Saturday, March 18, 2023

"Just Like Jesse James" by Cher

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  4078
Date:  10/21/1989
Debut:  90
Peak:  8
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Cher earned her biggest hit of the 80s with the #3 gold selling "If I Could Turn Back Time." It was the second single issued out from her nineteenth studio album Heart of Stone. For a follow up, this next track was pushed out. It would do well making the Pop Top 10 while also getting to #9 AC. The album's title track would be released as the fourth single and it would get a little attention reaching #20 Pop/#30 AC. Although the album reached its #10 peak just a week before "Just Like Jesse James" debuted on the Pop chart, the song helped extend the sales life of the LP and by November it would reach the platinum mark. By the summer of '90 it would go double platinum (and eventually triple platinum in '98). It would remain Cher's biggest selling studio album until her 1998 #4 smash Believe, which went quad platinum.

ReduxReview:  Despite being a Top 10 hit, this is a tune that Cher has mentioned that she never really liked. Still, I bet she enjoyed the extra attention and album sales it generated. This country-tinged rock track written by Desmond Child and Diane Warren wouldn't have been out of place on a Bon Jovi album. That's not really surprising since co-writer and producer Child had worked with that band (and oddly, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora co-wrote another track on Cher's album with Child and Warren). It was a good vehicle for Cher and was the obvious follow up track. Although it did quite well, the hit is one that hasn't had much of a life after its time on the chart. Still, it's was a big ballsy tune with another solid performance from Cher that would wrap up the decade for the legend. I have to share that when I saw Cher in concert in 2014, I happened to sit next to a couple who were at least in their 70s. They needed help to their seats and were all dressed up. Pat Benatar spectacularly opened the show and at the intermission I asked the lady next to me if she was enjoying the show. She said yes and then I asked her what brought her out to see Cher and I'll never forget her response. She said, "oh honey, there is only one Cher!" Damn right!

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Cher's 80s comeback would taper off as the 90s began. Her biggest hit for the majority of the decade was the #17 "Love and Understanding," which was from her gold selling '91 album Love Hurts (#48). But in true Cher form, she would reinvent herself yet again and in 1998 released the hugely successful dance single "Believe." It would become the biggest single of Cher's solo career spending four weeks at #1 in 1999 and going platinum. It would also be the #1 year-end single for 1999. The song set a few records for Cher including being the oldest female to reach #1 on the Pop chart (she was 52 at the time). Cher still holds that record for an initial release of a single. However, when Mariah Carey's 1994 holiday chestnut "All I Want for Christmas Is You" finally got to #1 in 2022, Carey was 53, so technically she has the record as the oldest female to have a #1 single. However, Cher still holds the record for the longest gap between #1 hits (between 1974's "Dark Lady" and "Believe"). The Believe LP would earn Cher her first Grammy (for Best Dance Recording). Cher's next album, '91's Living Proof, would reach #6 and go gold thanks in part to three #1s on the Dance chart. After that, Cher would more or less step away from music for a while. She would still tour, do a Vegas residency, win an Emmy, make TV appearances, and do a couple of films including 2010's Burlesque. She would return to music in 2013 with the LP Closer to the Truth (#3). It would spawn another Dance #1 plus a pair of #2s. Then after appearing in the 2018 movie musical sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Cher would release an ABBA cover album titled Dancing Queen (#3). Also in 2018, Cher received the Kennedy Center Honors award.


Friday, March 17, 2023

"The Arms of Orion" by Prince with Sheena Easton

Song#:  4077
Date:  10/21/1989
Debut:  91
Peak:  36
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, Prince's #1 soundtrack to the film Batman had surpassed the double platinum mark. It got there thanks to the #1 platinum single "Batdance " and its gold-selling #18 follow up "Partyman." Things would keep on rolling with this third single. Apparently Sheena Easton had written a set of lyrics that she sent to Prince. He liked them enough to write music for them. The pair then recorded it as a duet and it was included on the Batman soundtrack. The ballad didn't fully ignite and it would only get inside the Pop Top 40. A fourth single, "Scandalous!," would be issue out and while it would do well at R&B getting to #5, it would not make the Pop chart. The tune and soundtrack album would wrap up a hugely successful 80s for Prince. Over the decade he earned seven Top 10 albums, including three #1s, and thirteen Pop Top 10 hits including four #1s. He would also win four Grammys.

