Saturday, March 12, 2022

"Give Me the Keys (And I'll Drive You Crazy)" by Huey Lewis & the News

Song#:  3775
Date:  01/21/1989
Debut:  66
Peak:  47
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's fifth album, Small World, was not matching the hit making success of their previous two efforts, which combined featured nine Top 10 hits. Although the LP's first single, "Perfect World," made it to #3, the title track second single stalled at #25. The news became worse when this third single was released. It became only their second song to miss the Pop Top 40 following 1982's "Workin' for a Livin'" (#41). It was also a minor entry at AC getting to #42. The single would end up being the last one released from the album. Despite the lack of hit singles, the album still became a #11 platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  This is one of the band's wink-wink, nudge-nudge tunes set to their standard groove and arrangement. In other words, kinda meh. I felt like I had heard this before, but done much better. It seemed like the band was running out of ideas (or time) as the tunes on Small World just didn't match the quality of the ones on their previous albums. A good chunk of artists who have a run of hit songs and albums eventually reaches a point where can't sustain the same level of popularity or material and for Lewis & Co. the cracks definitely started to show with Small World.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  After Small World, the band would switch labels and move over to EMI. In 1991, they would issue out their sixth album Hard at Play. The LP found the band returning to the blues-oriented pop/rock sound of their earlier albums. Its first single, "Couple Days Off," would become their last major hit reaching #11 Pop and #3 Rock. A second single, "It Hit Me Like a Hammer," would make it to #21 Pop/#10 AC. The LP would get to #27 and become their last to go gold. In 1994, they would release an album of R&B covers titled Four Chords & Several Years Ago. It would feature a pair of AC Top 10s and get to #55. After that, the band would only release a few albums, however they remained a top touring act. Unfortunately, that mainly came to an end in 2018 when Lewis was diagnosed with Ménière's disease, an inner ear condition that usually results in hearing loss (which, sadly, I think I'm about to be diagnosed with - ugh - I feel ya, Huey!). The decreased hearing made it too difficult for Lewis to sing and the band's touring and recording came to a halt. The band's potential last album, 2020's Weather, consisted of seven tracks they had recorded in 2018 prior to Lewis' diagnosis. It would reach #71 on the chart.


Friday, March 11, 2022

"You Got It" by Roy Orbison

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3774
Date:  01/21/1989
Debut:  85
Peak:  9
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  The 70s were a period of struggle for legendary hitmaker Roy Orbison. His albums failed to sell and it seemed that his career was on the verge of fading away. Things started to perk up a bit when Linda Ronstadt covered Orbison's 1963 #29 "Blue Bayou" and took it to #3. The hit brought Orbison's name back to light and it increased from there with other artists having hits with his classics (Don McLean's "Crying," #5, 1981, and Van Halen's "Oh, Pretty Woman," #12, 1982). Orbison would win a Grammy along the way for his duet with Emmylou Harris on "That Lovin' You Feelin' Again." A couple of soundtrack songs would follow including a Grammy-winning duet with k.d. lang on "Crying," followed by an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. With his career on a major upswing, Orbison was ready to record an album of new material. He got hooked up with ELO frontman Jeff Lynne who was coming off of working on George Harrision's hit LP Cloud Nine. It was at a session with Harrison for an additional b-side song that The Traveling Wilbury's were formed with Orbison, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan. The group would quickly do an album that ended up a #3 hit, which further boosted Orbison's star. Lynne and Orbison finally finished off the album Mystery Girl in November of '88. Unfortunately, while on a break from performing, Orbison unexpectedly died of a heart attack at his mother's home. Since the album was finished, the label (Virgin) decided to go ahead and release it. This single, written by Orbison, Lynne, and Petty, was issued out first. It would become a big hit reaching #1 AC, #2 Rock, #7 Country, and #9 Pop. It was Orbison's first Pop Top 10 since his 1964 #1 classic "Oh, Pretty Woman." In turn, the album would become his first solo effort to reach the Top 10 (#5) and go platinum. The song would also earn Orbison a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male. It was a bittersweet cap on the career of the legendary artist who had nine Top 10 hits to his name.

