Saturday, July 10, 2021

"Theme from S-Express" by S-Express

Song#:  3548
Date:  06/18/1988
Debut:  97
Peak:  91
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Acid House

Pop Bits:  This British outfit was headed up by Mark Moore. Moore had been a popular DJ in various clubs in the 80s before branching out to record his own brand of dance/house music. He and fellow songwriter/producer Pascal Gabriel began assembling songs that while featuring a lot of samples also included various musicians and vocalists. Moore's project got the attention of the Mute offshoot label Rhythm King and by the spring of '88 a debut album titled Original Soundtrack was ready to go. Credited as by S'Express (pronouced Ess-Express and stylized also as S-Express or S'Xpress), this first single was issued out and it did big business in the UK making it all the way to #1. Two more singles would follow that would reach the Top 10. In turn, the album would get to #5. After the first single became a hit, a deal was struck for US distribution through Capitol Records. "Theme from S-Express" would quickly become a hit in clubs and would reach #1 on the US Dance chart. That action then led to the tune crossing over to the Pop chart. Unfortunately, it would only stay for a few short weeks. The same two follow-up singles in the UK were also Top 10 hits on the US Dance chart, but neither made the Pop chart. Despite the club hits, the album would fail to crack the US chart. A follow-up album, Intercourse, would be released in 1991, but it fared less well in both the UK and the US. After that, Moore and others involved in the project moved on.

ReduxReview:  House music isn't something I typically enjoy. I find it a bit repetitive with little in the way of melody. It may have a good hook or two, but after about three minutes I'm pretty much done. Sometimes a house track will come along that is well-written and could actually translate into other arrangements or styles, but for me a lot of it is just beats and samples and effects all mixed up into a club-style soup. This track really has no melody or chorus. It just has a hook that is repeated a lot and surrounded by samples, effects, and the chugging acid-style synth bass. In other words, there's not going to be an acoustic version of it anytime soon. That's not necessarily bad, but the thing is that the track not only has to get folks energized and dancing, it has to have some kind of ear worm that makes it stand out. Apparently in the UK and in the US clubs this song had all of that. Unfortunately, it wasn't what US pop listeners were wanting. House music was still a bit foreign to the masses and it was going to take something a little bit more melodic and catchy to break through. I don't mind this track and appreciate that it helped acid house music gain a larger audience, but it's nothing that stays in my head for long. I'd dance to it, but I wouldn't buy it.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) House music was an electronic style of dance music that got started in underground clubs in Chicago in the early 80s. It is know for its "four-on-the-floor" structure where a bass emphasizes every beat of a 4/4 time signature. The tracks usually have a high BPM of around 120-130. Like most genres, there are offshoots and one stemming from house was acid house. It is often defined by the electronic squelch sound derived from the Roland TB-303 bass synth/sequencer. While the origin of the "acid" name is not fully clear, many attribute it to a 1987 single by the Chicago house group Phuture titled "Acid Tracks," which is considered the first example of acid house music. Mark Moore seemed to hook into acid house quickly and incorporated it into "Theme from S-Express."  2) This track contains many samples. Snippets from songs by artists like Stacey Q, Debbie Harry, Yazoo, Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs, and Rose Royce are used in addition to other vocal/music samples from the likes of Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek) and a haunted house album. This came at a time when sampling was becoming more popular and permissions/clearance was required in order to avoid lawsuits. However, when Capitol brought the S-Express recordings over to the US, it seems they may not have been interested in paying for the usage of all the samples (or there could have been clearance issues, but I'm guessing it was finances or not wanting to pay their competitors for rights). For this track in particular, it seems that deals were struck for the main samples that kept the song intact, but any extras that didn't necessarily contribute much were ditched. Therefore, six of the fourteen samples used in the track were removed. Despite the territorial issues, these days you can usually find original versions of a track on sites like YouTube.


