Saturday, December 18, 2021

"Nobody's Perfect" by Mike + the Mechanics

Song#:  3705
Date:  11/05/1988
Debut:  98
Peak:  63
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  This side project from Genesis member Mike Rutherford did well out of the gate with their 1985 self-titled debut album going gold thanks to a pair of Pop Top 10 hits including the #5 "All I Need Is a Miracle." Afterwards, Rutherford returned to Genesis for their #3 LP Invisible Hands and its associated tour. Once everything was wrapped up with Genesis, Rutherford then chose to focus on a second Mike + the Mechanics disc. Bringing back the same lineup from the first album, which included vocalists Paul Carrack and Paul Young, the group finished off their second effort Living Years. This first single was issued out and it would be a hit at Rock getting to #3. However, that success didn't translate to the mainstream with the tune unable to reach the top half of the Pop chart. The result didn't bode well for the album, but a second single would change things around in a big way.

ReduxReview:  For me, this was like two different songs smashed together. First there was the dark, prog-rock style verse. Then there was the more pop-friendly, optimistic chorus. I liked both parts and they melded together fairly well, but really I wanted a more mysterious chorus that would go along with the terrific verse. I loved the feel of that opening verse and I wanted that to continue in some way. Instead, a happier sounding chorus came in that changed the direction of the tune. It all played well on rock radio, but it didn't have the same mainstream pop appeal along the lines of their previous hit "All I Need Is a Miracle" and therefore stalled early on the Pop chart. I'm guessing the band and their label wanted to maintain their rock cred and pushed this single first over the obvious choice, the title track. Luckily, that tune was strong enough to overcome this tepid result.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  For his non-Genesis work, Rutherford struck up a writing partnership with BA Robertson. Robertson would co-write four tracks for the band's debut album and five for Living Years including this first single. In the late 70s/early 80s, Robertson had a successful recording career of his own. Robertson had recorded a couple of albums earlier in the 70s that failed to gain attention, but things began to change when he signed with Asylum Records in '79. His second single for the label, "Bang Bang," took off and became a #2 hit in the UK, He followed it up with the #8 "Knocked It Off." An album titled Initial Success would follow in 1980 with another single, "To Be or Not to Be," getting to #9. The album would reach #32. Unfortunately, his success as a solo artist would prove to be short-lived with his next two albums doing far less business. His last significant hit came in 1981 with the #11 "Hold Me," a duet with Scottish rock vocalist Maggie Bell. After his days at Asylum were over, Robertson continued to write songs for other artists including Cliff Richard. In the mid-80s, he met up with Mike Rutherford and the two began to write songs for Rutherford's Mike + the Mechanics project. Rutherford and Robertson would co-write songs that would appear on the band's first six albums.


Friday, December 17, 2021

"The Lover in Me" by Sheena Easton

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3704
Date:  11/5/1988
Debut:  99
Peak:  2
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Late in '86, Sheena Easton began a collaborative relationship with Prince that first resulted in the duet "U Got the Look," a track for Prince's Sign 'O' the Times album. Released as a single, it would be a big #2 Pop hit. Prince then provided a song for Easton's '87 LP No Sound But a Heart titled "Eternity." Around the time that Easton was finishing up the LP, her label EMI America was going through changes and the new folks in charge didn't seem all that vested in Easton's career. "Eternity" was released as a single, but without much support it failed to chart. Then after a couple of scheduled release dates came and went, the LP was essentially shelved and not released in the US (it did see release in a few other territories, but failed to chart anywhere). After the shakeup, Easton took off from EMI and moved over to MCA. The label gave Easton a fresh start and she took advantage of that by collaborating with hot songwriters/producers like L.A. Reid and Babyface. Setting aside her typical pop/AC-leaning sound for a more dance-pop/R&B flavor, Easton recorded her ninth studio album The Lover in Me. The Reid/Babyface title track would be pushed out as the first single and it got off to a slow start debuting almost at the very bottom of the Pop chart. That is usually not a good sign, but the song slowly caught on and eventually it would become Easton's second biggest single following her #1 1981 single "Morning Train (Nine to Five)." It also reached #2 Dance/#5 R&B/#43 AC. The hit was large enough to propel her album to #44 Pop/#29 R&B and it would eventually become a gold seller. It might have inched towards platinum status had the next two singles made the Pop chart, but follow-ups "Days Like This" and the Prince-penned "101" would only get to #35 R&B and #2 Dance, respectively.

