September 2012

Rod Stewart – “Rhythm of My Heart” – (1991)

Gotta love the use of accordion and bag pipes in the same pop song – especially one that manages to hit #5 on the Hot 100. Vagabond Heart was Rod Stewart’s last real album of note before he turned to just straight up covering classic rock songs on album after album. There were even covers on this album and even this song uses an adaptation of a Scottish poem. Ye gods, has this man ever done anything original? Apparently not since the 1980s.

Jimmy Cliff – “I Can See Clearly Now” – (1993)

Decade confusion here stems from this being a quite faithful cover of a song originally released by Johnny Nash in 1972. Jamaican reggae singer Jimmy Cliff recorded this song for the soundtrack for the 1993 film Cool Runnings starring John Candy. It climbed up a number of U.S. and international charts, hitting the top 10 on three different U.S. charts. Not only is Cool Runnings a great movie, but this is a great song and personally, I like it better than the original.

Genesis – “No Son of Mine” – (1991)

Hey, here’s another Genesis song that sounds a lot like, well, every other Genesis song. That is, it sounds a lot like most Genesis songs from the 1980s. Or maybe that’s just how Phil Collins’ voice is. His voice is the 1980s. This was a top 20 hit in the U.S. and a top 10 hit in most European countries. This post is short and sweet – unlike the song, which is long and fairly bitter.

Extreme – “More Than Words” – (1991)

This awful hair ballad – I mean, wonderful acoustic rock song… was a #1 hit for Extreme in 1991. This song and Mr. Big’s “To Be With You” are more or less the same song (at least, in my mind). And I always say I don’t like either of them… except when listening to them. I really liked it back in the day, but it just kind of got on my nerves over time and now avoid it at all costs. It just sounds like an 80s hair metal band tried to go soft when the 90s came around – wait, that’s actually what it is. I understand that some people are fanatical about this song, and good for them. To each his own.

Bette Midler – “From a Distance” – (1990)

Well I don’t care if it was released in 1990, this song screams “1980s.” Maybe it’s because Bette Midler’s other two massive hits were both massive in the 80s (yes, “The Rose” actually came out in ’79). This was a #2 hit in the U.S. and received massive amounts of airplay. But it sounds just like every cheesy 80s pop song you can think of. Even if you just listen to the music. Anyway, as much as loathe Bette Midler, her vocals are pretty solid. The song was originally written in 1985 and was first recorded in 1987 by Nanci Griffith. Midler’s version is the most popular in the U.S. (with a Cliff Richard version being popular in the U.K.). The song seems to have fairly religious lyrics, but I think it’s just supposed to be a love song.

Sting – “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” – (1993)

Ten Summoner’s Tales is one bad-ass Sting album. And it starts with this song, the biggest hit of the album. It’s a good one with the right blend of early-90s adult contemporary and light rock – and the one-of-a-kind voice of Sting. It was a top 20 hit in the U.S. – and could it have been just as big in the 80s? Absolutely.

Calloway – “I Wanna Be Rich” – (1989)

Fun fact, you can’t buy this song on Amazon as a download, you have to buy the whole CD. And, big whoops, this song actually came out in 1989 although I associate it as totally 1990s – probably because of that 90s pop/dance beat (and the fact that it charted in ’90). “I want money… lots and lots of money… I want the pie in the sky.” Even today this remains a fun, upbeat song that I don’t mind listening to in public (that’s the real test of a song’s lasting popularity – whether or not you can allow other people to listen to you listening to it). This hit #2 in the U.S. in 1990 and was the only hit from Cincinnati-based Calloway.

Michael Bolton – “When a Man Loves a Woman” – (1991)

Maybe the decade confusion caused by this song is because it’s a 1991 cover a song originally done in 1966 by Percy Sledge. I don’t want to say the original is better because I’m currently listening to the Bolton version (which won a Grammy and was a #1 hit). It’s confusing me. Michael Bolton has a very unique voice that has the ability to make just about anything sound catch. This version has a very late-80s early-90s bluesy feeling and I definitely recall hearing it a crap-ton on the radio during the early 90s.

Wilson Phillips – “You’re in Love” – (1990)

The cassette version of Wilson Phillips’ self-titled debut album did at one time (and probably still does) reside in my house. This was a #1 single in the U.S. even though it isn’t as good as their other major hits. It was the final single from their first album. I don’t know how much more I can talk about Wilson Phillips, but there is one more song from them that we’ll feature about a month from now. Maybe I’ll think of something by then.

John Mellencamp – “Again Tonight” – (1991)

This could have totally been the b-side for “Hurts So Good.” Sorry, Mr. Mellencamp, but your sound hasn’t evolved all that much in the past 30 years. This was a #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart, but it only hit #36 on the Hot 100. It’s not that rock-y that I feel it would’ve performed better on one chart over the other, but it was 1991, and things were weird.

Nelson – “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection” – (1990)

What an awesome song this is! Nelson is a band fronted by brothers Matthew and Gunnar Nelson – the twin sons of Ricky Nelson… although they look like the twin sons of Edgar Winter. They look very Swedish… because they have long blonde hair (or they did in 1990) and one of them is named Gunnar. This was a #1 song in 1990 and rightfully so. This sort of glam-rock/metal ballad type of song was at its peak around this time and this is the best of them. The guitar hook is catchy as hell, the drums rock, and the lyrics fuse it all together. It just rocks… definitely one of my favorites.

Duran Duran – “Ordinary World” – (1993)

Duran Duran put an album out a few years ago and I remember hearing things (I think on VH1) about how huge it was that Duran Duran was putting out a new album. Like they were The Beatles or something. I thought “Oh, a follow-up to ‘Hungry Like the Wolf?’ Cool.” Well it turns out they’ve done stuff between then and now – and it’s often referred to as The Wedding Album – due to the cover art of their self-titled 1993 album. It’s actually a really good song, even if it sounds like their 80s stuff (although a little less synth-y). It peaked at #3 on the Hot 100.