Saturday, March 25, 2023

"Swing the Mood" by Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers

Song#:  4084
Date:  10/28/1989
Debut:  91
Peak:  11
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, Novelty

Pop Bits:  In the late 80s, UK DJ Les Hemstock began supplying mix tracks to Music Factory Masters, a company that would basically issue out albums specifically for DJs that contained "megamix" tracks - basically medleys of well-known songs by a specific artist or ones that reflected a theme. For their Issue No. 22 album that was released in '88, Hemstock assembled a mix of early rock 'n' roll hits framed around the Glenn Miller swing era classic "In the Mood." Hemstock's track, titled "Swing the Mood," proved to be a popular selection and so label owner John Pickles and his DJ son Andy decided to see what would happen if they made the track into a single. With the help of another DJ, Ian Morgan, the team decided to develop a sort of face or front for the song. They came up with an animated character called Jive Bunny to use as a promotional front and filled out the name of the act with The Mastermixers. With everything in place the single "Swing the Mood" was issued out in the summer of '89 in the UK. The novelty tune caught on and it ended up spending five weeks at #1 on the UK chart. With that success, a full album was called for and Jive Bunny: The Album was created and released. With the song doing so well in the UK, a deal was struck for US distribution. The single would end up doing quite well nearly cracking the Pop Top 10 while getting to #38 AC. A second single "That's What I Like" would become another #1 in the UK, but could only get to #69 US Pop. The album would be a #2 triple-platinum seller in the UK and a #26 gold seller in the US. Jive Bunny's popularity would swiftly dwindle in the US and the outfit would never chart again. However, a few more hits would follow in the UK.

ReduxReview:  The decade started with a hits mix of sorts with '81's "Medley" by Stars on 45, so why not end the decade with one? The difference being that the Stars on 45 single consisted of re-recorded versions of songs while "Swing the Mood" mostly used the real tunes (with minor exceptions where they could not obtain the rights and had to re-record pieces). Either way, this was not my cup o' tea. I recognized how this might be a crowd pleaser at an event or party, but it was definitely something I could hear once and then never hear again. I can't say that it is the worst medley mix ever concocted. It was well-crafted and had the right tunes that would attract an audience "of a certain age." As a novelty tune it wasn't awful. It just wasn't my thing. The Stars on 45 single was about the only one of these I ever really liked. Anything else that came along was like a rinse-n-repeat thing and they end up coming off as cheap, easy things to create and peddle in order to make a quick buck and I wasn't buying them. Others would quickly follow (again) like '90s "The Grease Megamix" that featured songs from the film. Luckily it was a short fad that tended to be relegated to the UK. I'm sure someday there will be another song medley that will rear its ugly head and the trend will start again, but I'm praying it won't happen.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Jive Bunny would follow up their pair of #1s with a third chart topper. "Let's Party" would reach the top spot over the Christmas holiday of '89. It was a one-off single as was the follow-up "That Sounds Good to Me," which made it to #4. The Jive Bunny project would quickly record a new album, It's Party Time" and get it out in '90. Its first single, "Can Can You Party," would be the outfit's last UK Top 10 reaching #8. A pair of Top 20s would follow and that helped the album get to #23 and go gold. But like a lot of similar acts, the novelty wore off quickly. A couple of Christmas themed albums would sell pretty well, but as the 90s wore on interest in the Jive Bunny mixes waned. Later in 2018, it was reported in the British tabloid The Mirror that "Swing the Mood" originator Les Hemstock would claim that he received next to nothing from the hit single or album and was going ahead with a lawsuit. It is unknown whether an actual suit was filed and if so, the outcome. Hemstock would continue to be a popular DJ over the years and achieve a bit of fame with collaborator Chris Jennings. Billed as Hemstock & Jennings, the duo would release a few trance/dance club hits. They would also co-write and be featured on the US #6 Dance hit "Nothing But You" with Paul Van Dyk (#14 UK). Hemstock would also branch out into acting and appear in a few films and TV shows


Friday, March 24, 2023

"Crossroads" by Tracy Chapman

Song#:  4083
Date:  10/28/1989
Debut:  95
Peak:  90
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Contemporary Folk, Singer/Songwriter

Pop Bits:  Chapman's first single, "Fast Car," was not your typical pop single. The quiet story song didn't really fit among the hair metal and dance-pop hits of the day. Yet the tune intrigued listeners and it became an unexpected Grammy-winning hit that reached #6 on the Pop chart. Its success helped Chapman's self-titled debut album get to #1 and go triple platinum (years later it would reach the 6x platinum mark). After that major accomplishment, Chapman had the difficult task of following it up. What made it all harder was that Chapman's music wasn't necessarily mainstream fodder, so odds were good that she'd end up a one-hit wonder. Nevertheless, Chapman soldiered on and emerged in the fall of '89 with her second effort Crossroads. This first single was issued out and while it would do well at Modern Rock getting to #7, it didn't capture people's attention like "Fast Car" and the song stalled near the bottom of the Pop chart while only getting to #26 Rock and #41 AC. Further singles failed to chart. Despite not having a significant single, folks still showed up to buy the album and it would reach #9 and go platinum. It would earn a Grammy nod for Best Contemporary Folk Album.. Although the LP wasn't necessarily a failure, it did seem to indicate that Chapman could indeed become a one-hit wonder.

