Thursday, December 23, 2021

"You Make Me Work" by Cameo

Song#:  3710
Date:  11/05/1988
Debut:  89
Peak:  85
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B, Electro-Funk

Pop Bits:  Cameo had been highly successful in the R&B market since the late 70s. Between 1979 and 1985, the band amassed seven gold selling albums that spawned six R&B Top 10 hits. Yet during that time period, the only song of theirs to reach the Pop chart was the #47 "She's Strange." Finally, they had a major mainstream breakthrough with "Word Up," the first single from their '86 album of the same name. It would get to #6 Pop/#1 R&B/#1 Dance while the album would be a #8 Pop/#1 R&B platinum seller. That success set the band up well for their next album, Machismo. Looking to replicate or even best the results of their previous LP, they kicked things off with this lead single. The song would do well at R&B reaching #4, but it failed to retain the mainstream audience gained from their previous album and stalled low on the Pop chart. It would also get to a minor #45 at Dance. With that result, the LP would scrape the R&B Top 10 at #10 while only reaching #56 Pop. A second single, "Skin I'm In," would get to #5 R&B, but fail to reach the Pop chart. The pair of R&B Top 10s would help the album go gold, but it was a definite decline from their previous platinum success.

ReduxReview:  The problem here is that lead singer/songwriter Larry Blackmon just basically dished out "Word Up, Pt. 2." The opening with its beat and horn line immediately recalled "Word Up" and it didn't help that Blackmon's vocal delivery was nearly the same. It was as if Blackmon thought - hey, it worked once, why not try it again? Unfortunately, it didn't really work out the second time around. A more mainstream audience wasn't looking for a "Word Up" copy and the single was nearly a non-starter at Pop. Whether it was pressure from the label or from having a huge hit, Blackmon didn't really bring his A-game to Machismo. In fact, the third single "Pretty Girls" (#52 R&B) was another "Word Up" close with a nearly identical verse, which certainly didn't help its prospects. The LP had a couple of good tunes, but none were going to keep Cameo in the Pop limelight.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  After Machismo, the band's fortunes quickly dwindled. They would earn one last R&B Top 10 with the 1990 #5 "I Want It Now" with their next three albums missing the R&B Top 10 and failing to go gold. They would then go on hiatus for a few years before returning with a new album in 2000. A little exposure came their way in 2001 when a sample of their 1986 hit "Candy" was used for the Mariah Carey song "Loverboy." In addition to the sample, Cameo would also provide some backing vocals on the track. It would be released as the first single from Carey's soundtrack to her movie Glitter. The tune would make it to #2 Pop/#1 R&B. While their appearance on the track gave the band a little boost, they didn't capitalize on it and found themselves back on hiatus. Later in 2016, they would spend a year performing in Vegas and have done tours since then.


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

"All This Time" by Tiffany

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3709
Date:  11/05/1988
Debut:  90
Peak:  6
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Having a multi-platinum #1 debut album along with a pair of #1 hits could certainly be a lot for an artist to handle. Instant success along with all the publicity and fame can be a lot to take in for anyone, but for a teenager like Tiffany, it was even more difficult since she was not quite an of-age adult and had others in charge of her career. Between her manager/producer George Tobin and her own mother, Tiffany had plenty of behind-the-scenes issues that perhaps negated some of her success. Despite those problems, Tiffany had to soldier on and she got back into the studio with Tobin to work on a second album. Titled Hold an Old Friend's Hand, the LP would get kicked off with this first single. The mid-tempo ballad got off to a bit of a slow start, but eventually it would do well enough to become her fourth Pop Top 10 single. It also reached #10 AC.  While it wasn't a huge hit, it was enough to draw fans to the album and it would reach #17 and quickly go platinum. Unfortunately, this single would prove to be her last to reach the Pop Top 10.