ReduxReview:  Easton's career was on the fence due to label issues and she needed something current and hip to return her to the chart. She found the right song/sound with this Reid/Babyface track. The dance-pop tune placed her right smack dab in the late 80s and in the company of new hit makers like Pebbles, Paula Abdul, Jody Watley, and Karyn White, who showed up to supply backing vocals on this track. It paid off well with a big #2 hit and gold album. Her liaison with Prince boosted the R&B side of her voice as well with Easton sounding quite comfortable on the tune. The track had a bunch of hooks including the chorus, the repetitive synth line, and the "shoo-doo-wop" background vocals. It took a while to find an audience, but once it did the tune took off and deservedly made it to #2. Unfortunately, I think they chose the wrong second single and the album's progress came to a screeching halt. It was too bad because The Lover in Me was one of Easton's best albums. Regardless, enough folks showed up to make it a gold album - her last to reach that sales level.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  With No Sound But a Heart getting no release in the US and other countries, it seems that the writers/publishers who contributed songs to the LP went ahead and re-shopped their songs and made them available to other artists. If the tunes would good enough to make a Sheena Easton album, then they should be good enough for another artist. Three songs would get picked up and recorded by other artists following Easton's album. In 1989, Patti LaBelle would record a version of "Still in Love," which Easton had recorded with Steve Perry. It was for LaBelle's album Be Yourself. It was not issued as a single. Also in '89, singer/actress Pia Zadora would record "Floating Hearts" for her album Pia Z. It was not released as a single. Then in '90, Celine Dion would record the tune "The Last to Know" for her first English language album Unison. It would serve as the LP's fourth single and get to #22 on the US AC chart. Around the same time Easton was recording her LP, Country stars Crystal Gayle and Gary Morris would also record two tracks that would end up on Easton's album as well. "Wanna Give My Love" and "What If We Fall in Love" were included on their 1986 duets album What If We Fall in Love? Neither were released as singles. No Sound But a Heart would finally see released in the US in 1999.


Thursday, December 16, 2021

"Every Rose Has Its Thorn" by Poison

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3703
Date:  10/29/1988
Debut:  60
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  Poison's second album, Open Up and Say...Ahh! was shaping up to be a bigger hit than their 1986 #3 triple-platinum debut with its first two singles making the Pop Top 20 with "Nothin' But a Good Time" reaching #6. The hits helped the LP go double-platinum, but they were not done yet. For a third single, the band selected to release this ballad. The tune went against their party-hard glam metal sound, but they were confident it was a hit. Indeed they were right with the single climbing to #1 on the Pop chart. It would stay there for three weeks and would sell enough to go gold. It would end up being the #3 song on the year-end singles list for '89. It would also get to #11 Rock. The hit would really push album sales and by January of '89 it would reach the 4 million mark.

ReduxReview:  Since I really didn't care for Poison back in the day, I didn't give this ballad much of a chance. I tried to ignore it, but that was hard to do since it got played to death on the radio. While I'm still not a fan of the band, I can now listen more objectively and I do recognized that this is arguably their best song. Michaels based it on a personal experience and that feeling certainly shows through the song. It showed a more sensitive side of the band, but the song was good enough to not take away from their ruff 'n' tumble rock sound and image. There was heart to it without being too sentimental and sappy. That was kind of a hard thing to pull off for a glam metal band but Poison was able to do it well.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Lead singer Bret Michaels came up with the lyrics to this song while out on tour with the band. It seems he called up his then girlfriend Tracy Lewis and heard another guy's voice in the background. Apparently, their relationship was already rocky and the call pretty much killed off anything they had left. Michaels finished the song with the rest of the band. They all knew they had a great song on their hands and it seems their label, Capitol, didn't disagree. However, the label balked at releasing it as a single thinking it was too pop-leaning and that it might go too much against the band's established glam metal sound, which could cause some backlash. However, Michaels and the band pestered the label enough that they finally relented and allowed it out as the third single. It became the band's signature tune and their only #1 Pop hit. Michaels would later re-record the song twice. In 2010, he would do a country-leaning version for his solo album Custom Built. The track would feature country stars Chris Cagle and Mark Wills along with 3 Doors Down lead singer Brad Arnold. Three years later, he would remake the tune once again for his next solo effort Jammin' with Friends. This time around he recorded it as a duet with country superstar Loretta Lynn.


