Saturday, April 3, 2021

"Say It Again" by Jermaine Stewart

Song#:  3452
Date:  03/19/1988
Debut:  72
Peak:  27
Weeks:  12
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Stewart grabbed a Pop Top 10 hit in 1986 with "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off" (#5), a track from his second album Frantic Romantic. The LP sold a few copies (#34 Pop/#31 R&B) and it set him up well for his third effort Say It Again. To kick things off, this title-track single was issued out. It wasn't a major hit, but it did fairly well getting to #15 R&B and cracking the Pop Top 30. Unfortunately, a pair of follow-up singles didn't fare well. Both were Top 20 entries on the Dance chart, but only one made the lower reaches of the R&B chart while both failed to make the Pop chart. The results left the album stalling at #98 Pop/#45 R&B.

ReduxReview:  I didn't remember this song just by title, but it came back to mind once I heard it. The easy-going track seemed like an unusual choice for Stewart, but it worked fine. His voice was a good fit for the tune and the production was modern, yet wasn't overwhelming. Would I peg it for a hit single? Not really, but it was a good track that had a light, summery feel. It might have done better as a second single. Stewart's album contained tracks written by his friend (and newly minted star) Jody Watley and her collaborator Andre Cymone, probably leftovers from her LP, but you'd think one of those might have had hit potential and kicked off the album in a better way. Then this carefree track could have come along to change things up.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Stewart was given another shot by his label Arista and in 1989 he released What Becomes a Legend Most. Neither of its singles charted and the LP disappeared quickly as did his contract with Arista. It seems he moved over to Reprise Records in '92 and recorded the album Set Me Free, but the set got shelved by the label after the initial title-track first single tanked. It still remains unreleased. Later in the 90s, Stewart started to independently work on a new album, but it was never completed due to his death from AIDS-related liver cancer in '97.  2) This is a remake of a song that was first recorded by singer Shawn Christopher (sister of R&B singer Gavin Christopher) in 1983. Written by Bunny Sigler and Carol Davis, Christopher released her version as an indie single and it got to #44 on the R&B chart. The next year, Lou Rawls covered the track for an album. In 1985, soul singer Rege Burrell recorded the tune and released it as a single, but it failed to chart. A year later, the R&B vocal trio Sinnamon put out their own version as a single. It did not chart. The song finally found its way back to the charts in '88 with Stewart's take.


Friday, April 2, 2021

"Love in the First Degree" by Bananarama

Song#:  3451
Date:  03/19/1988
Debut:  82
Peak:  48
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  The second single from the trio's Wow! album, "I Can't Help It," didn't do so well. Although it would get to #7 on the Dance chart, it would stop short of the Pop Top 40 at #47. The result was a bit of a disappointment and to try and turn things around this third single was released. Again, it would be a hit in the clubs and get to #10 at Dance, but then it would peak just one notch lower than their previous single on the Pop chart. With the two singles failing to turn into bigger hits, this song would end the run of singles from the album, which had previously peaked at #44. In the UK, this song was the second single from the album and it would be a #3 hit there becoming one of their biggest hits.