Friday, July 9, 2021

"Roll with It" by Steve Winwood

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3547
Date:  06/11/1988
Debut:  53
Peak:  1 (4 weeks)
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Rock, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Winwood's career was at an all-time high thanks to his 1986 multi-platinum solo album Back in the High Life. It reached #3 thanks to four Pop Top 20 hits including the Grammy-winning #1 "Higher Love." Winwood's long time label, Island Records, benefited from his success as well, but it came at an awkward time with Winwood's contract coming up for renewal. He was suddenly hot property and that had other labels sniffing around. Virgin Records came calling and offered Winwood a deal he could not refuse. It seems Island was unable to match it so Winwood jumped ship and signed on with Virgin. He quickly got to work and with his co-writer Will Jennings came up with his fifth solo album Roll with It. The title track would be the lead single and it would be a major hit reaching #1 on the Pop chart and staying there for four weeks; the longest run at the top spot for any single hitting #1 within the calendar year of 1988. It would also reach #1 at Rock and AC while getting to #21 Dance and #30 R&B. The multi-chart hit would sell well and go gold. As the single was riding high in the #1 spot, the album would also reach #1 for a week. By the end of the year it would go double-platinum. The song, the album, and Winwood would all received Grammy nods (Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Performance Male).

ReduxReview:  This crowd-pleaser was the perfect follow up to the hits from Back in the High Life. The soulful track hinted at Winwood's beginnings as a member of The Spencer Davis Group. It was irresistible ear candy for anyone who wanted to boogie on the dance floor. The Motown-influenced track with its easy groove and horns made for a great summer radio song. It still remains one of Winwood's most popular tracks.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song became the subject of a lawsuit in 1990. It seems that the folks at Jobete Music, a publishing company that was mainly associated with Motown Records, were not too thrilled when they heard "Roll with It." To them it bore a striking resemblance to a song in their catalog titled "(I'm A) Road Runner." That song, written by the famous Holland-Dozier-Holland team, was a 1966 hit for Junior Walker & the Allstars. Their original version reached #4 R&B/#20 Pop. Feeling that their toes were being stepped on, Jobete sued Winwood, his co-writer Will Jennings, and Virgin Record for plagiarism. The suit would be settled out of court. It is assumed that Jobete received some kind of payout. In addition, Holland-Dozier-Holland would then be officially credited as composers on the track.


Thursday, July 8, 2021

"In Your Soul" by Corey Hart

Song#:  3546
Date:  06/11/1988
Debut:  79
Peak:  38
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Hart's third album, 1986's Fields of Fire, was a major hit in his Canadian home reaching #5 and going double platinum. It featured a pair of Top 10 hit including the #1 cover song "Can't Help Falling in Love." In the US, the LP signaled a decline for Hart. With its first single, "I Am By Your Side," peaking at #18 and "Can't Help" stalling at #24, the album could only get to #55. It did go gold, but that was a drop from his previous platinum effort. He returned to the studio and came out with this fourth album Young Man Running. This first single was released and in Canada it soared up to #2. In the US it just barely scraped the Pop Top 40. With that result it seemed that Hart's US label (EMI Manhattan) chose not to issue out a second single. Therefore, the LP became a blip on the chart at #121.  It would do better in Canada getting to #12 and going platinum.

ReduxReview:  This song was different from his previous hits in that there was less focus on synthpop and the heavier production style he had been doing. The results sounded more band-oriented. It wasn't cluttered with synths and effects. It even featured a nice sax solo. I loved this song. The chugging rhythm, the strummed guitar and especially the tympani sound kept the tune moving forward. It didn't have a big chorus, but I don't think it was needed. I found the tune memorable on its own. I especially loved the quiet section after the bridge that transitioned into the last verse. It is one of my favorite Corey Hart songs and I was highly disappointed when it stalled low in the Top 40. It should have done much better. The balance of the album didn't come up to the standard this song set, but it wasn't too bad.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Hart's career in the US continued to dwindle. His next album, 1990's Bang!, only got to #134 with its lone charting single "A Little Love" peaking at #37. Both would be his last chart entries in the US. At home, he would do much better. His albums continued to sell well and he would earn three more Top 10 hits. In 1997, Hart would write and produce two songs for Celine Dion's #1 album Let's Talk About Love. It became the second biggest selling LP of her career with 10 million in the US sold and 31 million worldwide. After his 1998 album Jade, Hart decided to take a break from music in order to raise a family. He still remained somewhat active writing for others and starting his own boutique record label. He would return to recording in 2014 with the LP Ten Thousand Horses. In 2019, Hart would be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.


