Saturday, November 13, 2021

"Domino Dancing" by Pet Shop Boys

Song#:  3673
Date:  10/08/1988
Debut:  71
Peak:  18
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance, Latin Freestyle

Pop Bits:  The British duo had their peak moment in the US when two songs from their 1987 second album Actually reached the Top 10 followed by a standalone single, a remake of "Always on My Mind," that also followed suit getting to #4. With their popularity high and their label anxious to push out new material, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe decided to create a transition album of sorts. For Introspective, they flipped the standard release format of short tracks on the album and long remixes reserved for singles. Instead, Introspective contained six long remix-styled tracks while the singles selected for release got edited and spruced up for radio-friendly airplay. As such, singles like this first one were different from what appeared on the album. It was a bit of a gamble to change things up in this manner following a string of hits and in the end it didn't necessarily pay off well. While this first single got to #5 at Dance, it could only do a Top 20 showing at Pop while reaching #22 at Alt Rock. The results didn't fully spark album sales and it would top out at #34. Eventually it would go gold, but it slowed the duo's momentum in the States. In fact, this single would prove to be their last Top 40 entry. Back in the UK, the album did much better hitting #2 and going double-platinum with this single making it to #7.

ReduxReview:  Like some other fans, Introspective caught me off guard. I wasn't sure what to make of this remix style approach. I wasn't really into dance music and remixes at the time, so I was a bit disappointed that I got six dance tracks rather than the more unique pop/dance confections found on their first two LPs. Plus, the singles were different than what was on the album, so if you wanted those versions you had to buy the singles. At the time I thought it might be the end of my time liking PSB, but then they put out the brilliant Behavior in 1990 and that sealed the deal for me as a lifelong fan. These days I understand Introspective more and I do like it. It is not one of my favorites from them, but it is also not one of my least favorites. This single was timely with its freestyle sound and it seemed like it was catching on, but then stalled just inside the Top 20. Looking back that seems like an appropriate outcome as it just wasn't quite as memorable as their bigger hits. Still, it was a different sound for the duo and it fit them well.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  With this song, the Pet Shop Boys flirted with the Latin freestyle sound that was beginning to take over the chart. To enhance that feel, the duo went to Miami and worked with producer Lewis A. Martineé, who had been having great success with the female vocal trio Exposé. Not long before PSB worked with Martineé, he had been co-writing and producing a couple of singles by a trio called The Voice in Fashion. The male trio first began in 1985 as The Voice, but then hooked up with Martineé and had a name change. Their first single with Martineé, 1987's "Only in the Night" became a #8 Dance hit. The following year "Give Me Your Love" got to #29 Dance. With the Martineé connection, the trio got to do the background vocals on this PSB track. It worked out well enough that the trio was invited to do some tour stints with PSB, but they unfortunately didn't have time in their schedule. They would end up going their separate ways in 1992.


Friday, November 12, 2021

"Any Love" by Luther Vandross

Song#:  3672
Date:  10/08/1988
Debut:  78
Peak:  44
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Vandross' 1986 album Give Me the Reason would be a #1 R&B/#14 Pop double-platinum hit thanks to four R&B Top 10 hits including the #1 "Stop to Love," which became his biggest success to-date on the Pop chart reaching #15. Still in search of a bigger breakthrough on the Pop chart, Vandross recorded his next effort Any Love. As with his previous album, Vandross would co-write most of the songs and co-produce it with Marcus Miller. The title track would serve as the lead single and it predictably did well at R&B becoming Vandross' fourth #1 on that chart. Unfortunately, the song couldn't capitalize on the success of "Stop to Love" and it fell short of the Pop Top 10 (#12 AC). Although the single didn't fare well at Pop, the album became his first to make the Pop Top 10 at #9. At R&B, the LP became his sixth consecutive #1. While that was good news, overall album sales signaled a bit of slump. Any Love would only reach platinum status, which was a drop from the double-platinum sales of his previous two LPs.

ReduxReview:  While I wasn't surprised this tune didn't make the Pop Top 10, it was a disappointment that it couldn't even make the Top 40. It was another silky entry from Vandross with a hooky chorus and it should have done better. I liked how the song built and really came on strong in the last third. Of course, Vandross was brilliant as usual. It nearly cracked the AC Top 10 so why it didn't catch on better at Pop was a mystery. It was still a shock that after six albums, Vandross was still searching for that Pop Top 10 hit. He would finally do it as the decade came to a close.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The album would generate three Grammy nods for Vandross. The LP and this first single were released in time for consideration in the '88 cycle of the awards with the LP earning a nod for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, and "Any Love" getting a nod for Best R&B Song. Another single from the album, "She Won't Talk to Me," would be eligible for the '89 cycle of the Grammys and would earn Vandross another nod for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male. By that point in time, Vandross had amassed nine Grammy nominations, but had yet to win.


