Friday, December 21, 1990

Artie Shaw’s “Frenesi” hit #1 50 years ago today (12/21/1940)

First posted 12/21/2011; updated 1/26/2020.

Frenesi

Artie Shaw

Writer(s): Albert Dominguez/Ray Charles/S.K. Russell (see lyrics here)


First Charted: July 27, 1940


Peak: 113 US, 12 GA, 13 HP, (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, -- video, -- streaming

Awards:

Review:

Artie Shaw developed a reputation during the swing era (roughly 1935-1945) as one of jazz’s finest clarinetists. He also served as a bandleader, helming five different orchestras over the years, “all of them distinctive and memorable.” AMG He got his start as a teenager with Johnny Cavallaro’s dance band in 1925 and was later associated with Willie “The Lion” Smith. He scored his first hit on his own in 1936 and hit #1 with 1938’s “Begin the Beguine”.

After that song’s success, Shaw struggled with the business of leading a band and moved to Mexico for a couple months. After his return, he recorded a version of the song “Frenesi”, resulting in the biggest hit of his career and one of the biggest #1 songs in chart history.

Alberto Dominguez originally wrote it for the marimba and then others adapted it as a jazz standard. WK The word “frenesi” is the Spanish equal to the word “frenzy” WK but according to the song’s lyrics, “Frenesi” means “please love me.” TY

Shaw’s recording made it the first million-selling song by a Mexican writer. TY The success helped “popularize Brazilian rhythms in jazz and pop music.” JA-60 Others who recorded the song included Les Brown, Dave Brubeck, Betty Carter, Tommy Dorsey, The Four Freshman, Eydie Gorme, Woody Herman, Earl Hines, Harry James, Glenn Miller, Cliff Richard, Linda Ronstadt, and Frank Sinatra. WK


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Monday, November 19, 1990

Milli Vanilli is stripped of its Best New Artist Grammy: November 19, 1990

Originally posted November 19, 2011.



German music producer Frank Farian was the creator of Milli Vanilli, a dance-pop outfit from the late ‘80s. They were presented as the duo of Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan and found success quickly. In October 1988, the single “Girl You Know It’s True” hit the UK, peaking at #3. It charted a couple months later in the U.S. and climbed all the way to the #2 spot.

They proved to have ample songs to go the distance. The next three singles, “Baby Don’t Forget My Number”, “Girl, I’m Gonna Miss You”, and “Blame It on the Rain” were all #1 hits in the U.S. A fifth single, “All or Nothing”, went to #4. All five songs appeared on the 1989 U.S. album Girl You Know It’s True, a reworked version of the previously released German album All or Nothing. Not surprisingly, the U.S. album logged eight weeks atop the Billboard 200 and sold six-million copies.

The duo’s commercial clout translated to Grammy clout as well when they took home the 1989 trophy for Best New Artist, beating out Tone Loc, Neneh Cherry, Soul II Soul, and the Indigo Girls. The only problem was that Rob and Fab didn’t sing. While the original German album only featured them on the cover, the U.S. version went a step further and actually credited the pair with the vocals. In actuality, the dancer-models were hired to serve as the public face for Brad Howell, Johnny Davis, and Charles Shaw – the session musicians who did the actual heavy lifting.

Shaw publicly admitted the ruse which supported suspicions that Rob and Fab were lip-synching live performances. The duo pressured Farian to let them sing on the next album. Rather than cave, he confessed the deception to the press. Soon the Grammy cops came knocking and demanded the return of the ill-gotten award. It is the only time the Grammys have revoked an award.


And here are Rob and Fab, uh, not singing at the Grammys.




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Saturday, October 27, 1990

The Righteous Brothers hit #1 with “Unchained Melody” 25 years after it first charted

First posted 10/27/2011; updated 4/12/2020.

Unchained Melody

The Righteous Brothers

Writer(s): Alex North/Hy Zaret (see lyrics here)


First Charted: July 10, 1965


Peak: 4 US, 5 CB, 4 HR, 3 RR, 12 AC, 6 RB, 14 UK, 9 CN, 17 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 1.17 UK, 3.24 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 135.26 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

Thanks to Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and a pottery wheel, a bonafide classic was re-introduced to the hearts of radio listeners and record buyers. When Bobby Hatfield belted out “Unchained Melody” in that famous scene from the 1990 movie Ghost, it wasn’t the first time the public heard the song. It wasn’t even the first time they’d heard that version.