ReduxReview:  The chances of Chapman writing another song that would capture everyone's ear like "Fast Car" was slim to none. She was a coffee shop folk artist and her style wasn't something that continually lit up the Pop chart. Still, anything remotely popular would help to maintain the large audience she gained with her first album. Unfortunately, this song wasn't it. The jangly opening seemed promising, but in the end the tune just moved along verse after verse with little in the way of hooks, an interesting storyline, or even a chorus. Obviously, this is fine for a folk tune, but not for a pop radio single. It wasn't shocking that this song didn't get anywhere, but luckily many who showed up for her first album gave the second one a go and sales were good. It seemed like Chapman's days in the pop sun were over, but then eight years after 'Fast Car" hit, a little crowd-pleasing blues number she came up with put her back in the spotlight.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Chapman's third album, '92's Matters of the Heart, saw her mainstream audience dwindle further. No singles charted and that left the LP peaking at #53 and only reaching gold level sales. It seems like Chapman would go on to be a successful niche market artist after scoring one left-field hit. But then the unexpected happened. She did it again. Late in '95, Chapman released her fourth album New Beginnings. Its first single, the bluesy "Give Me One Reason," was also issued out. The song wasn't getting anywhere, but the album was selling fairly well. As more folks bought the LP, the single began to pick up some traction and was able to get on the Pop chart. Oddly, just a couple weeks prior to the single debuting on the Pop chart, the album would reach gold level sales. The song then kept gaining attention and eventually it would get to #3 Pop/#3 AC and go platinum. It eclipsed the success of her breakthrough hit "Fast Car." In turn the album would make it to #4. Eventually it would sell over 5 million copies. "Give Me One Reason" would receive four Grammy nods including for Record and Song of the Year. It would win for Best Rock Song giving Chapman her fourth Grammy. The song's success was as unexpected as Chapman's first hit and it quashed the one-hit wonder tag. Chapman's mainstream career would cool off again with her next LP, 2000's Telling Stories, getting to #33 and going gold. Chapman would continue to record and perform over the years and she would earn another Grammy nod in 2010 for her album Our Bright Future in the Best Contemporary Folk Album category.


Thursday, March 23, 2023

"Realistic" by Shirley Lewis

Song#:  4082
Date:  10/28/1989
Debut:  98
Peak:  84
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  UK-born Shirley Lewis (given name Shirley Fredericks) was exposed to the music business at a young age thanks to her older sister Linda Lewis. Linda's solo career took off in the 70s and it encouraged Shirley to sing and pursue music. As the 80s began, Shirley started to get backup vocal gigs. She would appear on albums by artists such as Spandau Ballet and Elton John. Perhaps most famously she worked and performed with George Michael. Along the way Shirley would record a few solo singles hoping a label would take interest. One finally did - A&M Records. They would hook her up with producer Shep Pettibone, who would helm the majority of Shirley's debut album Passion. This first single would be issued out, but it would receive limited attention. The song could only manage to peak at a minor #84 on both the Pop and R&B charts. A second single, "You Can't Hide," would only reach the Dance chart at #26. With those results, the album quickly came and went as did Shirley's contract with A&M. She would sign on with Columbia for a single in 1991, but it unfortunately didn't do anything to jump start her solo career. Lewis would return to doing background vocal work and has maintained a long list of appearances.

