Saturday, February 8, 2020

"It's Tricky" by Run-D.M.C.

Song#:  3037
Date:  02/28/1987
Debut:  93
Peak:  57
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rap

Pop Bits:  Making history and setting records was the order of the day for rap legends Run-D.M.C. Their album Raising Hell would be an influential classic and multi-platinum seller. Three singles had already been released from the LP by this point, but they were not done. The trio pushed out this fourth single and although it wouldn't do as well as their previous three, it did fine getting to #21 at R&B and nearly making the top half of the Pop chart. At the time, the single wasn't a major seller, however, that changed in the digital age. It became highly popular in the trio's catalog and over time sold enough that it was certified as a double-platinum seller in May of 2019.

ReduxReview:  Here is another winner from the rap trio. It's just as fun and catchy as the previous singles from the album, so I'm a bit surprised it didn't do better on the charts. Mainstream music folks were still trying to figure out rap and if it was a valid new genre or a passing fad, so the "already heard that" factor may have been at play here with some listeners and at radio. Or maybe the attention had swung the Beastie Boys way for the time being and radio wasn't ready for multiple rap songs in their playlists. Whatever the case, in the end it didn't really matter because the album became a huge success and this song would be a rap staple for years to come.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Back in the day, the rules and laws regarding sampling were still getting figured out so not every artist whose work was used got recognized or compensated. That would certainly change over the years and for the most part any issues regarding sampling or use of material in early rap or even pop/R&B songs were put to rest. However, sometimes a golden oldie will get dusted off and become fodder for a lawsuit. "It's Tricky" ended up being one of those songs. In it, Run-D.M.C. ended up using a sample of the guitar lick from The Knack's 1979 #1 hit "My Sharona." The small bit helps push the beat and is mixed in well with the track. While it may not be recognizable to some, most anyone familiar with "My Sharona" could easily recognize the sample. Somehow, for twenty years, the song's writers, Knack members Doug Fieger and Berton Averre, were never aware of the sample and apparently no one associated with them knew either. It seems strange that they didn't know. Fans of the band must have known and would have alerted the band or it would have been discussed online. Yet Fieger and Averre were oblivious to it. That is until 2006 when it finally came to their attention. They not only sued Run-D.M.C., but also any sales/distribution outlet that sold copies of the song. It seems the suit was settled out of court three years later, so Fieger and Averre received some kind of compensation and credit. However, this song also utilizes a portion of another hit. The cheer-leading section from the 1982 Toni Basil #1 "Mickey" is copped and revamped for the chorus of this track. It is the same cadence and rhyme scheme from "Mickey," but with different words. Since it is more of a spoken-word/chant item than an actual sample or melody, laws may be different for this. But it seems that "Mickey" songwriters Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn haven't had an issue with it as they have never sued for credit (at least not yet).

Friday, February 7, 2020

"Keep Your Eye on Me" by Herb Alpert

Song#:  3036
Date:  02/28/1987
Debut:  94
Peak:  46
Weeks:  10
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Alpert was a trumpeter, band leader, and record label owner (A&M) who scored hits in the 60s with his Tijuana Brass. He became hip for a minute in the late 70s when his disco floor hit "Rise" reached #1 in 1979. After that, he tried to retain that mainstream audience with some pop and R&B leaning instrumentals, but the best he could do was 1982's #37 "Route 101." It went downhill from there with a couple of low-performing LPs. Then his 1985 LP Wild Romance featured no Pop chart singles and barely made a dent on the Album chart. Nothing was working for Alpert and he had pretty much lost his audience. But you know, it certainly helps when you own a successful label with high profile, hit making artists like Janet Jackson. So Alpert looked at the work Jackson was doing with the writing/production team of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and wanted in. For his next LP, Keep Your Eye on Me, Alpert brought in Jam & Lewis to help boost his sound for a modern 80s audience. The trio would work up four tracks including this lead single. It caught on at R&B and Dance with the song reaching #3 on both charts. It crossed over to Pop where it nearly cracked the Top 40. It was his best effort in five years. The news would get even better with the album's second single.

ReduxReview:  Jam & Lewis do a good job here pushing Alpert into the then-current 80s. They established a solid jam with great production while giving Alpert a hooky melody line to play. Later in the song, they seem to recognize or give a tip o' tha hat to Alpert's Tijuana Brass days with a double trumpet line over a (synth) marimba. It all worked together and the tune did very well at R&B and Dance. Pop lagged behind, which was a bit surprising. This seemed like an easy Top 40 entry based on the action from the other charts, but it stalled early. Still, it's a fun track that gave Jam & Lewis another opportunity to expand their horizons.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In addition to production and songwriting on this track, Terry Lewis also supplied background vocals. Along with him were two of Jam & Lewis' cohorts, Jerome Benson and Lisa Keith. Both artists worked regularly with the duo. Benson was formerly with Jam & Lewis in The Time. Keith was an aspiring singer who began working with Jam & Lewis sometime in '85. She became a sort of go-to background singer for them and can be heard on many of their productions including her somewhat controversial appearance on Human League's #1 hit "Human." She would step into the spotlight a bit more providing lead vocals on the third single from Alpert's album, "Making Love in the Rain."


