Saturday, January 21, 2023

"I Love to Bass" by Bardeux

Song#:  4033
Date:  09/16/1989
Debut:  96
Peak:  68
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Freestyle

Pop Bits:  This vocal duo's debut album Bold As Love got a bit of attention (#104) when its second single, "When We Kiss," cracked the Pop Top 40 (#36). It was enough for their label to call for a follow up LP, but prior to heading into the studio one of the members, Lisa "Jaz" Teany, would quit. Remaining member Stacy "Acacia" Smith would find a replacement with Melanie Taylor and work began on a second Bardeux album to be title Shangri-La. Working once again with songwriter/producer Jon St. James, the duo's album would get finished and this first single issued out. It would be a hit at Dance reaching #3 while also making the R&B chart at #32. However, it couldn't quite catch on at Pop and it stalled in the bottom half of the chart. A second single, "Thumbs Up," would make it to #17 Dance/#59 R&B while a third single was a minor Dance entry. The album would peter out early at #133. With those results, Bardeux would come to an end.

ReduxReview:  Depending on what product you look at, the title is either "I Love to Bass" or "I Love the Bass." The 45 single release and the album used "to," that seems more appropriate here. Either way, the song wasn't all that great. It was a tepid freestyle tracks made worse by some pretty awful lyrics. Yeah I know it is just dance-pop fluff and Dylan-esqe lyrics are not needed, but how many times have we heard cliche phrases like "rocket in your pocket" and "love reaction?" I'm just saying they could have put a little more effort into it. In the end it didn't really matter because it was a bland, forgettable track that did little to advance the trio's career.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  After Bardeux ended, Melanie Taylor would become a member of Bette Midler's famous backing vocal trio The Harlettes (aka The Staggring Harlettes). The Harlettes became a part of Midler's high energy shows beginning in 1971 and they have remained a fixture of her performances since. The lineup has changed many times over the years and along the way some soon-to-be stars got their starts being a Harlette. Perhaps most famously, singer/songwriter Melissa Manchester was an original Harlette. She stayed on for a couple of years before signing her first recording contract. Singer/actress Katy Sagal (of Married with Children fame) was a Harlette twice; once in '78 then again in '82-'83. R&B singer Jocelyn Brown was with the trio from '79-'80. Singer/actress Jenifer Lewis would be a Harlette in '83-'84. She would appear in many films and TV shows, but perhaps became best known for portraying Anthony Anderson's mother in the hit TV show Black-ish. Melanie Taylor would have one of the longest tenures in the Harlettes staying with them from 1993 to 2000.


Friday, January 20, 2023

"Congratulations" by Vesta

Song#:  4032
Date:  09/09/1989
Debut:  74
Peak:  55
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Born in Ohio, Vesta Williams got her start in music after her family moved to L.A. in the 60s. While there, she and her two sisters appeared on a TV show as The Williams Sisters. The family would relocate back to Ohio where Vesta picked up work in a band, but the draw of a solo career took her back to L.A. She got work as a backup singer for some top tier artists. Eventually, that session work would lead to a recording contract with A&M Records. Going by the singular name Vesta, work began on a self-titled 1986 debut album. Her first single, "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" (an original, not a cover of the Ian Hunter/Great White song) would be a hit at R&B getting to #8. The album would then reach #43 R&B. Neither would make the Pop chart. For her next LP, '88's Vesta 4 U, Vesta would co-write nearly every track. Its first two singles would make the R&B Top 10, but once again she was shut out of the Pop chart. Then this third single came along. It would be her fourth R&B Top 10 (#5) and her first to make the Pop chart where it got close to the halfway point. It would end up being her only Pop chart entry. The album would get to #26 R&B and #131 Pop.

