Friday, May 12, 2023

"What Kind of Man Would I Be?" by Chicago

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  4123
Date:  12/02/1989
Debut:  95
Peak:  5
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Although it would only peak at #37, Chicago 19 would become a platinum seller thanks to three Pop Top 10 hits including the gold #1 single "Look Away." To cap off the decade, the band's label decided to issue out a hits compilation that covered their 80s resurgence. Greatest Hits 1982-1989 was assembled and it featured all their key hits from the time period. To help promote the LP, a remix of a song that first appeared on Chicago 19, "What Kind of Man Would I Be?," would be give a remix treatment, included on the compilation, and then issued out as a single. The tune would have a low debut on the Pop chart, but it slowly caught fire and ended up reaching the Top 5. It would also get to #2 at AC. The song would end up being Chicago's final Pop Top 10 hit. It arrived nearly twenty years after their first Pop Top 10, 1970's "Make Me Smile" (#9). The Greatest Hits album would peak at #37 and go gold. However, it would be a consistent seller over the years and it would eventually reach the 5x platinum mark making it tied for their best selling album with '75's Chicago IX: Chicago's Greatest Hits.

ReduxReview:  Lead singer Jason Scheff was apparently taking notes on how to write a big pop ballad in the same vein as the ones written for the band from Diane Warren and others. This sits right next to the tracks that became hits and so it wasn't all that surprising that it aced the Pop Top 10. The only difference in this one is it had a bit of the ol' Chicago horn section integrated, which made it sound like something from the band's Peter Cetera/David Foster era. These big ballads were getting redundant and predictable, but I actually didn't mind this one. It was well written and had a good arrangement (with the horns getting something to do in the mid-section) and production. It was a nice last gasp for the 80s comeback era for the band. There was no way the band could sustain a constant barrage of hit ballads. It had to end sometime and it did conclude in '91 (thankfully) when two Diane Warren songs tanked, which allowed the band to go run off into the pasture to do what they wanted.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Chicago would go through more personnel changes prior to recording their next album Twenty 1. Working with producer Ron Nevison for a second time, the sessions were a bit fractured due to the band being out on tour. The band's label also wanted them to record a couple more Diane Warren-penned tunes as potential hits, which they did. Unfortunately, both flopped with only "Chase the Wind" doing anything getting to #39 Pop/#13 AC. The LP would top out at a minor #66 and fail to go gold. With those results, Chicago basically decided to leave their 80s commercial pop sound behind and attempt to get back to the way they did compositions in the 70s. Working with producer Peter Wolf, the band came up with the more experimental Stones of Sisyphus. However, after finishing and handing in the LP, the label unexpectedly and controversially chose to not release the album. The band was asked to go back and record a more commercial album, but they refused. At the time, the LP actually fulfilled their contractual obligation to their label and so they chose to leave. Their next album then ended up being a standards effort titled Night & Day: Big Band, which was on the band's own self-titled label. It would get to #90. After that, the only studio album the band would record was a 1998 Christmas album. They wouldn't issue out an album of original material until 2006's Chicago XXX (#41). Over the years the band would go through personnel changes and continue to tour and record. In 2008, the long lost Stones of Sisyphus album would finally be released (#122). In 2016, Chicago would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Thursday, May 11, 2023

"Owwww!" by Chunky A

Song#:  4122
Date:  12/02/1989
Debut:  96
Peak:  77
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rap, Comedy, Novelty

