Saturday, November 21, 2020

"There's the Girl" by Heart

Song#:  3325
Date:  11/07/1987
Debut:  70
Peak:  12
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Heart's album Bad Animals was another multi-platinum success thanks to a pair of Top 10 hits including the #1 "Alone." Their previous self-titled album spawned four Top 10 hits and the band had hopes that the new album would do the same. However, this third single dashed their hopes. It would just stop shy of the Pop Top 10 while getting to #16 at Rock. It certainly wasn't a bad result, but it didn't bode well for further singles as it seemed that Bad Animals didn't have the same legs as their previous album.

ReduxReview:  This song continues Heart's flirtation with commercial pop/rock. While it has a slight smell of industrial hit songwriting (see below), it's not too bad. It just didn't have the same spark and likability factor as their previous six Top 10s. Frankly, I think it is one of their most forgettable hits. It nearly cracked the Top 10, but in the years since the track has pretty much disappeared. It's also one of those songs that could have easily been done by other artists. I could hear Starship or Pat Benatar recording it. In other words, the track is kind of faceless and Heart didn't put a big enough of a stamp on it to truly make it their own.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was co-written by Holly Knight and Heart's Nancy Wilson. Knight had certainly turned into a go-to hit songwriter. By this point in time she had co-written seven Pop Top 10 hits including one that appeared on Heart's self-titled 1985 comeback album, the #4 "Never." For this tune, Knight worked with Wilson and perhaps because of her co-writing status, Wilson got to perform the lead vocal. It was only the second Heart single where she got to sing the lead. The first was "These Dreams," which topped the Pop chart. Her sister Ann usually handled the lead vocals on most of the band's tracks, but once in a while Nancy got her chance at bat and the two hits made sure that her voice got heard.


Friday, November 20, 2020

"Kick the Wall" by Jimmy Davis & Junction

Song#:  3324
Date:  11/07/1987
Debut:  79
Peak:  67
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This Memphis-based band headed up by singer/songwriter/guitarist Jimmy Davis gained a good reputation and a large enough fan base to attracted MCA Records. The band signed on with MCA as the first act to be on their small offshoot QMI label (headed up by former MTV head Bob Pittman) and recorded their debut album Kick the Wall. This title track single would get issued out and it got a little bit of attention thanks to some exposure on MTV. The song was able to reach #32 at Rock while spending a few weeks on the Pop chart. The album sold a few minor copies, but the results seemed to be good enough for the band to plan for a second album. Unfortunately, QMI folded and it left Davis and the band without a label or ability to record a new LP. The prospects of starting over didn't sit well with the band and the members ended up going their own ways.

ReduxReview:  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this song wasn't it. From what I read, it seemed the band was known for more of a Southern rock sound. I imagined something akin to earlier 80s 38 Special or even Georgia Satellites, but what came out of my speakers was closer to Jackson Browne or Eddie Money. Then there was the long, quiet beginning (which weirdly had a "Dirty Diana" sound/feel) before the rock finally kicked in. It was more heartland than southern. It was well done, but I don't think it was the most pop friendly single. The tune was appropriate for rock radio, yet it really didn't click there either. Davis had a good voice and the band was prime, as was the production. They just needed a more radio friendly track to push them further.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) On the heels of the Kick the Wall album, the band did get to record one more track. They co-wrote and recorded "My Way or the Highway" for the soundtrack to the 1988 horror flick A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. That sequel would get mixed reviews, but did well at the box office.  2) After the band folded, Davis concentrated on songwriting and performing with other artists. A few of his songs got picked up by major artists. He co-wrote "Blame It on Love," a track on the 1992 Restless Heart album Big Iron Horses. Another co-write, "Keeping My Distance," ended up on Martina McBride's triple-platinum 1997 album Evolution.


Thursday, November 19, 2020

"(Baby Tell Me) Can You Dance" by Shanice Wilson

Song#:  3323
Date:  11/07/1987
Debut:  81
Peak:  50
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Born in Pittsburgh, Shanice Wilson ended up in L.A. at a young age thanks to her mom and aunt seeking a career in music. The two women couldn't get a break, but they soon realized that Shanice was developing into a talented singer and they switched focus from them to promoting the youngster. Work started to come her way including a stint on the 1984 children's program Kids Incorporated. As her teen years kicked off, Wilson caught the attention of A&M Records. They signed her to a deal and her debut album, Discovery, was released in the fall of '87. This first single got pushed out and it made the R&B Top 10 at #6 while reaching #16 at Dance. The song then crossed over to Pop and it did fairly well stopping at the halfway point. A follow-up single, "No 1/2 Steppin'," would get to #6 R&B, but failed to get on the other charts. The album would be a minor seller getting to #37 R&B/#149 Pop. The results were good for a young new artist, but it seems issues may have arisen with the label and/or Wilson's career direction because she would stay silent for the next four years.

