Saturday, April 23, 2022

"Birthday Suit" by Johnny Kemp

Song#:  3814
Date:  02/25/1989
Debut:  85
Peak:  36
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  In 1988, Kemp would earn a mainstream hit with the new jack swing classic "Just Got Paid." The single, which was from his second album Secrets of Flying, would hit #1 R&B, #1 Dance, and #10 Pop. It would also go gold and earn Kemp a Grammy nomination. Two follow up singles would fail to reach the Pop chart, but "Dancin' with Myself" would get to #5 R&B/#12 Dance. The album would get to #4 R&B/#68 Pop. While things were wrapping up with the album, Kemp got the opportunity to record a song for a film soundtrack. "Birthday Suit" would be used in the drama Sing. Prior to the movie's opening, the song would be issued out as a single. It did fairly well reaching #21 R&B and #25 Dance while making it into the Pop Top 40. With that result and with the film a box office dud, the soundtrack album barely charted at #196. It seemed logical that after the success of his second album, Kemp would have started work on a follow up. For whatever reason, that did not happen. Kemp's solo career suddenly came to a halt. While he would continue on with other projects (see below), Kemp would never record another solo album. Sadly, Kemp died in 2015. He had been on a music-themed cruise and was scheduled to perform, but while off the ship in Montego Bay, it seems he was walking along the shoreline when he lost his footing on some slippery rocks. He apparently hit his head, fell in the water, and drowned. Kemp was 55 years old.

ReduxReview:  I have to say this tune made me smile. It was one that I completely forgot about. I remember thinking back in the day that this was a goofy song. It's still a bit silly, but the Minneapolis groove and solid production makes it a a fun listen.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In 1993, Sherry Goffin Kondor, daughter of singer/songwriter Carole King, began to record children's albums that featured updated arrangements of songs from the 60s and 70s. The albums were credited to Sugar Beats and Kondor would be one of the lead singers. Another one of the lead singers was Johnny Kemp. On a series of award-winning recordings throughout the 90s and into the 2000s, Kemp would be one of the lead singers on the albums and also on the live tours.  2) The movie Sing was the second screenplay effort by songwriter Dean Pitchford. His first attempt ended up becoming the 1984 hit Footloose. In addition to writing the script, Pitchford also co-wrote all the songs used in the film and on the associated #1 soundtrack. For Sing, Pitchford based his screenplay on New York City's annual SING! theater production/competition show. Theater groups/clubs from various schools and grades would compete against each other in the program. Just as he did for Footloose, Pitchford would co-write all the songs for the film including "Birthday Suit" and tracks by Michael Bolton, Patti LaBelle, Kevin Cronin, and Mickey Thomas. The soundtrack's second single was "Romance (Love Theme from Sing)" performed as a duet between Paul Carrack and Berlin's Terri Nunn. It failed to chart. The songs might have possibly done better if the film had been a success. Unfortunately, reviews were not favorable and box office receipts were poor. After that result, Pitchford would mainly stick to music save for writing one TV movie and a TV special. 


Friday, April 22, 2022

"Where Are You Now?" by Synch

Top 10 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  3813
Date:  02/25/1989
Debut:  89
Peak:  10
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Wait...didn't this song already get covered?  Yep. This Pennsylvania-based band first released this single back in '86 when they had signed on with Columbia Records. It could only manage to reach #77 Pop at the time and that result left Synch off the Columbia roster. Eventually, Synch would break up. That could have been the end of the story, but a few years later the song started to get picked up again by several radio stations. As requests started to stack up, Columbia got wind of the song's resurgence and reissued it on the WTG label, a new imprint of Epic/CBS. On its second go-round, the single was credited to Jimmy Harnen w/Synch (Harnen was the song's co-writer and lead singer). Suddenly the song picked up momentum and it was once again climbing the Pop chart. Eventually it would find its way into the Top 10. AC jumped on board this time around and the tune made it to #3 on that chart. As the single was scaling the charts, Harnen was able to secure a solo deal with WTG and work quickly began on a debut album titled Can't Fight the Midnight. Unfortunately, singles from the album failed to chart and the album quickly disappeared along with Harnen's record deal. At least he and the band got a brief unexpected moment in the spotlight that got them tagged as a one-hit wonder.

ReduxReview:  As for the song, my original assessment is still valid. The only thing I can add is that the songs on Harnen's solo album, which included "Where Are You Now?" as the last track, were nothing like that sentimental ballad. Harnen went full-on arena/heartland rock. It was like a combo of Bryan Adams and Journey. His voice was also raspier than on the hit. The styles didn't quite match up and so for those that loved the smooth AC-leaning sounds of the hit, a rockin' single from Harnen wasn't what they wanted. It was definitely going to be hard to spin a new career off of an older, unexpected hit song so the odds were stacked against Harnen from the beginning. However, he made the odds worse with the direction/sound he went with for the LP. It was actually a fairly good album, but nothing on it came close to representing what he did with "Where Are You Now" and I think that kind of sunk his recording career.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The story goes that when this song first came out, a part-time DJ at a Richmond, Virginia, radio station, JJ Wright, liked the tune and decided to hold on to the promo single. He still had it with him when he moved on to a station in Buffalo, New York. While there, another older song, Benny Mardones' "Into the Night," was beginning to have a resurgence and that gave Wright the idea to dig out his Synch record. He handed it off to the station's program director who then passed it on to a national consultant who liked the tune enough to pass it on to other radio stations. Through those channels, the song started to get airplay and it began to catch the ears of listeners who didn't catch it the first time around. It wasn't long before the former #77 single finally made it into the Pop Top 10. Oddly, this song seemed to catch fire faster than "Into the Night" as that tune would not get reissued and back on the Pop chart until May of '89.