ReduxReview:  Back in the day I figured this would be released as a single. It was a nice tune that had the added bonus of a Sheena Easton appearance. However, its prospects were 50/50. Save for the epic "Purple Rain," Prince wasn't known for hit ballads, so this tune was certainly a change of pace. While there seemed to be enough hooks to make it single-worthy, it wasn't necessarily a straight-forward pop ballad - it had its Prince-isms for sure. Yet with the film and soundtrack doing well along with being the second pairing with Easton (following "U Got the Look"), the tune had a chance. In the end, it didn't become a hit, but it wasn't a total flop. A Top 40 finish was the best it could do, which was probably appropriate.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Prince's next album would also be a soundtrack. However, this time it was one from his own film. Prince would write and direct the musical drama Graffiti Bridge. Although not initially conceived to be one, the movie ended up being a sequel to the Prince-starring 1984 hit Purple Rain. Unfortunately, the film was a critical and box office bomb. Despite that, the soundtrack album was warmly received and it would become a #6 gold seller thanks to the #1 R&B/#6 Pop gold single "Thieves In the Temple" and the #3 R&B/#12 Pop gold seller "Round and Round" that was sung by Tevin Campbell. Prince would continue his hit streak with '91's Diamond and Pearls. It would be a #3 double platinum seller that spawned a pair of Pop Top 10 hits with the #3 title track and the #1 gold record "Cream," which would end up being Prince's final Pop chart topper. After that, things got strange in the Prince realm. He had label issues, changed his name to a symbol, issued out a couple multi-disc sets, and released a famed shelved album. He would have two further Pop Top 10s in the 90s with '92's "7" and '94's "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World." The latter would be his last Pop Top 10 hit. Prince would continue to release albums over the years to varying success. His 2006 album 3121 would be his last studio album to reach #1 and his last to hit the gold level mark. In 2004, Prince would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He would unexpectedly die of an accidental overdose on April 21, 2016.


Thursday, March 16, 2023

"The Same Love" by The Jets

Song#:  4076
Date:  10/21/1989
Debut:  92
Peak:  87
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  After a pair of successful albums, this family band was hoping their luck would continue with their third regular studio effort Believe. Unfortunately, the LP's first single, "You Better Dance," didn't connect with listeners and it stalled at a minor #59 Pop/#73 R&B/#28 Dance. That definitely didn't bode well for album sales and it was hoped that this second single, written by Diane Warren, would turn things around. It didn't happen. While the song was able to reach #15 at AC, it was unable to get out of the basement rungs on the Pop chart. With those results, the album faltered at #107 Pop/#74 R&B.

ReduxReview:  This was an average ballad from Warren. It certainly didn't rank alongside her bigger hits and that didn't do The Jets any favors. With Warren on a hot streak, I'm sure the band and their label thought one of her songs would be a surefire hit, but this one just wasn't all that memorable. With the tune not becoming a hit, it seems Warren may have continued to shop the song and Exposé picked it up for their '92 self-titled LP, but it wasn't released as a single. The lifespan of a bubblegum/teen pop group is typically short and The Jets' time in the spotlight quickly came to an end after grabbing five Pop Top 10s. An issue for them was that with minor exceptions, they didn't write their own material. They relied on outside writers and chances are that their label did most of the song selection. That worked out fine for a couple of albums, but by the third one, the material just didn't hit potential and didn't move the band forward in any way. Still, the Wolfgramm family had a nice run of hit singles.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The Jets would have one more album issued out by MCA Records. In 1990, the compilation The Best of the Jets would be issued. It consisted of the band's biggest hits along with four new songs. One of the new tracks, "Special Kind of Love," would be issued out as a single. It would be their final one to reach any chart topping out at a minor #83 at R&B. Left off of the MCA roster, the band would keep going and would issue out a few indie albums over the years. Along the way, original members would bow out and be replaced by other siblings who were too young to participate during the band's heydays. There would be no shortage of Wolfgramm's to fill up spots as there were 17 siblings (15 born to the family, 2 adopted). However, like any other band disagreements arose and the family would be left fractured. They would attempt to solve issues and reunite, but that didn't last long and a lawsuit would divide the family again. It seems things would finally be resolved, but in the aftermath there would end up being two versions of the band - The Jets and The Jets Original Family Band.


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

"New Thing" by Enuff Z'Nuff

Song#:  4075
Date:  10/21/1989
Debut:  93
Peak:  67
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Hard Rock, Power Pop

Pop Bits:  This Chicago area band was founded by singer Donnie Vie and bassist Gregory Rybarski (aka Chip Z'Nuff). The pair would fill out the group, initially known as Enough Z'Nuff, and begin performing. Within a couple of years, the band would develop a solid local following and they would eventually record their first single titled "Fingers on It." The tune would get picked up for use in the 1986 film Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, which has been shooting around Chicago. Yet even with that exposure, the band was having difficulty trying to find a recording contract. Finally in '89, Atco Records signed on them on. With an adjusted name of Enuff Z'Nuff, the band recorded their self-titled debut album. This first single would be released and it would get some attention at Rock reaching #25. The tune would cross over to Pop, but it stalled in the bottom half of the chart. A second single, the power ballad "Fly High Michelle," would do better getting to #27 Rock and #43 Pop. Those results helped the album reach #74.

