Saturday, August 21, 2021

"Don't Be Cruel" by Bobby Brown

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3589
Date:  07/23/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  8
Weeks:  26
Genre:  R&B, New Jacks Swing

Pop Bits:  The former New Edition member's first solo album, 1986's King of Stage, didn't exactly set the charts on fire. Its first single, "Girlfriend," was able to get to #1 at R&B (#57 Pop), but it didn't necessarily make the album a hit. It stopped at #12 R&B/#88 Pop and failed to reach gold level sales. The results didn't excite Brown or his label, so for his next effort MCA hooked him up with the new hit making songwriting/production team L.A. Reid and Babyface. After the pair met with Brown, they had much more of a handle on who he was as an artist and decided to help jump start his career. They got to work and one of the first songs they created (with Daryl Simmons) for Brown was this lead single and title track from his second album Don't Be Cruel. It took off at R&B and became Brown's second single to top that chart. The week it hit #1, the song debuted on the Pop chart. It took a while for it to catch on, but it finally peaked at #8 on the chart in its thirteenth week. Then is slowly descended spending an addition thirteen weeks on the chart. It was the crossover hit Brown had been looking for and it provided him with a big career boost.

ReduxReview:  It just took the right producers and the right song for Brown to break through and he got both via Reid and Babyface. Brown's first album was a bit of a mess that didn't give him a solo identity. Reid and Babyface tapped into what made Brown stand out from the other New Edition members and developed songs and a sound that fit his personality and his voice. This new jack track stood out on radio. It was different, catchy, and hard to resist. It fit Brown like a glove. He was not a great singer, but Reid and Babyface knew exactly how to navigate those waters and created something that elevated Brown. This track alone was far far better than anything on his debut LP. He was lucky to get hooked up with Reid and Babyface.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  One week after this song debuted on the Pop chart, Cheap Trick's remake of the Elvis Presley hit "Don't Be Cruel" got on the chart. This certainly wasn't the first time that two different songs with the same title have charted either separately or together. In 1986, Nu Shooz and Stevie Nicks were on the Pop chart at the same time with different songs both titled "I Can't Wait." However, the tunes by Cheap Trick and Bobby Brown would set an odd record. Cheap Trick's single would leap frog over Brown's track and reach the Top 10 in its ninth week. By the time it peaked at #4, Brown's song would crack the Top 10 at its peak position of #8. The the following week, the two songs would be back-to-back at #8 and #89. The pair of "Don't Be Cruel" hits made it the first, and thus far only time, that two songs with the same name by different artists were in the Pop Top 10 at the same time - and for a week in consecutive positions.


Friday, August 20, 2021

"Inside Outside" by The Cover Girls

Song#:  3588
Date:  07/23/1988
Debut:  87
Peak:  55
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Latin Freestyle

Pop Bits:  The vocal trio's debut album Show Me had already spawned four singles including a pair of Pop Top 40 entries. The LP was sort of a late bloomer slowly gaining an audience, so to try and keep interest going, this fifth single was issued out. It would do fairly well on the Dance chart getting to #12, but it stopped just shy of entering the top half of the Pop chart. Although the album had already peaked at #64 back in February of '88, the string of singles kept it on the chart for over a year (61 weeks).

ReduxReview:  On their album, Andy "Panda" Tripoli and The Latin Rascals team wrote and produced four tracks. All four would be released as singles including this one. Like the others, this track was just meh. It was run-o-tha-mill freestyle that had a slightly catchy chorus, a capable lead vocal, and production that was a bit one-dimensional. The Cole/Clivillés track "Because of You" was the best song/production on the album and it was the trio's best charting single to-date getting to #27. All four of the Tripoli/Rascals tracks didn't get close to that. Unfortunately, the trio only worked with Cole/Clivillés on the one track. The label should have released the Louis A. Martinee (Exposé) written/produced song "One Night Affair" instead of this one. I think it might have cracked the Top 40, but for some reason, they had to go with the weaker fourth track from the other team. Still, the five singles from the album kept the trio going on the charts for over a year and a half.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Late in '87, original member Sunshine Wright left the group. Auditions were held for her replacement and the person who go the job was Margo Urban. The singer got tossed into the music business rather quickly since the group's star was rising and she found herself on the go with touring and recording a new Cover Girls album. However, it seems the fast paced lifestyle of a successful music act was a little too much for Urban and she left the trio in 1992. She moved to Sarasota, Florida, and for a time was the host of a local TV show. She also modeled and owned a clothing store. Urban was later diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkins lymphoma cancer, but she was able to overcome it in 2006. It seems that along the way Urban met former NYPD detective, author, and sometime actor Bo Dietl. Dietl would appear in three Martin Scorsese films including 2019's The Irishman. Dietl was often a guest on the Don Imus radio program and appeared on several Fox TV news shows.


