Saturday, December 11, 2021

"Thanks for My Child" by Cheryl "Pepsii" Riley

Song#:  3698
Date:  10/29/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  32
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Brooklyn-born Cheryl Riley had music instilled in her from an early age with both of her parents members of successful gospel groups. She had her sights set on a music career, but her parents pushed her to get an education and Riley would graduate from Clara Barton High School with a nursing degree. While working as a nurse for handicapped children, Riley chose to also pursue a music career and ended up fronting a local band called Stargaze. In 1982, Stargaze recorded and released the indie single "You Can't Have It," which Riley co-wrote. While the song got some local attention, it didn't do much to further the band's career and so for the next few years Riley continued with Stargaze while picking up other music work along the way. Another Brooklyn-based group, Full Force, had started to make waves and were familiar with Riley. They had written a song they thought was perfect for Riley and offered it to her. Feeling a sense of loyalty to her band, Riley turned the offer down. Full Force then got the song recorded with a new singer named Lisa Lisa and "I Wonder If I Take You Home" became a gold-selling hit. Riley thought she had completely messed up and missed her opportunity. However, after Stargaze broke up, Full Force lured Riley into their fold and offered her a deal to work with them. This time she didn't hesitate and signed on. Full Force got her signed to Columbia and work began on a debut album titled Me Myself and I. Full Force would write and produce all the tracks including this first single. The ballad was an unusual choice for a debut/lead single, but it ended up being the right choice with the song hitting #1 at R&B. It then crossed over to the Pop chart where it was able to make the Top 40. The hit sent the album to #9 R&B/#128 Pop. It would end up being Riley's only R&B Top 10 and her only Pop chart entry. A second single would get to #18 at R&B. Although Riley would record one more album for Columbia and one for Reprise, neither replicated the success of her debut and after issues with both labels and family responsibilities mounting, Riley stepped away from her solo career and began working as a supporting singer for other artists like Mary J. Blige and Missy Elliot.

ReduxReview:  This song about a single mother raising her child after the father took off really struck a chord with many folks. What was beautiful about it was that the song celebrated the mom's love of her child and being thankful for the blessing. It only mentions in passing the father's abandonment. The tune could have easily been about the father leaving and the hardships that can follow when being single and raising a child, but instead Full Force focused on the simple joy of being a parent and loving your child regardless of circumstances. It basically said - so what dad left - it's you and me kid and I'm so happy we are here together! It was a lovely sentiment and it was expertly delivered by Riley. She has an amazing and powerful voice and it could have easily overrun this sweet tale, but she kept things in check and gave a lovely, emotional performance. Riley should have been a much bigger star, but label and music biz issues hampered her progress. Regardless, she will always be remembered for this ode to parenthood.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) So where did the "Pepsii" moniker come from? It seems that after Riley signed on with Full Force, they said she needed a new name since she had become a part of their family. At the time there just happened to be a can of Pepsi cola sitting on the console of the recording studio. Noting the can of cola and thinking about Riley's bubbly personality, Full Force member Bowlegged Lou tossed out the name of the cola as a possibility, but adding an extra "i" on the end. It seemed to suit everyone and Cheryl "Pepsii" Riley was born.  2) Following her recording career and her work with other artists, Riley got an opportunity to do stage work and was featured in several productions. It was then that a young playwright by the name of Tyler Perry spotted Riley and brought her on to star in one of his stage productions. The pairing worked out well and Riley would go on to star in nine of Perry's stage shows. When Perry's works made the transition to film, Riley would get the opportunity to make appearances in a few of them.


Friday, December 10, 2021

"Best of Times" by Peter Cetera

Song#:  3697
Date:  10/29/1988
Debut:  88
Peak:  59
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Cetera's third solo album One More Story got kicked off in a good way with its first single, "One Good Woman," reaching #4 Pop/#1 AC. Despite the hit, sales of the LP were slow from the start and Cetera needed another solid single to help it along. This next track was selected, but unfortunately it couldn't do the job. It stalled at #22 AC while not even cracking the top half of the Pop chart. With those results, the LP stopped at #58 and failed to go gold. It was a disappointment coming on the heels of his second solo album Solitude/Solitaire, which had gone platinum. No other singles from the album would reach the Pop/AC charts, however the track "You Never Listen to Me" would make an appearance on the Rock chart at #32.