Thursday, February 6, 2020

"The Right Thing" by Simply Red

Song#:  3035
Date:  02/28/1987
Debut:  96
Peak:  27
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Simply Red made a splash with their debut album Picture Book. It would be a platinum seller thanks to the #1 hit "Holding Back the Years" and it would help earn the band two Grammy nominations including one for Best New Artist. The band then went back into the studio to record their second album, Men and Women. This first single introduced the LP. In their UK homeland, the song would reach #11, but it wasn't quite as successful in the States where it just made the Pop Top 30. Further singles failed to chart at Pop, although one of them, "Maybe Someday...," did make an appearance on the AC chart at #28. With little to support the album, it peaked at #31 and failed to reach gold-level sales. It would be a bump in the road for the band as they would rally back with their third effort.

ReduxReview:  This was a good track from the band and easily the best thing on the album. However, it wasn't a very strong single candidate. It was a sweet, blue-eyed soul track that seemed just a bit too laid back. It was lacking some energy and the tempo was a bit too slow to make it danceable. It leaned itself toward being a retro-style R&B track, but it didn't quite make it there. The tune didn't have enough to keep a US audience interested and it was a chart disappointment even though it was a nice listen.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The Men and Women album would be far more successful in Europe, especially the UK where five of its singles charted including this one and another #11, "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye." That song was a cover of an old Cole Porter standard that was written in 1944. It was first sung by Nan Wynn in the 1944 Broadway revue show The Seven Lively Arts. To-date, all twelve of Simply Red's studio albums have reached the UK Top 10. Four of them hit #1. They would also earn ten Top 10 hits. In the US, they would only get two Top 10 hits (both would be #1's) and none of their albums would get higher than the #16 showing of Picture Book.


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

"So Much in Love" by The Venetians

Song#:  3034
Date:  02/28/1987
Debut:  97
Peak:  88
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This Australian rock band was formed by UK-born Rik Swinn in 1982. They were signed to Parole Records and released a single in '83 titled "Sound on Sound." It just scratched the Aussie chart with a follow-up single "Chinese I's" doing a little better. It was enough to call for a full album and the band delivered Step Off the Edge in 1985. Singles from the LP didn't do that well, but Parole gave the band another chance and they recorded and released this single late in '85. It ended up being a major hit reaching #3 in Australia. That success gave them the opportunity to record a second album Calling In the Lions, which was issued out in '86. A second single, "Inspiration," then made it to #19. The hits helped them get a distribution deal in the US on Chrysalis Records and "So Much in Love" got released early in '87. Surprisingly, it first got attention in clubs and the tune made it to #35 on the US Dance chart. It then crossed over to Pop for a few weeks. Further singles failed to reach any US chart. The band put out a third album in 1988 titled Amazing World, but it was less successful than their previous effort. The following year, the band called it quits.

ReduxReview:  This tune has a Euro-rock feel to it. It's like a cross between Simple Minds and Tears for Fears with a dash of U2 tossed in. The song is well-produced and the hook is solid. I think the issue for US radio is that it sounded somewhat like the other bands mentioned and there wasn't really anything that set these guys apart. It was average post-new wave rock. Again, it's a good listen. There just wasn't anything really different or special about it.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The band's drummer, Tim Powles, would be the one who would have the highest profile career in music. He would perform with other established band such as The Divinyls, but he found a home as a member of the successful Australian rock band The Church. Powles would join up with them in 1994. Soon after, he began contributing as a songwriter and then moved into the producer's chair. As of this posting date, he is still writing, drumming, and producing with The Church. He has also done production work for other artists including the Aussie rock band Regular John. Powles engineered and produced their 2009 debut album. His work earned him an ARIA (Australia's Grammys) nomination for Producer of the Year.


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

"I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" by Aretha Franklin and George Michael

#1 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  3033
Date:  02/21/1987
Debut:  59
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  17
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:   Franklin's Aretha album wasn't doing quite as well as her previous LP, the platinum selling Who's Zoomin' Who. It's first single, the Stones cover "Jumpin' Jack Flash," stalled at #21 Pop/#20 R&B. The follow-up single, "Jimmy Lee," did well at R&B (#2), but stopped at #28 on the Pop chart. She really needed a bigger crossover hit to help boost album sales. Luckily, she had this duet track in her back pocket. Issued out as the third single, the song took off and became the big hit she needed. It would get to #5 R&B and #2 AC while becoming her first single since 1967's "Respect" to top the Pop chart. Although "Respect" and other hits would be absolute classics in Franklin's catalog, chart-wise, this duet would end up being her biggest Pop hit. It helped album sales and Aretha would eventually be a certified gold seller.

