Saturday, July 31, 2021

"Coming to America" by The System

Song#:  3568
Date:  07/09/1988
Debut:  96
Peak:  91
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  This duo of Mic Murphy and David Frank reached a high point when their 1987 single "Don't Disturb This Groove" got to #1 R&B and #5 Pop. It was from their album of the same name which reached #13 R&B/#62 Pop. After the success of the album, the pair's label, Atlantic, got them signed up to record a track for an upcoming film. They would collaborate with Nile Rodgers on the theme song to the Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America. The tune was written by Rodgers and Nancy Huang while Rodgers and The System co-produced. It would be released as a single just prior to the movie's debut. The song would do okay at R&B reaching #23, but it just couldn't get anywhere at Pop where it fizzled near the bottom. There would be other singles released from the soundtrack, but none of them made the Pop or R&B charts. With those results, the soundtrack stalled at #177. This song would be The System's last single to reach the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  This duo typically wrote their own material so it was a bit unusual that they chose to record something that wasn't theirs. Two factors may have played a role; their label perhaps pushing them, but more importantly, the chance to work with Nile Rodgers. The completed track turned out okay. There was a bit of a Minneapolis/Prince sound going on, especially with the chorus. It was almost like a more commercial version of Prince's "America" done by Jam & Lewis. It was fine, but it wasn't something that was going to set the charts on fire. The System were known mainly for their smooth, soul grooves, so this loud, choppy track was quite different for them and I'm not sure it was the best fit. I guess one way to put it is they disturbed their own groove.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  A year after this single was released, The System issued out their fifth album Rhythm & Romance. The lead single, "Midnight Special," got to #5 at R&B, but failed to make the Pop chart. No other singles would chart and the LP could only get to #85 at R&B. After those results, Murphy and Frank went their own ways. Murphy would release a solo album in '92 titled Touch. It didn't get very far with the single "Fit to Be Tied" only reaching #81 R&B. Frank would write and produce songs for other artists including "Genie in a Bottle" for Christina Aguilera. They would reunite in 2000 and issue out an indie album along with another one in 2013.  2) Coming to America was another hit for Eddy Murphy. While critics were mixed about it, the public turned out and it became the third highest grossing film of '88. Twenty-three years later, a sequel would appear. Coming 2 America starring Eddie Murphy got released in 2021. It was meant to be a theatrical release, but due to the pandemic it came out via Amazon Prime for home streaming. Again, critics were mixed, but a sizable audience stuck at home signed on to watch. A soundtrack was created for the film that included John Legend remaking the original theme song.


Friday, July 30, 2021

"Love Will Save the Day" by Whitney Houston

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3567
Date:  07/02/1988
Debut:  52
Peak:  9
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  The fifth single from Houston's second LP Whitney, "Where Do Broke Hearts Go," set a couple of chart records. The tune became Houston's seventh consecutive #1 on the Pop chart, which was a record for any artist. She was also the first female artist to have four #1's from one album. It seemed that she was on an unstoppable roll and so the label decided to trot out this fifth single from the LP to see if Houston's chart records could be extended. Alas, it was not meant to be. The track would stall just inside the Pop Top 10 ending her streak of consecutive #1s. Still, it was not a bad result and the tune did well on other charts including #5 R&B and #10 AC. It also became Houston's third song to top the Dance chart. The song did not have an accompanying video and that might have played a part in the song not getting closer to the top spot. It would end up being the final single released from the LP.

ReduxReview:  This urgent, Latin-flavored dance-pop track written by Toni C. and produced by Jellybean was a good selection for Houston and at the time it was probably the only track left on the album that had any potential as a single. It ended up doing okay, but I knew it wasn't going to get to #1. I was even a little surprised it went Top 10, but the power of Whitney compelled it. The tune had a few things going against it including its speedy tempo, Houston's manic delivery, and the fact that a video was not done for it. While the chorus is kind of catchy, its quick syncopated melody was different from her other breezy dance-pop hits. Those were easy to sing along with while this one wasn't. Still, the song did well enough to keep Houston's Top 10 streak going although in the long run it wasn't one of her most memorable hits.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  While this would be the last single from Whitney to be released in the US, one more track would be released as a single in a small handful of countries. "I Know Him So Well," a duet between Houston and her mother Cissy Houston, was a cover version of a song written for and performed in the stage musical Chess. The musical debuted in '86 in London's West End and transitioned to Broadway in '88. Prior to that, in '84 the concept album for the musical was released and "I Know Him So Well" was issued out as a single in the UK. Sung by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson, the duet would spend four weeks at #1. That single was not released in the US, but a different track from the concept album, "One Night in Bangkok," would turn into a #1 hit in the US for Murray Head in '85. The Whitney/Cissy version of "I Know Him So Well" would do best in the Netherlands were it got to #14.


