Saturday, August 28, 2021

"I Feel Free" by Belinda Carlisle

Song#:  3596
Date:  07/30/1988
Debut:  94
Peak:  88
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop


Pop Bits:  Carlisle's second solo album, Heaven on Earth, was a #13 platinum success thanks to three Pop Top 10 hits including "Circle in the Sand." After that song got to #7, it seemed logical to issue out one more single from the LP as a follow-up. This track was selected, but it apparently wasn't quite what folks were wanting. The song stalled low on the Pop chart after a minor month. It would be the last single released from the album in the US. Although the LP did well in the US, it did even better in the UK reaching #4. The three songs that went Top 10 in the US also made the UK Top 10, but then further singles were different for each territory. The US saw "I Feel Free" get released and not do well. In the UK, the fourth single was "World Without You," which got to #34. Then "Love Never Dies" was pushed out and reached #54.

ReduxReview:  This piece of mid-60s psychedelic rock gets an 80s dance-pop makeover from Carlisle and producer Rick Nowels. While I think the remake was a lark that was kind of fun and fit Carlisle well, I have no idea why the label chose it as a single. After three juicy pop confections that went Top 10, it was just odd to push out a rock remake. It was the wrong choice and indeed it barely scratched the Pop chart. The logical follow-up would have been the song the UK got, "World Without You," another Diane Warren track that had a lovely, sweet chorus. It make the Top 40 in the UK and I think it would of here as well. Still, I like what Nowels and Carlisle did with "I Feel Free" even though fans of the original (see below) may cringe. The remake of this tune that I like better is David Bowie's glam'd up version from his '93 album Black Tie White Noise.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1)  This is a remake of a song originally recorded by the supergroup Cream. Written by band member Jack Bruce along with Pete Brown, it was released as a single in 1966 and it got to #11 in the UK. The song failed to make the US Pop chart (although it did "bubble under" at #116). The track was included on the US version of the band's debut album Fresh Cream and would later become a rock radio staple. To-date, Carlisle is the only artist to have reached the US Pop chart with a version of the song.  2) While gathering songs for Heaven on Earth, Carlisle did demos of two songs that she ended up not recording, but the tunes became hits for other artists. Originally pitched to Whitney Houston, Carlisle was given the chance to record "Waiting for a Star to Fall" written by Boy Meets Girl members George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam (who wrote two other Whitney #1s). The song didn't work for Carlisle so the writers recorded it themselves and it became a #5 hit later in '88 for Boy Meets Girl. Carlisle was also given the Diane Warren-penned track "Some Hearts." Again, it just didn't fit the bill for Carlisle and she rejected the tune. It was picked up in '89 by Marshall Crenshaw for his album Good Evening. It was released as a single, but it failed to chart. Nearly sixteen years later, the song got another chance when American Idol winner Carrie Underwood recorded it as the title track to her 2005 debut album Some Hearts. While it would not be officially released as a single, the song was circulated to adult pop stations and it would end up getting to #12 on the AC chart. Carlisle's demos of both songs can be heard on YouTube.

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Friday, August 27, 2021

"Black Leather" by Kings of the Sun

Song#:  3595
Date:  07/30/1988
Debut:  98
Peak:  98
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Rock


Pop Bits:  This Australian band headed up by the Hoad brothers, Clifford and Jeffrey, formed in 1986 after the group the brothers had previously been in, The Young Lions, broke up. They quickly got a contract with Mushroom Records and released a single in '86 that scraped the Australian chart. It was enough to give the band the opportunity to record a full album and along the way they signed on with RCA for international distribution. Their self-titled debut LP was ready in '88 and a first single, "Serpentine," got to #48 in Australia. In the US, the song did well enough to reach #19 on the Rock chart. This second single failed to make the Aussie chart and missed the US Rock chart, but it eked out a couple minor weeks on the US Pop chart near the bottom. The album wouldn't chart in Australia, but it did get to #136 in the US. In 1990, the band would record a follow-up album, Full Frontal Attack, which would spawn the #30 US Rock track "Drop the Gun" (#82 Australia). The LP would get to #130 on the US chart. However, it seems the results were not good enough for RCA and the band lost their distribution deal. They did one more album for Mushroom that was only released in Australia. A fourth one was recorded but was shelved and it left the band without a contract. They would continue performing over the years with various lineups until their break up in 2001.