Thursday, April 21, 2022

"Falling Out of Love" by Ivan Neville

Song#:  3812
Date:  02/25/1989
Debut:  91
Peak:  91
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This son of famous singer Aaron Neville kicked off his own solo career with the '88 album If My Ancestors Could See Me Now. The LP's first single, "Not Just Another Girl," was a winner at Rock getting to #6 while crossing over and making it to #26 Pop. For a follow-up, this next track was issued out. Featuring vocals by his former boss Bonnie Raitt (Neville was in her touring band for a couple of years), the tune couldn't find an audience and stalled low on the Pop chart peaking where it debuted. It seems a third single, "Primitive Man," was released, but it failed to chart. By this point in time, the album had already peaked at #107.

ReduxReview:  "Not Just Another Girl" should have done much better on the Pop chart. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing about this single. I don't mean that in a negative way towards the tune. It was actually a quality song. It just wasn't a good candidate for a single and it fared about as well as it could on the chart. The addition of Raitt certainly helped, but the rolling ballad just didn't have the ear-grabbing hooks needed to make it at pop radio.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1)  This song was picked up for use in the 1989 sex rom-com flick Skin Deep, which starred John Ritter. The Blake Edwards comedy was not a critical success, but it ended up being a modest box office hit. An official soundtrack album of songs used in the film was not released.  2) Following his debut, Neville was able to record a second album in 1991, but in an interview in Billboard it seems he was not happy with it. To him the results came out "computerized, slick, and machine-like" so he decided to shelve the LP. With that, it seems the relationship with his label Polydor also came to an end. He would return in '94 with the indie LP Thanks. During this time, Neville was also busy working for other artists. In addition to playing on some Rolling Stones album tracks, he became a member of the X-Pensive Winos, the backing band for Keith Richards for his solo efforts on record and on tour.


Wednesday, April 20, 2022

"This Time" by Kiara with Shanice Wilson

Song#:  3811
Date:  02/25/1989
Debut:  93
Peak:  78
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Kiara was a Detroit duo made up of John Winston and Gregory Charley. The pair worked up their first single, "Quiet Guy," in 1985. Written by Charley and produced by the pair, it was initially on their own label, but was then issued out by the NYC label Warlock Records (it was the label's first single). The indie track was able to make a dent in the R&B chart at #88. That minor success helped to get the attention of Arista Records who would end up signing the duo. Work began on a debut album that would be titled To Change And/Or Make a Difference and once finished, the opening track "The Best of Me" would be pushed out as a single. It would do well at R&B getting to #6. The hit would help the album initially reach #30 at R&B. Then this next single, which featured singer Shanice Wilson, would be issued out. It would do even better at R&B nearly topping the chart at #2. It was then able to cross over to Pop where it stayed for a few weeks. The hit sent the album to a new peak of #23 at R&B, but it would fail to reach the Pop chart. A third single, "Every Little Time," would get to #10 R&B while a new version of "Quite Guy" recorded for the album would reach #79 R&B.

ReduxReview:  This song, written by Cameo member Charlie Singleton, was a good late 90s R&B ballad. The vocals were quite good, especially from Shanice, and the production was spot-on for the era. Sadly it just couldn't find enough support to make it a more mainstream pop hit. Had it done better at Pop, I'm sure it would have been able to make the AC chart. Alas, it would just be a big hit at R&B and it would be Kiara's top moment on the chart. Shanice, or course, would go on to score two Pop Top 10s and three R&B Top 10s in the 90s including the #1 "I Love Your Smile."

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The duo's second album, 1990's Civilized Rogue, wouldn't do quite as well topping out at #53 R&B, but it did spawn the #10 R&B hit "You're Right About That." However, it seems that the results were not what Arista was looking for and the duo was left off of their roster. They would rally for a 1994 indie album titled Condition of the Heart, but it didn't generate a lot of attention After that it seems the duo called it a day. Gregory Charley would continue on as a songwriter. His tunes would get picked up by Gerald Levert, Regina Belle, Aretha Franklin, and Whitney Houston. Some of those were co-writes with his Kiara partner John Winston. It seems at some point, John Winston left the music biz and moved back to Detroit. He became an educator at a local school and an author of a young adult origin series IA: Invisible Assassin. There are currently three books in the IA series.