Thursday, July 29, 2021

"Simply Irresistible" by Robert Palmer

Top 10 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  3566
Date:  07/02/1988
Debut:  59
Peak:  2
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Palmer's solo career was at an all-time high in '86. His album Riptide would reach #8 and go double-platinum thanks to a pair of Pop Top 10s including the Grammy-winning #1 "Addicted to Love." After that success, Palmer made the move from Island Records, with whom he had been since '74, over to EMI. He then got back in the studio to record his ninth album. By the summer of '88, Heavy Nova was ready for release. This first single was pushed out and it easily sailed to the top of the Rock chart. It would also be a winner at Pop where it got to #2 for a couple of weeks. The hit would push the album to #13 and it didn't take long for it to go platinum. This song would earn Palmer his second Grammy award. He would win for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male. Two years earlier, he took home that same trophy for "Addicted to Love."

ReduxReview:  This song was just like its title. It seems Palmer set out to try and replicate the success of "Addicted to Love" and he came up with another winner. The tune was fun, groovy, hooky, and highly memorable. Palmer did a nice, meaty production on the track as well. The bass and guitar had a lot of crunch while the synth stabs provided some extra emphasis. While it didn't quite reach the classic status of "Addicted to Love," it was still a great tune that gave Palmer one last Pop Top 10.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  While this song wasn't a sequel to "Addicted to Love," its video was done in the same style as the one for "Addicted." That highly memorable video had Palmer singing the song in front of a "band" of models that were dressed the same, had the same makeup, and basically moved the same. Their look was inspired by the paintings of Patrick Nagel. His work was famously shown on the cover to Duran Duran's 1982 LP Rio. Since the video was nearly as popular as the #1 hit, Palmer revisited the theme for his follow-up single "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On."  He would dive in that well one more time with director Terrence Donovan for the video to "Simply Irresistible." For the third video in the series, the band was, well, disbanded. Instead, Palmer sang in front of two groups of women. The first group pretty much stayed in place and sort of lightly grooved to the song while a second group in back did more of a dance routine. Both groups would be featured separately doing various moves and some would even don swimsuits and dance in a sort of rain shower of water. The video would prove to be just as successful as the previous two and it helped drive the song up to #2.


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

"When It's Love" by Van Halen

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3565
Date:  07/02/1988
Debut:  69
Peak:  5
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Van Halen's second album with Sammy Hagar, OU812, easily topped the chart and remained there for four weeks. Their popularity combined with the #1 Rock track "Black and Blue" made the LP an instant hit. However, that first single didn't get very far on the Pop chart. It stalled at #34, which was a disappointment considering their previous two LPs got kicked off with Top 10 hits. The tune may not have been the best fit for pop radio, so up next for release was this more mainstream power ballad. Predictably, the track would hit #1 at Rock. Over at Pop, the song did much better making it to #5. It would be Van Halen's third and final Top 10 on that chart. Not long after it began to climb the Pop chart, the album would be certified double platinum.

ReduxReview:  This was the obvious hit single from the album and I don't know if it was smart or stupid to not release it out first. Had it been the lead single, it might have even gotten closer to #1 and the album could have perhaps spent more time at #1. But then keeping their rock radio cred with "Black and Blue" going out first then this song gave the album longer legs. It was a toss up, but in the end it all worked out. This was a terrific song that sounded like it could have been on 5150. It had all the usual VH elements along with a hooky chorus and a great bridge section. Of course Eddie's solos never disappoint. The one part of the song that I like, but then get annoyed by sometimes is that typewriter sound, which is heard throughout the song. It stands out most in the quieter sections like the opening. I can't confirm what it actually was, but from what I understand it was a sound effect that was associated with the keyboard that Eddie played. So basically, when he hit the melody notes on the keyboard, in addition to the piano/synth sound, that typewriter click would be heard when a key was used. Frankly, it is cooler to imagine Eddie sitting in the studio with an actual typewriter and playing along with the track. I can just see that signature grin on his face as he strikes each key. This would end up being VH's last Pop Top 10 hit and it was a good one.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  During the time he was with Van Halen, Sammy Hagar owned a house in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. As songs were being developed for the new album, Hagar went down to his retreat home to work on some music and lyrics. Being there gave him inspiration for a song and he began to write a track called "Cabo Wabo." It would be finished off and included on the OU812 LP. The track, in-turn, then gave Hagar the idea to open up a nightclub/restaurant in Cabo San Lucas. The Cabo Wabo cantina would open in 1990. Initially, Hagar along with his VH bandmates invested in the venture, but after the cantina started to fail, Hagar bought out their shares. New management came in and the place turned around and became successful. Eventually, there would be Cabo Wabo's in Las Vegas and Hollywood. If that wasn't enough, Hagar then invested in a new brand of tequila that he began to server at the cantina appropriately titled Cabo Wabo. It became popular and Hagar started to get it distributed in various places in 1999. By 2006, it had become the second most popular premium tequila brand in the US. The following year, Hagar sold 80% of his interest to a large spirits company. He got $80 million in the deal. In 2010, he sold the rest of his shares for $11 million.