By some counts, the song has been recorded over 500 times, making it one of the most recorded of the 20th century. WK However, the one that has become the best known is the 1965 recording by the Righteous Brothers (although technically a solo performance by Bobby Hatfield). WK

The song first surfaced under the Righteous Brothers moniker in 1965 as a B-side to their single “Hung on You.” When DJs took to “Melody” instead, the song climbed to #4 on the U.S. pop charts and #14 in the U.K. A quarter century later, it re-gained airplay thanks to Ghost, but was only commercially available as a single in a newly recorded version. In an unsual occurrence, both versions charted and hit the U.S. top 20. On the AC charts, the 1990 version went #1, while the 1965 version scaled to the top of the U.K. charts.

The song originated in an obscure prison film called Unchained in 1955. Todd Duncan sang it for the film, WK but three other renditions charted on the U.S. pop charts, most notably a chart-topper by Les Baxter. Al Hibbler’s top 10 version also reached the summit of the R&B chart. Both were million sellers. TY In the U.K., Jimmy Young took it to #1. All told, the song can make the unique claim of topping four different charts with five different versions in three different decades.


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Thursday, October 25, 1990

Duke Ellington Blanton-Webster Band box set released

Last updated 11/20/2020.

The Blanton-Webster Band

Duke Ellington


Released: October 25, 1990


Recorded: 1939-1942


Peak: -- US, -- UK, -- CN, -- AU


Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)


Genre: jazz


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

Disc 1:

  1. You, You Darlin’ (5/11/40, 28 US
  2. Jack the Bear
  3. Ko-Ko (6/1/40, 25 US
  4. Morning Glory
  5. So Far, So Good
  6. Congo Brava
  7. Concerto for Cootie (aka “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear from Me”) (1/8/44, 10 US, #1 RB)
  8. Me and You
  9. Cottontail
  10. Never No Lament (aka “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”) * (5/1/43, 8 US, #1 RB)
  11. Dusk
  12. Bojangles (A Portrait of Bill Robinson) (8/14/43, 19 US)
  13. A Portrait of Bert Williams
  14. Blue Goose
  15. Harlem Air Shaft
  16. At a Dixie Roadside Diner (9/21/40, 27 US)
  17. All Too Soon
  18. Rumpus in Richmond
  19. My Greatest Mistake
  20. Sepia Panorama (11/2/40, 24 US)
  21. There Shall Be No Night
  22. In a Mellotone

Disc 2:

  1. Five O’Clock Whistle
  2. Warm Valley
  3. The Flaming Sword
  4. Across the Track Blues
  5. Chloe (Song of the Swamp)
  6. I Never Felt This Way Before
  7. The Sidewalks of New York
  8. Flamingo (6/14/41, 11 US)
  9. The Girl in My Dreams Tries to Look Like You
  10. Take the ‘A’ Train (7/26/41, 11 US)
  11. Jumpin’ Punkins
  12. John Hardy’s Wife
  13. Blue Serge
  14. After All
  15. Bakiff
  16. Are You Sticking?
  17. Just A-Settin’ and A-Rockin’
  18. The Giddybug Gallop
  19. Chocolate Shake
  20. I Got It Band and That Ain’t Good (10/11/41, 13 US)
  21. Clementine
  22. The Brown-Skin Gal in the Calico Gown

Disc 3:

  1. Jump for Joy
  2. Moon Over Cuba
  3. Five O’Clock Drag
  4. Rocks in My Bed
  5. Bli-Blip
  6. Chelsea Bridge
  7. Raincheck
  8. What Good Would It Do?
  9. I Don’t Know What Kind of Blues I Got
  10. Perdido (5/22/43, 21 US)
  11. The ‘C’ Jam Blues
  12. Moon Mist
  13. What Am I Here For?
  14. I Don’t Mind (12/23/44, 9 RB)
  15. Someone (6/10/44, 7 RB)
  16. My Little Brown Book (6/3/44, 4 RB)
  17. Main Stem (3/4/44, 23 US, #1 RB)
  18. Johnny Come Lately
  19. Hayfoot, Strawfoot (11/21/42, 10 RB)
  20. Sentimental Lady (9/4/43, 19 US, #1 RB)
  21. A Slip of the Lip Can Sink a Ship (8/28/43, 19 US, #1 RB)
  22. Sherman Shuffle