ReduxReview:  It would have been interesting to know how well this song would have done had Orbison not died. I want to believe it still would have gone Top 10. It certainly should have. The tune did a great job of taking Orbison's 60s sound and filtering it through 80s production and arrangement. Frankly, I think it would have been a huge hit in the 60s and the fact that it still sounded fresh and relevant in the 80s was a true testament to Orbison's talent and Lynne's lovingly crafted production. I think I love and appreciate this song even more now than I did when it first came out. The album was also excellent and I hope it drove younger listeners to dive into Orbison's catalog, which is chock full of great songs. Orbison's voice was absolutely one of a kind and he was a master at eking out every drop of emotion out of a lyric. Any youngsters out there who have their sights on a singing career? This is how you do it. Two words - study Orbison.


Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Mystery Girl not only featured Orbison's Traveling Wilbury cohorts Lynne and Petty, but also involved was U2's Bono. In the summer of '87, Bono wrote the basics of a song one morning after listening to the soundtrack to the film Blue Velvet, which featured Orbison's 1963 #7 hit "In Dreams." Later that evening, the band performed a show at London's Wembley Arena. After the show, they got a surprise visit from Orbison. Bono ended up playing his new song for Orbison who really liked it. With Orbison ready to record a new album, plans were made for Orbison to record the song with Bono producing. "She's a Mystery Girl" would be the second single from Orbison's album. While it would not make the Pop chart, it did get to #23 AC and #26 Rock.  2) Orbison's second wind career sadly hit its peak after his death. At one point, the Traveling Wilbury's album was at #3 while Orbison's solo LP was at #5. It was only the second time an artist posthumously had two albums in the Top 5 simultaneously. The first artist to do that was Elvis Presley.  3) In September of '87, Orbison filmed a TV special for HBO titled Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night. It featured the new inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member performing some of his most famous song backed by a slew of top artists including Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, and k.d. lang. The show was successful and the video release of it would go gold. Following Orbison's death, Virgin Records would collect many of the songs from the show together on an album and release it as A Black and White Night Live. The collection was critically well-received, but it would only reach #123 on the chart.


Thursday, March 10, 2022

"Tears Run Rings" by Marc Almond

Song#:  3773
Date:  01/21/1989
Debut:  89
Peak:  67
Weeks:  8
Genre: Synthpop, Europop

Pop Bits:  Almond was one half of the UK synthpop duo Soft Cell (with David Ball) who scored a major hit with their #8 remake of "Tainted Love." It would end up being the duo's only song to reach the US Pop chart making them a one-hit wonder. They did much better in their UK homeland where they earned five Top 10 hits. However, after their third album didn't perform as well as their first two, the duo decided to call it a day and went their own ways. Almond immediately began a solo career. Between '84 and '87, he would issue out three albums that did moderately well in the UK. Still looking for a bigger solo breakthrough, Almond signed with Parlophone Records for his fourth album The Stars We Are. Released in the fall of '88, the LP was a bit more commercial leaning that his previous efforts and its first single, "Tears Run Rings," would to fairly well reaching #26 in the UK. A second single faltered at #40, but a third single, "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart," would become a major hit reaching #2 (see below). That success led to the LP getting picked up by Capitol Records for US release. The label would also issue out "Tears Run Rings" as the first single. It would do well at Modern Rock (#8) and Dance (#9). The tune would cross over to the Pop chart, but it would only stick around for a couple of months. Oddly, the label would not push out a second single and that left the LP peaking at #144. It would be Almond's only solo single and album to reach the US charts.

ReduxReview:  This slice of new wave-ish Europop would most likely please anyone who was into Depeche Mode, New Order, or Tears for Fears at the time. The verses kept the song chugging along just fine, but it was the anxious chorus that punched through the groovy drone and elevated the track. It should have done better and even made the Top 40, but it just didn't have the whack-you-over-the-head hooks that US pop radio required. Still, it was a good track and the album was a nice piece of work as well. Almond had a diverse solo career and it is worth looking into. I'm particularly fond of his 2017 mostly covers album Shadows and Reflections.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Almond would continue to release albums over the years with varying results. He would return to the UK Top 10 in 1992 with the #4 hit "The Days of Pearly Spencer." He also experimented with different styles and sounds which included an album of songs by French star Jacques Brel, one of Russian romance/folks songs, and a song cycle about the supernatural history of London. While in Soft Cell, Almond also had a side project called Marc and the Mambas. That group recorded albums in '82 and '83 that made the UK chart. Soft Cell would reunite on occasion and released new albums in 2002 and 2022.  2) For his '88 album The Stars We Are, Almond recorded "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart." It was a remake of a song written by Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook, and first recorded in 1967 by the pair under the moniker David and Jonathan. It was not issued out as a single. Later that same year, the tune was picked up and recorded by US star Gene Pitney. His version would be issued out as a single and in the UK it became a #5 hit. In the US the song would fail to chart. Almond recorded the song as a solo effort for his album and it was initially scheduled to be the LP's third single. That version found its way to Gene Pitney who like it enough to contact Almond to see if he wanted to re-record it as a duet. Almond jumped at the chance and the duet version quickly came together and got pushed out as a single. It would become a big hit in the UK reaching #2.


