Saturday, February 25, 2023

"Sold Me Down the River" by The Alarm

Song#:  4060
Date:  10/07/1989
Debut:  94
Peak:  50
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Although it contained a pair of Pop chart singles including the #6 Rock hit "Rain in the Summertime," The Alarm's third album Eye of the Hurricane could only manage to reach #77. Back in their UK homeland, the LP would do better reaching #23. The results were certainly good enough for I.R.S. Records to ask for a follow up and The Alarm emerged in '89 with Change. This first single would be issued out and it would become a hit at Rock (#2) and Modern Rock (#3). That action helped the single's prospects on the Pop chart and the tune would end up being The Alarm's most successful topping out at #50. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to really push the album, which did nearly the same business as their previous effort peaking at a mild #75.

ReduxReview:  This blues-rock track has late-70s glam influences galore. T. Rex is certainly apparent as the beginning of the song sounds like a cousin of that band's "Get It On." Not surprisingly, the producer of The Alarm's album, Tony Visconti, just happened to have produced that T. Rex hit along with several David Bowie albums. If that was the sound that The Alarm was going for, then they hit the mark. This was a good jam with a hooky chorus and solid production. While it was a great track for rock radio, I think it was a little ruff 'n' tough (not in the then-popular glam metal way) for pop and it didn't have much of a chance getting any further than it did. Still, it was a good track.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The Alarm's next studio album, '91's Raw was basically seen as a contractual obligation effort. With little promotion, it limped to #161 and the only song to chart was the title track, which got to #15 Modern Rock/#29 Rock. Not long after its release, the band would split. Tension in the band had members at odds and it seemed the writing was already on the wall. A meeting was set up the following day after their last scheduled show to figure things out, but one member said they couldn't attend. So instead of finishing up their last gig and figuring out stuff later, lead singer Mike Peters boldly and unexpectedly announced on stage at the band's last performance that he was done and left the stage. Peters would then head off on a solo career for the balance of the 90s. In 2000, Peters would form a new version of The Alarm, but due to potential legal issues he started to attach Roman numerals to the end of the band name for performances and releases that would indicate the year (i.e. The Alarm MM, The Alarm MMIV, etc.). A general way to do the band name became "The Alarm MM++" to cover the new era. The original band would reunite just once over the years. The members were ambushed by VH1 and coaxed into appearing and performing together on the show Bands Reunited. The four members eventually agreed and performed a set of songs in London. The full concert along with full interviews and rehearsal footage would be culled into a 3-DVD set and released as VH1 Band Reunited Uncut.


Friday, February 24, 2023

"I Want You" by Shana

Song#:  4059
Date:  10/07/1989
Debut:  96
Peak:  40
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Freestyle

Pop Bits:  Shana Petrone grew up in the Hollywood/Ft. Lauderdale area of Florida and began to sing with her family's church band at a young age. As she got older it seemed she got the itch to pursue a career in music and somehow got involved in Miami's freestyle scene. Still in her teens, she got hooked up with songwriter/producer Steve Gordon and recorded his track "I Want You." Put out on the indie Miami freestyle label Vision Records, the song caught on locally and then started to expand to other markets. The attention it got allowed the single to reach the Pop chart. Since the tune had a slow roll out causing it to catch on in different markets at different times, the single spent a lengthy time on the chart and would only be able to just make the Top 40. With the success of the song, an album was quickly recorded. Along with tracks by Gordon, Shana would get to record a couple songs with Exposé Svengali Lewis A Martineé. Once the album was ready, a second single "You Can't Get Away" was pushed out. It would not fare as well only getting to #82. However, thanks to "I Want You" Shana's debut album of the same name was able to scrape the chart at #165.

ReduxReview:  This is definitely some cheezy indie freestyle. The production sounds like it is from 1982 and the lyrics are so basic and bland. Shana can carry a tune and her voice sounds fairly strong, but she also sounds like a teen singer and the way she was recorded made her voice nearly piercing. Still, something about it grabbed some folk's attention and the tune somehow found its way to cracking the Pop Top 40. Unfortunately, nothing about this is music to my ears. When Shana switched to country late in the 90s (see below) the fit was much better. Her voice matured and the material she was doing was far, far better. It's too bad her country career didn't fully take flight. As for her freestyle era...yeesh...

