Sunday, October 18, 2009

This Week's Review -- October 14, 1978

Eight songs debuted on Billboard's Hot 100 this week, including one that was returning to the chart after falling off a few weeks before. Although only two were Top 10 hits and a couple dropped from sight quickly, all have stories and several had a more lasting influence than chart success (or lack of it) would indicate.

Andy Gibb - "(Our Love) Don't Throw it All Away" (Not Available as MP3)

Andy Gibb was on quite a roll. Beginning in 1977 and continuing into the next year, his first three U.S. chart singles made it all the way to #1. All five of his 1970s chart hits made the Top 10, including this one. Being the younger brother of The Bee Gees certainly didn't hurt his career, especially considering that his famous siblings made up one of the hottest acts in the business during that time. Aside from their own music, the Brothers Gibb were prolific writes and producers for other acts as well.

"(Our Love) Don't Throw it All Away" was co-written by Barry Gibb and recorded as a Bee Gees track before being given to Andy for his Shadow Dancing LP. After his version peaked at #9 and was eventually dropped from radio stations' recurrent rotations, the Bee Gees' version would eventually show up late in '79 on their Greatest LP. Listening to Andy Gibb's version followed by that of his brothers, it almost sounds like they used the same track to provide music and backing vocals and merely replaced Barry Gibb's lead with Andy's rendition. However, it's merely a guess on my part since they sound very similar.

Walter Egan - "Hot Summer Nights" Walter Egan - Fundamental Roll / Not Shy - Hot Summer Nights

"Hot Summer Nights" was Egan's follow-up to "Magnet & Steel," a song that was all over the radio during the Summer of 1978. Like much of the material on his LP Not Shy, Egan received help from Lindsay Buckingham (his guitar solo on the song is instantly recognizable) and Stevie Nicks. The 45 was a disappointment, only reaching #55, but the song was remade by the group Night in 1979 and was a Top 20 hit. Despite its untimely exit from the chart, "Hot Summer Nights" is worth a listen.

Dan Hartman - "Instant Replay" Dan Hartman - Club Epic, Vol. 3 - Instant Replay

The records show this as Dan Hartman's first chart single, but Hartman had been no stranger to the music business. As a member of The Edgar Winter Group, he played on the #1 hit "Frankenstein" and wrote the Top 10 hit "Free Ride." Going solo in 1976, he released a couple of LPs that didn't have any hit singles. In 1978, Hartman decided to jump on the burgeoning disco bandwagon and recorded the Instant Replay album. 

"Instant Replay" was a cross-genre smash. Besides reaching the Pop Top 40, it was also a #1 disco hit, a moderate R&B hit and a Top 10 in the UK. After a few more hits in the 1980s, Hartman went on to write and produce, making records until his death in 1994.

Journey - "Lights" Journey - Infinity - Lights

A re-entry, one that appeared in the write-up I did on August 16. The second trip up the charts wasn't as successful as the first; it only reached #77 and dropped off after four weeks. Here's what I wrote the first time:

Before Journey made their mark as 1980s arena rock deities, they were a San Francisco-based band started up by a couple of guys who left Santana. Like Santana, the early incarnation of Journey was a progressive band that experimented with different genres and tended toward extended instrumental breaks. Also like Santana, the group had a revolving door of members with the guitarist (Neal Schon) being the only real mainstay. By the end of the 1970s, the group began putting the pieces together that would lead to multi-platinum success in the next decade: lead singer Steve Perry was brought on board in 1977 and immediately lent his skills to the group by co-writing this song with Schon.

"Lights" is something of a love letter to Journey's home city, with its mention of their beloved "City by the bay." At the time, Journey hadn't yet hit the Top 40 and this wouldn't be the tune to get them there (it peaked at #68). However, it indicated that the jazz-fusion days of the band were over and they were aspiring to make their way via the corporate rock that was beginning to burgeon at the time. They were a couple of LPs, another band member (Jonathan Cain in '81) and an MTV launch away from the Big Time.