ReduxReview:  There's no doubt in my mind that A&M was trying to turn Shanice into another Janet Jackson, who was also on the label. The whole album was written and produced by Bryan Loren and tracks like this one were definitely a take on the Jam & Lewis productions found on Jackson's Control album. This song even featured a spoken word part a la "What Have You Done for Me Lately." It wasn't a bad Jam & Lewis imitation, but there were a couple of problems. First, Shanice was a far better singer than Jackson and this single did nothing to showcase her talent. Second, there was already a Janet Jackson and we didn't need another. The tune itself was fine. It just didn't feel original. Although it became a hit at R&B, I think Shanice deserved better. I'm sure it had to be hard though because she was just 14 and new in the business, so you take the advice and hope it works out. She would find her own voice over on Motown (see below) where she began co-writing her songs and having a bit more control over her career and it resulted in the irresistible hit "I Love Your Smile." As for this single, if you like Jam & Lewis circa this time period, this one is not a bad knock off.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Whatever issues Wilson had after her debut album, it seems all got ironed out and she was able to sign on with Motown Records in 1991. Late that year, her second album, Inner Child, was released. By this point she was going by the singular name of Shanice. Its first single, "I Love Your Smile," became her biggest hit reaching #1 R&B and #2 Pop. It would help make the album her only gold seller. She then scored another hit in 1992 with "Saving Forever for You," a song from the soundtrack to the TV show Beverly Hills 90210. It would get to #4 Pop and #20 R&B. Her second Motown album, 1994's 21...Ways to Grow, failed to replicate the success of her previous effort and Wilson would once again take an extended break and switch labels. Her self-titled 1999 album for LaFace Records would get her back in the spotlight with the single "When I Close My Eyes" getting to #4 R&B and #12 Pop. After that, Wilson's recording career cooled off. She would then sing background vocals for many top artists and appear in several TV programs, which included starring in her own reality show with her husband. Flex and Shanice would debut in 2014 on Oprah's OWN network and last for three seasons.  2) In 1984 at the age of 11, Shanice would compete in the junior vocalist category on the popular competition show Star Search. She would win her rounds and go on to be the category's grand champion for that year.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

"Hungry Eyes" by Eric Carmen

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3322
Date:  11/07/1987
Debut:  88
Peak:  4
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  The last time Carmen had a sizable hit was back in 1984 when "I Wanna Hear It from Your Lips" made it to #35 Pop and #10 AC. However, the associated self-titled album didn't do well peaking at a minor #128. With that result, it seemed that Carmen wasn't really motivated or anxious to get back in the studio to record a follow up. His extended break might have lasted significantly longer had it not been for Jimmy Ienner, a producer who had worked with Carmen's old band The Raspberries. Ienner was working as the musical supervisor on an upcoming film titled Dirty Dancing. He had a song that was a fit for the movie, but it needed a singer. Ienner thought Carmen would be the right guy for the job and reached out to him. After some convincing, Carmen agreed to sing the song and produce it as well. "Hungry Eyes" would make it on the soundtrack and then be issued out as the LP's second single.  It would do well at AC getting to #2 while becoming Carmen's second solo song to reach the Pop Top 10; twelve years after he got to #2 with "All By Myself." While the single took a little extra time climbing the chart reaching its peak in its fifteenth week, it stayed popular enough to remain on the chart for another 10 weeks. The week after this single debuted on the Pop chart, the soundtrack album would hit #1.