ReduxReview:  Written by the trio along with the Stock Aitken Waterman production team, the song was a bit more pop-oriented than the trio's previous charging Hi-NRG singles. However, there were still enough keyboard flourishes and production touches to make sure most listeners knew it was an SAW product. It worked out well for them back home, but not so much in the US. My guess is that their sound was becoming a bit one-note to the US audience. Like, oh, here is another SAW dance track from Bananarama, yippee! The songs just started to blend in with each other. It might have behooved them to release a ballad to change things up as Exposé did with "Seasons Change." Still, the tune had a hooky chorus and if you enjoyed the trio at this point in time, this was a likable entry in their catalog.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song would be the last one that member Siobhan Fahey would perform live with the trio. They performed the track at the BRIT awards in February of '88. The song had been nominated for Song of the Year. Soon after, Fahey would decide to leave Bananarama because she didn't like the musical direction of the group. Fahey, who had recently married Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, decided to step out on her own and started to work on tracks for an album that would be under the moniker of Shakespears Sister. She worked with several musicians during the process including Marcy Levy. Levy had been working for other music stars including Eric Clapton while trying to establish a solo career. Fahey suggested she wipe the slate and start again with a new name. Levy decided to give it a go and changed to the stage name of Marcella Detroit. The pair worked closely in the studio and after the album Sacred Heart was done, Stewart suggested that the two join forces as Shakespeares Sisters. After agreeing to do so, the pair scored their first hit when the album's second single, "You're History," got to #7 in the UK. Their second album, Hormonally Yours, would turn them into stars thanks to the worldwide hit "Stay." That song would spend 8 weeks at the top of the UK chart while hitting the Top 10 in many countries including the US where it got to #4. Written by Fahey, Detroit, and Stewart, the song became their signature hit, but it also was a catalyst in the duo's breakup. Fahey had developed Shakespeares Sister as a solo act. Detroit came on board, but for the most part Fahey was front and center on the songs, except for "Stay," which Detroit mainly sang. Fahey apparently didn't want the song to be a single, but it got released anyway. The duo then had to do a video and due to her singing role, Detroit got featured more prominently. This didn't set well with Fahey, who still consider SS to be her project. Things spiraled from there and eventually Fahey wanted to be rid of Detroit. Yet instead of doing this behind closed doors, Fahey, through her publisher, publicly fired Detroit in a speech at the Ivor Novello Awards ceremony after their second album won an award. A blindsided Detroit was in attendance while Fahey was not. The aggressive act severed their relationship to the point where they didn't speak for decades. Fahey went on and continued to record as Shakespeares Sister, but label issues followed that shelved a third album. Fahey would later get it released in 2004. There would be one more album in '09 released under the SS name. Fahey would rejoin Bananarama and perform with them a few times over the years and she would even reunite with Detroit in 2019 for a short tour and an EP of new songs titled Ride Again.


Thursday, April 1, 2021

"One Good Reason" by Paul Carrack

Song#:  3450
Date:  03/19/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  28
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  After scoring Top 10 hits as a member of Ace and Mike + the Mechanics, Carrack landed a solo Top 10 with the #9 "Don't Shed a Tear." The single was taken from his third solo album One Good Reason. To follow it up, this title track song was released. It didn't do quite as well, but it did at least crack the Pop Top 30 while getting to #20 at Rock. The LP had already peaked at #67, which would be his best result as a solo artist.

ReduxReview:  While this song wasn't nearly as good as "Don't Shed a Tear," it was still a solid track that had a hooky chorus. It sounded like something that Steve Winwood might have recorded. The production by Christopher Neil (Sheena Easton, Mike + the Mechanics) was quite beefy and it certainly helped the song along. It was a descent follow up and peaked about where it should have.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  After original member Roger Waters left Pink Floyd in 1985, he formed The Bleeding Hearts Band, a group he assembled to back him as a solo artist. Although Waters had already released his first solo disc in 1984 (The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking) prior to officially leaving Pink Floyd, he was anxious to get started on projects free of his ties to his old band. He hired on several musicians and vocalists to form The Bleeding Hearts Band including Paul Carrack. Their first project together would be supplying the soundtrack to the British animated film When the Wind Blows. Waters would write the score and he would record the track with The Bleeding Hearts Band. Also included on the soundtrack were songs by David Bowie, Genesis, Squeeze, and Paul Hardcastle. David Bowie was originally tapped to write the score, but due to the time it was taking to record his album Never Let Me Down, he was only able to submit the title track. It was released as a single and got to #44 in the UK. The movie, which was about an older couple's experience after a nuclear attack (let's just say this ain't Disney...), was critically well-received, but it wasn't a big hit at the box office. In the US, it barely got a release. It found a larger audience via home video. The Bleeding Hearts Band would see some shuffling of personnel, but would work on Waters' second solo disc, 1987's Radio K.A.O.S,. and subsequent tour in addition to appearing in Waters' 1990 The Wall - Live in Berlin show.