Wednesday, July 7, 2021

"I'll Always Love You" by Taylor Dayne

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3545
Date:  06/11/1988
Debut:  82
Peak:  3
Weeks:  30
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Dayne's debut album, Tell It to My Heart, was already a gold seller by this point thanks to a pair of #7 Pop hits that included the title track and "Prove Your Love." Both of those were Hi-NRG dance tracks so for the LP's third single this change of pace ballad was issued out. The song would be a slow burner taking its time climbing the chart. It would eventually peak at #3 on the Pop chart in its sixteenth week and stay for an additional week. Then the tune took nearly the same amount of time descending the chart. The lengthy thirty weeks on the chart played into sales and the single would be certified gold. The hit would also send the LP to its peak of #21 and by November of '88 it would go platinum. The song would also get to #2 at AC and #21 R&B. It would be Dayne's only single to reach the R&B chart. Although it wasn't a big R&B hit, the song would earn Dayne a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female.

ReduxReview:  This was such a lovely, well-written song that was a perfect vehicle to showcase Dayne's amazing voice. It was a smart single choice as it indicated that Dayne was a lot more than just a dance music diva. Indeed it expanded her audience and that would help turn her debut LP into a double-platinum seller down the road. She also got a well-deserved Grammy nod for her performance. Dayne was on a roll and she wasn't done yet.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Jimmy George. George attempted a solo career in the 60s recording a few singles, but nothing clicked. He then moved on as a musician supporting many acts and was also a staff songwriter for a couple of labels. His tunes would get recorded by artists like Dobie Gray, Nancy Sinatra, Tavares, and The Temptations. He would have two of his compositions reach the Pop Top 10. In 1987, Smokey Robinson recorded "Just to See Her," a song written by George and Lou Pardini. It would get to #8 Pop/#1 AC/#2 R&B. It would also earn Robinson his first solo Grammy award for Best R&B Performance, Male, while earning George his first Grammy nod for Best R&B Song. The following year, George's "I'll Always Love You" would find its way to Taylor Dayne. It would be a major hit that got George his second Grammy nod in the Best R&B Song category.


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

"Colors" by Ice-T

Song#:  3544
Date:  06/11/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  70
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Gangsta Rap, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Tracy Marrow certainly had a colorful past. He had been affiliated with (though not a member) of a gang, did petty crime, served in the military, and even at one point robbed banks. Along the way he developed an interest in rap music, thanks in part to the 1979 hit "Rapper's Delight" by Sugarhill Gang. He soon developed his own style and by 1982, Marrow made the decision to get his life cleaned up in order to focus on a career in music. Over the next few years Marrow would record and release indie singles under his nickname Ice-T. As his skills and reputation grew, Ice-T attracted the attention of Sire Records. He would sign with the label and in '86 he would put out a debut LP titled Rhyme Pays, which included one of the first gangsta rap tracks "6 in the Mornin'." While no singles from the album charted, it sold well enough to reach #26 R&B/#93 Pop. Ice-T was then tapped to write and record this theme song to the upcoming action/crime film Colors. His track of the same name would be included on the soundtrack and would be released as a single. It would get to #77 at R&B while crossing over to the Pop chart where is stayed for a few weeks. The soundtrack was a success reaching #31 and going gold. Ice-T's solo career took off in a bigger way afterwards and he would eventually accumulate one platinum and four gold albums. His only other solo single to reach the Pop chart was another soundtrack song, "New Jack Hustler (Nino's Theme)," from New Jack City, which reached #67 Pop/#49 R&B/#3 Rap. He would later form the rap metal band Body Count. They would court controversy with the track "Cop Killer," a track from their 1992 self-titled debut album.
ReduxReview:  In the late 80s, rap music was quickly evolving and Ice-T would be one of the forerunners of the sub-genre called gangsta rap, which had a tougher sound with lyrics that focused on gang culture and urban crime; sometimes true, sometimes exaggerated. N.W.A.'s 1988 album Straight Outta Compton (#4 Pop/#9 R&B) would truly break the genre in a bigger way. The rise of gangsta rap came at a time when old school rap from artists like DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince was still hitting the charts, so it was an odd thing to have Ice-T's grittier "Colors" getting airplay alongside the jovial "Parents Just Don't Understand."  I remember when this song came out. I liked it (as well as the movie) because it sounded fresh and different. It seemed real and I liked the edgier quality. While I wouldn't necessarily become a fan of gangsta rap, I did appreciate tracks like this and the fact that artists like Ice-T were exploring new territories on the rap map.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Ice-T would also move into acting and appear in many films and TV shows. His early credits include appearances in 1984's Breakin' along with its 1985 sequel, but it was his co-starring role in 1991's New Jack City that got him praised for his acting ability.  In 2000, he would join the cast of the hit drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in its second season. The role earned him an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor. As of 2021, he was still on the show. He has also won two Grammy awards.