ReduxReview:  This was a well-crafted late 80s dance-pop track. I'm surprised it didn't do better. Everything seemed in place. It was catchy, expertly produced by Pettibone, and featured a nice vocal turn from Lewis. It had shades of both Paula Abdul and Madonna (a client of Pettibone's). Perhaps A&M didn't fully promote the tune. Not sure what happened but I think this one unfortunately fell through the cracks.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Shirley's older sister Linda had some good success in the 70s. Linda recorded her first single while still in her teens. Due to a potential name conflict with a labelmate, Linda change her last name from Fredericks to Lewis, in honor of soul singer Barbara Lewis. Although the single didn't get anywhere, Lewis was selected to replace Diane Ferraz in the popular Brit rock/soul band The Ferris Wheel. Linda would tour and do one album with the band before their breakup in 1970. The gig got her noticed and she was able to secure a solo deal with Reprise Records soon after. A pair of albums in '71 and '72 didn't take off, but then a 1973 single, "Rock-a-Doodle-Doo" put her on the map in the UK reaching #15. She'd then move over to Arista and in 1975 got her biggest hit with a disco remake of the 1964 Betty Everett hit "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)."  Simply titled "It's in His Kiss," the track would get to #6 in the UK. It would end up being Linda's only song to make the US charts getting to #11 Dance and #96 R&B while bubbling under the Pop chart at #107. Further singles didn't garner as much attention and Linda would float around a few labels for a while. Then as the mid-80s approached, Linda hooked up with her sisters Shirley and Dee (both had adopted the Lewis moniker as well) and formed the trio The Lewis Sisters. They would get singed to Riva Records and in '86 would release a few singles. Unfortunately, nothing took off and plans for a full album were scrapped. Linda would return to a solo career and has recorded and performed since.


Wednesday, March 22, 2023

"Bring It All Back" by Grayson Hugh

Song#:  4081
Date:  10/28/1989
Debut:  99
Peak:  87
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Blue-Eyed Soul, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Hugh grabbed an unexpected Pop Top 20 hit with "Talk It Over" (#19), the second single from his second album Blind to Reason. The soulful tune, which got to #9 AC, kicked of sales of the album and it would reach #71. This follow up single would then be issued out. While it would only spend a short month at the bottom of the Pop chart, it would do well at AC getting to #9. Hugh's next single would be a remake of Champaign's 1981 #12 Pop/#5 R&B/#1 AC hit "How 'Bout Us." Done as a duet with soul singer Betty Wright, the tune would miss the Pop chart, but get to #15 AC. It was from the soundtrack album to the 1989 rom-com True Love.

ReduxReview:  This is an easily listenable tune that perhaps wouldn't have been out of place on a Bonnie Raitt album. It was a good fit for AC radio, but the tune was nearly too polite and easy going for pop radio and it failed to catch on. The track might have had a more timeless feel if the little 80s production flourishes were not on it (such as the fake hand claps).

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  For his third album, Hugh would move over to MCA Records. Prior to the album coming out, three songs from the LP would first appear on a couple of 1991 soundtracks; two for Thelma and Louise and one for Fried Green Tomatoes. Then in '92, Hugh's album Road to Freedom would be released. No singles from the LP would chart and it quickly disappeared. Due to that and changes at MCA, Hugh would be left off of the label's roster. The next several years proved to be difficult for Hugh. He would spend time with a new band in North Carolina, then end up teaching for a spell at Boston's Berklee College of Music. But by 2004, he had become an alcoholic living out on Cape Cod and nearly died due to an alcohol-induced seizure. He would eventually become sober and pick back up on his music. He was able to release the 2010 indie album An American Record and start to tour again. Since that time, Hugh has married his backup singer, recorded more albums, and worked on contemporary dance pieces and film music.


Tuesday, March 21, 2023

"With Every Beat of My Heart" by Taylor Dayne

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  4080
Date:  10/21/1989
Debut:  61
Peak:  5
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  With her 1988 debut album Tell It to My Heart, Taylor Dayne joined a small club of artists who were able to score four Pop Top 10 hits from one album. The successful LP would reach #21, go double platinum, and earn Dayne a pair of Grammy nominations. Hoping to beat the sophomore slump, Dayne entered the studio for a second time with producer Ric Wake and by the fall of '89 her second album, Can't Fight Fate, would be ready for release. This first single would be issued out and it would earn Dayne a fifth consecutive Pop Top 10 hit. The song would also get to #8 Dance and #22 AC. It was a solid start and things would get better with her next single.