ReduxReview:  This was a well-written pop tune with a solid 80s production job by Carmen. It was hooky and it appealed to a wide age range of people. It checked all the boxes for something that I'd dig, but I didn't really like the track. The mid-tempo groove seemed sluggish to me and I wasn't a fan of the title. I found it a little goofy. Then the track got overplayed on the radio and that didn't help. I ignored the song back then, but these days I don't mind it so much. It's a good piece of 80s pop that finally got Carmen a second Top 10.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Franke Previte and John DeNicola. It was originally recorded by Previte's former band Franke & the Knockouts in 1984 during sessions for the band's third LP Makin' the Point. However, the song failed to make the final track listing for the LP and ended up on the shelf. A few years later, Previte was asked to write a song for the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. He and DeNicola (along with Donald Markowitz) came up with "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," which would go on to become a #1 Oscar-winning song. More songs were needed for the film, so Previte offered up the unused "Hungry Eyes" track. It seemed to fit the bill and Eric Carmen was tapped to do the recording. The original Franke & the Knockouts version of the song would be released as a bonus track on the 1998 UK reissue of the Makin' the Point album and then on the band's 1999 US compilation The Sweetheart Collection.


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

"I Live for Your Love" by Natalie Cole

Song#:  3321
Date:  11/07/1987
Debut:  90
Peak:  13
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Cole's Everlasting LP was shaping up to be a sizable comeback for her. Its first single, "Jump Start," did well reaching #13 at Pop while getting to #2 at R&B. Next up for release was this follow-up single. The ballad would prove to be another winner at Pop matching the peak of "Jump Start" marking the first time Cole scored back-to-back Top 20 hits. The tune also did well at AC (#2) and R&B (#4). The two singles would help the album reach gold level sales in March of '88, her first album to do so since 1979. The news would get even better with her next single.

ReduxReview:  This three-quarter time ballad was wonderfully written and given a nice 80s AC production by Dennis Lambert. It was enhanced even further by Cole's excellent vocals. The song definitely played towards the adult crowd and indeed it went to #2 at AC, but it still had a contemporary enough sound that it appealed to Pop and R&B listeners as well. I thought it was a lovely tune and it became the first Natalie Cole single I bought. I think the song still holds up well.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  In addition to both peaking at #13 on the Pop chart, the "Jump Start" and "I Live for Your Love" singles had something else in common. Both 45 vinyl singles featured the same b-side song "More Than the Stars." That song was written by Natalie Cole along with her cousin Eddie Cole. The pair also produced the track. The ballad featured an appearance by Latin star José Feliciano, who played guitar and contributed background vocals. It was a bit rare for two consecutive singles by an artist to share a b-side song, but there was usually a good reason behind it. In Cole's case, the song was the only one on her Everlasting album that she had a hand in writing. It was not a candidate for the a-side of a single, but getting it on the b-side would net her extra money if the single became a hit. When a single would sell, the money generated would typically be split between the two songs. Therefore, as a writer/publisher, you stood to make quite a bit of money if your song made it to the b-side of a gold seller. That's why many times back in the day, artists who could write songs would try to get another track they wrote on the b-side. Many times it would be an instrumental or remix version of the a-side. It was a smart financial move for the artist and it probably paid off pretty well for Cole since she got her song on the b-sides to both hits.


Monday, November 16, 2020

"The Real Thing" by Jellybean featuring Steven Dante

Song#:  3320
Date:  11/07/1987
Debut:  92
Peak:  82
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Dance, Freestyle, House

Pop Bits:  Jellybean scored his second Pop Top 20 hit with "Who Found Who," the lead single from his second album Just Visiting This Planet. That song featured Elisa Fiorillo on vocals. Up next for release was this follow-up single. This time around, the vocals were handled by Steven Dante. It would be a hit in clubs and become Jellybean's third effort to hit #1 on the Dance chart. The tune would then cross over to both Pop and R&B, but it didn't perform all that well getting to #82 and #49, respectively. Two more tracks from the album would make the Dance Top 10, but failed to make the other charts. Jellybean would record two more albums that spawned three more Dance Top 10s, but only 1991's "What's It Gonna Be" with vocals by Niki Haris would be able to scrape the Pop chart at #90. After that, Jellybean mainly focused on remixing hits for other artists.

