This installment is “official” video-deficient. Thank you, Soul Train, for saving my ass.
(previous entries can be found at the bottom.)
130. “Turn Your Love Around” by George Benson (#1 for 1 week, January ’82 | Amazon)
Guitarist and vocalist George Benson’s brand of bourgeois soul was huge in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The man was beloved by his peers (armed with a stack of Grammy Awards) and attracted collaborators ranging from Quincy Jones (who produced his magnum opus, 1980’s Give Me The Night) to Aretha Franklin (who duetted with him on the top 10 hit “Love All The Hurt Away.” “Turn Your Love Around” was one of several new tracks to be found on his compilation The George Benson Collection, and it’s about two funk points away from being yacht rock. Not necessarily an insult, as there are almost 100 songs ranked lower on this list. It’s laid back to the Nth degree, even for the normally chill Benson. As it turns out, there’s some serious mellow gold legendariness to be found here. Members of Toto play on the record, and one of the co-writers is future Chicago lead vocalist Bill Champlin. The only thing that would’ve made “Turn Your Love Around” more ready for easy listening radio is a Michael McDonald cameo. He must have been busy that day.
Also, George’s guitar: nowhere to be found on this song.
(Fun fact: “Turn Your Love Around” won the Best R&B Song of 1982 Grammy Award)
129. “Off On Your Own (Girl)” by Al B. Sure! (#1 for 2 weeks, August ’88 | Amazon)
Al B. Sure! and George Michael made unibrows cool for a hot minute in the late ’80s (Al gets double points though, for making acid wash and stone wash acceptable in urban communities.) What was not necessarily cool was the chain of events that led to the composition of “Off On Your Own (Girl)”. Apparently a young Al had a crush on a young lady that was only interested in other young ladies. Or maybe she was into older ladies, who the hell knows. Either way, she had no interest in Al, and her apparently haughty attitude sent Al scurrying for pen and paper. Listening to Al B’s pinched falsetto, who would’ve known that “Off On Your Own”s lyrics harbored such animosity? Also, Al thankfully put his rapping game to bed after rocking a horrible Slick Rick-esque nasal flow on this one.
How is the video for this song not on YouTube?
128. “All Of My Love” by The Gap Band (#1 for 1 week, December ’89 | Amazon)
After owning the first few years of the ’80s, The Gap Band slipped a gear. Not only were their hits not cracking the top of the charts with regularity, but their music qualitatively slipped as well. For proof, go listen to 1985’s “Beep-A-Freak,” which might be the most annoying song in history. I’m pretty sure the Gap dudes were a little miffed when Guy hit big in 1988, considering that trio’s lead singer Aaron Hall sounded like the valedictorian of the Charlie Wilson School of Singing. So…somewhat poetically, The Gap Band returned to the #1 spot on the R&B chart after a six year absence with a song that sounded like a Guy track. Which is cool-“All of My Love” is a solid “B”-level track from a band that had been spitting out “C-“s for a half decade. But still…I wonder how confused music listeners were hearing this song in the days when you didn’t have as many tools at your disposal to tell you who an artist behind a popular song was.
I’m not sure whether there actually WAS a video for this…
127. “Closer Than Friends” by Surface (#1 for 2 weeks, March ’89 | Amazon)
Not as good as “Happy” (which, somewhat astoundingly, did not top the charts.) Way, way, way, way, WAY better than “Shower Me With Your Love.”
Have many bands (or producers for that matter) been as identifiable within the first 15 or so seconds of a song than Surface?
126. “Candy” by Cameo (#1 for 2 weeks, Jan-Feb ’87 | Amazon)
Did you know that Cameo’s highest-charting pop single is actually not a Cameo single? It’s “Loverboy,” the Mariah Carey song that was the lead single from the ill-fated flick Glitter. The buildup and release of the movie may have cost Mimi her sanity, but it gave Larry Blackmon and co. (who were given a featured credit on the single) the most chart ink they’d received in a decade and a half. Oh yeah, “Loverboy” also sampled “Candy.” Way to tie it all together, MJ.