ReduxReview:  Dayne didn't mess around with her hit making formula for her second album. This single was right in line with her previous upbeat hits and it seemed folks were still into it with the tune cracking the Top 5. It was another solid, memorable piece of dance-pop that was expertly sung by Dayne. Her next two singles were also well-crafted and added to her total of Top 10s. Unfortunately, she couldn't keep it up and her next LP just didn't have the right songs to get her back near the top of the chart. Still, the streak of hits from her first two albums was mighty impressive.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Thanks to her first album becoming a significant hit, Dayne was able to co-write a couple of songs for her next effort and gain access to top songwriters. She secured not just one, but three Diane Warren-penned tracks, which included the LP's second single, "Love Will Lead You Back." That tune would become Dayne's biggest hit reaching #1 at Pop and AC. It would be her third gold record. A third single from the LP, "I'll Be Your Shelter," was also a Warren written tune and it would become Dayne's seventh consecutive Pop Top 10 hit getting to #4 (#15 AC). Her Pop Top 10 streak would come to an end when her next single, "Heart of Stone," would halt at #12 (#8 AC). Can't Fight Fate would pretty much replicate the results of her Dayne's debut album topping out at #25 and going double platinum. She would return with her third album, Soul Dancing, in 1993. The LP's lead single, a remake of the Barry White classic "Can't Get Enough of Your Love," would get to #20 Pop/#15 AC/#2 Dance. It would end up being Dayne's last Pop Top 40 hit. The album would only reach #51 and stop at the gold level sales mark. Dayne wouldn't make another album until 1998. It would then take a decade for her to make another. Although she wouldn't get any singles on the Pop chart, she would earn nine further Dance Top 10s including a pair of #1s. Dayne would also branch out into acting and appear on several TV shows and in a few films. In 2001, Dayne would step into the role of Amneris during the Broadway run of the hit Elton John/Tim Rice musical Aida. She had also appeared in or competed in several reality TV shows including making the semi-finals on The Masked Singer in 2020.


Monday, March 20, 2023

"Heat of the Moment" by After 7

Song#:  4079
Date:  10/21/1989
Debut:  86
Peak:  74
Weeks:  12
Genre:  R&B, New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, who at the time was on a hot streak with this co-writer/co-producer L.A. Reid, wasn't the only one with talent in his family. His older brothers Melvin and Kevon were solid vocalists who had formed a trio in their college days with friend Keith Mitchell. The trio would perform around the Indianapolis area, but it seems none of them were set on a career in music. They secured good jobs and on occasion would get together to perform. In the meantime, Babyface did pursue the music business and became very successful. As his career was hitting its stride, Babyface reached out to his brothers and Mitchell and invited them out to L.A. It was Babyface's intent to turn the trio into a legit vocal group. He would dub the trio After 7 and secure them a deal with Virgin Records. Babyface and L.A.. Reid would write and produce nearly all the tracks on the trio's self-titled debut album. Once completed, this first single was issued out. It would do well at R&B getting to #5, but it didn't quite catch fire at Pop where after three months it could only manage to peak near the bottom quarter of the chart. It wasn't too bad of a start, but as the 90s rolled in, the trio would break through in a much bigger way.

ReduxReview:  This was another competent Babyface/Reid track that was made a better by the trio's vocals. Kevon Edmonds took the lead and his powerful voice sailed effortlessly through the track. The trio definitely had the vocal goods, so it really came down to the tracks they were supplied from Babyface and Reid. While this one didn't necessarily separate the trio from the new jack pack, a couple other singles from the album would. Oddly, I don't remember any of the After 7 hits, so they were apparently not on my radar. That wasn't surprising at the time because new jack was wearing thin on me. Thanks to Babyface, this trio's hobby of performing once in a while together turned into a legit career.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) A second single from After 7's debut album wouldn't fare very well, but the the third single, "Ready or Not," would catapult them into stardom. The single would get to #1 R&B/#7 Pop and go gold. A fourth single, "Can't Stop," would do just as well hitting #1 R&B/#6 Pop and going gold. The two hits helped the album get to #3 R&B/#35 Pop. It would become a platinum seller. To keep the momentum going, the label would reissue "Heat of the Moment" to the pop market. On its second go-around it would do much better reaching #19. For the trio's second album, '92's Takin' My Time, Babyface and L.A. Reid would have less involvement due to their hectic schedules. Still, the LP would become a #8 R&B/#76 Pop platinum seller thanks to a pair of R&B Top 10s that were mid-charters at Pop. Babyface and Reid would return for '95's Reflections, but it seemed the trio was running out of steam. The LP would feature only one significant hit, the #5 R&B/#31 Pop single "'Til You Do Me Right." The album would reach #7 R&B/#40 Pop, but halt at gold level sales. By that point in time it seems the trio may have been having label issues. After the release of a hits compilation in '97, the members then decided to go their own ways. More than a decade later, Kevon and Mitchell would restart After 7 with Melvin's son Jason taking his place. However, in 2016 Melvin would rejoin the group and the quartet would record an album titled Timeless. It would do well (#7 R&B) thanks to five R&B Top 10 hits. Melvin would die in 2019. His son would end up leaving the group and was replaced by Danny McClain. In 2021, the trio would record the album Unfinished Business. While the LP would not chart, it did feature one last R&B Top 10 hit.  2) After the trio split, Kevon Edmonds chose to head out on a solo career. His debut album, '99's 24/7, would get to #15 R&B/#77 Pop thanks to the gold selling title track single (#2 R&B/#10 Pop). It would be ten years before he would release his second solo album, 2009's Who Knew.