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

"Hey Mambo" by Barry Manilow with Kid Creole & the Coconuts

Song#:  3449
Date:  03/19/1988
Debut:  90
Peak:  90
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Pop, Latin Pop

Pop Bits:  After recording an album of standards, 1984's gold-selling 2:00 AM Paradise Cafe, Manilow left his long-time label Arista and moved over to RCA. His first LP for them, Manilow, was a return to pop music, but it ended up being the lowest peaking studio effort of his career to-date stopping at #42. It would also be his first album to not at least reach gold level sales. The experience had Manilow heading back to Arista. Perhaps sensing that his pop charting days may be over, Manilow decided to do another standards-style album for his return to the label. He would record Swing Street, which featured a mix of standards along with a few originals co-written by Manilow. To help promote it, a CBS TV special titled Big Fun on Swing Street was filmed. The LP featured several guest stars and many of them would appear in the TV special with Manilow including Kid Creole & the Coconuts, who helped out on this single. It was released right around the same time the TV special aired. While the special did well and would go on to win a technical Emmy, the single barely got anywhere spending a very minor two weeks on the Pop chart. The album failed to sell and it stalled at a lackluster #70. Another track on the album, the somewhat autobiographical tune "Brooklyn Blues," would do a bit better getting to #13 on the AC chart. "Hey Mambo" would end up being Manilow's last single to reach the Pop chart. Over his 14-year span on the Pop chart that began with the 1974 #1 "Mandy," Manilow had 28 singles reach the chart; 3 of them would hit #1, 8 more would hit the Top 10, and another 13 would make the Top 40. However, the superstar wasn't finished yet and his career would feature several more high points.

ReduxReview:  Awww. The last charting Manilow single. Yes, I freely admit that I am a Fanilow. Always was, still am. I ain't ashamed! In fact, I just recently listened to all of his albums from '73-'83. What a great ride. After his pop charting days ended, I still bought his albums, but they were hit-n-miss affairs for me. His Greatest Songs series (see below) weirdly didn't do much for me, but his 15 Minutes rock opera and his Night Songs series were winners. Swing Street wasn't one of my favorites, but it had a couple of good tracks like "Brooklyn Blues." This single, which shouldn't be confused with the old standard "Mambo Italiano" where the chorus starts "hey mambo," was a fun workout that kind of reminded me of "Copacabana." Having Kid Creole & the Coconuts on board was a good call and they helped to liven things up. Also lending an authentic hand was Emilio Estefan (from Miami Sound Machine) as producer for the track. While I do think it was probably the best bet for a single from the LP, this retro Latin sound just wasn't what was happening on the chart at the time. It was going to be a hard sell and indeed it pretty much went nowhere. It would have been nice if Manilow had been able to end his pop chart career with a bigger hit, but this was still a fun song to wrap up his superstar run.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song featured the disco/Latin/big band influenced Kid Creole & the Coconuts. The band, formed and fronted in 1980 by August Darnell, aka Kid Creole (adopted from the 1958 Elvis Presley movie of the same name), became a popular live act with their 30s/40s referenced sound and choreographed staged shows. Their first two albums were reviewed well, but didn't sell. They had a breakthrough with their 1982 third album Tropical Gangsters (Wise Guys in the US), which became a #3 platinum seller in the UK (#145 US). Follow-up albums didn't perform as well, but they continued recording and performing for many years. This track with Manilow would be the only time they would reach the Pop chart in the US. They came close in 1984 when they appeared in the film Against All Odds performing "My Male Curiosity." The song appeared on the soundtrack album and was issued as a single, but it failed to make the Pop 100 chart bubbling under at #110. However, it did get to #23 at Dance, which was one of nine entries they would have on that chart.  2) After Swing Street, Manilow attempted a return to pop again with a 1989 self-titled effort. What was unusual about the LP was that Manilow only wrote one of the tracks. Manilow always considered himself above all to be a composer and arranger so his albums mainly featured his own songs (save for a couple that Clive Davis picked for him to record). The contemporary pop that was featured on the LP was fine for AC, where "Keep Each Other Warm" got to #7, but it didn't excite anyone else and the album peaked at #64. After that, it seems that Manilow decided to give up on writing pop music and just do thematic albums that revived old tunes. The following years saw Manilow tackle Broadway, big band, Sinatra, and 70s pop classics. He also did two Christmas albums that went gold and platinum. But it would be a 2002 hits collection that really put him back on the map. Arista released Ultimate Manilow and it unexpectedly got to #3 and went double-platinum. Then in 2006, he would record The Greatest Songs of the Fifties. His versions of classics from the era struck a chord and the LP would become only the second in his career to hit #1. His next two LPs covered the same concept for the 60s and 70s. Both would got Top 10. An 80s version came out later and it got to #14. One more in the series, The Greatest Love Songs of All Time would get to #5. Manilow then finally returned to composing with the concept/rock opera album 15 Minutes in 2011. It got to #7 and earned a Grammy nomination. His next two albums would also reach the Top 10.


