Saturday, January 23, 2021

"Save Your Love" by Great White

Song#:  3383
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  81
Peak:  57
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  As they say, third time's the charm and that seemed to be the case for Great White. Their third album, Once Bitten, was their breakthrough hitting #23 and going platinum on the strength of its first single, the #9 Rock/#60 Pop track "Rock Me," along with this second single. The power ballad nearly replicated the results of their previous single by also hitting #9 at Rock and getting near the top half of the Pop chart. A third track, "Lady Red Light," would get to #47 at Rock. The success of the album set them up well for their next effort.

ReduxReview:  With other glam/hard rock bands scoring Top 40 hits with power ballads, I was surprised that this one didn't do better on the chart. It was quite popular, at least in my area, and it had all the trademark power ballad assets needed to get it over to pop radio, yet for some reason it didn't catch on in a bigger way. Perhaps it was a bit too languid for pop radio with its quiet opening and unhurried tempo. Regardless, it became a staple for the band and I thought it was quite well-done.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was written by lead singer Jack Russell along with Stephan John Williams. Williams, who went by Stephan Shawn, was a guitarist for the L.A. band Stormer. They were regulars on the Sunset Strip hard rock scene in the 70s and 80s along with other bands like Great White. Stormer was around for a long time, but never got the break that other bands of the era did. They came close once when they recorded a holiday single for the indie Rockwoodz label. Stephan Shawn wrote the a-side song "Yule Tide Fever." The single was released in 1981 and got some good buzz. An album was to follow, but then the label folded and the band was on their own again. Eventually the band would call it a day. At the time the single was recorded and released, Stormer's bassist was Tim Gaines. In 1983, Gaines would leave Stormer and join a newly formed Christian rock band called Stryper. They would grab their first mainstream hit with 1987's "Honestly" (#23 Pop).


Friday, January 22, 2021

"Never Knew Love Like This" by Alexander O'Neal featuring Cherrelle

Song#:  3382
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  82
Peak:  28
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  O'Neal's second album, Hearsay, became a #2 R&B/#29 Pop gold seller thanks in part to its first single, "Fake," which got to #1 R&B and #25 Pop. A second single, "Criticize," did well at R&B (#4), but couldn't break through at Pop (#70). Next up for release was this duet single. It was the second pairing of O'Neal and Cherrelle. The first time they teamed up was for "Saturday Love," a track from Cherrelle's 1986 LP High Priority. It would be released as a single and get to #2 R&B/#26 Pop. This second duet would nearly duplicate those results. It would also get to #2 R&B while cracking the Pop Top 30. It also got to #24 at Dance. Two more singles would be released from O'Neal's album, but neither were able to reach the R&B Top 40.

ReduxReview: O'Neal's "Criticize" was a solid tune that should have done better at Pop, but the label should have pushed this song as the second single. If they had, it might have done better. The tune itself was hooky and well-written and had that sleek Jam & Lewis production that was ripe for pop airplay. The strength of the song was on display since it overcame the underwhelming results on the Pop chart of "Criticize." This was an obvious hit that should have made or gotten close to the Pop Top 10.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Although O'Neal would record a holiday album in 1988 titled My Gift to You, his proper third album wouldn't arrive until after the turn of the decade. In 1991, he released All True Man. O'Neal would once again work with the Jam & Lewis team for the LP and the title track would be released as a single. It would become O'Neal's sixth and final R&B Top 10 (#5). However, he wasn't able to grab much crossover attention and the song stalled at #43 on the Pop chart. Still, the album would be a gold-seller. His career would cool off after that. He would continue to record albums over the years, but none would take him back to his hit making days with Jam & Lewis. While successful in the US, O'Neal was even more popular in the UK. He would secure one multi-platinum and four gold selling albums.


Thursday, January 21, 2021

"I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by The California Raisins

Song#:  3381
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  84
Peak:  84
Weeks:  4
Genre:  R&B, Novelty

Pop Bits:  In the early/mid 80s, the sales of love 'em or loathe 'em raisins were steadily declining. The California Raisin Advisory Board (CALRAB) was hunting for a way to promote raisins. Ad man Seth Werner and his writing partner Dexter Fedor came up with an offbeat idea for the board. The concept was actually simple. A group of raisins dancing to the Marvin Gaye hit "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." Apparently, when it came time for his presentation to CALRAB, Werner simply started a tape player with the song and began dancing around the room. Werner wanted to do a claymation commercial that gave a quartet of raisins identities and personalities. Then have them perform "Grapevine." Although the board had wanted a celebrity spokesperson, they liked the idea and Werner's pitch enough to give it a go. It took over a month to film the commercial, which first aired on September 26, 1986. It was a success, but more than that the ad spurred a pop culture phenomenon. The claymation raisin group became known as The California Raisins and not only did it help boost the sales of raisins, but other merchandise would follow such as plush toys, lunch boxes, clothing, and costumes. Then there was an appearance on the Emmy award winning TV special A Claymation Christmas Celebration. With the Raisins' popularity still growing, it was inevitable that an album would be recorded. Produced and arranged by Ross Vannelli (brother of singer Gino Vannelli), Sing the Hit Song by The California Raisins was released late in '87 on Priority Records. This first single was released and it spent a quick month near the bottom of the Pop chart. The album, however, did very well getting to #36 and selling over a million copies. Three more albums would follow quickly along with a mockumentary TV special Meet the Raisins! and a Saturday morning cartoon series. However, like most pop culture phenoms, the Raisins' days in the sun faded and by 1990 it was becoming too expensive for CALRAB to keep up the promotions and the campaign came to an end.

