Saturday, April 9, 2022

"I Wanna Be the One" by Stevie B

Song#:  3802
Date:  02/18/1989
Debut:  96
Peak:  32
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Freestyle

Pop Bits:  This freestyle artist from Florida was able to grab some attention with his 1988 debut album Party Your Body. It reached #78 thanks in part to the #5 Dance/#43 Pop hit "Spring Love (Come Back to Me)." Thanks to Stevie B's growing popularity over the course of his next two albums, Party Your Body would end up being certified gold over two years after it was first released. But before that, Stevie B had to issue out a follow up and his second LP In My Eyes would be ready early in '89. This first single was issued out and it would become his first to crack the Pop Top 40 while making it to #21 Dance. While it wasn't a huge breakthrough, it helped to maintain and slightly expand his fan base.

ReduxReview:  Since it worked out well the first time around, Stevie B's label, LMR, left him to do most all the work for his second album. With a bit more experience and perhaps a few more bucks behind him, his new album sounded better. The songs were in the same vein as the ones on his debut, but seemed a little more focused and consistent. It paid off with this first single reaching the Pop Top 40, which signaled he was moving in the right direction. This was a good freestyle track from Stevie B and he nearly hit the mark, but it still wasn't quite as catchy or memorable as other freestyle hits of the day.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In 1988, a chance meeting with Stevie B helped another artist gain a bit of fame. Canadian rapper Wes Williams had been working on a music career since his early teens. He initially went by the name Melody MC and got some airtime on a local Toronto radio station. By 1988, he changed his name to Maestro Fresh Wes and had a couple of demos under his belt that helped him get a performing spot on the music TV show Electric Circus. It went well and he was invited back for a second appearance. Wes nearly said no, but ended up on the show performing "Let Your Backbone Slide." It was a good decision as another performer who was booked for the show, Stevie B, happened to catch Wes' song. Stevie B liked it enough to have his label LMR check out the rapper. LMR signed Wes and in '89 he would release his debut album Symphony in Effect. "Let Your Backbone Slide" would be the first single and it would reach #10 in Canada. It would be the first hip hop song by a Canadian artist to become a gold seller. The album would reach #4 and become the first platinum seller by a Canadian hip hop artist. "Let Your Backbone Slide" would get to #14 on the US Rap chart. Wes' follow ups did successively less well, but his breakthrough album and single would continue to be favorites in Canada. He later turned to acting and would receive a Gemini nomination (the Canadian equivalent of the Emmy) for Best Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Role for his appearance in the Canadian series The Line.


Friday, April 8, 2022

"The Look" by Roxette

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3801
Date:  02/11/1989
Debut:  50
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  This Swedish duo of Per Gessel and Marie Fredriksson were having some success individually before joining forces as Roxette. In the early 80s, Gessel scored four #1 albums in Sweden with his band Gyllene Tider along with a Top 10 solo album. Fredriksson had a Top 20 album and single to her name. During this time, the pair knew each other and that led to Fredriksson doing some background vocals for Gyllene Tider. The band's run of #1 albums for EMI Records caught the attention of US sister label Capitol. That potential to expand into a broader worldwide market prompted the band to record their first English language album, The Heartland CafĂ© (#4 Sweden). Capitol would grab six of the LP's tracks to create an EP for US release. However, they requested the band change their name and they came up with Roxette. The EP and singles in the US failed to get any attention, so Gessel put the band on hiatus and recorded a solo album. Meanwhile, Fredriksson recorded a solo album that got to #6. Both artists were on EMI and an exec there suggested they work together. The duo decided to give it a shot. Retaining the Roxette name, they released the one-off single, "Neverending Love." It became a #3 hit in Sweden. The success led to the duo's first album, 1986's Pearls of Passion, which made it to #2. Fredriksson then recorded another solo album in '87 that got to #1. In '88, the pair worked on a second Roxette album titled Look Sharp! It was an instant success in Sweden getting to #1 thanks to a pair of Top 3 hits. EMI had no intentions of pushing Roxette elsewhere, but things changed when an American exchange student who was in Sweden bought The Look and took it back home to Minneapolis. He handed it over to a local radio station and they began to play "The Look." Listener response was extremely positive and the song started to spread. News of the song's success made it back to EMI who then decided to issue out the single in the US and other countries. The song caught on quickly and it ended up topping the US Pop chart (#47 Dance). It would become a gold seller. The hit then prompted EMI to issue out the album as well.