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

"I Can't Face the Fact" by Gina Go-Go

Song#:  3810
Date:  02/25/1989
Debut:  94
Peak:  78
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Freestyle

Pop Bits:  Gina Gomez was a singer from the UK who had ambitions to make it in the music business. She honed her skills well enough to get the attention of Capitol Records in the US, who signed on the fledgling singer. In the States, Gomez was paired up with producer/songwriter Nick Mundy and the two of them would co-write nearly all the songs for Gomez's debut album Sweet Surrender, which would be released under her stage name of Gina Go-Go. This first single was pushed out and it got to #37 Dance while spending nearly three months in the bottom quarter of the Pop chart. A second single failed to chart. Unfortunately, the results were not enough to help get the album on the chart and Gomez's time at Capitol came to an end.

ReduxReview:  This was a good freestyle track that was typical for the day. It wasn't outstanding, but it grooved along fine, had an okay hook, and featured capable vocals by Gomez. The production was strong as well. It probably should have done a bit better on the chart, but with freestyle starting to crowd the airwaves competition was getting stiff and an artist needed something truly ear grabbing to make it up the chart. This track showed potential, but it wasn't quite enough to break through in a bigger way.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) After her Gina Go-Go days came to an end, Gomez wanted to focus on songwriting and continued to collaborate with Nick Mundy. The pair would have success quickly when they wrote "Personality" for R&B star Kashif. It would be released as a single later in '89 and get to #6 R&B. Then in 1991 they would grab another hit with "What Comes Naturally," which was recorded by Sheena Easton. The song would be released as a single in 1991 and get to #19 Pop/#39 Dance/#39 R&B. With and without Mundy, Gomez would pen songs for other artists including Color Me Badd and SWV.  2) While writing and shopping songs, Gomez was approached by MCA to sign on as an artist. They requested she assemble a group and although she didn't have plans to step back in the spotlight, she signed on with MCA and formed the vocal quartet Ebony Vibe Everlasting, aka E.V.E. Not only would Gomez co-write most of the songs, she would also produce several tracks for the group's 1994 debut album Good Life. The LP's first single "Groove of Love" would reach #14 Dance and #75 R&B. Further singles failed to chart and so the album quickly came and went. The group would split soon after.


Monday, April 18, 2022

"Tribute (Right On)" by The Pasadenas

Song#:  3809
Date:  02/25/1989
Debut:  97
Peak:  52
Weeks:  10
Genre:  R&B, Soul

Pop Bits:  This Brit-soul quintet was made up of twins David and Michael Milliner along with Aaron Brown, Andrew Banfield, and Hamish Seelochan. Originally named Finesse, the group perfected their live shows and wrote retro-leaning songs that got the attention of CBS Records. They signed on with the label and in the spring of '88 they issued out this first single. It became a hit in the UK reaching #5 and that result had CBS asking for a full album. By the end of the summer, To Whom It May Concern was ready for release. A second single, "Riding on a Train," was released and it got to #13. Both songs gave a boost to the album, which ended up getting to #3 and going platinum. After a third single just missed the Top 30 in the UK, a deal was struck to push the group over to the States. "Tribute" was released and it would do well at R&B getting to #8 while getting to #27 Dance. On the Pop chart, the song would stop shy of the Top 50. "Riding on a Train" would then be issued, but it could only make the R&B chart at #73. The album would perform fairly well getting to #49 R&B/#89 Pop.

ReduxReview:  This retro styled soul single was interesting and well done. I liked the track's groove and the theme of the lyrics. The only thing I was missing here was a more substantial hooky chorus. After listening to it a few times and then walking away for a while, the song slipped out of my brain and I couldn't remember it. Still, it was a nice listen.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) As indicated by its title, this was a tribute song of sorts. The lyrics salute soul and R&B artists from previous eras and how their music has influenced others and has continued to stay alive. Several artists from the 50s, 60s, and 70s are mentioned including Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, James Brown, Little Richard, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and even Elvis Presley. The song was co-written by the band with producer/singer/songwriter Pete Wingfield. Wingfield was himself a one-hit wonder in the US. In 1975, he wrote and recorded "Eighteen with a Bullet," a song where the lyrics were a play on words that referenced a position on a pop chart. While the song would end up peaking at #15, just prior to that it did oddly hit #18 with a bullet (a chart "bullet" meant that airplay and sales were at a high level that week and was usually an indicator the song was still on the rise). It would be Wingfield's only Pop chart single as an artist.  2) The Pasadenas' second album, 1990's Elevate, didn't chart and only produced a couple minor chart singles in the UK. However, their third LP, 1992's Yours Sincerely, would put them back in the spotlight. The album of remakes would get to #6 and spawn their biggest UK hit, the #4 "I'm Doing Fine Now," which was a cover of the 1973 #8 AC/#14 R&B/#18 Pop/#20 UK hit by the US R&B vocal group New York City. Three other singles from Yours Sincerely would also make the UK Top 40. After that success, things went sour. For some reason the band lost their contract with CBS and were left floundering. Their last album came out in 1995 as a Japan-only release for the Pony Canyon label.