ReduxReview:  This shufflin' tune was pretty good. It was hooky and had some solid production. Their song "Serpentine" was more along the lines of Aerosmith and that seemed to play well at rock radio. This track was a little different and I guess it just wasn't what the rock audience wanted from the band. The tune did have an eye towards the Pop chart and it did get on very briefly. With more promotion, it might have done better. It wasn't going to be a major hit, but it probably should have broke the band in a bigger way.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The band took their name from the 1963 film Kings of the Sun. The historical epic starred Yul Brenner and George Chakiris. It was about the migration of the Mayans on the Yucatan peninsula after losing a battle to another tribe along with their land. They move into another tribe's territory who eventually accepts them in and the two join together against the common enemy. The film was not a hit with critics or with audiences. Brenner was a major star at the time having several big hits under his belt including The King and I, for which he one the Oscar for Best Actor, and The Magnificent Seven. But as the 60s wore on, Brenner mainly did action films that were not particularly successful. He would finally score a major hit in 1973 with the sci-fi flick Westworld. He would also appear in that film's sequel, Futureworld, but it was released the year after Brenner's death in '85.  2)  When you are on tour with one of the biggest bands in the world, don't piss them off. Kings of the Sun found that out the hard way when they were selected as one of the opening acts for the Australian leg of the '88 Guns N' Roses tour. KOTS had opened two shows for GNR already, but prior to the third show, an interview with the band was published in which Clifford Hoad was quoted as saying that L.A. bands like Guns N' Roses were basically ripping off the successful Aussie hard rock band Rose Tattoo (GNR covered a Rose Tattoo song for an '86 EP as Axl was a fan of the band). Axl Rose discovered the article backstage as the third show kicked off and it certainly didn't sit well with him. As KOTS were about 20 minutes into their set, Axl and his tour manager cut power to the band and then got them kicked off the stage. Axl later came on stage and before GNR began their set he proceeded to berate KOTS and apologize to the audience for having them open the show. Needless to say, KOTS didn't play any further dates with GNR and it seems the incident dinged their reputation

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Thursday, August 26, 2021

"Another Part of Me" by Michael Jackson

Song#:  3594
Date:  07/23/1988
Debut:  54
Peak:  11
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B


Pop Bits:  By this point in time, Jackson's Bad album had spawned a record-setting five Pop #1 singles. It was quite the accomplishment for an artist that already had several chart records to his name. Yet Jackson and his label were not content to just settle for that accomplishment and move on. They decided to roll the dice and try to extend Jackson's #1 streak. This track was selected to get the job done, but it fell short of the anticipated goal. Not only did it not get to #1, but it just missed the Pop Top 10. Because of that, the single also ended Jackson's streak of thirteen Pop Top 10s (excluding an old cash-in Motown single and a guest spot on a Stevie Wonder single). However, the song did top the R&B chart becoming the fifth #1 from Bad and sixth Top 10. It also made it to #18 Dance and #44 AC. All the #1s kept sales of the album going, but it wouldn't get close to sales of his mega-hit Thriller, which eventually sold over 30 million copies. Bad would end up hitting the 10 million mark.

