Saturday, October 22, 2022

"18 and Life" by Skid Row

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3960
Date:  07/08/1989
Debut:  91
Peak:  4
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Metal

Pop Bits:  While "Youth Gone Wild," the first single from Skid Row's self-titled debut album, didn't necessarily burn up the charts (#27 Rock/#99 Pop), the band's association with Bon Jovi and exposure on MTV helped the LP quickly go gold. It was a good result for a new band, but things would explode for them with the release of this next single. Boosted by a popular MTV video, the power ballad would take off and get to #11 Rock while cracking the Pop Top 10. The single would sell well enough to go gold. It would end up being the band's biggest hit. The same day this song got to #5, the album would reach its peak of #6. Around that same time the album would hit the double-platinum mark.

ReduxReview:  I remember liking this song quite a bit, but I don't think I bought the album until after the next single was released. This song definitely had a dark theme and it seemed to resonate with a lot of younger listeners. It was a well written tune with a great vocal from Sebastian Bach. It ranks right alongside the best glam metal songs of the era.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Music folklore had it that this song, written by band members Rachel Bolan and Dave Sabo, was based on a news article about an 18-year-old guy named Ricky who accidentally shot his friend with a gun that he thought wasn't loaded. Ricky was then given a life sentence for the killing. However, turns out that wasn't the case. In an interview with the Professor of Rock (I highly recommend his YouTube channel), Sabo stated he had initially intended to write a song about his older brother Rick who had served in the Vietnam War and was highly affected by the experience. Sabo worked with Bolan on the tune, but it just wasn't coming together. They then decided to change the story and have the song be about a young guy that due to alcohol accidentally shoots his friend. The video for the track, directed by Wayne Isham, basically followed the story found in the lyrics. However, MTV wasn't keen on the video and the message it might be sending out and initially rejected it. Isham and the band then did some editing to get it accepted by the channel. It was a wise move as the video became hugely successful on the channel, which helped the song become a Pop Top 10 hit.


Friday, October 21, 2022

"Open Letter (To a Landlord)" by Living Colour

Song#:  3959
Date:  07/08/1989
Debut:  92
Peak:  82
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This band broke through with their #9 Rock/#13 Pop hit "Cult of Personality." It was the first single lifted from their debut album Vivid and it would end up earning the band a Grammy. For a follow up, this next track was selected for release. It just barely missed the Rock Top 10 peaking at #11. Over on the Pop chart, the tune didn't connect with folks as well as their first single and it wasn't able to get very far. The album had already peaked at #6 and gone platinum. A third single would do better thanks in part to the exposure the band got opening up on the Rolling Stones' tour, which began in August of '89.

ReduxReview:  I'm guessing the label went with this this social/political-themed track as the next single because the chorus was radio-friendly and memorable. However, the less melodic rockin' verses may have been a little overwhelming for pop radio. Still, it was a terrific song that should have done far better. Opening with an acoustic version of the chorus was a great choice. The warm chords drew you in along with Corey Glover's voice, but then it powerfully shifts gears into the first verse. The tune had a cool mid-section as well. The song's theme is still just as relevant today as it was back then.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was co-written by the band's lead guitarist Vernon Reid and Tracie Morris. Morris was a poet who got to know Reid when he began the Black Rock Coalition in '95. The organization was set up to help promote Black musicians and their works. According to Morris, Reid contacted her one day asking for her help with the lyrics to a song he was working on. The pair got together and Morris was able to write some verse material. Reid was then able to incorporate her work into the tune, which focused on the gentrification of certain neighborhoods in New York City.


Thursday, October 20, 2022

"Love Has Taken Its Toll" by Saraya

Song#:  3958
Date:  07/08/1989
Debut:  93
Peak:  64
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  This New Jersey band initially began in 1987 as Alsace Lorraine with singer Sandi Saraya and keyboardist Gregg Munier. After adding three more members, things quickly took off for the band. They got signed by Polydor Records and after a name change to Saraya, work began on a self-titled debut album with producer Jeff Glixman. Once completed, this first single was issued out. It caught on at Rock and was able to crack the Top 10 at #9. The tune crossed over to Pop, but it ended up stalling in the bottom half of the chart. The song would help the album sell a few copies and it would peak at #79.

ReduxReview:  This is right in line with most of the other glam rock/metal singles of the day. The song did well on rock radio and got a push from the MTV video, but it wasn't quite enough to break the band in a more mainstream way. Sandi Saraya's voice was terrific for the style of music and she sounded very good on this track. The production was solid as well. It was a good track, but it wasn't quite as hooky or memorable as it needed to be in order to rise further up the Pop chart.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  After signing with Polydor, the band was told they needed to change their name, which wasn't really uncommon. However, even though the label signed the whole band, it seems they really wanted to focus on lead singer Sandi Saraya. According to interviews with Sandi, the label wanted to make her into the female equivalent of Jon Bon Jovi and really wanted to promote her with a sexy image for the album's cover. Not only that, they also wanted to change the band's name to Sandi Saraya - basically making it more of a solo act than an established band. None of it sat well with Sandi who really just wanted to be a part of the band. Eventually, a compromise was reached with the band being called Saraya and an album cover that featured a photo of the band where Sandi blended in making it somewhat difficult to tell if she was a man or a woman.