Wednesday, November 10, 2021

"Not Just Another Girl" by Ivan Neville

Song#:  3671
Date:  10/08/1988
Debut:  81
Peak:  26
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist inherited talent from his dad, singer Aaron Neville. Ivan got the music bug early on and was still a teen when he started his first band. As he gained experience Ivan started to play keyboard with The Neville Brothers and that led to work with other artists in shows and in the studio. For a couple of years in '85, he joined Bonnie Raitt's band. Along the way Ivan began writing songs and set his eye on a solo career. He got signed to Polydor Records and began working on a debut album with producer Danny Kortchmar (Don Henley). By the fall of '88 If My Ancestors Could See Me Now was ready and this first single was pushed out. It became a hit at Rock reaching #6. The song then crossed over to Pop where it eventually peaked inside the Top 30. The album would get to #107 on the chart.

ReduxReview:  Here's one that I haven't heard or thought about in years. I'm not sure why I didn't buy the single or album back in the day. I remember really liking the song. It was well-written, catchy, and had a nice, polished late 80s production by Kortchmar, who made it sound kind of like a Don Henley track. I also like how in the last chorus things get more urgent. It's a gem of a song that needs to be unearthed.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song served two purposes. First as Neville's debut single to promote his album. Second, it was picked up for use in the film and for the soundtrack to the sci-fi comedy My Stepmother Is an Alien. The movie, which starred Kim Basinger, Dan Ackroyd, and Jon Lovitz, was originally written as a drama that had a bit of hidden message about child abuse. However, the studio though (oddly) that the story would work better as a comedy and changes were made. The daughter in the film was played by Alyson Hannigan who went on to be in the hit TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and How I Met Your Mother. Upon release the film was a critical and box office failure. The associated soundtrack that featured Neville's song failed to chart.


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

"Reason to Try" by Eric Carmen

Song#:  3670
Date:  10/08/1988
Debut:  90
Peak:  87
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  After hitting it big with the Dirty Dancing soundtrack single "Hungry Eyes" (#4 Pop), Carmen went into the studio and recorded the one-off single "Make Me Lose Control." It would be Carmen's third Pop Top 10 hit reaching #3. Next up for him would be a song for a Clive Davis/Arista Records project. Carmen would contribute "Reason to Try" to the 1988 Summer Olympics soundtrack album. The track would end up being released as a single, but it didn't get anywhere. It would only reach the Pop chart and spend a few minor weeks at the bottom. It would end up being Carmen's last single as a performer to make any chart. Despite the success of "Hungry Eyes" and "Make Me Lose Control," for whatever reason Carmen didn't capitalize on the moment and record a new album. He would continue to write music and perform, but the only other new studio album he would record would be 1997's Winter Dreams, which was only released in Japan at the time. It would later be released in the States in 2000 as I Was Born to Love You.

ReduxReview:  This song was fine for the Olympics album (although the theme was a bit of a stretch for a sporting event), but it did not make a good single. It was a nice, reliable composition from Carmen yet it wasn't nearly as good as his previous two hits. It just wasn't strong enough to hook folks. I'm even surprised it got on the Pop chart. I think that Carmen kind of became a reluctant pop star again with the two recent hits and with this song failing it probably gave him the opportunity to fall back into the shadows of the music biz.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  In 1996, one of Carmen's hits would get a big makeover and become a signature hit for another artist. Carmen's first solo single after leaving his band the Raspberries was 1975's "All By Myself." Inspired by a theme from Sergei Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Carmen wrote the song and it would go on to be a #2 Pop gold record. Later in '96, singer Celine Dion would cover the song for her album Falling Into You. It would be given a massive arrangement by producer David Foster that breathed life into the soft rock classic. The track would be released as a single and would get to #4 Pop/#1 AC. Dion's version, which featured a bombastic ending with a soaring vocal, would go one to be one of her signature songs. Her version would also pretty much take over as the one that folks would cover. Thanks to this cover along with two other hits, Dion's Falling Into You would go on to win the Grammy for Album of Year.