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

"Breakaway" by Big Pig

Song#:  3448
Date:  03/19/1988
Debut:  91
Peak:  60
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Indie Rock

Pop Bits:  This unusual outfit was formed by Australian musician Oleh Witer. After being a member of a few bands where nothing really panned out, he decided to take control and create a band that fit his vision. Having been inspired by a group of taiko drummers, Witer wanted to basically form a band that was mainly made up of drummers and vocalists. He first started to develop his project in London in 1984. After a move back to Australia the following year, Witer then fully develop his new band, Big Pig, which included vocalist Sherine Abeyratne and five other vocalists/drummers, two of which also played harmonica and keyboards. They began playing live shows early in '86 and in May issued out an indie self-titled EP. It helped them get signed to White Label Records, who reissued the EP later in the year and also pushed out the single "Hungry Town," which got to #18 in Australia. A full debut album would follow in '88 titled Bonk. The second single from the LP, "Breakway," took off and became a Top 10 hit in Australlia (#8). It did even better in New Zealand where it reached #1. The album would go Top 10 as well. The band had interest in trying to break through in the US and they were picked up by A&M Records. "Breakaway" would do well on the US Dance chart getting to #7. It was able to cross over to the Pop chart, but it couldn't quite make it to the halfway point. The album would reach #93. It would take Big Pig two years to return with a follow up titled You Lucky People, but by that time the big splash they made at home had ebbed away and the LP failed to chart or produce a hit. With that result, the LP was not released in the US and Big Pig would disband in 1991.

ReduxReview:  While it was not all that unusual that a band would choose to exclude a guitar and/or bass player in their line up (synthpop bands anyone?), Big Pig did set themselves apart with the various drummers and a harmonica player. The keyboard came along to add some chords, effects, and structure. Take that lineup and add some pop, soul, and funk rhythms and you get the unique sound of Big Pig. They were certainly odd, but it paid off in tracks like this propulsive single. The keyboard was more front and center on this track than the drums, but it worked out well. Sherine's vocal was also terrific as was all the background vocals. This urgent, edgy track was certainly different from the soulful original (see below), but I think the band did a terrific job updating the tune for the 80s. I'm guessing that members of Big Pig might have known this obscure US soul single thanks to the UK Northern soul scene. Several of Chuck Jackson's older tracks were popular in the clubs. This song was an interesting find and I liked some of the other tracks on the Bonk album. It's too bad this single didn't do better on the Pop chart.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by soul star Chuck Jackson. Jackson's original version, titled "I Can't Break Away," appeared on his 1973 album Through All Times. It was released as the second single from the LP and got to #62 on the R&B chart. Jackson's biggest successes came in the early 60s when he was signed to the Wand label. He would land four R&B Top 10s with his biggest hit coming in 1962 with "Any Day Now" (#2 R&B/#23 Pop). That song, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, would later be a hit for country superstar Ronnie Milsap. Along with Dionne Warwick, Jackson was among the first artists to have hits written by the Bacharach/David team.  2) This song was selected for use in the 1989 sci-fi comedy film Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Used near the beginning of the film, the tune was more-or-less consider the theme song. It was included on the soundtrack album, which charted at a minor #170. The film, which starred Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, was a box office hit and would spawn two sequels.


Monday, March 29, 2021

"Anything for You" by Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3447
Date:  03/12/1988
Debut:  63
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Estefan and MSM's album Let It Loose became a gold seller just a few months after its release in '87 thanks to three Pop chart singles that included two Top 10s. The LP initially peaked at #16, but it would eventually make a turnaround to become the group's first Top 10 (#6) thanks to the big success of this fourth single. The ballad, written by Estefan, would take off and become the band's first Pop #1. It would also be their third AC #1 spending three weeks in the top position. The single sold well enough to become their third to go gold. By May the LP would turn platinum and in August it would be certified 2x platinum.