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

"Silhouette" by Kenny G

Song#:  3702
Date:  10/29/1988
Debut:  70
Peak:  13
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Adult Contemporary, Smooth Jazz

Pop Bits:  To many folks, Kenny Gorelick, aka Kenny G, suddenly burst on the Pop scene with his smooth jazz instrumental "Songbird," which made it to #4 on the Pop chart. However, Kenny G had already developed a jazz and R&B fan base via three albums that included a pair of R&B Top 30 singles. His fourth LP, Duotones, began to gain more fans with its second single making the R&B Top 20. But then "Songbird"was released and it turned Kenny G into an unlikely pop star. Duotones would reach #6 Pop/#8 R&B and eventually sell over five million copies. Typically when an artist from a more specialized genre gets an unexpected pop hit, it is usually one and done. Listeners glom on to one song/album and then quickly lose interest. Yet it seemed that Kenny G was determined to not go that route. He wanted his star to continue to rise and with the guidance of Arista Records head Clive Davis, Kenny G recorded his fifth effort Silhouette. Keeping an eye towards the Pop chart, Kenny G wrote and recorded this title track instrumental that would serve as the LP's first single. It was like a carrot dangling in front of those who loved "Songbird" and a good number of folks followed with the song nearly cracking the Pop Top 10. It would do even better at AC reaching #2 while also getting to #35 R&B. The album would then easily make it to #8 Pop/#10 R&B while making it to top the Contemporary Jazz chart. It would eventually sell over four million copies. Kenny G was able to maintain his mainstream popularity, but in '92 he would put out an album that would skyrocket him to superstar status.

ReduxReview:  Like many folks, I thought Kenny G was a flash in the pan. He got his one big Pop hit and that would pretty much be it. He'd then be able to go on and just be a successful contemporary jazz artist and rely on "Songbird" to pull in folks to his shows. Then this single came along and I think it's success was a surprise to people. It was to me. How could another smooth jazz sax ballad be a hit on the Pop chart? Yet there was something about Kenny G and his tooting soprano sax that appealed to a wide swath of listeners. That age group skewed older than the average pop listener, but they came along in big numbers and were ready for more from Kenny G. They showed up for this single and the album making surprising hits out of both. I'm sure it didn't hurt to have the Clive Davis publicity machine along for the ride as well. While I didn't necessarily mind this tune, it didn't really offer anything new. It was just an extension of "Songbird" and it kind of bored me. "Songbird" is one that I can always remember. This one goes in one ear and out the other, but it's a pleasant listen.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Although Kenny G was maintaining a successful solo career, he still continued to support other artists. From '87 to '89, he would make guest appearances on tracks by Smokey Robinson, Whitney Houston, Kashif, Jennifer Holliday, Aretha Franklin, and Patti LaBelle. While none of those tracks would be issued out as singles, in the early 90s two songs that featured Kenny G would become hits. In '91, he would be a guest on Michael Bolton's "Missing You Now." That single would get to #12 Pop/#1 AC. Then in '92 he would perform on Babyface's "Every Time I Close My Eyes," which got to #6 Pop/#5 R&B/#17 AC. As the years went on, Kenny G would continue to be a featured artist on tracks by stars like Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Andrea Bocelli, David Foster, Train, and even Kanye West.


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

"Little Liar" by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Song#:  3701
Date:  10/29/1988
Debut:  75
Peak:  19
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  With her recording career a bit on the ropes, Jett rebounded in a big way with her sixth album Up Your Alley. Jett got hooked up with songwriter/producer Desmond Child and pair collaborated on three tracks for the album, two of which would be pushed out as singles. The first was the roaring "I Hate Myself for Loving You," which became Jett's third Pop Top 10 (#8) and first since 1982. The second was this follow-up single. While it wouldn't do quite as well, it still was able to crack the Pop Top 20 while getting to #13 on the Rock chart. The hit would help boost sales of the album, which peaked at #19 and went platinum. The LP and hits reignited Jett's career, but only for a short time.