ReduxReview:  These commercials were all over TV in the late 80s. They were memorable and kind of fun. I think the MJ one (see below) was pretty funny and well done. However, I really didn't think we needed the whole commercialism of a commercial-based group (is that double commercializing?). Because they were everywhere, the Raisins wore out their welcome quick with me. I certainly didn't need an album of remade old hits by "raisins" either. Yet, it seems other people did (apparently over a million). The only good thing from it is that perhaps a few people who heard the songs went back and bought the originals. Usually, this promotional, novelty-style of single I would abhor as they are, for the most part, poorly done and are just cashing in on a moment. While the latter is a true statement with this single, I have to say that the actual recording is not all that bad. Producer Ross Vannelli did a solid job taking a cheesy, promotional gimmick and turning it into a solid track. The lead vocals (see below) were also well done. Would I buy this? No. Do I ever need to hear it again? No. Still, as the touchstone for a pop culture moment, it certainly wasn't bad.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) So who provided the main vocal for The California Raisins? The lead vocal done for the original commercial was handled by singer/drummer Buddy Miles. Miles was known for being a member of the blues rock band The Electric Flag and for his work with Jimi Hendrix. He also recorded several solo albums along with works by his band Buddy Miles Express. Miles would be the lead vocalist for three of the California Raisins albums. For the fourth one that was tied to the TV special Meet the Raisins, other vocalists were used with Andy Stokes taking over the character that was voiced by Miles.  2) How hot were the Raisins? So much so that celebrities got involved. A claymation version of Ray Charles was created and he sings "Grapevine" with the Raisins (in the style of the Gladys Knight version, not Marvin Gaye's). However, the big endorsement came when Michael Jackson came on board. Jackson worked with the animators to come up with claymation versions of him as a raisin (complete with top hat and white glove) and as himself. Jackson performs a "Bad"-ish style version of "Grapevine" for the commercial.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

"All I Want Is You" by Carly Simon

Song#:  3380
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  85
Peak:  54
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Simon's comeback album, the platinum-selling Coming Around Again, featured two songs that reached the Pop chart including the #18 title track (#5 AC). However, its third single, "The Stuff That Dreams are Made Of," failed to reach the Pop chart despite getting to #8 at AC. Still, her label, Arista, decided to push out a fourth single and selected this song. Unsurprisingly, it was another winner at AC getting to #7. This time around, the single was able to get on the Pop chart where it got close to the halfway mark. It would be the last single released from the album. Simon would have one more single reach the Pop chart before the decade would be out, but she wouldn't release a new album until 1990.

ReduxReview:  I was so disappointed when "The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of" failed to make the Pop chart. It's such a great song and it deserved more attention. But it seems that pop radio preferred something more upbeat and, well...poppy. So the label gave this one a go. It was a solid choice and while it wasn't quite as good as the previous three singles, it was still a nice tune.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Simon and Jacob Brackman. The two had been good friends since meeting at a summer camp in 1968 where they worked as counselors. Brackman, who had worked as a journalist, would collaborate with Simon over the years writing lyrics to music that she wrote. All except one of Simon's albums from her 1971 debut through to Coming Around Again featured a song by the pair. Two of their collaborations became Top 20 hits. Simon's debut single, "That's the Way I Always Heard It Should Be," reached #10 in 1971 while "Haven't Got Time for the Pain" made it to #14 in 1974.


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

"Father Figure" by George Michael

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3379
Date:  01/16/1988
Debut:  49
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  The title track to Michael's first solo effort, Faith, became a major hit reaching #1 and staying there for four weeks. It was also a gold-selling single. For a follow-up, Michael changed the pace and pushed out this ballad. In his UK homeland, the song did okay peaking at #11. It was Michael's first single to not make the Top 10. The story was different in the US where the song scaled the chart to become his second #1 in a row. It also did very well at other formats getting to #3 AC and #6 R&B. The groovy ballad also made it to #13 at Dance, which was unusual because it was just the album version and not a dance-style remix. The hit would certainly push sales of the album, which would reach 4 million by May of '88.