Wednesday, October 19, 2022

"Turned Away" by Chuckii Booker

Song#:  3957
Date:  07/08/1989
Debut:  95
Peak:  42
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B, New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  This L.A.-born singer/songwriter began to hone his skills as a musician while in his teens. It certainly helped to have a soul legend, Barry White, as a godfather and that connection came in handy earlier in the 80s when White signed Booker to his production company. Booker's songs got recorded by a couple of artists including one by White, but when an attempt to kick off his own solo career didn't materialize, Booker decided to move on. His first major gig came when he joined up with the funk/R&B band Tease in 1986. The band was signed to Epic Records and a self-titled album released in '86 spawned the #11 R&B hit "Firestarter." After a second album in '88 that fared less well, Tease disbanded. Booker would then work behind the scenes as a session player. He would perform on Vanessa Williams' 1988 debut album and co-write one of the tracks. Then through a demo tape Booker was able to get a solo deal with Atlantic Records. With few exceptions, Booker would write, sing, and play all the instruments on a debut album simply titled Chuckii. This first single was issued out and it would become a big hit at R&B reaching #1. The song was able to cross over to the Pop chart where it nearly cracked the Top 40. A second single, "(Don't U Know) I Love U," would get to #4 R&B, but failed to make the Pop chart. Another Top 20 R&B entry would follow. Thanks to the hits, the album would peak at #18 R&B/#116 Pop.

ReduxReview:  A good chunk of new jack swing tracks were hard hitting grooves. That was kind of the nature of the genre. There were occasional exceptions and this was one. I'd say this was more of a "sweet" sounding new jack tune, even though the lyrics were on the sad side. It was a nicely written tune with rich chords and could have easily been turned into a ballad. In fact, it might have worked better as one, but being the 90s the new jack approach fit just fine. This single really should have made the Top 40, but at least it topped the R&B chart.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Booker's second album, 1992's Niice 'N Wiild, wouldn't be quite as successful as his debut, but it still was able to spawn one major hit with the #1 R&B/#68 single "Games." The LP would get to #13 R&B. While maintaining a solo career, Booker also worked as a producer/songwriter for other artists including the R&B outfit Troop. Booker wrote and produced the band's first R&B #1 hit, 1990's "Spread My Wings." With more production and session work coming his way, Booker then left his solo career behind after his second album to work behind the scenes.  2) A connection to a highly successful songwriting/production team led to one of Booker's career highlights. It seems that in '89, Booker attended a party for the release of Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 album. He had met Jackson a few times previously, but wasn't all that familiar with the burgeoning superstar. Apparently she approached Booker at the event and asked him to be the musical director for her upcoming tour. The out-of-nowhere offer caught Booker off guard and he wasn't sure how it was even possible. Then Booker found out that Jackson's production team Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis had recommended Booker for the job. Obviously, Booker signed on for the work, but the deal got even better when Jackson offered him the opening act spot on several of the tour dates.


Tuesday, October 18, 2022

"(You're My One and Only) True Love" by Seduction

Song#:  3956
Date:  07/08/1989
Debut:  97
Peak:  23
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Freestyle

Pop Bits:  Seduction eventually became a trio of female vocalists, but that wasn't how things began. Seduction was initially a studio project tossed together by songwriter/producers Robert Clivillés and David Cole. Earlier in '89, they recorded a song titled "Seduction" and hired singer Carol Cooper to do some vocal work. The tune was released as by Seduction (no credit for Cooper) and it got enough attention in dance clubs to reach #17 on the Dance chart. To follow it up, Clivillés and Cole then put together "(You're My One and Only) True Love" with former Weather Girls singer Martha Wash providing the vocals. As before, the tune was released under the Seduction name with no credit given to Wash. The song caught on in a bigger way in the clubs and ended up at #3 on the Dance chart. That action helped the tune get on the Pop chart where it became a surprise Top 30 hit. It also made the R&B chart at #56. With a growing hit on their hands, Clivillés and Cole decided it was time to actually form a real Seduction. They would eventually hire on Idalis DeLeón, April Harris, and Michelle Visage to be the faces and voices of the new outfit and work quickly began on a debut album that would be titled Nothing Matters Without Love. Although the newly assembled trio would do the vocal work on new tracks, the album would contain "Seduction" (as "Seduction's Theme") and this single in their original forms. The first single from the officially christened Seduction trio would end up being an even bigger hit.