ReduxReview:  This power ballad was an excellent choice for a follow-up. Glam rock power ballads were hot at the time and Jett's song fit right in. The timing and the tune were both right and it resulted in a solid hit for her. The pairing of Jett with Desmond was inspired. The three tracks they worked on together for the album were easily the best. They were big, meaty, and just cascaded out of your speakers. Jett would collaborate again with Child for her 1991 album Notorious, but by that time grunge was taking over and hard rock artists like Jett were struggling to get anything on the radio. It's a shame they only did the three tracks for Up Your Alley. Had they done a few more songs or even a full album, it could have been and even bigger hit. Still, it did well enough to go platinum and to spawn this growling power ballad.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) After Up Your Alley, Jett chose to take a bit of a detour. Her next LP, 1990's The Hit List, was an album of cover songs. It would also be the first since her 1980 debut album to be solely credited solely to Joan Jett despite her Blackhearts band performing on the tracks. The LP's first single was "Dirty Deeds," a cover of AC/DC's 1976 track "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap." The tune was a middling hit reaching #23 Rock/#36 Pop. The album would reach #36, but fail to reach the gold level sales mark. Joan and her band would then issue out a couple more albums in the 90s, but neither charted. Despite the lack of chart success, Jett remained a popular touring act and would also write/produce for other artists. In 2014, Jett fronted the two remaining members of Nirvana for a performance of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." The collaboration was for Nirvana's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The following year, Jett and the Blackhearts would become members.  2) In 1996, Jett did an unusual cover. She recorded "Love Is All Around," a song written and performed by Sonny Curtis. Most folks know the song as the theme to the hit 70s sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Curtis's first crack at the song would be used in the show's first season and had questioning lyrics that began "how will you make it on your own" and ending with "you might just make it on our own." But then starting with the second season, Curtis rewrote the lyrics putting a more confident spin on them. The tune then began with the famous line "who can turn the world on with her smile" and ended with "you're gonna make it after all." Curtis would record the song in 1970 with a different arrangement and release it as a single, but it didn't chart. In 1980, he would include a new version of the song on an album title Love Is All Around. The song had more of a country feel and it would be released as a single and get to #29. While Curtis would put a few solo songs on the charts, none would do as well as some of the other songs he wrote for other artists including Leo Sayer's "More Than I Can Say (#2, 1980), The Everly Brothers' "Walk Right Back" (#7, 1961), and Bobby Fuller's "I Fought the Law" (#9, 1966). Jett's take on "Love Is All Around" wasn't the first rock version of the tune. In 1985, punk band Hüsker Dü recorded the tune and put it on the b-side to their single "Makes No Sense At All." The band was from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, which was the setting for The Mary Tyler Moore Show. They would film a video for the track that included sites seen in the TV show's opening.


Monday, December 13, 2021

"Rock & Roll Strategy" by 38 Special

Song#:  3700
Date:  10/29/1988
Debut:  80
Peak:  67
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Following a 1987 compilation album titled Flashback: The Best of 38 Special, a major change took place in the band. Founding member, lead singer, and songwriting collaborator Don Barnes decided to leave the band. Citing burnout as the main factor, Barnes took off and was replaced by Max Carl. Another original member, drummer Steve Brookins also departed. With the shift in personnel done, the band went into the studio with producer Rodney Mills to record their eighth studio album Rock & Roll Strategy. In addition to the personnel changes, the band also chose to update their name from 38 Special to the spelled-out Thirty Eight Special (it would be their one and only album under that moniker). The title track would be issued out as the lead single and it would do well at Rock reaching #5. However, the tune couldn't get a leg up with pop listeners and it stalled in the bottom third of the Pop chart. It wasn't a great way to kick of the LP, but a second single would help turn things around.