ReduxReview:  This was a perfect follow-up to two pop/dance tracks. Michael always had a way to elicit every ounce of emotion from his ballads and this one was no exception. The delicate lilting groove of the tune was like a cloud you could float away on while the chorus gave the track a hooky punch. I've always like Michael's performance on the song and consider it one of his best.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) It was extra strange that this song made the Dance chart because Michael originally intended the tune to be a mid-tempo dance track. While working with the song in the studio, Michael took out the snare drum in order to hear something else in the mix. When he played the tune without the snare, it had a dream-like quality that he really dug. He ended up leaving the snare out and turned the track into a ballad instead.  2) This song's associated video was directed by Michael with Andy Morahan. It would win the pair an MTV Music Video Award for Best Direction in a Video. It also received a nomination for Best Cinematography.  3) This song has been sampled several times over the years, but perhaps the most well-known use of the song came in 1993. That was when the hip-hop/R&B duo P.M. Dawn sampled the tune for "Looking Through Patient Eyes," a track from their second disc The Bliss Album...? It served as the LP's second single and got to #6 Pop.


Monday, January 18, 2021

"I Get Weak" by Belinda Carlisle

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3378
Date:  01/16/1988
Debut:  54
Peak:  2
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Carlisle's second solo album, Heaven on Earth, got off to a great start with its initial single "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" topping the Pop chart. It would be the first (and only) time an ex-Go-Go would have a #1 Pop single. Even the Go-Go's missed the top spot when "We Got the Beat" got stuck at #2 in 1982. Carlisle nearly had a second #1 when this follow-up single was released. Unfortunately, it stopped just short of the apex at #2. It was Carlisle's third solo Top 10 hit. The song also made it to #9 at AC. Just as this song was debuting on the Pop chart, Carlisle's album would be certified platinum.

ReduxReview:  I always thought this song had a 60s feel to it. Perhaps something about mid-decade produced by Phil Spector. The song was well-written by Diane Warren and expertly produced by Rick Nowels. It fit Carlisle and was a perfect follow-up to "Heaven Is a Place on Earth." It should have hit #1, but got blocked by Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up." The big one-two punch of hits from Carlisle set her up as a pop diva, which was a far cry from her punk roots. However, if you are going to evolve, why not move forward with a pair of expertly crafted pop tunes? Carlisle was at the peak of her powers during this time.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:   When Diane Warren finished writing this song, she thought it would be a good vehicle for Stevie Nicks and presented it to Rick Nowels, who had produced several tracks for Stevie Nick's 1985 LP Rock a Little. Warren was familiar with Nowels as she had written "Don't Lose Any Sleep," a song Nowels produced for John Waite's 1987 LP Rover's Return. While Nowels liked "I Get Weak," he thought it was a better fit for Belinda Carlisle than Nicks and was able to secure the tune for Carlisle's album. It seems that Nicks never even got a crack at the tune. It may not have worked out anyway because for her fourth album, The Other Side of the Mirror, Nicks chose to work with producer Rupert Hine.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

"Just Like Paradise" by David Lee Roth

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3377
Date:  01/16/1988
Debut:  56
Peak:  6
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Roth's first full-length solo album, Eat 'Em and Smile, became a platinum seller that was helped along by the #10 Rock/#16 Pop hit "Yankee Rose." After his tour in support of the LP, Roth got back into the studio to record a follow-up. His next effort would be titled Skyscraper and this first single got the ball rolling. It would do very well at Rock becoming Roth's first (and only) song to top that chart. The song also made an impression at Pop where it got to #6. It was Roth's second and final single to make the Top 10.  The song helped the album get to #6 and by the end of March of '88 it would be certified platinum.

ReduxReview:  This blast of arena rock with a distinct commercial edge was something that Roth hadn't necessarily done since leaving Van Halen (excluding his pop remakes). It was far more radio-ready than the more raucous "Yankee Rose" with a hooky chorus that was indelible. You could hear shades of VH along with a little Foreigner and even Journey tossed in. The track was expertly crafted and it was an easy choice for a lead single. Rock radio and its listeners ate it up and it didn't take too long for Pop to catch on. A few folks balked that Roth had gone too far towards mainstream pop, but I thought it was a natural fit for him and the right move at the time. As for the Skyscraper album, it was a little odd. There were hard rockin' tracks, near prog-rock/psychedelic tunes like the title track (which I liked), along with a Led Zeppelin-ish ballad. It didn't gel into a cohesive work, but individual parts, such as this single, showcased Roth's solo career at its best.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The cover of Skyscraper featured Roth hanging on a mountain face and this song's associated video contained scenes of him climbing and standing atop a rock formation. So did Roth actually do the rock climbing or was it all photo trickery? Ends up it was actually Roth. While not necessarily a professional, it seems that Roth had been climbing since he was a kid in the Boy Scouts. For the album images and "Just Like Paradise" video, Roth or someone in his camp thought that perhaps mountains or high rock formations would help punctuate the Skyscraper title and that Roth could be filmed rock climbing, since he had experience. David Breashears, a photographer and filmmaker who became the first American to reach the top of Mt. Everest for a second time in 1985, was hired on to film Roth's climb. The climb took place at the Half Dome at Yosemite National Park in California. Rock climbing is slow and tedious, so for the video action images of Roth's climb were interspersed between a stage performance of the song by Roth and his band. Breashears would go on to co-direct the 1998 IMAX film Everest, which remains the highest grossing IMAX movie ever.