Monday, November 8, 2021

"Didn't Know It Was Love" by Survivor

Song#:  3669
Date:  10/08/1988
Debut:  95
Peak:  61
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Survivor's sixth album When Seconds Count would make it to #49 thanks to the #9 Pop hit "Is This Love." The album signaled a dip in popularity following the platinum success of '84's Vital Signs so they needed a good rebound single to kick off their next album Too Hot to Sleep. This track was selected for release, but unfortunately it was a bit of a miss. It could only reach #40 at Rock while not even cracking the top half of the Pop chart. With that result, the album became the band's lowest peaking on the chart only making it to a very minor #187.

ReduxReview:  The band's main songwriters Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan were very good at coming up with hooky pop/rock tunes, but after chuggin' out songs for the band for years their songs started sounding like they were coming off of an assembly line. It wasn't like the tracks were bad, it was just that they all started to kind of sound the same. Staying the course will only take you so far in pop music, especially in the 80s, and it seems the band reached a dead end with Too Hot to Sleep. This single was just fine. It was a good spot of corporate pop/rock. However, it didn't do anything to advance the band and the tune wasn't up to the same standards as some of their previous hits. Survivor's music had become bland and even long time fans ignored the album. The poor results would end up putting the band on an extended hiatus.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  For the Too Hot to Sleep album, the band wanted to return to the heavier rock sound of their first albums. Band member Frankie Sullivan would co-produce the LP with Frank Filipetti who had produced works by James Taylor, Carly Simon, and Foreigner. Although Filipetti would sit in the producer's chair on occasion, he was more in demand as an engineer and mixer. Filipetti also stayed ahead of the curve as a proponent of digital recording. He continued to work for various artists over the years, but in 2002 he got involved more with the recording of original cast albums from Broadway musicals. His work on Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida earned him a Grammy and that led to Filipetti working on other cast albums including ones for The Color Purple, The Book of Mormon, Spamalot, and Wicked, all of which earned him a Grammy.


Sunday, November 7, 2021

"Desire" by U2

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  3668
Date:  10/01/1988
Debut:  50
Peak:  3
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  When you've become the biggest band in the world, your last album sold millions worldwide, and it won a Grammy for Album of the Year, what do you do next? For U2 it was to make a documentary film about their tour supporting The Joshua Tree. Film director Phil Joanou approached the band with the idea to do a "rockumentary" while on tour in America. The band agreed and arrangements were made to shoot two shows in Denver that would serve as the basis for the film. In addition, a companion album would be released. However, instead of just a straight concert album, the band opted to mix live performances with new studio recordings. The new songs would focus on the band's minor obsession at the time with American roots music and would feature guest appearances by a pair of iconic American artists, Bob Dylan and B.B. King. Both the film and the double-album would be titled Rattle and Hum and prior to the film and album release, this first single would be issued out. Anticipation for the new song from the band was high and it was greeted quite well with the single reaching #1 Rock and #1 Alt Rock while making the Pop Top 10 and #37 Dance. The album of course would hit #1 and quickly go double-platinum by the end of the year. U2 would earn four Grammy nominations stemming from the album/film and would win one for this song for Best Rock Performances by a Duo or Group with Vocal. While the album would be a worldwide #1 hit with fans, critics were less enthusiastic with the LP getting mixed reviews. The film would ultimately make only $8 million and would not do well with critics.

ReduxReview:  With its bouncy beat (see below) and memorable "desi-i-i-i-er" delivery from Bono, this was a solid tune to follow up the hits from The Joshua Tree. It didn't sound like anything from that album, yet still sounded distinctly U2. It was a quick hooky song that was able to storm pop and rock radio and help keep the band's momentum going. It would still be another three years before they would follow up Joshua Tree with a proper studio album, so the Rattle and Hum stopover was probably a good idea and it was timely. However, it wasn't without its flaws. The album does have some bright spots, but overall it was kind of a mess. The mix of live and studio tracks along with some other oddities didn't make for a cohesive listen. This single was the true bright spot of the project and it earned them a third Pop Top 10 and a Grammy

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The band chose to explore the roots of American music for the studio cuts and this first single incorporated a specific beat that had long been associated with early rock/R&B artist Bo Diddley. Based on a clave or hambone rhythm, Diddley's first single in 1955, "Bo Diddley," utilized the rhythm and it would become a #1 hit at R&B. He would use the rhythm in other songs and it wasn't long before the pattern became known as the "Bo Diddley beat." Other artists over the years would use the Bo Diddley beat in their songs including Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, and the Rolling Stones. In 1969, the first track on the '69 debut album by The Stooges titled "1969" utilized the beat. It was that song along with the Bo Diddley beat that influenced U2 for "Desire."