and opening guitar lick came out. It was all hooky and easy to digest. With the hit, Gramm proved he could step out on his own and be successful.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  For his solo album, Gramm chose to work with old friend and former bandmate Bruce Turgon. The pair co-wrote all the songs for Ready or Not. Gramm (using his given name Grammatico at the time) and Turgon were both in an early 70s rock band named Black Sheep. Based out of Rochester, New York, the band first was signed to Chrysalis and issued out a single in 1974. They then moved over to Capitol for a self-titled debut album the following year. A quick follow-up, Encouraging Words, was pushed out in late '75. The albums didn't do well, but it seemed like their star was on the rise and an opening slot on a Kiss tour was sure to help break the band. Unfortunately, a traffic accident completely wiped out their equipment. With no money to buy more, they had to drop out of the tour. More bad news came when they lost their contract with Capitol. It was around that time that Gramm was contacted by Mick Jones to join Foreigner. Gramm decided to jump ship and Black Sheep was no more. Gramm and Turgon remained friends and came together for Gramm's solo album. Turgon would later become a member of Foreigner in 1992 and stay with the band for nine years.


Monday, January 6, 2020

"Skin Trade" by Duran Duran

Song#:  3004
Date:  01/31/1987
Debut:  83
Peak:  39
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Shaved down to a trio, Duran Duran returned after an extended hiatus with their fourth studio album Notorious. It would be a platinum seller thanks to the #2 title track. This second single would be released, but it didn't fully catch fire. It would briefly sneak into the Top 40 before quickly falling off the chart. The low #39 peak would be the worst showing of the band's career to-date. All of their other charting singles at least made the Top 20 with eight of them going Top 10. It was a bit of a disappointment coming on the heels of a major #2 hit.

ReduxReview:  To me, this sounded like the band's attempt to do something Prince-like with a smidgen of David Bowie tossed in. The funky chorus along with Simon Le Bon's falsetto leaned towards the Purple One's camp while the horn-supported chorus brings in a bit of the Tonight Bowie. I think it all worked well together and I like the trumpet solo. However, it was a different sound for the band and it wasn't quite the hook laden pop that they had been serving up for the past few years. It was more mature and took the band in another direction. I think it got more appreciated later in their career, but at the time it kind of confused listeners and it was not going to be a hit.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The title of this song apparently came from a book that Duran Duran member John Taylor was reading at the time the album was being recorded. Adventures in the Skin Trade was a collection of stories by Welsh poet/writer Dylan Thomas. It was published in 1953, which was the same year Thomas died at the young age of 39. Duran Duran had finished the music for a new song but it still needed lyrics. Taylor suggested the book title as a starting point. Simon Le Bon shortened it to just "Skin Trade" and then sussed out the lyrics.


Sunday, January 5, 2020

"Kiss You (When It's Dangerous) by Eight Seconds

Song#:  3003
Date:  01/31/1987
Debut:  91
Peak:  72
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Eight Seconds first got together in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, in 1982. They started out performing covers, but it wasn't long before they began incorporating originals into their sets. After gaining exposure through a couple of contests, the band was able to record an EP in 1985 titled Ottava Rima, which proved to be a popular local release. Apparently liking the works of producer Rupert Hine (The Fixx, Tina Turner, Howard Jones), the band sent him their EP in hopes of getting his attention. Hine ended up liking what he heard and after seeing them perform live, he offered to produced an album for them. With Hine on board, the band was able to sign with Polydor and work began on their full-length debut Almacantar. This first single was released and in Canada it did well reaching #12. The song crossed the boarder into the States and was able to get on the Pop chart for a couple of months. The album earned the band a Juno nomination for Most Promising Group. It seemed the band was on its way, but then troubles hit. Issues behind the scenes caused the release of their second album, Big Houses, to be delayed. They had to switch over to ATCO Records, who finally pushed out the album in 1990. By that time, the band was unable to capitalize on the momentum built up by their debut and the new LP quickly disappeared. Then changes at their label left them back out on their own. The group quietly folded soon after and went their own ways.

ReduxReview:  This band already had a new wave/rock sound along the lines of The Fixx so Hine's production certainly was appropriate (and was probably why they pursued him). This track was polished in a way to make it sound more European than Canadian. It worked well, but the song just didn't have a big enough hook to cut through on US radio. Plus, we already had a Fixx - did we need another? Regardless of the similarities, the tracks on Eight Seconds' album were well done. The band just needed one more track that had better commercial potential.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  One of the contests that Eight Seconds competed in was on the Canadian TV variety series Rock Wars. They didn't make it to the finals, but the exposure helped the band. Rock Wars would only last one season. Its one and only winner was the R&B/funk band Tchukon. Their prize for winning was $100k (Canadian) along with starring in their own half-hour CBC TV special. After their TV show was filmed, they used it as a demo to try out for the popular American TV variety contest series, Star Search. They got on the show and eventually won in the Best Vocal Group category in 1986. Their win netted them $100k (US). They were also the first Canadian act to win in any category on Star Search. The wins and the money gave them the opportunity to sign with a label and release their debut album Here and Now. It earned them a Juno nomination for Best R&B/Soul Album. But then as they were recording their follow-up, members got opportunities to do other projects. Time passed by and the band just never reconvened to finish off their second album.