Saturday, August 22, 2020

"No One in the World" by Anita Baker

Song#:  3234
Date:  08/22/1987
Debut:  95
Peak:  44
Weeks:  17
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Baker's second album, Rapture, became an unexpected a multi-platinum hit that would win two Grammys. By this point in time, the LP had spawned three R&B and AC Top 10s. Of those, only one would make the Pop Top 10, Baker's breakthrough hit "Sweet Love" (#8). The other two could only manage to make the Top 50. Hoping to lure back pop listeners, this fifth single from the album was released. As like her previous three singles, the song was a hit at R&B (#5) and AC (#9), but like the last two it stalled on the Pop chart after hoping over the halfway mark. Despite the result at Pop, the album continued to sell and eventually 5 million copies would be purchased.

ReduxReview:  I adored this track the first time I heard it and was convinced it was a hit. I thought it should have been the LP's third single after "Sweet Love." It finally ended up being the fifth single and it still did well at R&B and AC, but it really should have been a much bigger hit at Pop. At the time I didn't know that Warwick originated the song (see below) as I didn't have the album it was on, but I did get her Reservations for Two album and figured it out from there. Her Manilow-produced version stayed in the pop realm along the Burt Bacharach lines and had a dramatic arrangement for the bridge/final chorus. Warwick sounded great on it as usual. However, just by a nose, I have always preferred Baker's version. It had a sleek, R&B feel and the arrangement for the song's big moment gave Baker's voice a chance to really soar, which is different from Manilow's choppy, theatrical take. Either way, it was a terrific song and one of those that should have given someone a major hit.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Any big fan of Dionne Warwick's at the time would recognize this song. Warwick was the first to record the tune. It was a track on her 1985 album Finder of Lost Loves. The song, written by Marti Sharon and Ken Hirsch, was produced for Warwick by Barry Manilow. It was not issued out as a single. The Finder of Lost Loves album did not sell well. Neither of its singles reached the Pop chart and that left the album peaking at a minor #106 Pop/#50 R&B, her worst result in a decade. Warwick would roar back later in the year with her gold selling Friends album. In 1986, Anita Baker would choose to record the song for her Rapture LP. Baker's version would be produced by one of the song's writers, Marti Sharon, along with Gary Skardina. Around the time that Baker's album was taking off, Warwick was readying her next effort, Reservations for Two. Strangely, Warwick decided to include her unchanged, original version of "No One in the World" on the LP. Reasons for doing this are unclear. I speculate that it may have had to do with the popularity of Baker's LP and folks not knowing that Warwick had done the tune first. Since the LP it was on tanked and few people had heard it, Warwick may have wanted to let people (and perhaps even Baker) know that the song was originally hers and placing it on an album with gold-sales potential might help reestablish the fact. While some folks did realize Baker's version was a remake, in the end it didn't matter because it became a hit for Baker and has long since been associated with her.


Friday, August 21, 2020

"Rock Me" by Great White

Song#:  3233
Date:  08/22/1987
Debut:  96
Peak:  60
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Hard Rock, Blues Rock

Pop Bits:  The roots of this band go back to 1977 when teens Jack Russell (vocals) and Mark Kendall (guitar) met. They played around for a couple of years under different band names, but then after an incident that sidelined Russell (see below), Kendall started a new band with singer Lisa Baker called Dante Fox. They started to get attention, but then Baker decided to leave the band. Not long after, Russell was back on the scene and returned to lead vocal duties. By 1981 they had a manager and a new name, Great White. They recorded and released an indie EP in 1983 titled Out of the Night and that disc plus the band's growing popularity got them signed to EMI America. A self-titled debut album appeared in 1984, which was a blip on the chart at #144. A second LP, 1986's Shot in the Dark, improved on that result and got to #82. However, it would be their third effort, Once Bitten, that would break them wider. This first single got things started and it became their first major hit at Rock reaching #9. It then crossed over to the Pop chart where it did fairly well getting to #60. The tune helped sell albums and Once Bitten would peak at #23 and by the fall it would go gold. Eventually it would reach platinum level sales.