ReduxReview:  The days of the band's guitar-driven Southern-style rock sound had been waning over the past few years, but Rock & Roll Strategy pretty much brought it to a halt. Synths and slick production along with bland pop/rock tunes nearly buried the memories of hits like "Caught Up in You." This lead single wanted to try and recapture the feel of the old days, but it didn't get close. It was unmemorable and a bit faceless. Thirty Eight Special sounded like a band struggling to find their way in the late 80s and they nearly limped away bruised and battered, but they would have one more sunset hit to go out on with their next single.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  When Barnes decided to leave 38 Special due to burnout, the band's label, A&M, wasn't quite ready to let him go. They thought Barnes had the ability to be a solo artist and offered him a deal to stay with the label and work on an album of his own. Barnes could select who he wanted to work with and (reasonably) take his time without the hassle and pressure of being in a band or having to be on tour. Barnes took the label up on their offer and began to work on a solo debut titled Ride the Storm. For the majority of the album, Barnes worked with Mike and Jeff Porcaro of Toto along with songwriter/producer Martin Briley. The LP was finished in '89 and handed in to the label. Unfortunately, around the same time A&M Records was purchased by Polygram and along with that major change came the review of artists and product on A&M. In the upheaval, Barnes' album was shelved and it seems that Barnes was also left off the new label's roster. Barnes would eventually return to 38 Special in 1992 and has remained with them since. As of this posting he is actually the only original member left in the band. Barnes' solo album would finally see the light of day in 2017.


Sunday, December 12, 2021

"Handle with Care" by The Traveling Wilburys

Song#:  3699
Date:  10/29/1988
Debut:  83
Peak:  45
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Folk-Rock

Pop Bits:  This supergroup was made up of five legendary musicians; George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Roy Orbison. Although the formation of the band came about from a spontaneous moment, the roots of it came about when Lynne was producing Harrison's '87 #8 platinum album Cloud Nine and Harrison suggested that he and Lynne start a band and both making suggestions of who they would include. After Cloud Nine was finished, Harrison's label asked for another new song that they could use as the b-side to the planned single "This Is Love." While dining with Lynne and Orbison (Lynne was producing a few tracks Orbison's '89 LP Mystery Girl), Harrison asked if Lynne would help with recording a tune. Lynne said he could the next day if they could find a studio and Orbison added that he wanted to go along to watch. Dylan's home studio was available, so the trio went over and hooked up with Dylan. Lynne had also been working with Tom Petty at the time, so Petty came by as well. It didn't take long for all five stars to start collaborating on a song that Harrison had already sketched out. The resulting song "Handle with Care" was finished and handed over to Harrison's label. After hearing the tune, the label heads thought it was way too good to be relegated to the back of a single and wanted to do something else with it. They pitched the idea of doing a full album to Harrison who bit and went off to see if the other four would be interested. In the spring of '88, the quintet assembled and collaborated on a project that would be titled The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1. When completed, the song that brought them together, "Handle with Care," was selected as the first single. It would do well at Rock reaching #2. The tune would cross over to Pop, but it stalled short of the Top 40. Still, the collaboration of the five music stars was irresistible to many and the album would become an immediate hit reaching #3. It would also go on to with the Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

ReduxReview:  This is one of those songs that I thought for sure was at minimum at Top 20 hit. I just remember the tune being a lot bigger than a minor #45 entry. Maybe I thought that because I heard it a lot on rock radio at the time. When the song first came out, I liked it but didn't really give it a lot of attention. Its retro folk-rock sound wasn't in my wheelhouse then so I kind of listened in an appreciative way and moved on. These days I love the tune along with the album. The five superstars really did collaborate and make something special. You can hear the guys having a ball and not taking anything too seriously. Although Lynne's production gives it a high sheen polish, it all still feels organic with the guys writing and playing as if they were from a different era. Of course "Handle with Care" is a standout with my favorite part being when Orbison comes in. It peaked at #45, but it really should have been a Top 10'er.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  When trying to come up with a name for the band, Harrison and Lynne decided to adopt a term they had been using in the studio. Referring to problems from some studio equipment, they began to say "we'll bury 'em in the mix." Using the phrase often, they just decided to call the issues "wilburys." From there, Harrison came up with The Trembling Wilburys, but the Lynne adjusted it to The Traveling Wilburys. Following that family-styled name, the band then went on to create a sort of fake story/persona in which the Wilburys were half-brothers. Each person then got a name such as George Harrison becoming Nelson Wilbury. Basically, the superstars hit behind the names, even though it was obvious who they were, with the credits in the album under their new pseudonyms. All being fans of Monty Python, they even got Michael Palin to write a fictional story about the Wilbury brothers.