ReduxReview:  I know there were reasons the other two songs from the album got released as singles first, but this one was the obvious hit. In a perfect world, this would have been the first single from the LP. After two lackluster singles, this tune could have gotten ignored. Luckily, it was strong enough to cut its own path and become a hit. The addition of Michael was a good choice. He had just left behind Wham! and folks knew that a successful solo career was around the corner. Plus, he had already been on the R&B chart with a few songs including "Careless Whisper" (#8 R&B). His younger fan base combined with Franklin's fans and star power made this an ideal pairing at the time. The song worked well for them too. It was catchy, modern (of the day), and inspirational and they both sounded good with Michael holding his own and complimenting Franklin's always amazing delivery. In either of their catalogs, is this a classic tune? Not really. Both had or would do far better work. However, it captured a moment in time when Franklin was reveling in her comeback and Michael was just about to embark on a highly successful solo career.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song won the pair a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group. For Franklin, it was her thirteenth Grammy win. She would win her fourteenth the same evening for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female, for her Aretha album. In her career, Franklin would receive eighteen Grammys. For George Michael, it was his first Grammy win. The following year he would receive his second Grammy in the big category of Album of the Year for his debut LP Faith. Michael would amass nine Grammy nods in his career, but would win only the two.


Monday, February 3, 2020

"How Much Love" by Survivor

Song#:  3032
Date:  02/21/1987
Debut:  83
Peak:  51
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock, Pop

Pop Bits:  Survivor's album When Seconds Count got started with the #9 "Is It Love." They decided to follow it up with another question about love, "How Much Love." This time around the answer wasn't as good. The track just missed out on the Pop Top 50 while not even making an appearance on the Rock chart. The album would stall at a low #49, yet on the strength of their popularity at the time and "Is It Love," the LP would actually go gold. It would end up being their last studio album to reach that sales level.

ReduxReview:  Band members Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan had honed their songwriting skills to the point where they could easily toss off a hooky, commercial-leaning tune. While that wasn't necessarily a bad thing, the problem came when they didn't expand their horizons and it began to sound like they were repeating themselves. I think that was the issue with this track. It sounds an awful lot like their #8 hit "High on You," especially the opening keyboard lick. Their sound was getting formulaic and it caused listeners to become less interested. That said, this is still a quality pop/rock track that is hooky and well-done. However, since we've heard this before from the band, it ends up being a bit banal.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Jim Peterik's songwriting skills later got him hooked up with The Beach Boys. Sometime in the late 90s, Peterik ended up writing a song titled "Dream Angel" with Brian Wilson for Wilson's 1998 album Imagination. Peterik also played some guitar on the recording. Flash forward about 13 years and Peterik found himself at a restaurant with Wilson, who was beginning to work on a reunion album with The Beach Boys to celebrate the band's 50th anniversary. During their conversation, Peterik talked about how great songs used to sound on the AM radio in the car and that it was just the best sound ever. Wilson then responded, "yeah, that's why god made the radio." Peterik found inspiration in that phrase, wrote it down, and the pair then later began to co-write the title track to The Beach Boys' 2012 reunion album That's Why God Made the Radio. Peterik would also co-write another song for the album, "Isn't It Time." Both songs would be released as singles with "That's Why God Made the Radio" reaching #30 on the AC chart. The album would hit #3 becoming the band's first Top 10 studio album since 1976. Peterik would later co-write the song "Sail Away" for Brian Wilson's 2015 solo album No Pier Pressure.


Sunday, February 2, 2020

"I Got the Feelin' (It's Over)" by Gregory Abbott

Song#:  3031
Date:  02/21/1987
Debut:  88
Peak:  56
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Abbott's debut single, "Shake You Down," was a big crossover hit reaching #1 at Pop, #1 R&B, and #2 AC. For a follow-up single, this next track was selected. It was another winner at R&B getting to #5, but it ended up stalling in the bottom half of the Pop chart while getting to #26 at AC. The songs helped his debut album of the same name go platinum. Unfortunately, it would be Abbott's last single to reach the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  Talk about a prophetic title. This was certainly the end of the road on the Pop chart for Abbott. After one more album, it would all come to a halt (see below). I don't think anyone expected Abbott's star to burn out so quickly. It seemed like he had the good to at least last into the 90s alongside other singers like Freddie Jackson and Luther Vandross. Yet as quickly as he rose to fame, he was gone. Very strange. As for this song, it was another good tune that was in the same vein as "Shake You Down." That may have been the issue for pop radio. It may have been a bit too similar to the previous hit. Abbott even sings it with nearly the same inflections and growls. Yet it was still a nice little tune that further established Abbott's sound. Unfortunately, he didn't move very far from this and that may have cost him a bit on his second LP. An outside producer and a couple of other songwriters might have extended his career, but it seems like he never got the chance (or did not want) to try that.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Abbott returned in 1988 with his second album on Columbia Records, I'll Prove It to You. The title track would be released as a single and it would get to #5 at R&B and #35 AC. It failed to crack the Pop chart. A follow-up single, "Let Me Be Your Hero," stalled early on the R&B chart at #34. Without a larger crossover hit, the album wouldn't sell as well and it failed to reach gold status. After that, it is unclear as to what happened with Abbott. He was either dropped from Columbia or left the label. He seemed to disappear from the music business until 1996 when he recorded an album of originals and cover tunes titled One World!, which was issued out on his own indie label. A few more albums would pop up over the years, but it doesn't seem he performs much any longer. He also apparently owns a production/publishing company that supplies songs to TV programs and films.