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

"All Fired Up" by Pat Benatar

Song#:  3564
Date:  07/02/1988
Debut:  75
Peak:  19
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Arena Rock

Pop Bits:  Benatar's sixth studio album, 1985's "Seven the Hard Way, signaled a dip in popularity. It peaked at #26 and only reached gold level sales. This was a drop from her previous LPs, which all went platinum (or multi-platinum) and cracked the Top 15. She had been cranking out albums consistently since 1979, so after Seven the Hard Way Benatar took a bit of a break. A year or so later, she began work on her seventh studio album that would be titled Wide Awake in Dreamland. Benatar, her husband Neil Giraldo, and drummer Myron Grombacher would write most of the material with Giraldo and Peter Coleman producing. Yet the LP needed a good single to kick things off. Benatar's manager happened upon "All Fired Up" and it seemed to fit the bill. For this track, Benatar worked with producer Keith Forsey (Billy Idol). It was pushed out as the first single and it easily got to the #2 spot on the Rock chart. At Pop the tune was able to make the Top 20. It helped the album perform nearly the same as her previous disc by going to #28 and going gold. A second single, "Don't Walk Away," faltered at #44 Rock while not even making the Pop chart. A third single failed to reach either chart. This song would end up being Benatar's last one to reach the Pop chart and the LP would be her final studio effort to go gold. In essence, this wrapped up Benatar's most successful era on the charts.

ReduxReview:  This slick arena rock anthem should have gone Top 10. In my area of the world, this song was played a lot. It was big, hooky, and great for getting people excited. Although it only got to #19 upon release, this song has had long legs. I still hear it today. It gets more play than some of her other hits. I think it was just one of those universal songs/anthems that everyone could relate to and it usually generates excitement. It was just too bad that it missed the Top 10. It would end up being her last hit. Not a bad way to go out. I finally got to see Benatar perform in 2014. She opened up for Cher and was truly awesome. She sounded fantastic and performed the crap out of her songs. The crowd went nuts for her. Even Cher said when she came on that she didn't know if she could follow that up. So if you see that Benatar is performing, GO!

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by the Australian band Rattling Sabres. Written by lead guitarist Kerryn Tolhurst, the band recorded and released the song in 1987. It was a minor entry on the Australian chart at #94. Apparently, someone from the Sabres' label was in the States visiting Chrysalis Records, which was Benatar's label. The rep played "All Fire Up" for some A&R folks when Benatar's manager happened to walk by and hear it. Needing a single-worthy song for her album, he took it to Benatar. She dug the song and after some changes by her and drummer Myron Grombacher, Benatar got it recorded.  2)  This song earned Benatar a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. The album's third single, the non-charting "Let's Stay Together" (an original tune written by Benatar and Giraldo, not the Al Green hit) got released in the next Grammy cycle, so the following year Benatar received yet another Grammy nomination for the song. In total, Benatar would get eight Grammy nod in the Best Female Rock Vocal Performance category. She would win four of them in a row beginning with her first nod in 1980. She would get a ninth Grammy nod, but that came in the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance category.  3) After this album, Benatar decided to slightly step away from rock and do a blues album. Her 1991 effort True Love would feature a mix of old blues tunes along with a few originals. Critics were not kind to the LP, but it got to #37 on the chart. She returned to rock for 1993's Gravity's Rainbow, but it stalled at #85. Since then she had released two other indie albums, both of which charted very low.