ReduxReview:  Vesta had a huge four-octave voice that was nearly too big for recording. Getting a powerful voice under control can be a trial for both the singer and producer, but it seems her early backup vocal work helped Vesta to understand dynamics and how to keep things under control while still showing off her skills. The first few tracks on her Vesta 4 U  album were well-produced slammin' tunes that showcased Vesta's voice. Then this AC-leaning ballad took things in a different direction. It was a bit more old school R&B, but you could tell that Vesta was all about it. She sang the crap out of it without going overboard. The arrangement sounds dated now with that standard late 80s tinkling keyboard, but I kind of forget about that once Vesta starts singing. She really should have been a bigger crossover star, but at least she did well at R&B earning a total of six Top 10s.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  1) Somewhere somehow, a rumor started that Vesta came up with the idea for "Congratulations" because of what happened between her and actor Bruce Willis. According to the rumor, Vesta and Willis had been dating for a long while, but then Demi Moore came into the picture, swooped up Willis and married him leaving Vesta in the dust. In turn, Vesta wrote about the experience in the song. Well, according to interviews with Vesta and with co-writer Tena Clark, it's all a pack of lies. In a late 80s TV interview, Vesta is asked about dating Willis and she stated she had never even met him before. Then in an interview with Clark and Vesta, Clark revealed that when the two started writing together, Vesta asked Clark if she had an ideas for a song and Clark said she had been thinking about the word "congratulations" and the concept behind what would become the lyrics. So it appears the rumor is all bunk, which is also supported by the fact that no image of Vesta and Willis together can be found.  2) In 1990, Vesta would get a fifth R&B Top 10 single as the guest vocalist on the Najee track "I'll Be Good to You." She would follow it up with her biggest hit, the #2 R&B "Special," which was the title track from her third album (#15 R&B). However, after a fourth album failed to do much, A&M dropped Vesta. She would then do background vocals and jingle work while also dabbling a bit in acting. She would release three indie albums over the years but it all came to an end when Vesta unexpectedly died of an enlarged heart in 2011.


Thursday, January 19, 2023

"My Heart Skips a Beat" by The Cover Girls

Song#:  4031
Date:  09/09/1989
Debut:  75
Peak:  38
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Freestyle

Pop Bits:  This vocal trio's debut album Show Me sold fairly well reaching #64. It was boosted by five singles that all reached the Pop chart with the best of the bunch, "Because of You," getting to #27. This was all done via the independent label Fever. The results boded well for the trio and it enticed Capitol Records to sign them. Being on a major label should have given them a bigger budget and a better promotional push. Work began on a second album with the trio working with mostly the same producers/writers that helped out on their debut. We Can't Go Wrong would be ready by the end of the summer and this first single would be issued out. It would become their second Top 10 at Dance reaching #4. On the Pop chart, the tune was able to become their third to crack the Pop Top 40, but that was a bit of a disappointment with both the trio and the label expecting better results.

ReduxReview:  With a move over to Capitol, the trio should have had good enough resources to build upon what they did with their debut album. However, it seems that didn't happen. They needed something far stronger than this tune to get them to the next level. This was a basic, average freestyle dance tune with surprisingly bland production. I hadn't been a fan of the trio's vocals and this track didn't change my mind. It was a step above a demo, but nowhere near in the same league as some of the other freestyle/dance tracks of the day.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  For their second album, The Cover Girls would record their first cover tune. They would do a version of "Up on the Roof," a song written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and first recorded by The Drifters. Recorded in 1962, the song would become the group's third Pop Top 10 hit getting to #5 (#4 R&B) early in '63. The classic hit would go on to make Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (#114) and would make The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. The song would be covered by many artists including King herself. She recorded it for her 1970 debut album Writer (a year before her seminal album Tapestry). It was released as a single, but did not chart. However, beside The Drifters, three other artists have reached the Pop chart with a version. The Cryan' Shames got to #85 in 1968. Singer/songwriter Laura Nyro made it to #92 in 1970. Then James Taylor got the song to #29 in 1979. The Cover Girls would not release their track as a single.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

"Talk to Myself" by Christopher Williams

Song#:  4030
Date:  09/09/1989
Debut:  77
Peak:  49
Weeks:  18
Genre:  R&B, New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  This Bronx-born singer/songwriter with a deep soulful voice impressed the folks at Geffen Records enough to sign him on. Williams would get paired up with several producers and tracks would be recorded for his debut album Adventures in Paradise. This first single would be issued out and it would do well at R&B getting to #4 while also making it to #18 Dance. That action helped the song cross over to the Pop chart where it peaked just inside the Top 50. A second single, "Promises, Promises," would earn him a second R&B Top 10 (#7). While the album would not reach the Pop Album chart, it did get to #23 at R&B.