Ace Frehley - "New York Groove" Ace Frehley - Kiss: Ace Frehley - New York Groove

How's this for excess? Take an immensely popular group...have all four members record their own "solo" albums...issue all four LPs on the same day (with similarly-themed covers) knowing that fans will buy them. Then, watch only one of the roughly 40 new songs make the Top 40. That's right, only "New York Groove" made the cut; Gene Simmons' "Radioactive" and Paul Stanley's "Hold Me Touch Me" didn't break the Top 40, while Peter Criss's two singles didn't chart at all.

"New York Groove" is a great song and had a respectable chart run, reaching #13 and sticking around for 21 weeks. While it was obviously written as a salute to Frehley's home city, its guitar riff accents a driving beat provided by the bass and drums. It was an "almost" disco song but had enough guitar to keep Kiss fans from dismissing it as such. Sadly, Kiss's next LP Dynasty didn't do as good a job of hiding the disco beats, especially with "I Was Made For Lovin' You." Fans still shake their heads about Kiss' "disco album."

Frehley would leave Kiss in 1982, but never had any of the solo success that his LP Ace Frehley seemed to suggest.

Eric Clapton - "Promises" Eric Clapton - Backless (Remastered) - Promises

"Promises" was the first single off Clapton's forthcoming LP Backless. The LP followed Clapton's highly successful '77 offering Slowhand (and the hits "Lay Down Sally" and "Wonderful Tonight") with a similar style and tone but the material of the new record was considered to be slightly inferior. That wasn't necessarily a problem for "Promises," though. It reached #9 early in 1979.

"Promises" is one of Clapton's less-regarded singles for some odd reason. Perhaps the laid-back shuffle doesn't translate as well with classic rock fans as much as "Layla" or "I Shot the Sheriff," nor does it fit in with adult contemporary types as "Wonderful Tonight." It's a shame, since the song is well-done and the slide guitar hook that matches the chorus is rather catchy.

Michael Henderson - "Take Me I'm Yours" Michael Henderson - The Essential Michael Henderson Vol. 1 - Take Me, I'm Yours

"Take Me I'm Yours" is the only single Michael Henderson took into the Hot 100. It didn't stay long either, reaching #88 in its three-week run. Regardless, Henderson was no stranger to music fans. As a bass player, he played with many of Motown's road shows of the 1960s and spent much of the 1970s in Miles Davis's band. Both of Norman Connors' chart singles in 1976 featured Henderson on vocals. One of those tunes, "I Am Your Starship," made the Top 40.

"Take Me I'm Yours" was an effort to lead Henderson into a smooth R&B singer in the burgeoning "Quiet Storm" radio format. As the song starts up, it sounds much like a George Benson tune until Henderson's vocals take over. While he was moderately successful on the R&B charts through his retirement from performing in 1986, success on the pop charts eluded him. However, his bass work has shown up in numerous samples over the years. Henderson's stature as a bassist in the R&B, funk and jazz fusion genres are solid, even if many casual fans aren't aware of his work.

Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg - "The Power of Gold" Dan Fogelberg - Twin Sons of Different Mothers - Power of Gold

As a contradiction to Michael Henderson, Dan Fogelberg is an artist many 1970s music fans are familiar with. His 70s chart success was just as sporadic as Henderson's; Fogelberg had several hit LPs through the decade but only charted two 45s (note: "Longer" was making its way up the charts at the end of 1979, but peaked in 1980). For Fogelberg, the bulk of his success on the Hot 100 came in the early 1980s but he's considered a 1970s artist as well.

After a series of albums in a folk- and country-influenced vein, Fogelberg became interested in learning more about jazz. Rather than simply hiring a jazz band for the studio sessions of his next LP, he collaborated with jazz flautist Tim Weisberg, who co-produced the record. The resulting LP was Twin Sons of Different Mothers, which solidified Fogelberg's musical clout. Even though "The Power of Gold" was the only hit single from the album, it set up the string of hits Fogelberg had with his next releases.

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