ReduxReview:  With its big snare sound and jangly guitar lick, this song was instantly indelible before the vocals even kicked in. The production was immaculate and there were hooks all over the place. There are even la la's and na na's incorporated. What more could you want from a pop song? Gessel certainly had the talent to write catchy, concise pop tunes that had wide appeal and this first US hit from the duo showed off his skills.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) With "The Look" hitting #1, Roxette became the third Swedish act to reach the top of the Pop chart. Blue Swede did it first in 1974 with "Hooked on a Feeling." Then in 1976 ABBA became the second with "Dancing Queen." Ace of Base would follow Roxette in 1993 with "The Sign." In the years following, there was a Swedish invasion of sorts. While some artists would break through, it was the songwriters and producers from Sweden that were scoring hits left and right. Max Martin would be one of the most prominent songwriters/producers from Sweden. Between 1998 and 2021, he had written or co-written 25 song that reached #1 on the US Pop chart. He has worked with Britney Spears, P!nk, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, and The Weeknd just to name a few.  2)  The band name Gyllene Tider translates as "Golden Times." While that name probably rolled off the tongue well in Sweden, Capitol Records didn't think it would do the same in the US and requested the band get a new name for the market. They settled on Roxette. The name came from a somewhat obscure song from an English pub rock band of the 70s named Dr. Feelgood. The band's blues-rock/R&B sound made them popular on the pub circuit and that led to a contract with United Artists. The first single from their 1975 debut album Down By the Jetty was "Roxette." Both the single and album failed to chart. The band's second album did better, but it was their live third album Stupidity that proved to be their breakthrough. It would reach #1 in the UK. A live version of "Roxette" was released as a single and it got to #53. A follow-up album would reach #10 while they would score their biggest hit in 1979 with the #9 "Milk and Alcohol." The band's chart fortunes dwindles in the 80s, but they continued to successfully tour. The band would nearly stop in 1994 following the death of lead singer Lee Brilleaux. However, a new era of the band would start the following year.


Thursday, April 7, 2022

"Second Chance" by 38 Special

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3800
Date:  02/11/1989
Debut:  78
Peak:  6
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's eighth album, Rock & Roll Strategy, was having difficulty matching the results of their previous four albums, which went either platinum or gold. The title track was able to get to #5 at Rock, but it stalled at a low #67 at Pop. They needed something to turn things around and ended up pushing out this ballad as the next single. It paid off quite well with the song reaching #2 Rock while becoming the band's second and biggest Pop Top 10 hit. It would also be their one and only song to make the AC chart where it went all the way to #1. It would end up being the #1 AC song for the year. While the hit did give the album a little boost, it still could only reach #61 and fall short of going gold. It was the band's worst performing LP since their second effort in 1978.

ReduxReview:  It's so weird that I have to tag a 38 Special song as soft rock. Like several bands from the 70s and early 80s who sold millions of albums via stadium rock hits (a la Foreigner and Journey), 38 Special slowed their roll a bit later in their career and began recording mainstream pop ballads. It would pay off in a hit, but at a bit of a cost. The associated albums wouldn't do as well as earlier classics and long time fans would sometimes signal disapproval with the band's direction. 38 Special certainly felt this. Despite this song being their biggest hit, the album didn't meet expectations and that left them off of the roster of their long-time label A&M. It is tough to adapt to what is popular at the time and keep going, so I think these band's did what they could to keep an audience. This song is well-written and performed and it is an easy tune to hear and enjoy. The part I have a hard time with is that it is 38 Special. Even though it was kind of a new era for the band with new leader Max Carl, it just didn't fit their sound. It worked out chart-wise, but in the long run I think if you ask folks to name a 38 Special song, they will say "Hold on Loosely" or "Caught Up in You." This one would probably elicit a response like "oh, they did that?"