Wednesday, March 9, 2022

"Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)" by Enya

Song#:  3772
Date:  01/21/1989
Debut:  93
Peak:  24
Weeks:  17
Genre:  New Age, Celtic

Pop Bits:  Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin, aka Enya Patricia Brennan (the English translation eventually shortened to just Enya), was certainly an unlikely pop star. Born in Ireland as one of nine kids, music ran in her family. She would study piano and eventually learn to compose music. In the 70s, three of her siblings along with twin uncles formed the Celtic band Clannad. By 1979, the band had experienced some success and had recorded three albums. Wanting to expand their sound, they brought in Enya to play keyboards. After a couple of albums and tours, tensions arose with the band's management, Nicky and Roma Ryan. After a meeting, the Ryans were ousted and along with them went Enya who felt that she couldn't expand her creativity with the band. The Ryans then worked on making Enya a solo artist with Nicky as manager/producer and Roma supplying lyrics. Over a couple of years, Enya would work on recording her own music that utilized a vocal layering technique that turned her voice into a choir. In 1984, a demo tape secured her a job composing music for the film The Frog Prince. From there she would then provide a score for the BBC documentary The Celts. A recording contract came her way and her 1987 self-titled debut album, which consisted of selections from her Celts score, was released. It did well in a few countries including Ireland where it reached #8. She then signed with Warner UK (Geffen in the US) for her second album Watermark. The new age-leaning LP was expected to do fairly well with a certain audience, but there seemed to be little thought towards mainstream success. Even the exec who signed Enya somewhat jokingly asked her a few times for a single. Eventually, Enya gave him the last song written for the album, "Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)." The song was pushed out in the fall of '88 and it suddenly blew up. It would reach #1 in Ireland and the UK while hitting the Top 10 in other European countries. The song was then release in the US and it began to catch on as well. It would reach #6 Modern Rock and #7 AC while making the Pop Top 30. By June, the album would peak at #24 and go gold. Eventually, it would sell over 4 million copies. "Orinoco Flow" would also earn Enya two Grammy nominations. The Irish singer/songwriter who had no intentions on becoming a music star suddenly found herself one.

ReduxReview:  Oh the phenomenon that was (and still is) Enya. I'm not exactly sure why, but I bought Watermark right after it was released without having heard a note of it. I'm guessing I must have read about her and knew that her song with an odd title was an unexpected hit in the UK. Whatever it was, I got the CD and it immediately intrigued me. The beautiful opening title track led to the pulsing, eerie "Cursum Perficio." Then later on came the left field hit "Orinoco Flow." I loved the tune but was surprised it was such a big hit in Europe. I didn't think it would get anywhere in the US, but the odd tune did surprisingly well and it seems folks wanted more as the album sold. Her sound and compositions were fascinating. I remember I'd have Watermark on sometimes when people came to the house and it never failed that they asked about it (and eventually went to get their own copy). She was captivating. Odds were that she'd become a sort of flash in the pan, but then Shepherd's Moon came out and I think it was even better than Watermark. Unfortunately, by the time her third LP came out, I was a bit tired of the Enya sound and had moved on to other artists. Yet I'm still a big fan of the two albums and listen to them on occasion. "Orinoco Flow" still remains a fave and gets included in some of my playlists. It's a great throwback that will still catch people by surprise when it comes on.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The massive success of Watermark was certainly unexpected and not typical for a new age or Celtic artist in such a mainstream way. When that happens, typically the artist's career cools quickly as folks move on to other new artists and sounds. However, that didn't happen with Enya. Her next LP, 1991's Shepherd's Moon, would also be a huge hit. In the US it would reach #17 and also sell over 4 million copies. It would also win the Grammy for Best New Age Album. Her 1995 LP The Memory of Trees would be her first to crack the Pop Top 10 (#9). It would earn Enya her second Grammy as well. Her fourth LP, 2000's A Day Without Rain would become her most successful. Boosted by the #1 AC/#10 Pop hit "Only Time," the album would reach #2 and sell over 7 million copies. Another Grammy would follow. Since then, Enya would release three more albums that each made the Top 10 and she would secure one more Grammy win. She would also be nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song for "May It Be," which was featured in 2001's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings. Enya remains the best selling solo artist in Ireland. Overall, she is the second best selling music artist in Ireland behind U2.


