Saturday, April 24, 2021

"Nite and Day" by Al B. Sure!

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3473
Date:  04/09/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  7
Weeks:  21
Genre:  R&B, New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  The music bug hit Albert Brown III early on. As a teen, he scrambled some equipment together and began recording music with his cousin Kyle West. While still in high school, Brown became friends with Eddie Ferrell, who was going by the name DJ Eddie F. Eddie was working with rapper Heavy D. at the time and after hearing Brown's music brought him along to the studio to meet Heavy D and his manager. They immediately put Brown to work. He sang on three tracks that would appear on the 1987 debut album by Heavy D. & the Boys. His work on the songs along with a push from Heavy D.'s management helped Brown secure a deal with Warner Bros. Records. With the stage name of Al B. Sure!, Brown began work on a solo album with West. The pair would co-write and co-produce the majority of the album that would be titled In Effect Mode. This first single was issued out and it certainly made a splash. The song reached the top of the R&B chart while cracking the Pop Top 10. It also got to #19 at AC. By the beginning of July, the album would also get to #1 at R&B. Eventually, it would make it to #20 Pop. This song would go on to earn Al B. Sure! a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male.

ReduxReview:  Al B. Sure! kind of brought romantic new jack swing to the masses with this sleek track. For a pair of newbies who were just getting their feet wet, Al and Kyle West truly hit the mark with this song. Apparently, it was the first track they recorded for the LP. What a way to kick things off! It was easy to hear that this was going to be a hit. That hip-swaying groove, indelible chorus, and Al's sensuous vocal made the tune ripe and ready for lots of radio airplay.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  In 1987, the Sony Corporation decided to hold a talent contest. It became part of the company's awards program and was called the Sony Innovator Talent Search. They acquired a judging panel of professionals that included famed producer/musician Quincy Jones. The contest was to be judged "blind" and over 50 unknown young artists participated including Al B. Sure! He would end up being the winner of the contest, but it is not clear what Sony gave him for the win. While Al would be the first to win the talent contest, it seems like he may also have been the last. No evidence exists that it turned into an annual event. Being selected as winner by Jones would later lead to Al working with the legend. In 1989, Al would contribute lead vocals to "The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)," a track from Quincy Jones' album Back on the Block. Al would be one of four lead vocalists for the song. The others were El DeBarge, James Ingram, and Barry White. It would be released as a single in 1990 and would reach #1 at R&B (#31 Pop). It would also be a gold seller. The album would go on to win seven Grammys including Album of the Year.


Friday, April 23, 2021

"Take It While It's Hot" by Sweet Sensation

Song#:  3472
Date:  04/09/1988
Debut:  87
Peak:  57
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Latin Freestyle

Pop Bits:  This female vocal trio released a pair of indie singles in '86/'87, including "Hooked on You" (#64 Pop), that helped them get a record deal with ATCO Records. Work began on a debut album titled Take It While It's Hot and once it was ready this title-track single was issued out. It would do well on the Dance chart reaching #14. That action helped the song cross over to the Pop chart where it got near the halfway point. Although it wasn't a major hit, the song kicked off a run of popular singles for the trio that would eventually culminate in a #1 Pop hit.

ReduxReview:  This track expanded on the Latin freestyle feel of their first single, which made it more club friendly, hence the better showing on the Dance chart. It was a well-crafted dance tune that was expertly produced, but it just didn't have a strong enough hook to take it further on the Pop chart, unlike singles from one of their competitors Exposé. As a club song, this one should definitely make folks shimmy on the dance floor, but as a pop single it didn't quite hit the mark.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Apparently, when this trio first formed they went by the name Sweet Temptation. Unfortunately (or fortunately because it happened early on), someone at Motown found out about the name and since it was so close to one of their superstar acts, The Temptations, the label sent word that they were not happy with the trio's choice. Wisely, the trio then updated their name to Sweet Sensation. That name could have gotten them in hot water as well as there had already been a group called Sweet Sensation to reach the Pop chart. The first Sweet Sensation was a 70s British soul band. Formed in '71, the majority of the eight-piece outfit originally hailed from Jamaica. They became popular in local pubs/discos and in '74 they found themselves competing on a British TV talent show called New Faces. They made it to that season's finale, but lost to an impressionist. The song they performed on the show was called "Sad Sweet Dreamer," which the public seemed to love. On the show's judging panel was producer/songwriter Tony Hatch. Impressed by the band, he got them signed to Pye Records. Their first single failed to chart, but then they released "Sad Sweet Dreamer." It got to #1 on the UK chart and then to #14 on the US Pop chart. A self-titled debut album followed in '75 and another single, "Purely By Coincidence," got to #11 in the UK. A few more singles would be released from the band over the next couple of years, but nothing charted and they were dropped by Pye. The band split soon after. How the new Sweet Sensation trio was able to used the previous band's name without issue is not known, but without a trademark or any ownership rights, multiple bands could use the same name especially if the first one has long been defunct.