ReduxReview:  Here it is. The song that halted Jackson's Pop #1 and Top 10 streaks. And frankly, rightly so. While far from being the worst song on the album, I wasn't a fan of it. The groove itself was fine, but besides the title, there were no hooks in the tune. It just kind of chugged along without really going anywhere. I remember being surprised when it got released as a single, especially over "Smooth Criminal," which to me seemed like the next logical choice, however I can see where having another dark, mysterious song to follow-up "Dirty Diana" may have seemed like a bad idea. Still, had "Smooth Criminal" been released instead, at minimum Jackson's Top 10 streak would have remained intact. Ah well. It was bound to end sometime.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  As the final tracklisting for Bad was being determined, producer Quincy Jones questioned one of Jackson's choices. Originally, the album was to feature a song Jackson wrote called "Streetwalker." However, Jones thought that "Another Part of Me," which Jackson also wrote, was a better choice for the album. Michael disagreed and lobbied for "Streetwalker." To try and settle the impasse, Jackson and Jones decided to sit down with Jackson's manager Frank DiLeo and freshly listen to each song setting aside any bias. They heard "Streetwalker" first, which didn't garner a strong reaction from the trio. However, when "Another Part of Me" came on, it prompted DiLeo to get out of his chart and start dancing. His reaction to the song settled the issue and "Another Part of Me" was the final song selected for the album. "Streetwalker" would later be issued out on the 2001 25th anniversary edition of Bad.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

"One Good Woman" by Peter Cetera

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3593
Date:  06/23/1988
Debut:  72
Peak:  4
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Soft Rock


Pop Bits:  After leaving the band Chicago, Cetera recorded his second solo LP Solitude/Solitaire. It would be a #23 platinum seller thanks to a pair of #1 hits including his duet with Amy Grant "The Next Time I Fall." A couple of years after that success, Cetera was ready to released his follow-up album One More Story. For this effort, Cetera would work closely with songwriter/producer Patrick Leonard. The pair would co-write eight of the LP's ten tracks including this lead-off single. It would do quite well at AC reaching #1 while becoming Cetera's third Pop Top 10 after leaving Chicago. The hit helped Cetera's album get to #58, but it would fail to reach the gold level sales mark.

ReduxReview:  Cetera's two big solo hits were ballads. He had yet to score with an uptempo tune and he really needed one so as to not get pigeonholed as a crooner, especially after witnessing his old band Chicago getting caught in a power ballad trap. Luckily, this song provided him the opportunity to present something different and it worked out well. It was a solid soft rock track written by Cetera and Leonard that in a more horn-oriented arrangement could have been a good hit for Chicago. That familiarity along with Cetera being popular at the time helped the song up the chart. I wasn't all that impressed with Cetera at the time, so I didn't pay much attention to this tune. These days I recognize that it was a good, hit-worthy track. Oddly, I don't think I've heard this song since its initial run. Cetera's ballad hits continue to overshadow it.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Patrick Leonard's reputation as a hit making songwriter/producer was on the rise at the time thanks to his work with Madonna. He co-wrote/co-produced several tracks for Madonna' 1986 True Blue album along with songs for her soundtrack to the movie Who's That Girl. Along the way he also worked with Bryan Ferry, Pink Floyd, Carly Simon, and Kenny Loggins. Around the time that Leonard was working with Cetera, he was also starting to collaborate with Madonna on songs for her next album Like a Prayer. That connection led to Madonna making a guest appearance on Cetera's album. She would provide the backing vocals for the song "Scheherazade." However, Madonna chose not to be credited under her own name for the work. Instead, she use the pseudonym of Lulu Smith. While the exact reason for her doing this isn't really known, typically big stars will do this so as to not take away the spotlight from the main artist or they just want to lend a helping hand without causing a big fuss. Prince did this a lot with his songwriting credits. Still, it didn't take long for folks to figure out that the voice was Madonna's, especially thanks to the Patrick Leonard connection.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

"Look Out Any Window" by Bruce Hornsby & the Range

Song#:  3592
Date:  07/23/1988
Debut:  77
Peak:  35
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Soft Rock, Americana


