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


Resources and Related Links:

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.




Resources and Related Links:



Saturday, October 27, 1990

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

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, 235.61 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

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.


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for The Righteous Brothers
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill. Page 164.
  • PM Joel Whitburn (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc.
  • WK Wikipedia.org

First posted 10/27/2011; last updated 4/24/2021.

Thursday, October 25, 1990

Duke Ellington Blanton-Webster Band box set released

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: (Click on award to learn more).

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

Resources and Related Links:


Other Related DMDB Pages:


Last updated 1/29/2022.

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.

Resources and Related Links:

a-ha “The Way We Talk” released

The Way We Talk

A-ha

Writer(s): Magne Furuholmen (see lyrics here)


Released: October 22, 1990 (album cut)


First Charted: --


Peak: 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): --


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.06 video, -- streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The new wave group a-ha formed in Norway in 1982. The trio consisted of singer Morten Harket, guitarist Paul Waaktar-Savoy, and keyboardist/guitarist Magne Furuholmen. Their 1985 debut album Hunting High and Low produced the U.S. #1 single “Take on Me” and was followed up by top-20 hit “The Sun Always Shines on TV” (despite often being said to be a one-hit wonder). Of course, those were the band’s only two top-40 hits in the U.S.

However, in their native Norway, A-ha was far from a one-hit wonder. That debut album generated four top-10 hits, including the #1 songs “Take on Me” and “Train of Thought.” Their sophomore album, 1986’s Scoundrel Days, produced three more top-5 hits, including “Cry Wolf” and the #1 song “I’ve Been Losing You.” The former was the group’s only other chart entry on the Billboard Hot 100 (#50).

The next album, Stay on These Roads, produced twp more #1 songs in Norway – 1987’s “The Living Daylights” (the theme song from the James Bond movie of the same name) and the title cut from the album. In 1990, East of the Sun, West of the Moon gave the band another #1 hit with their cover of the Everly Brothers’ “Crying in the Rain.” All told, a-ha has racked up nine #1 hits and another nine top-10 hits in Norway as of this post.

The song from that latter album which became my favorite, however, was “The Way We Talk.” It has the lilting quality of a slow jazz number, feeling like it could noodle along for ten minutes or so, despite a mere minute-and-a-half run time. It wasn’t a single and wasn’t even sung by the band’s usual vocalist, Morten Harket, but by keyboardist and guitarist Magne Furuholmen.

Those first four albums made me an a-ha fan and convinced me how criminally underappreciated they were in the United States. The showcased a bounty of shouda-been hits and above-average album cuts that won me over. East of the Sun, West of the Moon marked the moment I became hooked. I knew I was likely to buy everything they released from that point on – which I have.


Resources:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for A-ha


Related Links:


First posted 9/3/2022.

Thursday, October 11, 1990

Eric Woolfson Freudiana released

Freudiana

Alan Parsons


Released: October 11, 1990


Peak: 13 DF


Sales (in millions): --


Genre: progressive rock lite


Tracks:

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

  1. The Nirvana Principle (instrumental) [3:45]
  2. Freudiana [6:21] v: Eric Woolfson
  3. I Am a Mirror [4:07] v: Leo Sayer
  4. Little Hans [3:13] v: Graham Dye
  5. Dora [3:51] v: Eric Woolfson
  6. Funny You Should Say That [4:36] v: The Flying Pickets
  7. You're on Your Own [3:54] v: Kiki Dee
  8. Far Away From Home [3:12] v: The Flying Pickets
  9. Let Yourself Go [5:26] v: Eric Woolfson
  10. Beyond the Pleasure Principle (instrumental) (Parsons/Woolfson) [3:14]
  11. The Ring [4:23] v: Eric Stewart
  12. Sects Therapy [3:40] v: Frankie Howerd
  13. No One Can Love You Better Than Me [5:41] v: Kiki Dee, Marti Webb, Gary Howard, Eric Woolfson
  14. Don't Let the Moment Pass [3:41] v: Marti Webb
  15. Upper Me [5:16] v: Eric Stewart
  16. Freudiana (instrumental) [3:43]
  17. Destiny [:51] v: Chris Rainbow
  18. There But for the Grace of God [5:56] v: John Miles
All songs written by Eric Woolfson unless otherwise noted. The ‘v’ after the song listing indicates who does lead vocals.


