Earlier this year, following a post about a disc in Rhino's Have A Nice Day series, I received the following tweet from a dedicated blog reader:
I had never heard of this series, so I clicked on the link. That simple action started an expensive 5 month quest to purchase all 5 discs. These compilations focus on one- and two-hit wonders and lesser-known adult contemporary and crossover songs. Music in this series was on the radio when I was in 8th and 9th grades when my bedside Marantz clock radio was my most faithful friend. I listened to the radio so much that, at the time, I seriously considered a career in radio. My project for the jr. high science fair was about how AM radios/airwaves work (won 6th place). I even recorded Casey Kasem's AT40 every week straight from radio to cassette. I still love radio, but back then I was in a committed relationship with it. A series titled "Radio Daze" is perfectly named; they're discs I could have compiled (although I probably would have included some Chilliwack).
Looking over the track lists on these discs, I saw a few songs that I hadn't heard since they were on the radio (e.g., Rubert Holmes' Him on volume 2) but I didn't recognize most of the song titles. Curiosity piqued, I ordered the discs anyway. The discs are long out of print which makes them collectable which makes them a little pricey. I'm too embarrassed to tell you how much I spent on these 5 discs, but let's just say it was quite a bit more than I normally pay for used CDs. Quite a bit.
When I finally received the discs, I found I was wrong about not recognizing the songs. I didn't recognize the titles or artists, but that didn't mean I had forgotten the music. I remembered almost every track and, even though I hadn't heard some of them in 30+ years, was able to sing along with many of them. I haven't had these discs long and I'm still listening to them with a cheesy teenager grin on my face.
What surprises me most about these minor soft rock hits is how many were country crossover hits. I always picture myself in the late '70s and early '80s as a disco guy, but now I need to reconsider that image. I gladly ate up whatever the KILT AM 610 programming director threw at me. So in addition to loving Donna Summer, I was also very much a soft rock kid:
Don't f**k with the soft rock kid.
Disc 1 of 5. I find the allmusic review to be hilariously candid:
Not much to recommend on this weak collection of mostly one-hit wonder throwaways (who have more to do with the '70s than the '80s). Tellingly, the worst songs here -- Rupert Holmes' "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" and Captain & Tennille's "Do That to Me One More Time" -- were also the biggest hits. Frightful.While I agree there are some frightful tracks, I would disagree with the "not much to recommend" part. Despite the compilation's title, this CD's tracks are mostly from 1979, but we won't let that slow us down.
- Escape (The Piña Colada Song) - Rupert Holmes, released October 1979, Pop #1, AC #8. A huge hit and the last U.S. #1 song of the '70s. I liked it at the time, not so much now. For some reason, it reminds me of playing basketball after lunch in 8th grade. At that age, just singing a song that included lyrics about an alcoholic drink made us feel more grown up.
- You're Only Lonely - J.D. Souther, released August 1979, Pop #7, AC #1, Country #60. A great homage to Roy Orbison (complete with falsetto) with help from Jackson Browne and members of The Eagles. The song is so true in style that I originally thought this song was from the '60s. This is one of those songs that runs through my head from time to time for no apparent reason. Souther dated both Stevie Nicks and Linda Ronstadt, so props to him for that.
- Heaven Must Have Sent You - Bonnie Pointer, released May 1979, Pop #11, R&B #52. A cover of a Holland-Dozier-Holland soul song that was a 1966 hit for The Elgins. Sounds a lot like The Supremes' Where Did Our Love Go (another Holland-Dozier-Holland song). It's a harmless cover, but the decision to add disco strings and have Pointer attempt some Al Jolson-like scat singing are confusing to me. There's a more popular disco version that's better than the version included here.
- This Night Won't Last Forever - Michael Johnson, released July 1979, Pop #19, AC #5. I was a big fan of Johnson's 1978 hit, Bluer Than Blue and I also enjoy this follow-up. The liner notes claims this song has a "midtempo, country-shaded sound." That hits the nail on the head. Although I enjoyed Johnson's soft rock hits on the radio, the thought of purchasing any of his releases never occurred to me.
- Rolene - Moon Martin, released August 1979, Pop #30. I don't remember this one. Sort of a rockabilly meets power pop thing with a little Ray Charles' What'd I Say thrown in for good measure. For me, it just doesn't work.
- An American Dream - The Dirt Band, released November 1979, Pop #13, Country #58. A radio favorite, I liked this one when it was released, particularly the Linda Ronstadt harmonies. It blends country with tropical, à la Jimmy Buffet, with great success.
- Do That To Me One More Time - Captain & Tennille, released October 1979, Pop #1, AC #4, R&B #58. My sister was a huge C&T fan and, because she was older than me, she got to choose what LPs we listened to. As a result, I know the words to every C&T song released between 1975-1980, including this one. I recently gave my sister the DVD compilation of the 20 episodes of C&T's variety show that aired from '76 to '77. The gift was a big hit - I even watched a few episodes with her. I'm not wild about this song, but I do believe that Toni Tennille is a very underrated singer. She had some chops and could really belt it out.
- Romeo's Tune - Steve Forbert, released November 1979, Pop #11. I remember singing along with this one when it was on the radio. I don't think it as a catchy melody, but I like the way the alliterative "meet me in the middle of the day" rolls out of my mouth.
- Set Me Free - Utopia, released January 1980, Pop #27. Like most Todd Rundgren songs, this is well-written yet under-appreciated. I don't recall hearing this one on my radio; I have no memory of Utopia before I saw the video for the group's 1982 single, Feet Don't Fail Me Now, which prompted me to buy their eponymous album.
- Pretty Girls - Melissa Manchester, released September 1979, Pop #39, AC #26. Fortunately, I don't think I've ever heard this lame attempt at disco prior to purchasing this disc. I can do without this one although I'm a fan of Manchester's 1982 dance hit, You Should Hear How She Talks About You.
- Gee Whiz - Bernadette Peters, released March 1980, Pop #31, AC #3. I've been hopelessly infatuated with Peters ever since I first laid eyes on her in the late '70s. However, I much prefer the Carla Thomas 1961 original to this cover.
- Please Don't Leave - Lauren Wood, released August 1979, Pop #24, AC #5. This is a smooth little West Coast ditty and just as you're thinking "this sounds like it could be a Doobie Brothers song," here comes Michael McDonald with some vocals to seal the deal. Doobies producer Ted Templeman also produced this track with members of Toto in the backing band. A must for any yacht rock playlist you're putting together.
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