Pop Bits:  Hornsby and his band got their second Pop Top 10 hit with "The Valley Road" (#5), the first single from their second album Scenes from the Southside. The track would also get to #1 at both Rock and AC. For a follow-up, this next song was selected. While it would still go Top 10 at AC (#7) and Rock (#5), the tune fizzled a bit early at Pop where it only cracked the Top 40. A third single, "Defenders of the Flag," would reach #11 at Rock, but fail to make the Pop and AC charts. It would be the last single released from the LP, which had already peaked at #5 and gone platinum. The band's next album, 1990's A Night on the Town, didn't do as well. It peaked at #20 thanks to the single "Across the River" getting to #1 Rock, #8 AC, and #18 Pop, but it would failed to reach gold level sales. Feeling a bit trapped by having to make radio-friendly rock, Hornsby would disband the Range after the third album in order to have a bit of freedom to do his own thing. In the 90s, he would release three solo albums that touched on rock, jazz, and bluegrass. Two of his singles would reach the AC Top 10. Starting in 2002, Hornsby would record a series of albums with his new band the Noisemakers before pushing out a couple more solo efforts in 2019 and 2020. Along the way he would earn eleven more Grammy nods including one win, which when added to the Grammys he won previously with the Range brought his win total to six.

ReduxReview:  I thought this was a solid follow-up to "The Valley Road." It had Hornsby's signature style/sound along with being catchy and radio-ready. AC and Rock ate it up, but it had some trouble making inroads at Pop. My guess is that folks were beginning to tire of the band's Americana-leaning sound and when it came down to it, this tune didn't introduce anything new. It blended in with their other charting songs. Still, I thought it was good enough to stand on its own and it should have done a bit better. However, it was a signal to Hornsby that he needed to expand his sound or come up with something different if he was going to maintain his popularity. I think he sort of did with "Across the River" from the band's next LP. It was more rock oriented with a much bigger Springsteen-esqe sound, but it didn't pay off as well as it should have. When it came down to it, Hornsby's brand of soft rock had a limited shelf life in regards to the Pop chart so the fact he did well over the course of three albums was quite an accomplishment and it certainly helped him maintain a successful career over the years.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Hornsby had been a Grateful Dead fan for a long time having first seen the band live in 1973. At one point he even played in a Dead tribute band. After Hornsby and the Range made it big, they got some opening slot gigs during a Grateful Dead tour. Hornsby struck up a friendship with the band, especially leader Jerry Garcia who would make a guest appearance on the Range's 1990 album A Night on the Town. Beginning sometime in '88, Hornsby began to sit in and perform with the Dead at some of their shows. His appearances with the band increased in 1990 when their keyboardist, Brent Mydland, passed away. Hornsby fit in with the Dead well enough that he was offered a permanent spot in the band, but due to Hornsby wanting to kick off a solo career, he declined. However, he still performed with the band on occasion through to Jerry Garcia's death in 1995.

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Monday, August 23, 2021

"The Right Stuff" by Vanessa Williams

Song#:  3591
Date:  07/23/1988
Debut:  82
Peak:  44
Weeks:  10
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop


Pop Bits:  Williams first gained national attention when she won the Miss America crown in 1984. In doing so, she became the first African-American woman to take the title. Then as the end of her reign approached, she was involved in a scandal where Penthouse magazine decided to run nude pictures of Williams, which forced her to give up the crown. It was a huge to-do that became fodder for the news, tabloids, and even a few song lyrics (John Mellencamp's "You've Got to Stand for Somethin'"). The scandal made Williams a punchline for many and she was subject to shaming and bullying. It would take years for her to overcome the life altering event, but even before that she had to forge ahead and try to carve out a career. Singing was her forte and she had even won the talent portion of the Miss America competition, so she chose to start a recording career. The Mercury Records sub label Wing took her on and work began on a debut album. Several producers would be involved including Exposé Svengali Lewis A. Martinee, but Williams mainly worked with Rex Salas who co-wrote and produced this album title track and debut single. Of course, some folks showed up to see what was going on with the former Miss America, but in the end she began to win some fans and the single topped out at #4 on the R&B chart while reaching #1 at Dance. The tune crossed over to Pop, but it fell just short of making the Top 40. A second single, "(He's Got) The Look," would make it to #10 R&B, but fail to make the Pop chart. However, a third single would firmly establish her as a viable recording artist and it helped to get Williams' post-scandal life kicked off in a positive way.