Thursday, April 22, 2021

"Under the Milky Way" by The Church

Song#:  3471
Date:  04/09/1988
Debut:  91
Peak:  24
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This Australian band first started to form in 1980. They quickly got signed to EMI Parlophone and issued out a debut album titled Of Skins and Heart the following year. It did well in Australia and their follow up LP, 1982's The Blurred Crusade would break into the Top 10. Two more albums along with three EPs were less successful, which prompted EMI to drop the band. In the US, the band was more or less a fringe cult group, but that changed when they got signed by Clive Davis' Arista Records. It gave The Church the opportunity to record their fifth album in L.A. The completed work, titled Starfish, was issued out and this first single released. It became a solid hit at Rock reaching #2. The song then crossed over to Pop where it peaked inside the Top 30. In turn, the album would make it to #41. It became an alt rock favorite that continued to sell over time and nearly five years after its release, it would go gold. The LP's second single, "Reptile," wouldn't make the Pop chart, but would get to #27 Rock. Their 1990 follow-up album, Gold Afternoon Fix, wasn't as successful, but did provide the #11 Rock/#1 Alt Rock track "Metropolis." Arista had signed the band to a four-album deal so the band provided two more LPs that didn't make much of an impression. The Church would continue to record and tour over the years, but this lone single to make the US Pop chart would be their peak moment in the spotlight.

ReduxReview:  This is one of those songs that certainly provided a mood. There was a casual, dark eeriness to the track that made it perfect for when you are driving around on a hot summer night in the country with the windows down. The song had an atmospheric, breezy coolness that was unforgettable. It was a beautiful track and I was hoping it would go Top 10. I bought the album hoping there were other great songs like this one, but I ended up discovering that The Church were not necessarily my cup o' tea. Regardless, this hit quickly became an 80s alt rock classic.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Although the band's second album, The Blurred Crusade, was successful in Australia, their US label, Capitol, didn't like it. They refused to release it as-is and wanted the band to record some songs that had more hit potential. Apparently, they were asked to record something that might be similar to another Aussie Capitol artist, the Little River Band. Obviously, that group and The Church were miles apart as far as sound or even genre, but The Church went into the studio to record a few more songs. Capitol still didn't like what came from those sessions and decided to just drop the band. The extra tracks that were recorded were assembled into an EP titled Sing-Songs and released in Australia where it charted. The band then didn't have a US label for their next two albums. For their fourth LP, 1985's Heyday, they were picked up by Warner Bros. for US distribution. It became their first album to chart in the US, but its low #146 peak didn't excite the label. The Church was then dropped by Warner and then by EMI in Australia. Luckily, Clive Davis and Arista came calling and it resulted in their most overall successful LP.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

"The Flame" by Cheap Trick

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3470
Date:  04/09/1988
Debut:  92
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  27
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  After having great success in the late 70s, Cheap Trick's popularity diminished as the 80s wore on. Over the course of five studio album and four songs done for soundtracks, the band failed to get a single inside the Pop Top 40. In 1986, they released their ninth studio album The Doctor. The lone single from the LP failed to make any chart and that left the album stalling at #115. It was the lowest peaking of all their charting studio albums to-date. The band desperately needed something to turn things around and their long-time label, Epic, stepped in to help the situation. With a few exceptions, the band had always written their own material. Epic didn't think that was working out for them so they decided the band needed to work with outside songwriters that could help mold Cheap Trick for the late 80s. The band agreed and their main songwriters, Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander, began working with hit-making composers like Diane Warren, Greg Giuffria, Janna Allen, and Todd Cerney. In addition to the collaborations, four songs solely by outside writers would be selected. Two would be cover tunes and two would be brand new compositions. This lead single was one of the new songs they acquired. The power ballad got off to a slow start, but eventually picked up enough steam to become the band's first (and only) #1 Pop hit. The tune also got to #3 Rock and #29 AC. The single helped the album sell and it got to #16, which was their best showing since 1979's #6 Dream Police. The label's plan worked and the band found themselves back in the spotlight.