Total Running Time: 204:07

Rating:

4.761 out of 5.00 (average of 8 ratings)


Quotable: “Perhaps…the greatest creative period by any single artist in jazz history.” – Marc Greilsamer, Amazon.com


Awards:

About the Album:

All Music Guide calls Duke Ellington “the most important composer in the history of jazz.” WR Joel Whitburn goes even farther, saying Ellington is “perhaps the single most important creative talent in American popular music history.” JW He scored 70 hits, including three #1 songs, on the pop charts from 1927 to 1953. Ellington also racked up a dozen top 10 R&B hits in the 1940s, including five consective #1 songs, all of which are featured here (Never No Lament, A Slip of the Lip (Can Sink a Ship), Sentimental Lady, Concerto for Cootie, and Main Stem). Also included is the Grammy Hall of Fame song Take the ‘A’ Train, which became Ellington’s theme song.

“This music is essential for all jazz collections.” SY “This attractive three-CD set” SY “not only represent[s] Ellington’s artistic apex, but perhaps reflect the greatest creative period by any single artist in jazz history.” MG “Several factors combine make these recordings great, not least the 78rpm format which restricted playing time to around three minutes. A lot happens in a very short time span. Often there are several themes in one arrangement and remarkably, in view of the limited time, there are transitional and developmental passages as well.” SN

This collection “contains the master takes of all 66 selections recorded by Duke Ellington’s Orchestra during what many historians consider its peak period. Left out are the many alternate takes, last released by European labels, and the Duke Ellington-Jimmy Blanton duets, which are available on a different CD.” SY

“Ellington had already made a lasting impression on jazz by 1940, but adding writer/arranger Billy Strayhorn, young bassist Jimmy Blanton, and tenor great Ben Webster brought the band to extraordinary new heights.” MG “The arrangements and originals of Ellington and Billy Strayhorn are full of surprises, and even the lesser-known pieces are generally gems.” SY Meanwhile, Blanton, who died of tuberculosis at age 23, changed the role of the double bass in jazz by moving it from the background to the forefront of the rhythm section. “Then there’s the unique tonal quality of Ellington’s orchestra, setting it apart from any ensemble in jazz.” SN

Rounding out the band are Johnny Hodges (alto), Cootie Williams and Wallace Jones (trumpets), Rex Stewart and Ray Nance (cornets), Juan Tizol (valve trombone), Barney Bigard (clarinet), Tricky Sam Nanton and Lawrence Brown (trombones), Harry Carney (baritone/alto sax), Otto Hardwick (alto sax), Fred Guy (guitar), Sonny Greer (drums), and Ivie Anderson and Herb Jeffries (vocals).

“The set list reveals masterpiece after masterpiece.” MG “These recordings are neither landmarks of jazz improvisation or the Big Band dance music popular at the time they were recorded. Simply because neither categories seem adequate to embrace one of the finest bodies of music created this century.” SN

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Monday, October 22, 1990

Aha released East of the Sun, West of the Moon

First posted 1/18/2009; updated 9/12/2020.

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

A-ha


Released: October 22, 1990


Peak: -- US, 12 UK, -- CN, 122 AU


Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.06 UK, 0.06 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: synth pop


Tracks:

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Crying in the Rain (10/1/90, 13 UK)
  2. Early Morning (2/25/91, 78 UK)
  3. I Call Your Name (12/3/90 44 UK)
  4. Slender Frame
  5. East of the Sun
  6. Sycamore Leaves
  7. Waiting for Her
  8. Cold River
  9. The Way We Talk
  10. Rolling Thunder
  11. Seemingly Nonstop July


Total Running Time: 42:46


The Players:

  • Morten Harket (vocals, guitar)
  • Magne Furuholmen (keyboards, guitar, bass)
  • Pål Waaktaar-Savoy (guitars, drums, percussion)