ReduxReview:  This was a good entry in the new jack genre. It had memorable hooks and a good arrangement. Williams sold it well and the song was able to crack the R&B Top 10. It should have done better at Pop. The tune was hooky and fun enough to make an impression, but for some reason it couldn't catch on in a bigger way.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) After the release of his debut album, Williams would branch out into acting. He would earn a role in the 1991 crime drama New Jack City. Both the film and its associated soundtrack album would do well. Williams would contribute the song "I'm Dreamin'" to the album. Released as a single, it would get to #1 at R&B (#89 Pop). Boosted by the hit and the success of the film, the soundtrack would get to #1 R&B/#2 Pop and would be a platinum seller. Williams would pick up with his solo career in '92 with his second album Changes. It featured one last R&B Top 10 hit (#75 Pop) with "Every Little Thing U Do." A third album in '95 wouldn't do as well and so Williams moved on to other projects including more film and TV work.  2) Music was somewhat in Williams' blood as his aunt was legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. Anointed "The First Lady of Song," Fitzgerald's career kicked off when she won the famous Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in 1934 when she was seventeen. Work would quickly follow with various bands and orchestras and songs she fronted began hitting the charts in 1936. The following year she would hit #1 with what would become one of her signature songs "A-Tisket, A-Tasket." Many more pre-rock era hits would follow. Yet she was able to score one more major hit after the rock era began. In 1960, she would get to #27 Pop/#6 R&B with her rendition of "Mack the Knife." Fitzgerald would win thirteen Grammys and would be known as one of the greatest jazz vocalists of all time.


Tuesday, January 17, 2023

"Sunshine" by Dino

Song#:  4029
Date:  09/09/1989
Debut:  84
Peak:  23
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Dance-Pop, New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  After a couple of minor charting singles, Dino finally broke through in a bigger way with "I Like It," the third single from his debut album 24/7. The song would be a gold seller. To keep momentum up, this fourth single was issued out. It would do fairly well getting close to the Pop Top 20 while also getting to #47 R&B. Just a month after this song debuted on the Pop chart, the album would be certified gold.

ReduxReview:  I doubt Dino or his label imagined they'd be four singles deep into the album, but with the late bloomer "I Like It" going gold, they needed to pick something and this track was selected. It probably was the best option from the remaining tracks and it did fairly well. However, it just wasn't nearly as memorable or catchy has his previous hit.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Dino (Dean Esposito) would end up marrying Caroline Jackson, a member of The Cover Girls. Their son Matthew Dean Esposito would try to break into the music business via a reality competition show. In the summer of 2017, the ABC TV show Boy Band would air. The competition series had 30 teen/early 20s male singers vying for one of five spots in a new boy band that would be called In Real Life. Under the name Matthew Dean, Dino's son would be selected to be on the show. Unfortunately, he and eleven others were cut the first episode. The remaining eighteen were split into three groups with each performing on successive episodes. Eliminations would take place after the performances. The field would be whittled down with new groups formed along the way. After the viewers vote, five singers were selected to become In Real Life. The group was given a contract with Hollywood Records. Their first single, "Eyes Closed," did not chart. Throughout 2018, the band would keep releasing singles until they finally collected those along with three new tunes for their 2019 debut album She Do. Despite some of their songs getting some airplay and going on tour, the group didn't break out in a big way. In early 2020, In Real Life announced their breakup.