ReduxReview:  I really liked the opening of this track as it set a cool, dark, energetic mood, but then as soon as the verse hit, the tone changed and the song totally lost momentum. The chorus tried to rally the tune back, but by then it was too late. It wasn't all that memorable either. As an album-opening track it wasn't too bad. As a single, it wasn't going to get anywhere and there was little else on the album that was going to do any better. Cetera just wasn't coming up with the hits needed to keep him high on the charts.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Included on the One More Story album was the track "Save Me." It featured backing vocals by Richard Sterban, the bass vocalist from the Oak Ridge Boys, along with Bonnie Raitt on guitar and backing vocals. The song was selected to be the theme song to the NBC action drama Baywatch, which starred David Hasselhoff. The show premiered in '89 and lasted for one season on NBC. "Save Me" would be the theme for that initial season. Due to high production costs, low ratings, and other issues, NBC axed the show after one season. However, Hasselhoff believed the show still had potential and he helped to get it revived as a first-run syndicated series in '91. Baywatch became a hit not only in the US, but all over the world and would run for nine more seasons with the show relocating to Hawaii in its last two seasons. When the show went to syndication, Cetera's song was dropped as the theme song and replaced by a new song from Survivor's Jimi Jamison that he co-wrote title "I'm Always Here."


Thursday, December 9, 2021

"Forever Young" by Alphaville

Song#:  3696
Date:  10/29/1988
Debut:  91
Peak:  65
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This German trio's first US single, 1984's "Big in Japan," would be a #1 Dance hit, but it could only manage to reach #66 at Pop. Their next charting single would be the title track to their debut album Forever Young. Upon initial release it didn't get very far peaking at a very minor #93 at Pop and #32 Dance. Their second album, 1986's Afternoons in Utopia, would feature three tracks that reached the Dance chart, but none were able to make the Pop chart. Still looking for a US breakthrough, their label, Atlantic, decided to toss a compilation album together of songs that made the US dance chart in hopes of generating more interest in the trio. The LP consisted of four songs with each one presented in two different remixes or versions. One of the songs selected for the project, titled Alphaville: The Singles Collection, was "Forever Young." Both the special extended remix would be on the LP along with the original album version. To help promote the package, "Forever Young" was reissued out as a single. It was able to get back on the Pop chart and on its second run the tune hung on the chart for a good length of time, but it still couldn't break through in a bigger way. The Collection LP was then unable to chart. It would be the trio's last single to make a US chart.

ReduxReview:  There's not much I can add to what I originally posted when it first hit the chart. Although it never became a big hit in the US, it certainly has had a long shelf life. It has been remade by several artists including Laura Branigan and more recently in a live version by Grammy winner Brandi Carlile. It was even the basis of the Jay-Z rap track "Young Forever," which was from his 2009 LP The Blueprint 3. It would be released as a single and get to #10 Pop/#86 R&B/#16 Rap. Alphaville's original track would be featured in a few movies as well like 2004's Napoleon Dynamite. It should have been a much bigger hit back in the day, but at least it certainly wasn't forgotten.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  While the band's fortunes dipped heavily with their third LP, 1989's The Breathtaking Blue, they continued to perform over the years and drop the occasional album. They had a bit of a comeback in their homeland of Germany in 2010 when they issued out the LP Catching Rays on Giant. It would end up getting to #9 thanks to a pair of charting singles including the #15 "I Die for You Today." By that point, the only original member left in the band was lead singer Marian Gold.