Thursday, August 19, 2021

"Make It Last Forever" by Keith Sweat with Jacci McGhee

Song#:  3587
Date:  07/23/1988
Debut:  92
Peak:  59
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Soul

Pop Bits:  Sweat's debut album, Make It Last Forever, was already a platinum seller by this point in time thanks to the smash #1 R&B/#5 Pop hit "I Want Her." A second single, "Something Just Ain't Right," did well over at R&B getting to #3, but on the Pop chart it fizzled at a minor #79. Hoping for a better crossover result, this title track third single was issued out. It would become Sweat's third consecutive R&B Top 10 hit peaking at #2. Over at Pop, the song did do better than his previous single, but it still couldn't get inside the top half of the chart. Still, the R&B hit helped sell more albums and by November of '88 it would turn double-platinum.

ReduxReview:  After a pair of upbeat singles including the new jack classic "I Want Her," Sweat turns down the tempo for this ballad with McGhee. The sultry track was a perfect choice for R&B radio and indeed the track nearly topped the chart. However, for the time period I think the song may have been a bit too soul-leaning to fully catch fire with a pop audience. Sweat is a solid vocalist, but I think he hadn't reached the right maturity level to sing this song convincingly. I mean, imagine if Luther Vandross sang this - he'd blow it out of the water. Sweat could easily carry a new jack song over the finish line, but at this point he was lacking a bit of chops for this style of soul ballad. It didn't help that McGhee out-sang him as well. Still, he definitely wasn't bad and he did well enough to get the song to #2 R&B.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Sweat's signing partner on this song was Jacci McGhee. The singer got a gig as a background vocalist for Sweat including work on his debut album. When it was decided that "Make It Last Forever" should be a duet, Sweat was impressed enough with McGhee to put her in a lead position for the track. The hit helped McGhee gain other work including a guest appearance singing the chorus on the 1989 #8 R&B/#26 Pop Salt-N-Pepa hit "Expression," the first single from their third album Blacks' Magic. McGhee was then able to sign on as a solo artist with MCA Records. A self-titled debut album would be released in 1992. Its first single, "Skeeza," which was written and produced by Salt-N-Pepa collaborator Hurby Luv Bug, would make a brief appearance on the R&B chart at #67. A follow-up, "It Hurts Me," produced by Keith Sweat and written by Sweat and Bobby Wooten, would do better reaching #36 R&B, but it seems that wasn't enough for MCA and McGhee was dropped. She returned to being a background vocalist and ended up working with soft rock band Toto for a stretch. For a brief period, McGhee signed on as the new lead singer for the soul group The Family Stand. She stayed on to record one album in 1997 titled Connected, but she left after the LP failed to gain any attention.


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

"Nice 'N' Slow" by Freddie Jackson

Song#:  3586
Date:  07/23/1988
Debut:  93
Peak:  61
Weeks:  12
Genre:  R&B, Soul

Pop Bits:  With two albums, Jackson established himself as one of the leading R&B crooners of the 80s. Both LPs would hit #1 at R&B and go platinum. He would also amass six #1 R&B hits. Several of his singles would cross over to the Pop chart, but only four would make the Top 40 with "You Are My Lady" doing the best at #12. He kept things rolling with his third album Don't Let Love Slip Away. Jackson didn't change his winning formula and that seemed fine with fans and R&B radio listeners who helped the song become his seventh #1. Over on the Pop chart, the song hung on for three months, but it wasn't able to get over the halfway mark. Unfortunately, it would end up being Jackson's final entry on the Pop chart. A second single, "Hey Lover," would reach #1 at R&B while a third would make the Top 10. The hits helped the album get to #1 R&B, but it didn't do as well as his previous two on the Pop chart (#48). It seems the lack of support in a more mainstream way played into sales with the LP only going gold. 