Total Running Time: 74:30


The Players:

  • Eric Woolfson (vocals, keyboards, executive producer)
  • Alan Parsons (engineer, producer, additional keyboards)
  • Andrew Powell (orchestra leader, arrangements)
  • Ian Bairnson (guitar)
  • Stuart Elliott (drums, percussion)
  • Laurie Cottle (bass)
  • Richard Cottle (synthesizer, saxophone)

Rating:

3.668 out of 5.00 (average of 15 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

The Alan Parsons Project launched in 1976 with Tales of Mystery and Imagination, an album devoted to musical interpretation of the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Originally intended as a one-time project, the work led to nine more studio albums in just over a decade’s time. ”Between 1975 and 1987, ten Alan Parsons project albums…sold over 45 million copies worldwide.” PC The Project was helmed by its namesake alongside singer, keyboardist and co-writer Eric Woolfson and backed by a slew of rotating vocalists and other session musicians.

When the Project split in 1987, “Woolfson was eager to write for musical theatre, and in 1990, a new career began when his first musical Freudiana, was premiered in Vienna.” PC Freudiana “offers…various interpretations of [psychiatrist Sigmund] Freud's works, studying all his most famous cases (Wolfman, Ratman, Dora, Little Hans, Schreber and the Judge).” AMG

Much of the Project’s work suffered from songs with an eye for radio that were loosely tied to vague themes studying the nature of man. Woolfson’s single-minded purpose to craft a musical freed him from the burden of crafting songs that had to stand alone out of context while also tying the songs more closely to an overall theme. The result is the most focused work on Woolfson’s resume since the Project’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination.

The music here also works in that it is a Project album in all but name. Not only does Woolfson enlist longtime Project players Stuart Elliot and Ian Bairnson on drums and guitar respectively, but vocalists Chris Rainbow, John Miles, and Graham Dye, all of whom had worked with the Project. Of course, the most important connection is the presence of Alan Parsons himself. While the Project albums were fairly collaborative efforts between Woolfson and Parsons, this album is the brainchild of Woolfson. Parsons, however, still produces and engineers the album and even wrote one instrumental (Beyond the Pleasure Principle).

As a result, it is no surprise how much the album serves up “obvious reminders of the Alan Parsons Project (most noticeably Dora)” AMG on which Woolfson handles the lead vocals, as he did on Project songs such as “Eye in the Sky,” “Time,” “Don’t’ Answer Me,” and “Prime Time.”

The title cut, also voiced by Woolfson, is the ultimate conclusion of the Project’s years of attempting to merge a great song with a big concept. The song would have been the logical choice as a leadoff single, but in its unwavering commitment to songs that all sound the same, radio would have never given it a chance.

Where this album veers most from the Project is through some more diverse vocal performances. Woolfson enlists well known singers such as Leo Sayer and Kiki Dee alongside the aforementioned Project alumni as well as singers Eric Stewart, Frankie Howerd, Marti Webb, Gary Howard, and the quirky vocals of The Flying Pickets. With such a cast, the album can’t help but have a more varied sound than anything the Project released, and this proves to be a good thing.

"The strongest performances are by Leo Sayer (I Am a Mirror) and the Flying Pickets (on the strange, yet incredibly powerful, Funny You Should Say That).” AMG The latter song, along with No One Can Love You Better Than Me, show that “the rest can be progressive at times…and the whole is very creative and intelligent.” AMG

"Some songs (like Little Hans) are reminiscent of the Beatles — which shouldn’t be too surprising, considering Woolfson used to be a member of Herman’s Hermits.” AMG

The album concludes with John Miles singing There But for the Grace of God, a song that easily ranks amongst the best works of the Alan Parsons Project. Miles did vocal duty on Project singles “The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether,” and “Stereotomy,” as well as the fantastic album cut “La Sagrada Familia” from the Project’s final album Gaudi in 1987.

Woolfson would go on to create three more musicals. “Gaudi, which premiered in 1995 and has run for over five years in several German productions,” PC was an extension of the Project’s 1987 album of the same name. “Gambler, Woolfson’s third musical also premiered in Germany in 1996 and had a first run of over 500 performances.” PC In addition, it “has had five productions in Korea, one of which also toured Japan in 2002 (the first time a Korean language production had been staged in this way).” PC

In 2003, Woolfson’s career came full circle when he premiered fourth musical Poe, an extension of the same theme as the first Alan Parsons Project album. None of Woolfson’s work would come close to the success of the Project, but Freudiana was a logical progression for Woolfson and one that breathed new creative life into an already distinguished musical career.

Resources and Related Links:


Other Related DMDB Pages:


First posted 9/12/2009; last updated 7/20/2022.