ReduxReview:  I had totally forgotten about this song. I actually didn't even remember that it made the Top 10. I don't think I've heard this song since way back when it was on the chart. It kind of hit and then disappeared. Hearing it now, it's not a bad little tune. It was an age appropriate ballad that fit in with Tiffany's bubblepop sound. The album also tried to move Tiffany in a slightly more mature direction and in some ways it succeeded. Where it failed was that it didn't contain any surefire hits. Producer Tobin just didn't secure the right tracks to keep Tiffany going on the charts. After the success of her debut LP, it seems like he'd have access to a pool of better songs and songwriters, but perhaps that wasn't the case. What we were left with was this lone Top 10 from the album that was quickly forgotten.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The last track on Hold and Old Friend's Hand was a bit odd. Titled "Overture," it was an instrumental guitar tune that was made of melodies from songs on the album. It was performed by Grant Geissman. The jazz guitarist had been a member of Chuck Mangione's band in the late 70s and it is his guitar solo that is heard on Mangione's 1978 #4 instrumental hit "Feels So Good."  Geissman worked with other jazz artists while also maintaining his own solo career. He also did session work and one of those jobs was to perform "Overture" for Tiffany's album. There were couple of things that made the track odd (besides being titled "Overture" yet appearing at the end of the album). First, it was an acoustic instrumental appearing on a bubblegum pop album. It just didn't fit. Second, and perhaps most importantly, Tiffany had nothing to do with the tune. It seems like producer Tobin thought the LP needed an extra short track of some kind to close the album and got the instrumental assembled and recorded.


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

"When the Children Cry" by White Lion

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3708
Date:  11/05/1988
Debut:  92
Peak:  3
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  This NYC-based band's second album, Pride, would reach #11 and go platinum thanks to its breakthrough lead single, the #8 "Wait." A second single, "Tell Me," didn't do much to further promote the LP when it stopped at #58. However, things would turn around in a big way with this third single. The power ballad got off to a slow start, but it kept gaining in popularity and eventually found its way to #3 on the Pop chart (#7 Rock). The hit sparked sales of the album and by May of '89 it would reach the double-platinum mark. A fourth single, "All You Need Is Rock 'N' Roll," would be released, but it would fail to reach the charts.

ReduxReview:  This sentimental and somewhat political track was different from the typical power ballad fare pushed out by glam bands. Lead singer and co-writer Mike Tramp had something to say and it all came out in this song. Even though the lyrics were a bit on the treacly side, it was all quite effective with the finger picking guitar, the quietly dramatic arrangement, and Tramp's emotive vocal. It took a little while, but it caught on and became a hit and a big lighter-waving moment at their concerts. 

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  White Lion's Pride album was produced by Michael Wagener. The German producer/engineer began his career behind the board in the early 70s. When the 80s arrived, his career began to take off in a bigger way after he produced the debut album by Dokken. He then worked with other hard rock/metal band including Great White, Skid Row, Stryper, Warrant, and of course White Lion. He would also produce two albums by the Finnish hard rock/metal band Lordi. Lordi was headed up by lead singer/songwriter Mr Lordi (Tomi Petteri Putaansuu). The band first began to form around 1992 and not long after, Mr Lordi got the idea to have all members of the group perform as monsters. They would don specially made masks and costumes mainly designed by Mr Lordi and would incorporate horror elements and effects in their shows. The 90s were tough for Lordi as they weren't finding their way to bigger success and an album they recorded never saw the light of day due to label issues. They finally got a break in 2002 when they were signed to BMG. Their first single, "Would You Love a Monsterman?," would hit #1 in Finland with their debut album Get Heavy reaching #3. The band was finally off and running. Then in 2006, something unusual happened that garnered the band more worldwide exposure. They entered their song "Hard Rock Hallelujah" into the Eurovision Song Contest and it ended up winning. The win was the first for an act from Finland and the first hard rock/metal song to win. The track was featured on their third album The Arockalypse, which would top the Finnish chart. It would also go Top 10 in several other countries and would even reach #17 on the US Heatseekers chart. Since Lordi's 2006 Eurovision win, no other band or rock act would win the contest until 2021 when German rock band MÃ¥neskin took home the trophy with their song "Zitti e buoni."