ReduxReview:  There was just no doubt in my mind at the time that this song was going to top the Pop chart. It was a killer power ballad. It had everything but the kitchen sink. Hooks galore, lovely melodies, Roy Orbison-isms, excellent 80s production from Richie Zito, an urgent build at the end of the chorus, a good guitar solo, and a nice, emotive vocal from Robin Zander. Really, what more could you want from a late-80s power ballad? Now, was this something that I'd think - oh, this is perfect for Cheap Trick! Nope. It really wasn't their style. However, their (coaxed) decision in recording it was correct. They needed something to reinvigorate their career and Epic's plan to go for a Heart-style comeback did the trick. The band may have balked at having to acquiesce to this label intervention, but on the bright side it relit their star and gave them an enduring 80s classic. Unfortunately, their comeback would ultimately prove to be a brief one.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was written by Bob Mitchell and Nick Graham. The pair initially approached English singer Elkie Brooks to record the track. Brooks, who scored a pair of UK Top 10s in the late 70s, was just coming off of a 1986 #5 comeback album No More the Fool, which featured the #5 title track. Mitchell and Graham thought "The Flame" would be good for her follow-up LP. Apparently, Brooks didn't like the tune and nixed it. She did, however, record another one of their compositions instead titled "Only Love Will Set You Free." Still believing in their song, Mitchell and Graham began to shop it around and it ended up over at Epic Records, who then offered it to Cheap Trick.  2) According to the band's drummer Bun E. Carlos, an Epic exec found two songs that he knew would be #1 hits. One would be for Cheap Trick while the other would go to another band. For whatever reason, he gave Cheap Trick the option to have first pick. After hearing both songs and discussing it further, the band thought that one of the songs, "The Flame," was a better fit for them. They recorded it and indeed it went to #1. The other demo they listened to that day was the Diane Warren-penned "Look Away." After Cheap Trick nixed that song, it was shuffled over to Chicago for their use. They recorded it and released it as a single in the fall of '88. It would also reach #1. The Epic exec was spot-on in his prediction.


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

"Like a Child" by Noel

Song#:  3469
Date:  04/09/1988
Debut:  94
Peak:  67
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Dance, Freestyle

Pop Bits:  Noel's first single, "Silent Morning," was a #6 Dance track that came close to cracking the Pop Top 40 (#47). To follow it up, this second single was issued out. It would do even better on the Dance chart getting all the way to #1. However, it wasn't as successful at Pop where it stalled near the bottom third of the chart. The track also made a brief showing on the R&B chart at #88. With two major dance hits under his belt, plans were finally hatched to record an album. It would be released around the same time as Noel's third single, "Out of Time," was pushed out. That song would be his second to top the Dance chart, but it did not get on the Pop chart. In late November of '88, his self-titled debut album would peak at a minor #126. This song would be Noel's last to make the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  Noel's songs were definitely meant for the clubs. They had a freestyle grooviness that made them perfect for shakin' yer thang on the floor. He was also a handsome young guy, which certainly helped him in the gay clubs. His tracks were really about the beat and production. Yes, the melodies and lyrics helped, but it was all about getting butts on the dance floor. It certainly wasn't about his voice. The poor guy could barely carry a tune at the time. I'm sure he got better over the years, but on this first LP you could totally tell it was amateur hour. "Silent Morning" was his best moment. His other tracks, including this one, were basically more of the same, just not as good. "Like a Child" grooves along fine and I can hear how it got people excited in the clubs, but as a pop song it was not very hooky or memorable.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) After his trio of Dance hits, producer Tony Moran brought Noel into a dance/freestyle project he was heading up titled Concept of One. The project was basically being used to showcase Moran's production skills. He would write/co-write and produce tracks with several featuring guest vocalists. Moran would provide the vocals for the first single, 1989's "Dance with Me," which didn't get on the Dance chart, but did hit #32 on the maxi-single sales chart. The following year he had Noel provide the vocals and co-write the song "The Question." Again, it failed to make the Dance chart but got to #24 for sales. Moran would finally finish a full album under the Concept of One name. Neither it or a third single, "So in Love" (with Brenda K. Starr on vocals) made any chart.  2) Noel would move over to Mercury Records and in 1993 he released his second album, the more pop-oriented Hearts on Fire. The title track served as the first single, but it went nowhere. It seems Mercury quickly lost interest in Noel and no other single was issued out. The album then came and went to little notice and he was dropped by the label. Noel continued to perform over the years and issued out a few singles along the way. In July of 2020, he was involved in a motorcycle accident. His injuries were quite severe, but it seems that he has been on the way to making a recovery.


Monday, April 19, 2021

"Nightime" by Pretty Poison

Song#:  3468
Date:  04/02/1988
Debut:  79
Peak:  36
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This band's first single for Virgin Records, "Catch Me (I'm Falling)," became a surprise hit getting to #8 Pop/#1 Dance and going gold. The trio and their label were caught a little off guard by the sudden success and it left them scrambling for a follow-up single and album. As April of '88 approached, their full-length debut album, Catch Me I'm Falling, was ready to go and this next single was released. It would do fine on the Dance chart getting to #13 while being a blip on the R&B chart at #83. Over at Pop, the song wasn't nearly successful as their previous hit, but it was able to crack the Top 40. In turn, the album would only manage to reach #104. Another single from the LP, "When I Look in Your Eyes," got to #10 Dance, but failed to make the Pop chart. Overall, the results were positive and Pretty Poison might have had more hits with a second album, but it seems the band didn't much care for being poked and prodded by a major label. Feeling that they couldn't do what they wanted, the band decided to leave the label and that ended the band's days on the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  While this song was definitely not as hooky or immediately alluring as "Catch Me (I'm Falling)," it wasn't a bad follow-up. Jade Starling sounded terrific once again and the new production gave the song a more modern, professional feel over the original (see below), which was more like a new wave dance track. It wasn't destined for the Top 10, but a #36 showing was appropriate..