ReduxReview:  Jackson was one of those artists who hooked up with the right producers/songwriters (mainly Paul Laurence and Barry Eastmond) and happened upon a formula that worked. That is great for an album or two, but at some point folks are going to tire of that formula and I think that is what happened to Jackson. Over the course of four albums he didn't stray from what made him famous with his first LP and it worked well with each one hitting #1 R&B. However, by the fifth time around, his signature sound was getting old and his career started to wither. Yet, he still continued to work with Laurence and Eastmond on a good chunk of his tracks, which probably wasn't the best idea. By the time his third LP came out, he could have used a booster shot from a hip songwriting/production team, but instead he just stayed the course and the results felt like "been there, heard that." None of it was bad, it was just that nothing truly stood out. This single was the best of the bunch with its easy going quiet storm groove, but it didn't do anything to update Jackson's sound or advance his career. It was more or less a song and an album that kept things steady. There was no rockin' the boat. By the time he was ready for a change, it was too late. However, I guess there is something to be said for an artist who just wants to do what they do best and if they can maintain a successful following for years after their hit making days are over, then more power to them.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Jackson's fourth LP, 1990's Do Me Again, would be his fourth R&B #1 and a gold seller. It would feature Jackson's final two #1 R&B singles, which gave him a total of ten. After that, Jackson's chart fortunes dwindled. He would eke out one more R&B Top 10 single and album in 1992. A few minor chart entries would follow, but his hit making days came to a close. Jackson would continue to record over the years and do well with his tours and appearances.


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

"Time and Tide" by Basia

Song#:  3585
Date:  07/23/1988
Debut:  96
Peak:  26
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Jazz-Pop, Sophisti-Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Poland-born Barbara Trzetrzelewska, aka Basia, started singing at a young age. While attending university, she got an offer to sing with a popular all-female band. It was too much of a temptation and Basia left behind her classes and began performing and touring with the band. In the late 70s, she sang with another Polish pop band, but it seems that she had bigger ambitions and decided to move to the UK. A group called Bronze was looking for a new singer and happened upon Basia. She soon joined up with the group, but things fell apart quickly. Yet connections brought Basia and her bandmate Danny White together with Mark Reilly and as a trio called Matt Bianco signed on with WEA. They issued out a debut album in 1984 that was highly successful (see below). During that time, Basia and White started a personal relationship and they decided to leave Matt Bianco in '85 to focus on breaking Basia as a solo artist. The following year she signed with Epic Records and work began on a debut album. Titled Time and Tide, it was released in the summer of '87 in various European countries, but the only place it really clicked was in France where it reached #16. Then in '88, smooth jazz and AC stations in the US began to spin this track. It started to get some attention so the label pushed it out as a single. It caught on in a more mainstream way and the tune ended up on both the Pop and AC charts where it topped out at #26 and #19, respectively. The song pushed the album to #36 at Pop while topping the Contemporary Jazz chart. By November of '88, it would be a certified gold seller.

ReduxReview:  This was an unusual candidate for a single. There was nothing like it at the time and it certainly stood out. The song, the arrangement, and Basia's voice were all unique and in some ways it even felt a little exotic. I'm pretty sure the first time I heard this song was on American Top 40. It got my attention right away and I went out and got the CD. I played it for other folks and then they went to get it. I also remember making a mix tape for my boss at the time who was into music and we had similar tastes. I included a couple of Basia songs and she flipped out and immediately when to get the album. Basia had the right sound for the exact right moment. She provided a cool, sophisticated palate cleanser in between the hair metal, freestyle, and Whitney/Michael Jackson hits of the day. I still love the album. Also, the first Matt Bianco is pretty cool so check it out.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The trio of Matt Bianco (Basia, Danny White, and Mark Reilly) issued out their debut album, Whose Side Are You On, in 1984. Its first single, "Get Out of Your Lazy Bed," became a good sized hit in several countries including the UK where it got to #15. The album would top out at #35 in the UK while hitting the Top 10 in places like Austria (#1) and Germany (#3). The trio was suddenly hot, but it seems that Basia and her new beau White decided to use the success of Matt Bianco as a launching pad for Basia's solo career and left Reilly on his own. Reilly decided to carry on and hired in replacements Jenni Evans and Mark Fisher. Two successful albums would follow that included a pair of UK Top 20 hits. Reilly and Fisher would carry on with Matt Bianco until they split following an album in 2002. The following year, Reilly would reunite with Basia and White. The original trio would get together and record the 2004 LP Matt's Mood. It would do fairly well and even reach #15 on the US Jazz chart. After a successful tour, Basia and White took off once again to capitalize on the moment for Basia's solo career. Reilly and Fisher would then reunite and remain together until Fisher's death in 2016. Reilly carried on himself with the Matt Bianco name. And so, what is with that name? It seems the original trio had a penchant for themes from spy films and TV shows. They decided to create their own secret agent that would influence the group's sound and look. The trio would settle on the fictitious name of Matt Bianco.