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This beginnings of this song date back to 1983 when band members Jeff Carlisi and Cal Curtis wrote and recorded a demo titled "I Never Wanted Anyone Else But You." They thought it might be a good song for 38 Special, but the band's lead singer at the time, Don Barnes, nixed it saying that it just didn't feel or sound like a 38 Special song. Although it was probably disappointing for Carlisi and Curtis not to get the song recorded, in the end it was a good thing. After Barnes left the band in '87, Max Carl was hired in as the new lead singer/songwriter. Once Carl was on board, Carlisi and Curtis revived their old tune and played it for Carl. While discussing the lyrics and the guy portrayed in the song, Carl just happened to say "yeah, maybe the guy needs a second chance." That off the cuff comment spurred Carl's creativity and he ended up writing a new set of lyrics to the tune. The band got it recorded and it ended up being their biggest hit.


Wednesday, April 6, 2022

"Can You Stand the Rain" by New Edition

Song#:  3799
Date:  02/11/1989
Debut:  82
Peak:  44
Weeks:  13
Genre: R&B

Pop Bits:  The band's fifth album, Heart Break, would get off to a great start when the single "If It Isn't Love" became their second Pop Top 10 reaching #7 (#2 R&B/#20 Dance). Unfortunately, the LP's second single "You're Not My Kind of Girl" stumbled at Pop and only got to #95 despite getting to #3 R&B. They would rebound a bit with this third single, which became their fifth #1 at R&B. That action helped the song move up the Pop chart, but it would stop just shy of the Top 40. By this point in time, the album had already reached platinum status (#3 R&B/#12 Pop). Two more singles would be released from the LP. Although they would not reach the Pop chart, they would do well at R&B with "Crucial" getting to #4 (#24 Dance) and "N.E. Heart Break" hitting #13.

ReduxReview:  This Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis quiet storm slow jam was a good fit for New Edition at the time. It gave them something a little more mature to chew on and helped to separate them from their earlier bubblegum pop/R&B sound. What is so odd is that about halfway through listening to the song, it actually started to rain where I'm at! How appropriate. I would never be a big fan of New Edition, but this was one song that I enjoyed. It should have done better at Pop, but I think because the second single tanked so bad (#95 Pop), they lost momentum and this song didn't get its due. At least it got to #1 at R&B.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  After everything with Heart Break was wrapped up, the band decided to take a break and work on other projects that had an ear towards new jack swing. Ralph Tresvant would record a 1990 solo album. it would be a #1 R&B/#17 Pop platinum seller thanks in part to the #1 R&B/#4 Pop hit "Sensitivity." He would follow that up with two more R&B Top 10s. Also in 1990, Johnny Gill would release a self-titled solo LP. It would pretty much replicate Tresvant's results getting to #1 R&B/#17 Pop. It featured a pair of Pop Top 10s both of which hit #1 R&B, "Rub You the Right Way" and "My, My, My." However, the most successful of the New Edition side projects during their hiatus was when Ricky Bell, Michael Bivens, and Ronnie DeVoe for the trio Bell Biv DeVoe. Their 1990 album Poison would reach #1 R&B and #5 Pop. It would end up being a quad-platinum album thanks to five R&B Top10s including two #1s. Two of those hits, "Poison" and "Do Me!," would each get to #3 Pop with "Poison" becoming a platinum single. All three acts would release less successful follow ups with the ones by Gill and Bell Biv DeVoe going gold. By 1996, New Edition, including former member Bobby Brown, would reconvene for the album Home Again. It would be highly successful reaching #1 R&B/#1 Pop and going double-platinum. It featured two gold selling singles including the #1 R&B/#3 Pop "Hit Me Off." Once again, after the album the group would go back on hiatus. All but Brown would then reunite for the 2004 album One Love (#4 R&B/#12 Pop, gold). Brown would then rejoin the group in 2006. While they haven't recorded an album to-date since that time, they continued to tour and perform over the years.