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  It seems that after the modest success of her debut album, Shana did begin work on a second effort. Yet according to some sites and an interview, Shana wasn't really into the freestyle music she was tapped into doing and decided to withdraw from the scene. Apparently, country music was her first love and so over the next few years she started to work on rebranding her career. Eventually, she was able to grab a deal with Epic Nashville. In 1998, she would release her first single "Heaven Bound." It would get to #60 on the Country chart. A follow up, "This Time," would do a little better making it to #45. It seems that was enough for Epic to flip for a full album that was to be called Something Real. However, after the title track single stalled at #66, Epic decided to pull back their commitment and shelved the album. After her major label days ended, Shana moved to Chicago and started seeking work as a model and actress (she appeared in a national ad for Head & Shoulders). She also continued to write and perform music.


Thursday, February 23, 2023

"Get on Your Feet" by Gloria Estefan

Song#:  4058
Date:  09/30/1989
Debut:  65
Peak:  11
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Estefan officially kicked off her solo career with the album Cuts Both Ways. Its first single, the ballad "Don't Wanna Lose You," would be a gold selling #1 Pop/#2 AC hit. That result helped the album get to #6. Next up for release was this second single. The upbeat track seemed destined for the Pop Top 10, but then it halted just shy at the dreaded #11 spot. The song would also reach #5 AC and #20 Dance. By this point in time, the album had already reached the platinum sales mark.

ReduxReview:  Estefan definitely needed an upbeat follow up and this one was a good choice. It melded right in with hits she had with Miami Sound Machine. However, with the song missing out on the Top 10 it was a signal that perhaps folks were getting a little tired of the Estefan/MSM sound. I think Estefan played it safe and didn't change anything once she got billed solo. She could have updated her sound and skills by collaborating with a hot producer or songwriter, but she basically kept it in the family and for a first effort apart from the band that was okay. However, doing the same thing over and over doesn't do much to sustain a career on the charts and Estefan would find that out as the 90s wore on and the hits stopped coming. It was the Gloria and Emilio show and rarely was anyone invited to join in and alter the script and because of that, her albums quickly became interchangeable (which is kind of a polite way to say boring). Save for a couple of songs, I basically lost interest in Estefan after this single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song's title was mostly used as the title of a Broadway show. On Your Feet! was a jukebox musical based on the lives of Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio. The show mainly consisted of hits and other songs from Estefan and Miami Sound Machine. On Your Feet! would begin its run on Broadway in the fall of 2015 with Ana Villafañe portraying Gloria Estefan. The show would run through to January of 2017 with a national tour following. Reviews of the show were generally positive and did healthy box office business. However, it was virtually ignored at the Tony's where the show only received one nomination for Best Choreography.


Wednesday, February 22, 2023

"Don't Know Much" by Linda Ronstadt featuring Aaron Neville

Top 10 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  4057
Date:  09/30/1989
Debut:  72
Peak:  2
Weeks:  26
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Save for a one-off movie theme duet with James Ingram, '86's "Somewhere Out There" (#4), hadn't had a major solo Pop hit since 1980's "Hurt So Bad" (#8). As her pop music fortunes declined at the beginning of the 80s, Ronstadt then turned to other styles including three albums of standards, one of Mexican traditional songs, and a country trio effort with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton. Grammys and good reviews followed, but as the decade was coming to a close Ronstadt thought it was time to return to the pop mainstream. Most of the songs on her sixteenth studio album Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind would be cover tunes. She would perform four songs from famed writer Jimmy Webb along with others from Karla Bonoff, Paul Carrack and Issac Hayes. Ronstadt would also bring in singer Aaron Neville to guest on four songs including this first single. The AC-leaning ballad would become a surprise hit making it to #2 on the Pop chart. It would do even better at AC getting to #1. The single would sell well enough to go gold. In turn, the hit would help send the album to #7. By the end of the year it would go platinum. This song would earn Ronstadt and Neville the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Duo or Group. A second single, "All My Life," would get to #11 Pop/#1 AC in 1990. Do to it being released in the next Grammy cycle, the song would earn Ronstadt and Neville a second Grammy in the same category. Cry Like a Rainstorm would eventually sell over three million copies becoming one of Ronstadt's biggest albums.