Monday, January 16, 2023

"Me So Horny" by The 2 Live Crew

Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  4028
Date:  09/09/1989
Debut:  91
Peak:  26
Weeks:  30
Genre:  Rap

Pop Bits:  A good chunk of folks remember this outfit more for the controversy they created rather than their music. While that is somewhat unfair, 2 Live Crew shouldn't grouse about it as the furor around their lyrics actually helped to sell albums. As the old saying goes, controversy sells and it certainly did for the group. Initially formed in California in 1984, the Crew would make a move to Miami the following year after their first single, "The Revelation," became popular in Florida. After a second single, they were signed by Luther Campbell (aka Luke Skyywalker) who became their manager. He would later join the group as well. A debut album, The 2 Live Crew Is What We Are, would arrive in '86. The raw sexual lyrics of some of the tracks outpaced anything else on vinyl and it immediately rankled some feathers with many calling the LP obscene. It gained further notoriety when a record store clerk was arrested in Florida for selling the LP to a 14-year-old girl (he was acquitted later). While singles didn't get airplay or chart, the minor uproar drew attention to the group and the album sold (#128 Pop/#24 R&B). The outfit continued on with '88's Move Somethin', which would do even better getting to #68 Pop/#20 R&B. A couple singles would be mid-charters at R&B, but it would be the group's outlandish lyrics and controversy over another arrest (a record store owner in Alabama selling to an undercover cop - again charges dropped) that made the album go gold and would also make their debut LP go gold. The whole thing set 2 Live Crew up for their most outrageous and most successful album, 89's As Nasty as They Wanna Be. It would create a full-on media circus complete with obscenity charges and court cases. Oh, and yes this first single that sold well enough to go gold and despite getting very little airplay managed to crack the Pop Top 30 while reaching #34 R&B and #1 Rap. All the hubbub helped the album get to #29 Pop and #3 R&B. It would become a platinum seller. Although the LP sold and folks were listening to the group, the music would be overshadowed by all of the media attention and controversy.

ReduxReview:  I admit that all the brouhaha surrounding 2 Live Crew got my attention. I wanted to hear what all the fuss was about so I bought the Move Somethin' album when it came out. The lyrics were certainly coarse for the time and did make me laugh. Other than that, nothing about the tracks really stuck with me. So when As Nasty as They Wanna Be came out, I didn't bite. I figured they were a one trick pony just trying to be outlandish. They did build a reputation on being blatantly sexual using every dirty word in the book, but in a weird way I think the lyrics got in the way of what were actually good tracks. The jokey lyrics quickly wore thin (they were about as subtle as a Mack truck), but their beats and production were quality and it was apparent on As Nasty as They Wanna Be. If you replaced the spoken word samples and lyrics with something else, this track still had potential to be a hit. Yet by the time they were recording the album they had cemented their reputation as the dirty rappers so they went all in. Still, this is a fun relic from the time. While 2 Live Crew would not be the last artist to have such blatant sexual lyrics (Cardi B's 2020 "WAP" comes to mind), they were the ones to really cleared the way for other artists to express themselves however nasty they wanna be.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) What happened following the release of As Nasty as They Wanna Be is too much to document. The Reader's Digest condensed version is that between a lawyer, a sheriff, and a judge, the LP was declared obscene in Florida. Eventually a local retail salesperson was arrested for selling the album. Then members of 2 Live Crew were arrested for performing songs in a Florida club. In the end, everyone was cleared of charges and the ruling that the album was obscene was reversed. The Florida folks tried to get the Supreme Court to hear the case, but they refused. Freedom of speech won the day, but in some ways it cost 2 Live Crew a lot as the whole episode would always loom over everything they did.  2) The title along with the spoken vocal samples came from the 1997 Stanley Kubrick war film Full Metal Jacket. They were spoken by a Vietnamese prostitute to a US soldier played by Matthew Modine. The song also contains a sample of "Firecracker" by the R&B group Mass Production. That 1979 single would get to #4 R&B and #43 Pop.  3) 2 Live Crew would bounce back with 1990's Banned in the U.S.A. The title track would be a direct response concerning the obscenity charges and Bruce Springsteen granted the group permission to interpolate his hit "Born in the U.S.A." for the track. It would be the first single from the LP and it would get to #20 Pop/#13 R&B/#1 Rap and go gold. The album would also go gold hitting #21 Pop/#10 R&B. Their follow up in '91 Sports Weekend would have nearly identical results. Changes would take place within 2 Live Crew after that and their next three albums would successively sell less. By 1998, the group's heydays had come to an end.