ReduxReview:  I think Williams taking a shot at a singing career was a good decision after all that had happened. She had the vocal skills and listeners who heard and liked the song on the radio without knowing the artist first would give her a fair shake, which I think for the most part they did. The tune was good enough to break Williams on the R&B chart and once that happened, she had an opportunity to concentrate and move forward. I bought this single back in the day and thought it was a solid track to kick off her career. It was a smart, funky choice that made Williams sound current and hip. There were shades of the Minneapolis sound along with new jack and it fit her voice quite well. It really should have done better on the Pop chart.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Rex Salas and Kipper Jones with Salas producing. Salas and Jones had gained some music business experience as members of the R&B/funk band Tease. The band began sometime in 1977 under another name, but by 1979 settled on being Tease. They spent a few years honing their performance and writing skills before finally getting signed by RCA in 1982. The following year they issued out a self-titled debut album, but it went nowhere. It was back to the drawing board and a couple of years later Epic Records picked them up. They released a second self-titled effort in 1986 and the results were a bit more positive with three singles making the R&B chart including the #11 "Firestarter." A third album, Remember, came out in '88, but it didn't perform well. The band then decided to call it a day. Around the time of their third album, the band's keyboardist Rex Salas got the opportunity to branch out and work with Vanessa Williams. He would produce six tracks for Williams' debut LP while co-writing four. Two of those tracks he co-wrote with Tease lead singer Kipper Jones. Salas would continue to write and produce for other artists and would later become musical director for tours including ones for Robert Palmer, Janet Jackson, and TLC.

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Sunday, August 22, 2021

"Always There for You" by Stryper

Song#:  3590
Date:  07/23/1988
Debut:  84
Peak:  71
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Glam Rock, Contemporary Christian


Pop Bits:  This Christian metal band's third album, To Hell with the Devil, became an unexpected mainstream platinum seller thanks to wide exposure on MTV and the #23 Pop hit "Honestly." With their profile significantly raised, the band then had the arduous task of following up that success. Lead singer Michael Sweet would write nearly all the songs for In God We Trust including this first single. The video for the song would be another hit on MTV, but that didn't necessarily translate to pop radio airplay and the single only managed a couple of months near the bottom of the Pop chart. Still, the album would reach #35 and it would be a gold seller.

ReduxReview:  Since To Hell with the Devil gained a large mainstream audience, it seems that the band either chose to or were pointed towards making their next album even more radio friendly and this first single certainly showcased that direction. Frankly, the tune sounds like a theme from a forgotten 70s TV sitcom updated with a late 80s rock arrangement/production. It could have even been a Top 40 contender back in the 70s. In the late 80s, it sounded a little odd, especially coming from a hair metal band. Lead singer Michael Sweet's multi-octave voice is on display here especially near the end. I think the band was really reaching for major crossover glory with this album and came up short. Their long-time metal fans were not impressed with pop-leaning tunes like this single and the LP didn't have that one surefire hit they needed to help surpass the results of their previous effort. Weirdly, I kinda like this song. It has a nostalgic feel thanks to sweet melodies and chord progressions, which is right up my alley. It wasn't the right song to secure a hit for the band, but it's a good listen.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  For In God We Trust, Stryper worked with producer Michael Lloyd. Glam metal wasn't necessarily in Lloyd's wheelhouse. He had been working in the music business since the late 60s and during the 70s he was a prolific producer of teen idol acts including The Osmonds, Shaun Cassidy, and Leif Garrett, for whom he wrote and produced the 1978 #10 hit "I Was Made for Dancin'." In the 80s, Lloyd produced Belinda Carlisle's debut LP and two of the big hits from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, the Oscar-winning "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" and "She's Like the Wind." He would also work with top acts like Air Supply, Barry Manilow, Lou Rawls, and The Monkees. Lloyd also played a part in the career of director Steven Spielberg. Lloyd provided the music for Spielberg's first true film, the 1968 short Amblin'. If that title sounds familiar, that is because when Spielberg formed his own production company, he named it Amblin Entertainment.

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