ReduxReview:  This was a song that I thought did better on the Pop chart. It was a track that was played a lot on my local rock radio station and it was one that I liked. The brooding, bluesy opening with that little harmonica riff was really cool. The tension in the song built until it finally erupted into a big arena rock chorus. I liked the way it was produced and Russell had a pretty great voice. The song has become a classic of sorts from the era and is definitely one of the band's best.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Great White would become rock stars thanks to classic rock tracks like this one, but for Jack Russell it almost didn't happen. When he was an 18-year-old struggling musician who had a penchant for coke, Russell would do nearly anything to either get money or the drug. This led to him and a friend breaking into a house where they knew that they guy living there had a bunch of cocaine. Armed with a knife and a gun, they threatened the guy who ended up giving them the cocaine. Since it seemed easy and worked out well, why not try it again? So they found another person to rob that had cocaine, but it didn't work out so well with their second venture. Russell did some drugs before they went and things went awry. Apparently, the guy they intended to rob ended up locking himself in a bathroom along with his maid and Russell then shot his gun a couple times through the door in an attempt to gain access. One of the bullets went through the shoulder of the maid. The police arrived and Russell was arrested.  He was initially sentenced to eight years, but then after various hearings it seems he ended up in a drug program and was released about eleven months later. Not long after, he was able to regain his lead vocal duties in the band that would become Great White.


Thursday, August 20, 2020

"Into My Secret" by Alisha

Song#:  3232
Date:  08/22/1987
Debut:  97
Peak:  97
Weeks:  1
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This Brooklyn-born teen singer scored a #1 Dance hit in 1985 with "Baby Talk," which crossed over and peaked at #68 on the Pop chart. The tune was from her self-titled debut album put out on Vanguard Records. While the LP didn't chart, it did contain two other Dance Top 10s and that along with a push from her producer Mark Berry got her signed to RCA Records. Work began on Alisha's second album, Nightwalkin', and by '87 it was ready for release. This first single was pushed out and it became Alisah's fourth Top 10 at Dance getting to #9. The tune would make it onto the Pop chart, but it was just a blip at the bottom for one week. A second single, "Let Your Heart Make Up Your Mind," got to #23 Dance, but couldn't get on the Pop chart. The album didn't sell and it failed to crack the chart. The results then left Alisha off of the RCA roster.

ReduxReview:  This track wasn't all that different from "Baby Talk." It was still a Madonna-ish dance-pop track with a smidgen of freestyle tossed in. The production is better thanks to what I would assume was a higher budget from RCA along with access to a better studio. Overall, this was a stronger effort than "Baby Talk," but for some reason it didn't fare as well on the Pop chart. My guess is that it just didn't stand out among the other freestyle songs crowding the chart and it still had that wannabe Madonna-ish vibe. Still, it was a step in the right direction for the singer even though in the long run it didn't really lead to bigger and better things.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) After her RCA album didn't get her anywhere, Alisha then moved over to MCA. For her third album, 1990's Bounce Back, Alisha worked with producer Michael Jay instead of Berry, who basically discovered the singer and produced her first two albums. The change proved somewhat successful with the title track single becoming Alisha's fifth Dance Top 10 (#10) and her biggest hit on the Pop chart getting to #54. The album also became her first to chart, although at a very low #166. But then further singles failed to chart and an unimpressed MCA decided to drop the singer. She would record a few songs over the years including the 1999 track "You Wanna Be a Star (Superstar)," which served as the theme song to the Molly Shannon comedy Superstar. The film was based on Shannon's SNL skit character Mary Katherine Gallagher. Critics hated the movie, but it did fairly well at the box office. Alisha's song, which was written by Michael and Lesley Gore and produced by Jellybean Benitez (with Soul Solution), was released as a single, but it failed to chart.  2) Alisha was not the first to record and release the song "Bounce Back." The duo known as Fire on Blonde recorded it in 1987. It was released as their second single and it got to #15 on the Dance chart in April of '88. The song was written by Michael Jay and Greg Smith and produced by Jay. Also in 1987, a young singer named Martika recorded the song. Jay produced it for her as well. A video for the song was made and released, but the song was not officially put out as a single. Although that song wouldn't work out, Martika and Jay would work together on her 1988 debut album, which featured a #1 song the pair co-wrote titled "Toy Soldiers." According to some stories, Martika and Alisha had become friends and Martika thought "Bounce Back" would be a good song for Alisha, which eventually led to Jay working on Alisha's third album. Also on that album was another song Jay had written and recorded with Fire on Blonde called "Wrong Number." It was their third single and it failed to chart. Alisha's version was also released as a single and it couldn't chart either.