ReduxReview:  Enuff Z'Nuff sort of got unfairly lumped into the glam/hair metal category when really they leaned more towards power pop/alt rock. It didn't help that the label pushed them into the glam realm and had them don some very...interesting...costumes for the "Fly High Michelle" video. The band was able to tone everything down and be more themselves with their second album, but with the onset of grunge, the damage was already done and the LP was a commercial failure. The band had the goods. It was just unfortunate that timing and marketing worked against them. This single actually might have done better around '93 when bands like Soul Asylum where hitting. It was a better fit for that alt rock sound rather than being pushed as glam metal.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The band's second album, '91's Strength, would prove to be a creative peak for the band. It would receive critical praise, but that wasn't enough to sell albums. With only the track "Mother's Eyes" making it to #17 Rock, the album flopped at a minor #143. Left off of the Atco roster, the band was picked up by Arista and was able to record their third album, '93's Animals with Human Intelligence. Unfortunately, no singles charted and the album disappeared quickly. That brought an end to the band's major label days. The band would continue to record indie albums and tour with various lineups over the years.


Tuesday, March 14, 2023

"French Kiss" by Lil Louis

Song#:  4074
Date:  10/21/1989
Debut:  96
Peak:  50
Weeks:  13
Genre:  House, Dance

Pop Bits:  Lil Louis, aka Marvin Burns, made a name for himself as a popular Chicago house music DJ and producer. He would release a couple of indie singles in the late 80s that got him some further attention locally, but it would be this salacious track that would put him in a bigger spotlight. Lil Louis originally recorded the 10-minute tune as an instrumental. The driving jam featured repetitive keyboard motifs, which wasn't all that unusual for a house music track. However, what made it stand out was a mid section that featured a woman's voice moaning in a very sexual way as the beat slowed down to a halt. It would then pick up speed and return to its original tempo. This was something quite different as house music tunes did not vary their tempos. Lil Louis' sensual track quickly became a local hit and as interest in the song spread, Epic Record came knocking. A deal was struck for distribution, but it did come with a caveat. Epic wanted a vocal version (minus the "orgasm" part) as well to promote at pop radio. Lil Louis agreed and got Karlana Johnson to write lyrics for the tune. Then he brought on Shawn Christopher to prove the vocals. In addition to doing the full track with vocals, a tamer single mix was also done for pop radio. Released in the fall of '89, "French Kiss" caught on quickly in clubs and would eventually top the Dance chart. The week the song accomplished that feat, it would debut on the Pop chart. The less sexy single mix did fairly well stopping right at the halfway mark on the Pop chart. The success of the single led to Epic calling for a full album. From the Mind of Lil Louis, credited to Lil Louis & the World, would assembled and released. A second single, "I Called U," would be issued out but it would only get to #28 Dance. In turn, the album would not chart

ReduxReview:  I've never been much of a house music fan. I just find it repetitive and frankly, boring. I remember going to a few clubs where the DJ was playing house music and I remember thinking that everything sounded the same and blended together. In my mind I was like - its been 40 minutes, is he gonna change the song? But like other styles of music that I don't connect with, there are always some tracks that I like. I can put "French Kiss" on the list of ones I kinda like. I prefer the vocal version because it breaks up the monotony of the one-chord riff/beat. Plus the orgasmic mid section in the long version certainly provides some extra interest. It was an influential track and one that continued to help house music grow in popularity.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Despite Lil Louis' debut album not charting, Epic gave him another chance. A second album, Journey with the Lonely would be released in 1992. Two of its singles would get to #1 on the Dance chart. Neither would make the Pop chart. The album would fail to chart and that brought an end to Lil Louis' major label days.  2) The two singles from Lil Louis' second album featured lead vocals by Joi Cardwell. Born in NYC, Cardwell got her start in the music business as a backup singer. She also branched out to songwriting and in 1989 she collaborated with R&B star Kashif on a song that appeared on his 1989 self-titled album. That association got her a deal with Kashif's label Arista. She became a member of the girl group The Promise. Unfortunately, the group never got off the ground. It was then that Cardwell answered a Village Voice ad for a vocalist and got the job with Lil Louis. After fronting two #1 Dance singles, Cardwell eventually signed on with an indie dance label and kicked off a solo career. In '94, she got her first Dance chart hit with the #11 "Trouble." Then throughout the balance of the 90s, Cardwell would score a string of seven Top 10 Dance hits including two #1s. She would earn four more Dance Top 10s in the following decade. Although she was highly successful on the Dance chart, none of her singles crossed over to Pop and her albums would not chart.Cardwell would eventually set music aside and in 2019 open up the Jump for Joi Wellness Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.