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

"Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince

Song#:  3695
Date:  10/29/1988
Debut:  93
Peak:  57
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rap

Pop Bits:  This duo broke through to the mainstream with their second album He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper. It would be a #4 triple-platinum seller thanks to a pair of Pop Top 20 hits; the Grammy winning "Parents Just Don't Understand" (#10 R&B) and "A Nightmare on My Street" (#9 R&B). A follow-up single was in order, but instead of releasing another track from the album, the duo went back into the studio and re-recorded "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble," a song from their indie-based debut '87 debut album Rock the House. The song had been released as the duo's first single back in '86 and at that time it reached #81 on the R&B chart. The new version of the tune was pushed out as a stand-alone single. It would get on the Pop chart, but would stop short of the halfway mark. It would not return to the R&B chart. The pair would then move forward to record their third LP, which would be released later in '89.

ReduxReview:  Ugh. This is just not my thing. It's just so goofy that it borders on novelty. In fact, the Billboard book of singles actually tags this as a novelty song. I don't think the duo's intent was to make a novelty tune, especially since it originally served as their debut single, so I'm not listing it as such. Either way, it doesn't work for me. Coming along at a time when rap was really undergoing a transformation, it made the duo sound as if they were a comedy act rather than legit rap musicians. It wasn't like they had to record serious political or cultural hardcore rap tracks, but I don't think they needed to be so corny either. Maybe that's what they wanted though; a rap alternative that would appeal to kids and be parent approved. In that scenario, then this probably worked fine. It just didn't do anything for me at all.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  This song was created around a sample from the theme song to the 60s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie. The show, which starred Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman, began in 1965 and ran for five seasons. In its first season, a theme song composed by Richard Wess was used. For the second season when the show was updated to color from black and white, a new theme, titled "Jeannie," was written by Hugo Montenegro. It was highly memorable and quickly gained in popularity. Lyrics were added by Buddy Kaye and in 1966 Montenegro would record the tune with his orchestra and chorus. It was released as a single, but did not chart. However, Montenegro would have a big hit two years later when his version of the theme song to the Clint Eastwood spaghetti Western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (composed by Ennio Morricone) would reach #2 Pop/#1 AC.


Tuesday, December 7, 2021

"Wild World" by Maxi Priest

Song#:  3694
Date:  10/29/1988
Debut:  95
Peak:  25
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Reggae, R&B

Pop Bits:  Max Elliott was born in England after his parents made the move there from Jamaica. He was exposed to many of the great Jamaican artists along with current pop/R&B hitmakers. Elliott began singing in church and as a teen performed with Saxon Studio International, a reggae sound system that performed around London (a "sound system" is rooted in Jamaican culture and is a group of DJs/MCs that typically play reggae and ska music for street parties/events). As he developed his musical skills, Elliott thought that perhaps he'd give it a go as a solo artist. He got the attention of the Virgin Records offshoot label 10 Records and signed up with them. By that time he had changed his name to Maxi Priest and in 1985 he would release his first solo effort, You're Safe. Nothing much came of it, but his next effort, '86's Intentions, did better. With the LP, Priest started to do a fusion of reggae and R&B and it resulted in four lower-charting singles in the UK. The attention gained from the singles helped to set up Priest for what would be his breakthrough third album Maxi. Released in the UK in '87, its first single, "Some Guys Have All the Luck," which had been a #10 hit for Rod Stewart in '84, reached #15. A second single didn't do as well, but then this third single would help his star rise. It would get to #5 in the UK and in-turn would then prompt a release of the single and the album (under the title Maxi Priest) in the US. The track would end up doing well hitting #10 at AC and making the Pop Top 30. The album would then get to #108.