ReduxReview:  This was another lovely song penned by Estefan. She was developing a real knack at writing pop/AC ballads and that kind of both helped and hurt her when she fully went solo following Let It Loose. She would score three Top 10s as a solo act with two of them getting to #1. All of them were ballads. Two of her upbeat singles would make the Top 20, but she didn't write either of them. One was a new song by outside writers while the other was a remake. Her hit ballads kind of began to paint her into a corner that she had a hard time breaking out of. Still, she had a terrific run on the charts and this ballad was one of her best. It was also unusual in that it didn't really have a chorus. It was more like a series of verses that flowed together. The opening title line was more or less the only hook. Then the song ended with a guitar solo that was nearly a minute long. Both things were not common for a pop single, but the song was so well-written that it didn't matter and Estefan was rewarded with her first #1.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  As Estefan's charting days began to wane in the 2000s, she branched out into another profession. She became an author of children's books. Based on her pet bulldog Noelle, Estefan wrote The Magical Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the Bulldog. Published in 2005, the book was accompanied by a CD that contained a new song from Estefan called "Noelle's Song (Been Wishin')." The book did well enough to call for a sequel and in 2006 Estefan wrote Noelle's Treasure Tale. Once again, Estefan recorded a song that was included with the book titled "See with Your Heart." Both books were issued in English and Spanish. Later in 2008, Estefan and her husband Emilio would write a cookbook titled Estefan Kitchen. It featured traditional Cuban recipes some of which came from their Miami restaurant Bongo's Cuban Cafe. Bongo's would also have locations elsewhere like in Orlando's Downtown Disney, now Disney Springs. It seems most Bongo's have closed, but the Estefan's stayed in the restaurant business with their new venture Estefan Kitchen located in Orlando's Margaritaville Resort.


Sunday, March 28, 2021

"Dreaming" by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Song#:  3446
Date:  03/12/1988
Debut:  82
Peak:  16
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This English band had amassed five Top 10 singles and four Top 10 albums in the UK since 1980, but it wasn't until their Pretty in Pink soundtrack song "If You Leave" (#4) that they truly broke through in the US. Their album following that hit, 1986's The Pacific Age, did fairly well in the US thank to the #19 single "(Forever) Live and Die." With nearly a decade of hits in the UK and a newfound audience in the US, the time seemed right to catch everyone up with a compilation. The Best of OMD was assembled and to help promote it, this new track was added on and released as a single. The song did well in clubs and reached #6 on the Dance chart. It then became the band's second biggest hit in the US getting to #16. The collection would only get to #46, but it would eventually become the only album in their discography to go gold. By the end of the decade, the co-founders of the band Andy McClusky and Paul Humphreys decided to go their separate ways. McClusky would carry on under the OMD moniker while Humphreys formed The Listening Pool. They would reunite in 2006 and have since released three albums under the OMD name.

ReduxReview:  OMD was a band that I should have liked a lot more than I did. I will dig up something from them every now and then to see if I could get a better foothold in their music, but I usually end up just listening to a minor handful of their hits. Most things I like are on the Best of OMD disc. This particular track is one that I enjoy. I probably like it even a little more than "If You Leave." I liked the eighth-note chuggin' synthpop rhythm and it had a lovely chorus with dreamy chord changes. I bought the single back in the day. While critics and true fans prefer the band's earlier more experimental works, their pop-leaning tracks like this one called to me a bit more.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The McClusky version of OMD would release three albums between 1991 and 1996. The LPs would do well in the UK with 1991's Sugar Tax being the most successful. It would be a #3 platinum seller thanks to two Top 10 hits. The albums were far less successful in the US. The only single to reach the Pop chart was the #93 "Stand By Me" in 1993. However, the band did score three hits on the US Dance chart. Two would make the Top 10 while one would just barely miss out at #11. Still, that didn't do much to help sell albums and the only one of the three to make the US chart was 1993's Liberator, which made a brief appearance at #169. Despite not having bigger success in the US, they influenced a lot of other artists including Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, and Moby.