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is actually a remake of a song the band originally recorded and released in 1984. Back when they were a struggling band in Philadelphia, they recorded and released a few indie singles. The last of those before they signed with Virgin was "Nightime." It did well in the Philly clubs and it started to spread from there. It ended up getting enough attention to reach #14 on the Dance chart as well as #82 at R&B. When it came time to quickly get out a debut album, they decided to re-record the song. A remix would then be pushed out as the second single from the LP. The new version cracked the Pop Top 40 and got one notch higher on the Dance chart than the original.  2) After leaving Virgin, it seems the band decided to return to their indie roots. They would release a single in 1992, but it failed to do anything. Two members of the group, Jade Starling and Whey Cool, then chose to form a rock-oriented duo called Sex in Violets. They recorded an album titled Deflowered in 1995. After that, they picked back up with Pretty Poison and released the single "Let Freedom Ring" in 1997. It made the Dance chart at #33. It was followed in 1998 by "Catch Me (I'm Falling) '98" (#43 Dance) along with their second album titled Euphoria. Lead singer Jade Starling would later do some solo work and was able to get a few singles on the Club Play chart including the 2019 #3 "Fired Up."


Sunday, April 18, 2021

"I Still Believe" by Brenda K. Starr

Song#:  3467
Date:  04/02/1988
Debut:  80
Peak:  13
Weeks:  26
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  This NYC-born singer started to discover her voice as a young child. She had aspirations to do something with her talent and before she even became a teen started to try out for TV ads and theater work. It was during one of her auditions that she was spotted by entertainer Harry Belafonte. He ended up casting her in a small role in an upcoming film he was producing called Beat Street. Starr basically played herself in an audition scene where she sang "Vicious Beat." The song didn't make it on to the soundtrack album, but her performance in the 1984 film got some attention. She got signed to Mirage Records and released the debut album I Want Your Love in 1985. It didn't chart, but it did contain the freestyle club hit "Pickin' Up the Pieces" (#9 Dance). After a move over to MCA Records, Starr then recorded a self-titled second album. Its first single, "What You See Is What You Get," became her second Dance hit getting to #6. It was followed by "Breakfast in Bed," which got to #18. Neither made the Pop chart. That changed when this third single was released. The ballad took a little time to catch on, but it eventually peaked near the Top 10. The hit then helped her album reach #58.

ReduxReview:  It seems that both labels Starr had signed with were trying to make her a dance-pop diva. Although she scored a couple of Dance Top 10s, her tunes were just not resonating at Pop. MCA finally released this ballad and it did the trick. I think it did better because it was a well-written song that gave Starr a decent platform to showcase her voice. It was a perfect fit for her and she ended up with a well-deserved hit. Had she been supplied with at least one more pop-leaning radio-friendly track, she might have had a bigger career. It just seems she wasn't necessarily matched up with the right hit-making material, save for this lovely tune.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Music ran in Starr's family. Her dad, Harvey Kaye, was a member of the late 60's band Spiral Staircase. Kaye played organ for the group. The California band got signed to Columbia Records and in 1968 released a self-titled debut album. The LP's main single, "More Today Than Yesterday," became a #12 hit. It was written by the band's lead singer Pat Upton. Although the song missed the Top 10, it became an enduring hit that was covered by many artists. It should have been the start of something great for the band, but a little over a year after the song became a hit, the band split due to financial disputes and other internal issues. Two follow-up singles were low charters and because of that, Spiral Staircase became tagged as a one-hit wonder of the 60s. Kaye would later revive the name and form a new band that would tour the US for many years. Kaye would die in 2008.  2) Mariah Carey recorded this song for her 1999 compilation album #1's. Her version became a significant hit getting to #4 Pop, #3 R&B, and #8 AC. A dance remix of the ballad would get to #1 on the Dance chart. Carey not only loved the song, but recorded it as a sort of tribute to Starr with whom she had a history. When Starr's career was kicking off, she hired a young Mariah Carey to be one of her backup singers. Carey was a teenager and it was her first professional job. In addition to performing with Starr in concert, Carey also sang backup on Starr's self-titled album, including the track "I Still Believe." Starr kind of took Carey under her wing. She recognized Carey's talent and at an industry party managed to hand over Carey's demo tape to the head of CBS Records, Tommy Mottola. He ended up signing Carey (and later married her) and the rest, as they say, is history.