Pop Bits:  In 1989, comedian/actor Arsenio Hall began his six season run hosting The Arsenio Hall Show. The program was an immediate success upon its January 3, 1989, premiere. It was during that first season of the show that Hall developed an alter ego character based off of popular rap artists like Heavy D. and The Fat Boys. Hall donned a fat suit and became rapper Chunkston Arthur Hall, aka Chunky A. Hall would end up securing a deal with MCA Records and would write/co-produce a Chunky A debut album titled Large and in Charge. This first single would be issued out and while the video got some attention on MTV, the song fizzled low on the Pop chart while reaching #23 R&B. A second single, "Sorry," would only make it to #91 R&B. With those results, the album would only get to #71 Pop/#41 R&B. While Hall's TV show would continue to be successful, the lack of interest in Chunky A led him to retire the character.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't a fan of Hall or his TV show, so it was not surprising that I had no idea about Chunky A. Frankly, I would have been fine to never know about this, alas I had to cover the single for this project. I can understand that when the limelight shines on someone, they need to capitalize on the moment while they can, which for many celebrities is to branch out into music. While some legitimately do well, others should have selected to do something else. Hall definitely should have tried something else. Setting aside the awful concept and fat jokes, which would not play well these day, Hall's material just wasn't funny. Several rap artists already effectively included humorous elements in their work, so if you are a comedian who wants to send up or satirize those artists, you really have to double down and be excessively clever and Hall didn't get there. It was juvenile humor at best that might make a young teenager chuckle. All Hall did with the Chunky A project was demonstrate how to go from comedy to tragedy in a short few minutes. Yes, I know I'm hard on novelty tracks, but c'mon. This is supposed to be funny and it couldn't even elicit a minor chuckle or crack of a smile from me.

ReduxRating:  0/10

Trivia:  Thanks to the success of his TV show, Hall had access to celebrities and he took advantage of that for his Chunky A album. He was able to secure a few vocal cameos from the likes of Paula Abdul, Ice-T, Troop, and others. For "Owwww!," he was able to not only use a sample of Cameo's hit "Word Up," but also have them appear in the song's video. For the song "Ho Is Lazy," Hall got clearance to use samples from the Fine Young Cannibals' "She Drives Me Crazy."


Wednesday, May 10, 2023

"Serious Kinda Girl" by Christopher Max

Song#:  4121
Date:  12/02/1989
Debut:  97
Peak:  75
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B, Electro-Funk

Pop Bits:  Exposed to music and the business at a young age via his father (see below), Christopher McDaniels initially became proficient in drumming, but then expanded out to guitar and vocal work. After a stint at Boston's Berklee College of Music alongside his brother London, the pair moved to L.A. and formed the band Carerra. They would end up getting signed by Warner Bros. and issue out a self-titled debut album in '83. The LP didn't get anywhere, but the band would get a second chance when picked up by the Capitol Records off shoot label Manhattan. They would have a name change to World Sitizenz and push out a self-titled debut album in '85. Again, the work failed to gain any attention and the band would split. Then a chance run-in with producer Nile Rodgers led to a solo deal with EMI. McDaniels would then become Christopher Max and a debut album titled More Than Physical would be recorded with Rodgers. The title track would serve as the LP's first single and it would get to #24 R&B. A second single, "I Burn for You," would only reach #71 R&B. Then this third single came along. This time around, the song failed to reach the R&B chart, but it would spend a couple of months in the bottom quarter of the Pop chart. In turn, the album came and went as did Max's major label days.

ReduxReview:  This funky tune has a bit of the ol' Minneapolis feel to it mixed with a little new jack. The tune was nicely crafted and the production solid for the time period. However, it wasn't a tune that stuck with me. I liked it while listening, but then later I couldn't recall a note of it. The album's title track was the same way. Fun to hear, but then it left my brain soon after. The talent seemed to be there. It was just that Max wasn't able to come up with that surefire breakthrough hit.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Christopher McDaniel's father had some chart success in the early 60s. Gene McDaniels started out as a singer fronting a few jazz bands before getting a chance for a solo career. In '61 and '62, he would end up scoring three Pop Top 10s with "A Hundred Pounds of Clay" (#3 Pop/#11 R&B), "Tower of Strength" (#5 Pop/#5 R&B), and "Chip Chip" (#10 Pop). A couple of other Pop Top 40 entries would follow, but the hits would quickly halt for McDaniels. He would turn mainly to songwriting with his tunes getting picked up by several artist including Roberta Flack, who would turn one of McDaniels' songs into a major hit. "Feel Like Makin' Love" would be an across the board smash in 1974 getting to #1 at Pop, AC, and R&B. It would be nominated for three Grammys including Record and Song of the Year.