ReduxReview:  If you were a reggae-based artist and wanted to break through in the US in the 80s/90s, it seems doing a cover tune was the way to go. UB40 had success doing that and the formula would also benefit Maxi Priest. Reggae was not a genre that a mainstream US audience gravitated to, but if someone covered an old hit in a reggae style, then that was somehow more palatable. I wasn't necessarily a fan of these remakes and tended to ignore them, but this one by Maxi Priest wasn't too bad. The song was a good fit for the reggae rhythms and it was delivered in a pleasant, unadorned way by Priest. It definitely wasn't amazing and inspired, but it was listenable.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally written and recorded by Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam). It was a track on Stevens' 1970 breakthrough fourth album Tea for the Tillerman. Released as a single in '71, "Wild World" would be Stevens' first single to chart in the US. It got to #11, which then helped the LP get to #2. Eventually, it would sell over three million copies. Many artists would cover the song, but only two others besides Maxi Priest would reach the Pop chart with the song. Garage rock band The Gentrys would cover the tune and release it as a single in '71. It would only get to #97. Later in '93, the rock band Mr. Big would take their version to #27 Pop/#33 Rock.  2) Maxi Priests' fourth LP, 1990's Bonafide, would be his most successful release. Its first single, "Close to You," would be a gold seller that reached #1 Pop/#2 R&B/#12 Dance/#15 AC. The hit would helped the album get to #47 and go gold. Priest would hit the Pop Top 10 one more time. In '91, Roberta Flack would record "Set the Night to Music," a Diane Warren-penned song that was originally recorded by Starship in '87 (#9 AC). The track would be turned into a duet and Priest brought on board to sing with Flack. The single would become a hit getting to #6 Pop/#2 AC/#45 R&B. Priest's last significant hit in the US was the 1996 "That Girl," which featured reggae artist Shaggy. It got to #20 Pop/#34 R&B.


Monday, December 6, 2021

"Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses

Top 10 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  3693
Date:  10/22/1988
Debut:  58
Peak:  7
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Metal

Pop Bits:  Guns N' Roses broke through in a huge way with the #1 gold-selling hit "Sweet Child O' Mine." It was the second single from their debut album Appetite for Destruction. For a follow-up, the band's label chose to reissue the album opener "Welcome to the Jungle." That track was originally the first single from the LP, but it only got to #37 at Rock while failing to make the Pop chart. Since it didn't seem to get a fair shake the first time around, the song was pushed out again after the success of "Sweet Child O' Mine." The second time around it would fare far better and make the Pop Top 10. Meanwhile, the album was selling like hotcakes and by the end of '89 it would already be at the 6 million mark.

ReduxReview:  This swaggering track is perhaps one of the most aggressive and brutal Top 10 hits of the era. Save for the brilliant breakdown that provided a bit of a respite from all the menace, the tune was unrelenting. It not only grabbed you, it shook the shit out of you. Then following Axl Rose declaring "you're in the jungle, baby - and you're gonna die!," a key change pushes the song into maximum overdrive. It's exhausting and thrilling. It is also one of the best metal songs of all time.


Trivia:  Just after the release of "Sweet Child O' Mine," Guns N' Roses would make an uncredited cameo appearance in a film. Both the band and "Welcome to the Jungle" would be featured in the fifth and final installment of the Dirty Harry franchise The Dead Pool. The movie had Clint Eastwood returning as Detective Harry Callahan. This time around he and his partner investigate the murder of rock singer Johnny Squares (played by a pre-fame Jim Carrey). Guns N' Roses appear in a couple of scenes. Once performing "Welcome to the Jungle" at Squares' funeral and then again in a dream sequence. Not long after the film was released in July of '88, "Sweet Child O' Mine" would become a huge #1 hit. The movie would received mixed reviews and its box office take wouldn't meet expectations. Still, it would generate another memorable quote from the series, which had spawned such pop culture references as "make my day" and "You've gotta ask yourself a question - do I feel lucky? Well do ya punk?" The memorable quote from The Dead Pool was a bit cruder than previous ones with Dirty Harry saying "Opinions are like assholes - everybody has one."