Rating:

3.500 out of 5.00 (average of 3 ratings)

About the Album:

The synth-pop trio best known for the international 1985 hit “Take on Me,” showed they deserved to be taken more seriously. “This is a nicely crafted collection of songs, performed and sung beautifully, with lots of echoes and suggestions tucked into the music…It’s an album that's a pleasure to listen to and one that deserves a better reception than the one, unfortunately, that it seems to have gotten.” AMG

The album, with a title taken from a Norwegian fairy tale, was co-produced by Ian Stanley, formerly of Tears for Fears. than “the band’s earlier radio-friendly sound” WK on hits like the aforementioned “Take on Me” and “The Sun Always Shines on T.V.” and songs from the 1988 Stay on These Roads like “Touchy!” and “You Are the One.” Still, the “darker, moodier tone” WK of East of the Sun isn’t a complete surprise. The Norwegian trio had hinted at more serious work, especially on their sophomore album Scoundrel Days on songs like the title track and “Manhattan Skyline.”

In Norway, the album was a-ha’s fourth consecutive #1, led by their cover of the Everly Brothers’ Crying in the Rain. The song was the band’s sixth #1 song in Norway. In the UK, it was a top-20 hit. Follow-up singles I Call Your Name and Early Morning didn’t chart in Norway, but were minor hits in the UK.

The Way We Talk is an album highlight. At only a minute-and-a-half, it’s the shortest song in the trio’s catalog. It features a faraway sounding voice accompanied by a moody piano, an interesting departure from the band’s typically more synth-heavy sound.

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Monday, August 27, 1990

Garth Brooks’ No Fences released

First posted 2/22/2008; updated 9/27/2020.

No Fences

Garth Brooks


Released: August 27, 1990


Peak: 3 US, 141 CW, -- UK, 49 CN, 11 AU


Sales (in millions): 18.0 US, -- UK, 23.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: country


Tracks:

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. The Thunder Rolls (5/18/91, 1 CW)
  2. New Way to Fly
  3. Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House (2/9/91, 1 CW)
  4. Victim of the Game
  5. Friends in Low Places (8/18/90, 1 CW, 36 UK)
  6. Wild Horses (11/25/00, 7 CW, 43a US)
  7. Unanswered Prayers (11/3/90, 1 CW)
  8. Same Old Story
  9. Mr. Blue
  10. Wolves


Total Running Time: 38:29

Rating:

4.250 out of 5.00 (average of 13 ratings)


Quotable: No Fences captures Garth Brooks just after his initial success yet before superstardom.” – David Cantwell, Amazon.com


Awards:

About the Album:

No Fences captures Garth Brooks just after his initial success yet before superstardom.” DC It remains his “best-selling album to date” WK and was named Album of the Year in 1990 by the Academy of Country Music.

It “follows the same pattern as his debut, but it is a more assured and risky record. Brooks still performs neo-traditional country, such as the honky tonk hit Friends in Low Places,” STE, which was the ACM 1990 Single of the Year, “but now he twists it around with clever pop hooks.” STE

“Those pop/rock influences are most apparent on the ballads, which alternate between sensitive folk-rock and power ballad bombast. But what makes No Fences such a success is how seamlessly he blends the two seemingly opposing genres, and how he chooses a set of material that makes his genre-bending sound subtle and natural. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the songs are consistently entertaining, either.” STE

That attempt at hitting across genres can come across as “impersonations – often catchy and engaging ones, but impersonations nonetheless. Wild Horses is straight-up George Strait, while Two of a Kind and ‘Friends in Low Places’ are John Anderson and Hank Jr. respectively. The best moment, the Dan Fogleberg-like Unanswered Prayers, relays a message either highly spiritual or hugely rationalized. Regardless, it succeeds because its delivery is earnest, sweet, and humble – something Garth wouldn’t be for long.” DC

Also on the album is a cover of the Fleetwoods’ Mr. Blue, Victim of the Game (which was covered by Brooks’ future wife, Trisha Yearwood, on her 1991 debut, and The Thunder Rolls, which was CMA’s Video of the Year in 1991. WK


Notes: “This Ain’t Tennessee” was added to the album when it was released as part of the Limited Series box set.

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