Tuesday, March 8, 2022

"Across the Miles" by Survivor

Song#:  3771
Date:  01/21/1989
Debut:  94
Peak:  74
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Soft Rock, Pop

Pop Bits:  The band's seventh album, Too Hot to Sleep, was not meeting expectations. Its first single, "Didn't Know It Was Love," faltered and could only reach #61 on the Pop chart. That result put the LP in trouble and the band needed a better performing single to help sales. This next track was selected for release, but it couldn't get the job done. Although it would do fairly well at AC getting to #16, the tune would stall near the bottom quarter of the Pop chart. In turn, the album would become a blip on the chart peaking at a very minor #187. This would be the band's final single to reach the charts.

ReduxReview:  This was a nice sentimental ballad from the band, but it wasn't something that was going to race up into the Top 40. It also didn't sound like a Survivor song. They had mostly made a name for themselves with energetic pop/rock tunes and this AC-leaning track seemed a bit out of place for them. However, around this same time other contemporaries of theirs like 38 Special were beginning to sling out pop ballads with chart potential to remain relevant. Sometimes that worked, sometimes it didn't. In Survivor's case, it didn't. The song fumbled at Pop and brought an end to the band's charting era.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  After the disappointing results of Too Hot to Sleep, Survivor decided to go on hiatus. The break gave lead singer Jimi Jamison the opportunity to record a solo album. In 1991, he would release When Love Comes Down. Two singles would be released from the album, but neither would chart. That caused the LP to disappear quickly. He then formed a new band and went out on tour as Jimi Jamison's Survivor. Two other members of Survivor, Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan, would also later tour under the Survivor moniker and for a period of time original lead singer Dave Bicker would return to the fold. Lawsuits over the name ensued and through the years various lineups of the band would tour. At one point, Jamison would also find himself back as lead singer of the band. Over the years Survivor would only release one other album, 2006's Reach. At that point in time, Sullivan and Jamison were the only members from the heydays of the band that were participating. The LP did not chart.


Monday, March 7, 2022

"The Last Mile" by Cinderella

Song#:  3770
Date:  01/21/1989
Debut:  96
Peak:  36
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  Cinderella got their biggest hit on the Pop chart with the #12 power ballad "Don't Know What You've Got (Till It's Gone)." The song served as the second single to their second album Long Cold Winter. The tune was also successful on the Rock chart where it became their first Top 10 (#10). For a follow up, this next track was selected for release. It didn't do as well, but was able to crack the Pop Top 40 and get to #18 at Rock. By this point in time the album had already gone double-platinum.

ReduxReview:  Although the band had another power ballad in their pocket as a potential single, they couldn't really follow up one with another. They needed a good rocker out next and this track filled the bill pretty well. It may not have been as immediately hooky as some other glam rockers on the chart, but it definitely had Top 40 potential and indeed it hit that mark. With that moderate success out of the way, the band could then issue out another power ballad that would give some legs to the album.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Drummer Fred Coury, didn't play on the band's first album, 1986's Night Songs. He had joined the band just after the album was recorded. Following the tour for the album, the band was set to go into the studio to record their second LP Long Cold Winter. Although Coury had been performing well on the tour, when it came to the recording studio, producer Andy Johns didn't think he was quite ready to knock things out in the sessions so a couple of other more experienced drummers were hired for the job. The person who would perform on the majority of the tracks was drummer Cozy Powell. He would play on nine of the LP's ten tracks. Powell had vast experience since he had been in such bands as The Jeff Beck Group, Rainbow, Whitesnake, and Emerson, Lake & Powell. He was also a solo artist and had his own band, Cozy Powell's Hammer. Along with all that, Powell was also a drummer for hire and he went in to lend a hand to Cinderella. By the time Cinderella was ready to record their third LP, Coury and gained enough experience to handle the recording sessions.