Tuesday, April 5, 2022

"End of the Line" by The Traveling Wilburys

Song#:  3798
Date:  02/11/1989
Debut:  83
Peak:  63
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Folk-Rock

Pop Bits:  The first album by this supergroup of George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne would become a #3 hit. The all-star line up along with the LP's first single, the #2 Rock/#45 Pop/#30 AC "Handle with Care," attracted record buyers who made it into a triple-platinum seller. To keep momentum going, this second single was issued out. It would be another #2 hit at Rock and get to #28 AC, but it had difficulty at Pop where it stalled short of the halfway point. Although this song would be the last one to reach the Pop chart by the band, their first album would spawn two more Rock Top 10s.

ReduxReview:  This was another catchy track by the band that also seemed appropriate at the time of release (see below). Since "Handle with Care" didn't do all that great a Pop, it was highly doubtful this tune would do any better and indeed it didn't get far. Both songs should have done a lot better on the Pop chart, but the band's retro folk-rock sound just wasn't what the kids were listening to at the time. However, rock radio gave the band a home and plenty fans of the individual members along with those who dug their nostalgic vibe made the album a well-deserved hit. Their second album wasn't quite as good for me. I definitely missed Orbison's presence, but it was still a fun listen.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Not long after "Handle with Care" was shaping up to be a hit, tragedy struck when Roy Oribison unexpectedly died of a heart attack on December 6, 1988.  Following his death, the band would get together to film a video for "End of the Line." Each member had a lead vocal part and when it came time for Orbison's verse, his guitar was featured in a rocking chair with a photo of the superstar nearby.  2) The remaining four Wilburys didn't toy with the idea of replacing Orbison. He was just too stellar of a presence and integral to the group. However, the quartet did go ahead with plans to make a second album. The oddly titled Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 3 would be released in the fall of 1990. While none of its singles would make the Pop chart, it did contain the #2 Rock hit "She's My Baby." The LP would top out at #11 and go gold. That would be it for the Wilburys. Each member went back to their respective careers and the two Wilbury albums would end up going out of print. However, in 2007 both albums along with bonus tracks and a DVD with a mini documentary and videos would be issued out as The Traveling Wilburys Collection. It would become a surprise #9 gold selling hit.


Monday, April 4, 2022

"A Shoulder to Cry On" by Tommy Page

Song#:  3797
Date:  02/11/1989
Debut:  91
Peak:  29
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  This singer/songwriter from New Jersey began to try and break into the music business during his teen years. He and his brother Bill formed a trio called Broken Promises with drummer Tiger Senif. They issued out a self-titled indie EP in 1985. It didn't result in any kind of break for the trio, so Tommy moved to New York, attended college, and worked at a NYC nightclub in hopes of maybe catching a break somehow. That actually happened when Page got the DJ to play one of his demos when a Sire Records exec happened to show up. The tune caught his ear and it got Page the break he was looking for. Around that time, Sire was assembling the soundtrack to the 60s-themed comedy Shag. Needing a title song, the label asked Page to come up with one. He wrote and recorded "The Shag" and it made the soundtrack, the film, and was even issued out as a single, although it failed to chart. Sire then gave Page the opportunity to release another single. The synthpop tune "Turning Me On" would be pushed out, but it failed to chart. However, it ended up doing well in Asia and that afforded Page the opportunity to record a self-titled debut album. For a second single, this track that was produced by Arif and Joe Mardin was issued out. It took a little time, but the song caught on enough to crack the Pop Top 30. Follow-up singles failed to chart at Pop, but "A Zillion Kisses" did become a blip on the Dance chart at #45. Without a bigger hit single, the album stalled at a low #166. 