Sunday, December 5, 2021

"Till I Loved You" by Barbra Streisand & Don Johnson

Song#:  3692
Date:  10/22/1988
Debut:  67
Peak:  25
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Following the Grammy-winning #1 success of The Broadway Album, Streisand chose to return to pop music for her twenty-fifth studio effort Till I Loved You. The LP was developed using a loose concept that had the songs ordered to reflect the beginning, middle, and end of a relationship. It was a big budget affair with top songwriters and producers such as Quincy Jones, Burt Bacharach, and Phil Ramone. Other stars showed up in the background with Dionne Warwick, Luther Vandross, James Ingram, and Siedah Garrett lending vocal support. Another celeb who was hot at the time also showed up to perform on this title-track duet. Don Johnson was riding high from being on Miami Vice and having his own Top 10 hit with "Heartbeat." He just also happened to have been dating Streisand at the time. The pair met late in '87 at a party in Aspen. By coincidence, Johnson was signed to the same record company as Streisand (she was on Columbia, he was on the Epic subsidiary). In an interview with Johnson, he seemed to suggest that it was the label's idea to bring them together for a duet. The pair would record "Till I Loved You" and it would be the first single lifted from the LP. It would be a winner at AC reaching #3. The mature, romantic tune crossed over to the Pop chart, but it could only make the Top 30. Two other singles from the album made the AC chart, but failed to click at Pop. "Till I Loved You" would be Streisand's last song to make the Pop chart in the 80s. The album would get to #10 and go platinum.

ReduxReview:  I admit that I was a little miffed when this song came out. I positively adored La Streisand and when she started dating Don Johnson, whom I had a dislike for, I wasn't having it. I thought - okay, she can have her fling and soon it will be over. It was not even a year later, but unfortunately during their time together someone got the awful idea to pair them for a duet. While Johnson's voice was not horrible, it had zero nuance and was more suitable for pop/rock song like his "Heartbeat" hit. For him to sing smooth, romantic, AC tunes like this it was just painful. How could one of my biggest idols fall prey to the bf of the moment and actually record with him? Ugh! And the song itself was bleh. It was a schmaltzy showtune-turned-pop-song that no one needed to hear and adding Johnson's voice made it nearly excruciating. That said, of course Streisand elevates the song enough to make it listenable. Who knows what would have happened had she done it with a real singer like Luther Vandross. Now that might have been magic. As-is, the song remains a weird relic in Streisand's catalog that somehow in the late 80s got close to the Pop Top 20.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song came from a musical theater work that was released as a concept album, but was never transferred to the stage. Goya: A Life in Song was about the famous Spanish painter Francisco de Goya. Based on an idea by opera singer Placido Domingo, a score was written by Maury Yeston. Domingo would perform as Goya and initially it was to be a staged musical. But Domingo's time constraints killed off that goal and the project turned into a 1989 musical concept album featuring Domingo. In addition to Domingo, there would be a few guest performers. Depending on what territory or region the LP was to be released, the lineup of guests change. For example, "Till I Loved You" was recorded by Domingo and Dionne Warwick for the US released. On the European release, Jennifer Rush was Domingo's duet partner. In Japan it was Seiko Matsuda. For the Latin market, the song was sung in Spanish with Gloria Estefan. The version with Jennifer Rush was released as a single in '89 and it got to #24 in the UK. Although a cover, Streisand/Johnson version was released as a single prior to the Goya album coming out. In the UK, the single would get to #16.  2) While Streisand's popularity as a hit making pop star dwindled after this, she did have one more big Pop hit. In 1996, she teamed up with Bryan Adams for the duet "I Finally Found Someone." The tune was written by Streisand with Adams, Marvin Hamlisch, and Robert John "Mutt" Lange, and produced by David Foster. It was done for the Streisand-directed film The Mirror Has Two Faces. Released as a single, it would get to #8 Pop/#2 AC and go gold. The song would go on to be nominated for and Oscar for Best Original Song. It would be Streisand's last major Pop hit. However, that didn't mean her career as a recording artist was over. Streisand would continue to record studio albums and as of this posting date, of the eleven LPs she released after Till I Loved You, five of them hit #1. All of them would make the Top 15. Two would go multi-platinum, three platinum, and three gold.