Monday, December 20, 2021

"Put a Little Love in Your Heart" by Annie Lennox & Al Green

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3707
Date:  11/05/1988
Debut:  96
Peak:  9
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Following the release of their 1987 album Savage, Eurythmics got the opportunity to provide a song for a movie soundtrack. A&M Records got the task of creating a soundtrack album for the '88 Bill Murray holiday comedy Scrooged. Of course they wanted to promote their own artists and among their stable was R&B/gospel singer Al Green. Green had recorded a pair of gospel albums for the label and his second one, '87's Soul Survivor, ended up doing fairly well reaching #1 Gospel/#25 R&B/#131 Pop. Perhaps looking to boost his career, A&M wanted to get Green on the soundtrack, but pair him with a more current, successful singer for a duet. Although she was on a different label, the idea of hiring Eurythmics' Annie Lennox was brought up. When the dust settled, Green and Lennox would do a cover version of "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" with Eurythmics' Dave Stewart producing. The finished song would then be issued out as a single a couple of weeks before the film hit theaters. The tune didn't click out of the box, but after the movie did fairly well and the song's associated MTV video became popular, it climbed the Pop chart and was able to crack the Top 10. It also got to #2 AC and #29 Dance. The hit helped the soundtrack get to #93. For Green, it was his first Pop Top 10 hit since 1974's #7 "Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)." Unfortunately, it didn't do enough to really spark Green's career. His next album in '89 which tried to mix gospel with more mainstream songs didn't quite pay off and he parted ways with A&M.

ReduxReview:  This fluffy cover tune joined together a pair of great voices and it came out just at the right time with the holiday season approaching. With an updated, modern arrangement and production by Dave Stewart, the tune was radio ready for the late 80s. Still, I was surprised this chestnut made the Pop Top 10. As much as I adored Annie Lennox and appreciated Al Green, the song came off as one of those "hey, this would be fun" things; a sort of lark or detour that would draw attention for a minute and perhaps become a hit. For example, the one-off Bowie/Jagger duet of "Dancing in the Streets." While this song is nowhere near as bad as that duet was, it still wasn't great or inspired. It was a quick ditty done for a film and it luckily paid off. These days it comes off as a nearly forgotten oddity in each artist's catalog.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally co-written and recorded by Jackie DeShannon. It would be issued out as a single and would get to #4 Pop in 1969. It would end up being DeShannon's biggest hit. Although many artists have covered the tune, the version by Lennox/Green would be the only other one to make the Pop chart. However, country singer Susan Raye would record a version in '69 that would get to #30 on the Country chart.  2) Lennox and Green had not met prior to the recording of the song. They also didn't meet during or even after. According to an Apple Music interview with Lennox, a track was produced of the song and agreements were made on which parts of the song Lennox and Green would sing. Lennox added her vocal to the track in the UK, then the track was sent to Green in the US for his vocal. The same technique was then applied to the song's associated video. Although it sort of appears as if the two singers are performing together, their video portions were also taped separately and stitched together. Without ever meeting, the pair ended up with a Top 10 hit. Apparently, Lennox didn't actually meet Al Green until years later.


Sunday, December 19, 2021

"I Believe in You" by Stryper

Song#:  3706
Date:  11/05/1988
Debut:  97
Peak:  88
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Contemporary Christian, Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's fourth album, In God We Trust, would end up being a #32 gold seller that reached #5 on the Christian Albums chart. It got a boost from MTV where the video for its first single "Always There for You" got some heavy airplay. Unfortunately, that didn't necessarily translate into a mainstream hit with the single only reaching #71 on the Pop chart. Hoping for a better result, this next single was released. It couldn't get a leg up and stalled even lower on the chart. Still, a gold record by a CCM glam rock band was quite the accomplishment even though it was a drop from the platinum status of their previous LP To Hell with the Devil.

ReduxReview:  With the pop/rock tune "Always There for You" stalling early, Stryper then sent out this power ballad to get them back in the Pop Top 40, but it didn't work out. This really isn't a bad song. I just think it couldn't compete with tougher power ballads coming from the likes of Poison and others. In fact, this one sounds like a leftover track from an early 80s Styx album. Michael Sweet's vocals were even reminiscent of ones by Styx's Dennis DeYoung. Overall it kind of sounded old-fashioned for the glam late 80s and it just didn't click with mainstream listeners.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  After In God We Trust, the band was having a hard time trying to navigate the treacherous waters between CCM and mainstream pop/rock. Their next effort, 1990's Against the Law, had them floating more away from CCM themes and even changing their looks and logo. The LP also had an usual first single with the band covering Earth, Wind & Fire's 1975 #1 hit "Shining Star." Needless to say, none of it worked. The single failed to make the Pop chart and the album stalled at #39 Pop and #25 Christian. The results and struggles within the band led to them splitting up in '93. Lead singer Michael Sweet would start a solo career and his 1994 self-titled debut LP would do well reaching #4 on the Christian chart. Of course, Stryper would later reunite and beginning in 2005 would release a series of albums that all save one made the Christian Top 10. All of them also reached the Pop Albums chart. Sweet would continue to maintain a solo career as well with a few of his LPs reaching the Christian Top 10 along with the Pop chart.