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

"Paper in Fire" by John Cougar Mellencamp

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3231
Date:  08/15/1987
Debut:  62
Peak:  9
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Folk-Rock, Americana

Pop Bits:  Mellencamp's eighth album, Scarecrow, became the best selling studio album of his career with over five million sold. It went to #2 thanks to five Pop Top 30 hits including three Top 10s. After his tour for the LP wound down, Mellencamp headed back to the studio to record his follow up. At the time, the Polygram-distributed label he was on, Riva, which he had been with since 1978, folded up so he moved over to another Polygram label, Mercury. For the new LP, Mellencamp developed a clear vision of what he wanted it to sound like. It would be an earthier effort with elements of country and folk folded in. Instruments like the accordion, fiddle, dulcimer, and auto harp would add to the Americana feel. The album would be titled The Lonesome Jubilee and this first single got things kicked off. It would immediately head to #1 on the Rock chart while becoming Mellencamp's eighth Pop Top 10. The hit would help the album reach #6 in October.

ReduxReview:  This was not your typical pop single. That was clear right from the start with the opening riff being played on accordion and fiddle. With the percussion rhythm, it nearly sounded like a chugging train and its whistle. Then that folk-ish style opening led to a big rockin' chorus with slammin' drums (via the brilliant Kenny Aronoff). It was a moody folk-rock track that just didn't seem like it would fit in a world full of synthpop, Madonna, and gooey Whitney Houston ballads. Yet the song captured the attention of rock and pop listeners who made a hit out of it. I was leery about its hit potential when I first heard it, but the more you heard the song, the more it got stuck in your brain. I loved the tune and being a fan I immediate bought the album. It was excellent then and it has aged just as well as Scarecrow. Another brilliant addition to Mellencamp's catalog.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The prominent female background vocal on the song was provided by Crystal Taliefero. Mellencamp found the Massachusetts-born singer and multi-instrumentalist via his drummer Kenny Aronoff and after hearing one song from her, Mellencamp invited her to join his band. When Mellencamp took a small break from music in '89, Taliefero went to New York City and soon after got hired into Billy Joel's band. She provide backing vocals for his 1989 album Storm Front. She also played percussion on the #1 hit single "We Didn't Start the Fire." While she would continue working with Joel through the years, she also was selected to perform with other major artists like the Bee Gees, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, Garth Brooks, and Elton John.


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

"Who Will You Run To" by Heart

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3230
Date:  08/15/1987
Debut:  64
Peak:  7
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Heart's album Bad Animals kicked off with the big #1 power ballad "Alone." It was the second #1 of their career. For a follow-up, the band chose to release this charging rock tune. It would nearly top the Rock chart getting to #2 while becoming their eighth Pop Top 10. The album had already peaked at #2 and been certified platinum, but sales continued thanks to this song and in October of '87 it would reach double-platinum status.

ReduxReview:  This was a crunchy mainstream rock track with a big, hooky chorus and terrific production by Ron Nevison. Weirdly, this could have been a good song for Starship with Grace Slick handling vocals. Alas, they ended up with another Warren song (see below) that gave them a major hit. However, I don't think it would have been as powerful of a track from Starship. Heart had the goods to really rock it out and take what was basically a pop song and turn it into an arena-ready track. While it wasn't reflective of the Heart of yore, it was another solid effort from the 80s glam era of the band.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Like their previous single, this song was not written by the band. This track was composed by Diane Warren and it got added to her growing list of hits. This was her fourth Pop Top 10 hit as a songwriter. Earlier in '87, one of those songs also became her first Pop #1, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Starship.