ReduxReview:  While I liked Jellybean's remix/production work with other artists, I wasn't a fan of his solo works. For the most part, the songs he chose were not that great. A few of them got people on the club dance floors, but I found them bland and not very memorable. This song, however, was better. The base material was solid and Jellybean's production was more sophisticated and looked towards the 90s. Dante's vocals were excellent and soulful, which added more depth to the tune. For me it was easily Jellybean's best solo effort ("solo" being relative as he didn't write it or sing it). The more club-heavy track wasn't the best fit for pop radio at the time, so it didn't get far, however it should have done better than a couple months at the bottom of the chart.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  British soul singer/songwriter Steven Dante provided the vocals for this song. It seems the singer got some recognition when he joined up with the UK acid jazz group Incognito and that led to a solo deal with Chrysalis Records. He released a single titled "So Long" in 1985 under the singular name Dante, but it failed to chart. He then moved over to the Chrysalis imprint label Cooltempo and released the 1986 single "Give It Up for Love." The song was able to reach #78 in the UK. His Chrysalis label mate, Jellybean, then came calling and got Dante to provide vocals on two track including this single, which got to #13 in the UK. The boost provided by the dance hit allowed Dante to record his debut solo effort Find Out. Three singles would be released in the UK, but only one cracked the Top 40, the #34 "I'm Too Scared." It seems the results weren't enough to keep Dante with Cooltempo and his major label days came to an end. He would continue on as a songwriter and would release an occasional indie single.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

"Honestly" by Stryper

Song#:  3319
Date:  11/07/1987
Debut:  93
Peak:  23
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  Stryper wasn't the first Christian metal band, but they were the first to secure hits on the mainstream charts and the first to have albums go gold and platinum. Headed up by brothers Michael and Robert Sweet, the California-based group began to take shape in the late-70s. They eventually became Roxx Regime and began to make a name for themselves in the local clubs. Their growing popularity helped to get them signed to Enigma Records and in 1984 they changed their name to Stryper and released the EP The Yellow and Black Attack. It did well enough (#10 Christian Albums) to convince Enigma that the band needed to record a full-length debut album and in 1985 they released Soldiers Under Command. As expected, it did well in the Christian music market and peaked at #5 on the Christian Albums chart. What wasn't expected was the band's appeal to a mainstream audience with the LP getting to #84 on the Pop Albums chart. With that result, the band then set out to really knock down doors with their follow-up album To Hell with the Devil. Released in the fall of '86, the LP got off to a slow start, but as '87 rolled around it was able to reach #3 Christian and #32 Pop with sales strong enough to make the album go gold. Over a year after the LP was originally released, this song started to get attention with a little help from MTV. The power ballad was issued as a single and it started to gain airplay at Pop radio. The song was able to climb the chart and peak just outside of the Top 20. The success of the song helped the album sell even more copies and in January of '88 it would be the first Christian rock album to go platinum.

ReduxReview:  I was and still am not religious in any way, but that doesn't mean that I can't appreciate gospel/Christian music. I've owned records by secular-leaning acts like Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith along with contemporary Christian artists like Rich Mullens. Recently I've enjoy the band MercyMe, especially their 2004 hit "Here with Me." Stryper was another artist that I bought. I liked this song when it came out and ended up buying the album. Even though the band was popular, they had a tough time gaining acceptance from the two crowds they played to - hard rock and Christian music fans. While some hard rock/metal fans thought bringing Christian messages to a genre that was known for its dark elements was absurd, many in the Christian community considered the band posers who were using the genre as a marketing ploy, especially as they toured with bands like Ratt and got their videos played on MTV. Yet there were enough fans on both sides and elsewhere to break the band wide. This power ballad came along at just the right time. It fit right in with ones from other glam/metal bands that had started to infiltrate the mainstream. It also helped that the song's lyrics were not overtly Christian and could be interpreted in different ways. I liked the song back then, but I don't think it has held up well over the years. I find it a bit cloying now, however I still appreciate the way the song builds along with the melody. Stryper certainly shook things up and showed that no matter what or who you believe in, you can make music that is appealing to a variety of people.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Stryper's name was based on the bible verse Isaiah 53:5, which says "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." It was that last section that inspired the band's name. Starting with their EP, their logo was done in black and yellow stripes and featured "Isaiah 53:5" beneath it. That logo would be used on their first few albums and revived on later ones.  2) The Sweet brothers' parents, Phil and Janice, had both been in the music business as singer/songwriters. Phil would end up having success with a song he co-write with Fred Imus (brother of radio personality Don Imus) titled "I Don't Want to Have to Marry You." It was recorded by country stars Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius in 1976. The duet would reach #1 on the Country chart. Brown had already been an established country star with three Top 10s to his credit. Cornelius was just getting her career started. She signed on with RCA Records and got paired up with Brown for this song and a full duets album by the same name. A follow-up single reached #2 and it wasn't long before the pair began to tour together. Four more duet albums would follow that yielded four more Country Top 10s. As the 80s began, both artists became absent from the charts.