Tuesday, May 9, 2023

"Downtown Train" by Rod Stewart

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  4120
Date:  11/25/1989
Debut:  54
Peak:  3
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Following the double platinum success of his '88 album Out of Order, Stewart and his label decided to wrap up the decade with a career-spanning compilation album. Storyteller - The Complete Anthology 1964-1990 would be assembled and would highlight Stewart's hits and key tracks. In addition, Stewart would re-record a couple of cover tunes he had done previously along with this brand new recording, which would be issued out as a single to help promote the 4-disc box set. The song would do very well reaching #1 at both Rock and AC while spending three weeks at #3 on the Pop chart. A second single, a newly recorded version of the Isley Brothers' 1966 #12 Pop/#5 R&B hit "This Old Heart of Mine" done as a duet with Ronald Isley, would also do well getting to #10 Pop/#1 AC. (Stewart originally covered the song himself in 1975 and release it as a single, but it only got to #83 Pop.) The Storyteller box set would peak at #54, but over time would become a double platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  Stewart's cinematic Springsteen-esqe take on this song worked so well for him. It was quite different from Tom Wait's original, which had a more lo-fi, gritty arrangement. Stewart was able to transition the tune from an art rock gem into a mainstream hit. That is not an easy feat so when it gets done right on an already brilliant tune the results can only elevate the song and I think that was accomplished here. As a big Waits fan, I tend to prefer his lived in original, but I certainly like and admire Stewart's update, which gave Waits as a songwriter his lone Pop chart hit.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally written and recorded by singer/songwriter Tom Waits. It was included on his 1985 album Rain Dogs. It was released as a single, but did not chart. Several artists would record the tune including Mary Chapin Carpenter and Bob Seger, but only one other artist besides Stewart has made the Pop chart with the song. Patty Smyth's 1987 cover would be a blip on the chart at #95.  2) Stewart would continue his hit streak into the next decade. His 1990 album Vagabond Heart would spawn two Pop Top 10 hits. The first would be "Rhythm of My Heart," which would get to #5 Pop/#2 AC/#13 Rock. Written by Marc T. Jordan and John Capek, the tune was based on the Scottish traditional "Loch Lomond." The song was first recorded by Dutch singer RenĂ© Shuman for his 1986 self-titled debut album. After that, Stewart would release "The Motown Song," a track he recorded with The Temptations. It would get to #10 Pop/#3 AC. That tune was also a cover. It was originally written and recorded by Larry John McNally for the soundtrack to the 1986 film Quicksilver. Stewart would earn two more major hits in 1993. First was a live version of Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately" from Stewart's Unplugged...And Seated album that got to #5 Pop/#1 AC and went gold. Then a song co-written by Bryan Adams and performed by him, Stewart, and Sting for the film The Three Musketeers, "All for Love," would become a #1 Pop/#4 AC platinum seller. It was Stewart's first #1 Pop hit since 1978's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" Stewart would continue to record, but the hits would dwindle and albums would not sell well. Then he experienced an unexpected comeback in 2002 when he recorded an album of pop standards. It Had to Be You: The Great American Songbook struck a chord with folks and it became a #4 triple platinum hit. Over the next decade, Stewart would record four more standards albums all of which made the Top 5 with 2004's third volume getting to #1. That third set would earn Stewart his one and only Grammy (Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album). A Motown covers album and a Christmas effort would also reach the Top 5. In 2013, Stewart would release his first album of original material since 2001 with Time. It would get to #7. Stewart would be a double inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Once for his solo career in 1994 and then in 2012 as a member of Faces.