ReduxReview:  I remember when this came out that it confused me. I didn't recognize the title, but I knew the song. It took me a bit to remember that I knew the song as "All I Need to Know" from Bette Midler's '83 album No Frills. While I did like her version, I do have to admit that the pairing of Ronstadt and Neville on this song did take it to a different level. I've never been a fan of Neville's high, vibrato-laden voice, but it does meld well with Ronstadt's impeccable instrument. The track was nicely arranged and it made for a lovely listen. It was easy to peg this as an instant #1 at AC, but I was quite surprised that it nearly topped the Pop chart. It provided a nice boost to the careers of both Ronstadt and Neville.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song composed by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and Tom Snow, and originally recorded by Mann. It first appeared on his 1980 self-titled album. It was not released as a single. The following year it was picked up by singer Bill Medley. His single version became a minor chart entry at Pop (#88) and AC (#29).  Then Bette Midler gave the song a go in '83. Her version, which was titled "All I Need to Know," also stiffed only getting to #77 Pop/#39 AC. The song finally got its long awaited due when Ronstadt and Neville turned it into a duet.  2) Ronstadt's successful return to pop would be short-lived. She would go back to Mexican traditional music for two albums before putting out Winter Light in '93. It didn't generate much attention and stalled at a low #93. She would release four more solo albums and a collaboration effort with Ann Savoy before retiring from music in 2011 due to her battle with Parkinson's disease. Ronstadt would receive 12 Grammys in her career including the Lifetime Achievement Award. Her final Grammy came in 2021 when a documentary about her life and career, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, won for Best Music Film.


Tuesday, February 21, 2023

"Leave a Light On" by Belinda Carlisle

Song#:  4056
Date:  09/30/1989
Debut:  78
Peak:  11
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Carlisle's first two solo albums both peaked at #13 and were gold/platinum sellers. The albums would spawn a total of four Pop Top 10 hits including the #1 "Heaven Is a Place on Earth." For her third effort, Carlisle expanded her collaboration with that song's writers/producers Rick Nowels and Ellen Shipley. The pair would work up six tracks that would appear on Runaway Horses including this first single. The song would leisurely climb up the chart and finally peak just outside of the Top 10 at the dreaded #11 spot. It would do a bit better at AC getting to #8. With the single not becoming a smash hit, the album would then halt at #37, which was definitely not keeping pace with her previous two LPs. A second single, "Summer Rain," would make it to #30 Pop/#29 AC in '90. The song would be Carlisle's last to make the Pop Top 40. Runaway Horses would be certified gold by the end of '89. It would be Carlisle's last charting solo album in the US.

ReduxReview:  This was a good track that wouldn't have been out of place on Carlisle's Heaven on Earth album. However, that may not have been a plus as the song sounded a bit familiar and wasn't as memorable as her previous hits. The only unique thing about the track is that through connections, Carlisle got George Harrison to provide the guitar solo. While it may not have been as single-worthy, the follow up "Summer Rain" was more interesting with its chuggin' dark chorus and nicely done string arrangement. Overall, Runaway Horses just didn't have that one big memorable hit that would help sustain Carlisle's solo career. Sadly, listeners in the US quickly lost interest in Carlisle and moved on.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Carlisle's next album, '91's Live Your Life Be Free, would not chart in the US. It contained her last Pop chart single, the #73 "Do You Feel Like I Feel." While her chart fortunes dried up in the US, Carlisle remained popular in the UK and around Europe. Live Your Life Be Free and its follow up, '93's Real would both reach the UK Top 10. Her '96 album A Man and a Woman would get to #12 in the UK and go gold. That LP would spawn to UK Top 10 singles, "In Too Deep" (#6) and "Always Breaking My Heart" (#8). After that album, Carlisle would reunite with The Go-Go's for a tour and an album. She would return to solo work in 2007 with Voila, a collection of French chansons. While it would fail to chart anywhere, it received some positive critical notices. For her next album, Carlisle would move even further away from her pop/rock roots. Having become a teacher of Kundalini yoga, Carlisle chose to do an album of Sikh chants done in Gurmukhi and mainly co-written by Carlisle and Gabe Lopez. It would end up reaching #4 on the Billboard World Albums chart.