Monday, August 17, 2020

"Let Me Be the One" by Exposé

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3229
Date:  08/15/1987
Debut:  77
Peak:  7
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Freestyle, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  The vocal trio had already scored a pair of Top 10 hits from their debut album Exposure including the #5 "Point of No Return." They were hoping for a third hit and ended up getting it with this next single. The tune also did well at Dance reaching #2 while getting to #29 at R&B. The hit helped sell more albums and by October of '87 it would reach platinum level sales. Lead vocals on this song were handled by Gioia Bruno.

ReduxReview:  This mid-tempo track was different from the trio's previous two singles, yet it was still based in their freestyle sound. It worked in their favor with the track becoming their third consecutive Top 10. Out of the three, this song stands out to me more. The bridge is interesting and the chorus memorable. Plus the fact that it wasn't a fast-paced dance track was kind of cool. It had sleeker groove with Bruno's vocals leading the way. It also stays in my mind because friends of mine play the video of this tune quite a bit. It was the third big winner in a row from the trio.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Exposé were part of the Miami-based Latin freestyle explosion during the late 80s, which for the most part was spearheaded by Cuban-Americans. Lewis A. Martineé, whose parents were from Cuba, developed the trio and wrote (or co-wrote) and produced all of the songs on their debut album. Yet despite Martineé's background and the style of music he was creating for the group, the trio of women who became Exposé were not Cuban-American. Jeanette Jurado was Mexican-American, Gioia Bruno was Italian, and Ann Curless was from Albany, New York. In the end, heritage didn't matter as the trio breathed life into Martineé's freestyle tunes and helped to make them hits.


Sunday, August 16, 2020

"One Lover at a Time" by Atlantic Starr

Song#:  3228
Date:  08/15/1987
Debut:  85
Peak:  58
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B, Pop

Pop Bits:  The band's seventh album, All in the Name of Love, would be their biggest seller. It would reach #4 R&B/#18 Pop and go platinum thanks to its first single, "Always," hitting #1 at R&B, Pop, and AC. For a second single, this next track was released. It would just scratch the R&B Top 10 at #10 and get to #16 at Dance, but it couldn't get out of the bottom half of the Pop chart. Two other tracks would peak in the bottom half of the R&B chart while another song, "Let the Sun In," would make it to #28 at Dance. Afterwards, some changes would take place in the band and they would return with a new album in 1989. However, they wouldn't get back on the Pop chart until 1991.

ReduxReview:  The band sort of made a name for themselves with crossover ballads, so it was going to take a pretty great tune to score a hit with an upbeat track. They gave it a good shot with this tune and while it did well at R&B, it just didn't catch on at pop radio despite spending quite a few weeks trying. I like the track. It kind of has a bouncy, pop-leaning DeBarge feel to it. I'd consider it a "cute" little tune, which doesn't necessarily translate to a hit. They needed something meatier than this to get that upbeat hit. They would have one more significant crossover hit later in 1991 (see below) and it would be another ballad, of course.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  After everything with the album was wrapped up, lead singer Barbara Weathers took off for a solo career. She was replaced by Porscha Martin. The band then recorded their next album, 1989's We're Movin' Up. Its first single, "My First Love," would hit #1 at R&B, but miss the other charts. A second single fizzled and that left the album missing out on the gold/platinum certifications from their previous two albums. Once again the female lead singing position was vacated and it got filled this time around with Rachel Oliver. The new lineup recorded the 1991 LP Love Crazy. The track "Masterpiece" ended up being a #3 R&B/#3 Pop/#2 AC hit that became the band's only gold single, but it didn't help album sales and they ended up off of the Warner roster. A 1994 album for Arista yielded little results and it would be their last for a major label. The band would continue to perform and record indie albums in various lineups over the years.