Monday, August 16, 2021

"Perfect World" by Huey Lewis & the News

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3584
Date:  07/16/1988
Debut:  51
Peak:  3
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Lewis and his band were on fire during most of the 80s scoring two #1 multi-platinum albums and eleven Pop Top 10s. Two years after their second #1 LP, 1986's Fore!, the band issued out their fifth album Small World. This first single was released and it became another winner for them reaching #3 Pop, #2 AC, and #5 Rock. It was Lewis' twelfth overall and sixth consecutive Pop Top 10. The week that this song reached #3, the album hit its peak of #11, which was a bit of a disappointment coming on the heels of a pair of #1s. While definitely not a bad result, it was a signal that perhaps the band's popularity was beginning to wane.

ReduxReview:  With its reggae-influenced syncopated verse, this track was a bit different from the band's normal rock/blues sound. When it was first released, I didn't like the track and promptly ignored it. Listening to it all these years later, I find that it is actually a pretty good tune. I like how it progresses from the bouncy verse to the more open and smoother front half of the chorus. The horns are a nice add as well. It was easily the best track on the LP, which mainly consisted of the same ol' shticky pub rock the band had been slinging out over the past couple albums, except not as good. Like "Jacob's Ladder," this track gave the band something meatier and more interesting. While it wasn't quite up to the level of that Bruce Hornsby-penned track, it did end up being a quality tune for the band. However, it is one that is rarely, if ever, heard anymore.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Alex Call. Starting in 1967, Call was the lead singer and songwriter for the country rock band Clover. The band would release a couple of albums in the early 70s, but not much came from them. However, it seems that British rocker Nick Lowe was a fan of the band and encouraged them to hop the pond. They decided to make the move and along the way picked up a harmonica player by the name of Hugh Cregg, aka Huey Louis, aka later, Huey Lewis. The band would gain a following in the UK and would record a pair of albums, but bigger success just wasn't coming their way and by 1978 the band was done. Call would then move on to a solo career along with writing songs for other artists. His first song to become a hit was the 1982 Tommy Tutone #4 "867-5309/Jenny." It was followed by Pat Benatar's 1983 #20 "Little Too Late." The hits helped secure Call a recording contract with Arista Records and in 1983 he would issue out a self-titled debut album. The single "Just Another Saturday Night" nearly make the Pop 100 chart, but halted at the #101 position. The LP did not chart and Call lost his contract. He continued writing for other artists including Lewis and "Perfect World" became Call's third major hit as a writer.


Sunday, August 15, 2021

"It Would Take a Strong Strong Man" by Rick Astley

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3583
Date:  07/16/1988
Debut:  78
Peak:  10
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Astley's debut album Whenver You Need Somebody quickly turned the Brit into a star thanks to a pair of #1s including the gold-selling "Never Gonna Give You Up." The pair of hits would send the album to #10 and it would be platinum before the summer of '88. For a third single, this more soulful track was released. It would be his second song to reach #1 at AC while getting to #8 at Dance and just squeaking out an appearance in the Pop Top 10. Since the album had been released earlier in the UK than the US, Astley nearly had his second album finished by the time this single was released in the US. Therefore, it would be the last one issued out from the album.

ReduxReview:  This was definitely a good choice for a third single. His first two were Hi-NRG dance floor workouts that were similar in sound. Had he released another one (the choice would have been the album's title track, which was a #3 hit in the UK), it might have seemed like Astley was just a one-trick pony, which might have bored audiences. Instead, the label smartly released this pop/soul ditty. The change in sound was welcomed and it gave Astley his third consecutive Pop Top 10.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Working with the Stock Aitken Waterman songwriting/production team was a blessing and a sort of curse for Astley. SAW was getting the reputation, especially in the UK, of just being a hit making factory that made stars out of capable singers looking for fame. While the team would occasionally co-write with an artist or just produce tracks, for the most part they took control and created songs for singers like Astley and Kylie Minogue, Because of this, it seems the British press started to pick on Astley mainly calling him out for just being a product of the SAW team. While it is true that the main hits from Astley's debut album were written and produced by SAW, Astley did write four of the LP's songs and worked on them with other producers. Unfortunately, none were released as singles, so that made it seem like SAW was using his face and voice to front their tunes. Despite those writing contributions, that "puppet" stigma dogged Astley into his next album even though he wrote the first single, the hit "She Wants to Dance with Me." By the time of his third album, Astley broke away from the SAW team and set out on his own.