ReduxReview:  This was kind of a low-key freestyle dance track. It had a sultry groove and wasn't quite as high energy as some other freestyle hits. Clivillés and Cole used a light hand in their production and it suited the tune. It was a nice listen, but it wasn't a song that really grabbed me. The tune itself was just kind of meh. These days the song has been way overshadowed by Seduction's follow up; and rightly so.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although this song was sung by Martha Wash, on the album the vocal was credited to new Seduction member April Harris. She would also appear in the song's associated music video lip syncing the lead vocal. Wash would end up with a backing vocal credit on the album and nothing else. It seems that Clivillés and Cole hired Wash to sing on a demo of the song. As a hired vocalist, Wash received a flat fee for the work. However, in their haste to get a new single out, the producers used Wash's demo vocal making adjustments to alter the sound. This didn't go unnoticed by Wash who would lose out on royalties because she wasn't a member of Seduction and was not given proper credit. She promptly sued. Now, while this was going on, the same thing was happening to Wash over in Europe. The Italian house music group Black Box hired Wash for demo work only, but like C&C, they kept her vocals for several songs on their 1990 album Dreamland. This included two tracks that would become major hits, the #1 Dance/#23 Pop "I Don't Know Anybody Else" and the #1 Dance/#8 Pop "Everybody Everybody." Again, Wash received no credit or further funds for her work and she sued. Now, you'd think by that point C&C would have learned a lesson and backed off from using Wash's voice without proper credit and compensation, but lo and behold, they did it again! They used demo work from Wash on "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)," a song by their own new outfit C+C Music Factory. It would became a huge platinum selling #1 hit. The video for the song had Zelma Davis lip syncing to Wash's vocals. Apparently, Wash approached C&C to come up with a credit/royalty solution, but when that failed, Wash sued. In the end, Wash would settle all three of her suits.


Monday, October 17, 2022

"It Isn't, It Wasn't, It Ain't Never Gonna Be" by Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston

Song#:  3955
Date:  07/01/1989
Debut:  73
Peak:   41
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Franklin's album Through the Storm got off to somewhat of a slow start when its first single, the title track duet with Elton John, stalled short of the Pop and R&B Top 10s at #16 and #17, respectively. The tune was expected to be another big crossover duet for Franklin after scoring the #1 "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me" with George Michael in '87, but the single fell flat (although it did do well at AC getting to #3). So if at first you don't succeed...try again! And indeed Franklin's label, Arista, did by pushing out this duet with Whitney Houston as the LP's second single. It did perform better at R&B where the tune was able to reach #5, but pop audiences didn't much care for it and the single stalled just shy of the Pop Top 40 at the dreaded #41 spot. It also got to #18 Dance. Undeterred that the duets weren't necessarily working, Arista went ahead and pushed out another duet as the LP's third single. James Brown joined Franklin for "Gimme Your Love," but it flopped only reaching #49 R&B. The results had the album stopping at #21 R&B and #55 Pop, which was Franklin's worst showing on each chart (minus a 1987 gospel album) since 1979's La Diva, her last album for Atlantic before joining up with Clive Davis and Arista. This song didn't do Houston any favors either. It brought to a halt a string of ten consecutive Pop Top 10 hits that began in '85.

ReduxReview:  On paper, this looked like a surefire hit. A song written by Diane Warren and Albert Hammond, production by Narada Michael Walden, and most drool-worth of all, a duet between the Queen of Soul and new superstar Houston. Yet even with Clive Davis and Arista behind it, the single flopped. Why? I think the answer was simple - it just wasn't a good song. The title was messy and unmemorable as was most of the tune itself. Walden's usually tasteful production was overdone here and sounded like he was trying too hard. The old-fashioned theme of battling over a boyfriend wasn't right for the two superstars either. It didn't suit them and it really showed in the song's last section where they weirdly and uncomfortably argue and laugh over their status with the guy. It was cringe-worthy. Usually, singers like Franklin and Houston can overcome weak material with a great performance, but even these two titans of song couldn't save this misfire.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Franklin's next album, 1991's What You See Is What You Sweat, performed even worse. None of its singles made the Pop chart while the best Franklin could do on the R&B chart was the #13 remake of "Everyday People." The LP also spawned another duet single this time with Michael McDonald. The pair sang "Ever Changing Times" and it got to #11 AC/#15 R&B. Franklin would go on to have a couple more good performing singles that would both oddly peak at #5 R&B and #26 Pop. In 1994, "Willing to Forgive" would do the trick while in 1998 "A Rose Is Still a Rose" would perform the same. The latter single was from the album of the same name, which provided a late career boost. It would reach #7 R&B/#30 Pop and go gold. Franklin would supply one more album for Arista in 2003. Her final studio album arrived in 2014 with Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics. The covers LP put out by RCA was warmly received and it got to #3 R&B/#13 Pop. Franklin would pass away in 2017.