I wonder if Michael Jackson ever gave Larry props for making codpieces acceptable for rock stars to wear.
125. “Tender Lover” by Babyface (#1 for 1 week, Dec ’89 | Amazon)
“Tender Lover” was the final #1 R&B song of the ’80s. Fittingly, it was penned, produced and performed by the man who was well on his way to dominating the music world, a feat he would accomplish and maintain for most of the following decade. For my money, Tender Lover was ‘Face’s one great album-a near perfect balance of soft & street. Not a bad track in the bunch, although the frenetic “Can’t Stop My Heart” always causes my finger to hover near the “skip” button.
Bobby Brown appears on the single remix of “Tender Lover” with a guest rap which isn’t quite as good as his guest rap on Glenn Medeiros’s “She Ain’t Worth It” (which hit #1 pop in the summer of 1990) or the rapping on his own 1989 smash, “On Our Own” (better known as the theme to Ghostbusters II.) Way to pay ‘Face back for writing “On Our Own” (and “Roni,” “Every Little Step” and “Don’t Be Cruel,”) Bobby!!
124. “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” by The S.O.S. Band (5 weeks at #1, June-July ’80 | Amazon)
I was four when “Take Your Time” was a big hit, so had no idea what disco was and had no concept of musical trends. I’d have to imagine that older folks who dug this record assumed that The S.O.S. Band was just another fly by night disco outfit who happened onto a smash. “Take Your Time” does straddle the disco and post-disco boogie lanes quite nicely, and Mary Davis’s vocal performance is interesting without being overboard-quirky. But, man: who would’ve predicted that The S.O.S. Band would reinvent themselves three years later as a Minneapolis funk juggernaut courtesy of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. Amazingly, not ONE song from that era: not “Just Be Good To Me” nor “Tell Me If You Still Care” nor “Just The Way You Like It” nor “The Finest”, topped the charts. Amazing.
123. “Get It Right” by Aretha Franklin (2 weeks at #1, August ’83 | Amazon)
Aretha Franklin’s first collaboration with Luther Vandross, 1982’s “Jump To It,” was a megasmash that reignited the Queen of Soul’s career after half a decade of diminishing returns. The twosome went back to the well for 1983’s “Get It Right,” and while the song seems like a conscious effort to recapture “Jump”‘s lightning in a bottle, it’s a pretty sweet example of self-plagiarism. More juicy, though, is that the recording of “Get It Right” and its parent album was allegedly fraught with tension between ‘Reefa and Loofa. The notoriously prickly performers wouldn’t work together for nearly another decade. Catfight! Reow!!
122. “Saving All My Love For You” by Whitney Houston (1 week at #1, September ’85 | Amazon)
More juicy gossip: the “Saving All My Love For You” video, which featured a young Whitney lusting after a married man, was allegedly inspired by a “we’re-not-exactly-sure-if-they-did-it-but-there-was-certainly-romantic-tension-in-the-air” relationship with Jermaine Jackson. Greasy Jermaine produced several songs on Whitney’s gazillion-selling debut (which should have, but didn’t, set him up for life) and apparently the two took a shine to one another. Jermaine? Bobby? Ray-J?Whitney needed a Dating Coach.
121. “Shake You Down” by Gregory Abbott (2 weeks at #1, October/November ’86 | Amazon)
That’s what I think of whenever I hear Gregory Abbott’s “Shake You Down.”
The Caribbean-American Abbott certainly had the smooth style and debonair good looks to sweep ladies off their feet. For good measure, the guy was educated, having been a music professor at UC-Berkeley before hitting it big. “Shake You Down” takes the “Sexual Healing” framework and cleans up the lyrics slightly. It was inescapable on the radio for a solid six months, hitting the top spot on the R&B chart in mid-autumn 1986 and achieving the same feat on the pop charts in early 1987. For a while, it looked like Abbott was gonna be a contender, but new jack swing and dance-pop wiped his smooth ass off the charts. Take that, “Dexter.”
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