Monday, March 13, 2023

"We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  4073
Date:  10/14/1989
Debut:  58
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Joel's '86 album The Bridge signaled a bit of a downturn in popularity. Although the LP would reach #7, featured a pair of Top 10 singles, and go double-platinum, it wasn't particularly well-received and didn't get close to the five million (later seven million) sales mark of his previous effort An Innocent Man. Feeling the need to branch out and make changes, Joel parted ways with his long time producer Phil Ramone and chose to work with Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones. He also scrapped most of his backing band in favor of new musicians. The resulting LP, Storm Front, was a slightly darker and denser affair, which was highlighted by this intense first single. The rapid fire history-lesson-in-five-minutes track piqued the interest of radio listeners and it wasn't long before the song was bolting up the Pop chart. It would become Joel's third (and final) #1 at Pop while also getting to #5 AC and #6 Rock. It would sell well enough to go gold. The hit would help send the album to #1 for a week. It was Joel's third #1 and first since 1980's Glass Houses. "We Didn't Start the Fire" would earn three Grammy nods including for Record and Song of the Year. The following year, the album would get Joel nominations for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Producer of the Year. The LP would eventually reach the 4x platinum mark. Helping it along was a second hit "I Go to Extremes" (#6 Pop/#4 AC/#10 Rock). Three other singles would reach the charts including the ballad "And So It Goes" (#5 AC/#37 Pop). During its time on the charts "We Didn't Start the Fire" would go gold, but over the years it became a sort of cultural touchstone and the tune's digital version would reach the triple-platinum mark in 2021 thanks in part to a viral tweet (see below).

ReduxReview:  I have to say that when this song first arrived, I was all about it. I got the single and played it to the point where I had the lyrics down pat. If karaoke was around at the time in my area I would have killed with this tune! I thought it was a truly interesting song and I liked its message, which was basically that every generation is fucked up in its own way. I remember some reviewers dismissing the song for delivering a message like that but offering no solution. Like, what was he supposed to do? Provide a wish list of future initiatives and then sing "we can stop the fire?" It was ridiculous. As much as I still like the tune, I have to say it is one that I can't hear a lot anymore. It's a fun lark once in a great while to see how many of the lyrics I remember, but it was a song of a certain time and place. At least for me. However, the song still gets used and parodied in various ways and even went viral in 2020 thanks to a TV writing using Twitter to point out all the shitty things that happened on a specific day (March 11, 2020). His tweet was simple: "Today was like if 'We Didn't Start The Fire' was a day."

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Joel got the idea for this song during a visit with John Lennon's son Sean and his 21-year-old friend. It seems the friend was talking about how bad the times were as he was growing up and that it seemed like everything was more or less hunky dory in the 50s. Joel disputed the assumption saying that growing up in the 50s was just as bad and cited several historical events. That conversation sparked Joel's creativity and he decided to continue to list out various historical events (or people involved) in a mostly chronological over a 40 year period from Joel's birth year of 1949 through to 1989. The song mentions 118 people/events from the worlds of politics, entertainment, science, and pop culture. The references sent many listeners scrambling to find out more about certain items in Joel's list. Even some history classes in schools would use the song as a springboard for lessons and discussions. Yet despite its teachable moments, weeks at #1, and multiple Grammy nods, the song would later find its way on a few "worst of" lists and the one person seemingly in partial agreement was Joel. When interviewed about the song, Joel once said of the music that "if you take the melody by itself, terrible. Like a dentist drill." He said he also forgets the lyrics often when performing it and relies on the audience to help along.  2) Joel's upturn of success with Storm Front would continue with his next album, '93's River of Dreams. It would reach #1 and sell over 5 million copies thanks mainly to the #3 gold title-track single. The LP would earn a Grammy nod for Album of the Year while the single would receive three nods including Record and Song of the Year. And then just like that, it was over. According to an interview with Joel, he got bored of writing 3-minute pop songs and wanted to do something different. While he could continue to tour on his own and with Elton John over the years, Joel would spend time coming up with that "different" thing. It would finally see the light of day in 2001 when Joel unveiled his first classical compositions with Fantasies & Delusions. The effort would get a mixed critical reaction, but it did reach #1 on the Classical chart and even got to #83 at Pop. As of this posting date, it remains Joel's last studio album. Since the time of River of Dreams, Joel has only released a couple of new pop songs. Both came in 2007. Joel wrote "All My Life" as an anniversary gift for his third wife Katie Lee. He would also write the charity single "Christmas in Fallujah." While the song was credited to Billy Joel, the vocals were done by singer Cass Dillon. Joel thought a younger voice would portray the lyrics much better. In addition to record breaking tours and stints at Madison Square Gardens, Joel would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.