ReduxReview:  Page didn't necessarily have a strong voice, but he had an interesting boyish tone that elevated his tepid synthpop tracks. He sounded best on this song, which also got a boost from the Mardins' production. It was a lovely, sweeping, sentimental tune that reflected his young age and served as a good introduction for the teen market. It probably should have done a bit better, but a Top 30 showing wasn't too bad. He would earn a #1 the following year with a little help from some new music stars (see below), but that would be it. I just don't think he had the material necessary to take him to the next level.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  While promoting his debut album, Page was sent out on tour with New Kids on the Block and Tiffany. During the tour, Page and NKOTB member Jordan Knight had an opportunity to play some of their compositions for each other. One that Knight had started to come up with was "I'll Be Your Everything." Page liked the tune and when Knight said it wasn't really right for NKOTB, Page asked if he could finish it off and perhaps record it. The pair got with other NKOTB member Danny Wood and completed the song. Page would then record it with NKOTB backing him (and Knight and Danny Wahlberg co-producing) for his second solo album, 1990's Paintings in My Mind. It would be the LP's first single and it would end up becoming a #1 Pop song (#31 AC). It would also be a gold seller. The hit would help the album reach #38. The only other single from the album to do anything was the #42 "When I Dream of You," which would end up being Page's last on the Pop chart. His third and fourth albums failed to gain any attention and that left Page off of the Sire roster. However, with a loyal following, Page would get to record two more albums for the Asian market. By the 2000s, Page had switched to the business side of music and became an A&R exec at Warner Bros. He would also do a stint as publisher of Billboard magazine. Sadly, in 2017 Page committed suicide.


Sunday, April 3, 2022

"Imagine" by Tracie Spencer

Song#:  3796
Date:  02/11/1989
Debut:  96
Peak:  85
Weeks:  4
Genre:  R&B, Pop

Pop Bits:  The young Star Search winner got her first crossover hit with "Symptoms of Love." It was the second single from her self-titled debut album and it reached #11 R&B, #14 Dance, and #38 Pop. For a follow up, this cover tune track was selected for release. It wouldn't do as well topping out at #31 R&B while only spending a month near the bottom of the Pop chart. By this point in time, the album had already peaked at ##57 R&B and #146 Pop. This would be the last single from the album. Spencer would then move on to record her second effort.

ReduxReview:  Unlike her previous single, this one sounded like something from a young talent show contestant. The production was bordering on karaoke and Spencer delivered it as if she was performing in front of a voting audience. The worst part was the ending, which was very stagey. The innocence of a young pre-teen singing this particular song may be appealing to some, but I didn't get it. It was a poor song choice with a horrible arrangement. Spencer deserved better than this dreck. Luckily she got some better tunes and production with her next album including the jammin' "This House."

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This was a remake of a song originally written by John Lennon and recorded by John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band. That version would reach #3 Pop in 1971. Spencer's version would be the first remake of the song to reach the Pop chart. Since then, three other artists have made the Pop chart with a version. Singer/songwriter Jack Johnson would scrape the chart with a version in 2007 (#90). In 2008, another talent show contestant, American Idol runner-up David Archuleta, would take the song to #36. Then in 2009, the cast of the TV show Glee would get a version to #67.  2) Spencer's second album, 1990's Make the Difference, performed better than her first effort. It would spawn four R&B Top 10 hits including the #1 "Tender Kisses." One of the other hits, the #7 "This House," would cross over to Pop and reach #3 (#7 Dance). The album would get to #38 R&B/#107 Pop. Then just as her career was revving up, a series of changes at her label, Capital, curtailed her progress. Apparently, she had recorded a third album, but it ended up getting shelved. Over the next few years all she could really do was record a couple of songs for movie soundtracks. Yet she remained with Capitol throughout the turmoil and finally in 1999 she was able to release her third album Tracie. It would get to #19 R&B/#114 Pop thanks mainly to the #6 R&B/#18 Pop hit "It's All About You (Not About Me)." But then after her career got reignited, it seems things happened that had her dropping out of the music biz. Save for a few background vocal appearances, it seems Spencer has not pursued a music career.