Monday, July 26, 2021

"Tell Me" by White Lion

Song#:  3563
Date:  07/02/1988
Debut:  89
Peak:  58
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Metal

Pop Bits:  This band's second album Pride was pretty much DOA upon release, but then MTV came to the rescue when it started playing the video for the first single "Wait." The tune caught on nearly six months after initial release and ended up making it to #8 on the Pop chart. The album quickly began to sell and to keep momentum going, this second single was issued out. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite the right fit for pop or rock radio with the tune stopping short of the Pop Top 50 while stalling at #25 Rock. In the long run, the results didn't really matter because as this song was being pushed out, the album had already been certified platinum. For an LP that was nearly cutout bin fodder, selling over a million copies was a huge win.

ReduxReview:  This was a good follow-up to "Wait." It had a nice melody, sweet chord progressions, and a fairly good hook. The "oh-oh, oh, oh, oh's" were catchy too. It should have done better, but I think what may have held it back was the production. It was a bit stilted and one-dimensional. It didn't allow the song to really stand out. If the track had a beefed up production and a more kick-ass arrangement, it would have done better. Still, it was a good song and a worthy follow-up.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This band was fronted by Mike Tramp (real name Michael Trampenau). Tramp was born in Denmark and first started singing with a youth choir. In 1976 when he was fifteen, Tramp got hired in as the replacement lead singer in a band called Mabel. While they started out as more of a glam band, their sound transitioned into Europop and disco. Some hits followed and they became popular teen idols in Denmark and other European countries. Perhaps their peak moment was when their song "Boom Boom" was selected for the 1978 Eurovision music contest. Although they would only finish 16th out of 20 countries, the song and Eurovision appearance brightened their star. However, by the end of the decade, Tramp was not happy with the band's pop sound. He was more into hard rock and metal and wanted to take the band in that direction. They all moved to Spain, relaunched as Studs, and issued out a debut album in 1981. It flopped. With bands like Def Leppard breaking in the US in the early 80s, they decided to give it a shot in the States. They changed their name again to Danish Lions, but they just couldn't get a break. Everyone went back to Denmark except for Tramp. It was a good decision because in 1983, he met guitarist Vitto Bratta and the pair formed White Lion.


Sunday, July 25, 2021

"If It Isn't Love" by New Edition

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3562
Date:  07/02/1988
Debut:  93
Peak:  7
Weeks:  21
Genre:  R&B, New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  When Bobby Brown was ousted from New Edition in '85, the future of the group was in flux. While the remaining four members would record the retro covers LP Under a Blue Moon, which was a gold seller thanks to their remake of "Earth Angel," it seems lead singer Ralph Tresvant was contemplating leaving for a solo career. The uncertainty had the rest of the group wondering if they should call it a day or move forward. They decided to carry on and in the event Tresvant left, they hired on a new lead singer in Johnny Gill, who had some success with the #10 duet "Perfect Combiantion" with Stacy Lattisaw. When all was settled, Tresvant decided to stay on and the group was back to being a quintet. Work began on a fifth album that would be titled Heart Break. With the guys getting older, they were looking to upgrade their sound into something a bit more mature and got hooked up with songwriting/production team Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. The pair would write and produce the majority of the album including this first single. The tune took off and reached #2 on the R&B chart. The song crossed over to Pop and it finally earned New Edition their second Top 10 on that chart. It also got to #20 Dance. The hit helped push the album to #3 R&B/#12 Pop and by the fall it would be a platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  I barely remember this song. The chorus jogged my memory, but other than that I couldn't remember a lick of this tune. I typically dig a good Jam & Lewis groove, but this was one that just didn't fully click with me. It wasn't one of their strongest compositions and the tempo of it bugs me. It seems to lag. I keep wanting to push it along. It needed to be snappier. Overall, it was a listenable track that helped New Edition get out of teenybopper mode and into something more appropriate for their age.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This was the group's eleventh single to make the R&B Top 10. It came close to becoming their fourth #1 on the chart, but it got blocked by another song. In an odd twist of fate, the single that kept New Edition out of the top spot was "Don't Be Cruel" by former group member Bobby Brown. Brown's single debuted on the R&B chart one week before New Edition's song. Each tune went neck and neck up the chart and cracked the Top 10 the same week with New Edition taking the lead at #7 and Brown right behind at #8. But then Brown's track took a leap up to #3 while New Edition rose to #5. The next week Brown captured the top spot as New Edition surged to its peak of #2. While this was going on, New Edition was prepping for their tour. Along for the ride were opening acts Al B. Sure! and....Bobby Brown. Yup. Brown had not scored his big crossover hits yet and so to help bring attention to his new LP, Brown got paired up with his former group for the tour. However, by the time the tour wrapped up in '89, Brown was arguably the bigger star having scored four Pop and R&B Top 10s from his album Don't Be Cruel. Brown then quickly turned around and got back out on the road, this time as the headliner.