Fred Bronson discusses the Kinks, Shania Twain, Olivia Newton-John and Fantasia with readers.
A BAND THAT NEVER HAD ITS 'GREEN' DAY Reigning "American Idol" queen Fantasia makes a self-assured debut that belies her novice stature. After listening to this 13-song set, the uninitiated can appreciate the talent of this young singer with the sophisticated, Tina Turner-esque voice. Under the direction of such marquee names as Missy Elliott, Rodney Jerkins and Soulshock & Karlin, Fantasia's vocals are put to good use. The Fantasia/Elliott pairing works to full effect on "Selfish (I Want U 2 Myself)," one of three cuts the female rapper produced and co-wrote. A church-infused version of "You Were Always on My Mind" -- covered notably by Willie Nelson -- is another pleasant surprise. And you can just picture the video that could be made to support the step-lively, single-mother anthem "Baby Mama." One jarring moment on this contemporary R&B outing is Fantasia's rendition of the Gershwin classic "Summertime," her signature song during the "Idol" contest. Simply put, it does not fit within this context.
Like many, "Chart Beat" is always on my Friday "to do list." I know this forum is for covering chart feats, but I have a question concerning the absence of charting. [I'm referring to] the Kinks' "The Village Green Preservation Society" [LP], which includes the infectious song "Picture Book" from the excellent HP Digital Photography [television] commercial.
I couldn't get the song out of my head, and tracked it down through the HP Web site. I had no idea it was the Kinks, or that it was a 36-year old song. "Village Green" is the Kinks' top-selling album on Amazon.com and the reviews are glowing about this 1968 concept album about simple, small-town English living. This album and its songs failed to chart in Billboard, [which is] amazing since the Kinks were riding a wave of success.
Are you familiar with this album, and do you know the story of why it failed to chart, even though the band had success in 1967 and 1968?
I love the commercial and I give a lot of credit to whoever remembered the Kinks' wonderful but obscure "Picture Book." When "The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society" was initially released, it was a constant visitor to my turntable. I was a big fan of the band right from the beginning. More accurately, I liked their first chart single, "You Really Got Me," but I absolutely loved the follow-up, "All Day and All of the Night." I remember the weekend they first played it on the radio in Los Angeles, and I kept listening because I couldn't hear it enough.
While you might be surprised that "Village Green" never appeared on the Billboard album chart, I think you'll be more surprised that the album never charted in the United Kingdom either. I think the answer is simple: it just never sold enough copies in one week to earn a chart position. Instead, the album has sold over a long period of time, and its current sales are due to the HP commercial and the fact that the album was reissued in 2004 on the U.K.-based Sanctuary label as a triple CD set. A domestic CD issued on the Warner Bros. label in 1990 is also available.
Also worth checking out are two other concept albums by the Kinks: "Arthur (or the decline and fall of the British Empire)" and "Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneyground, Part One." The former peaked at No. 105 in 1969, but the latter reached No. 35 in 1970, thanks to the title single, "Lola," which went to No. 9 on the Hot 100.
TWAIN, PARTY OF TWO
Shania Twain's "Party for Two" is listed on both the Hot Country Singles & Tracks [chart] and the Billboard Hot 100. The country version features Billy Currington and the pop version features Mark McGrath, the lead singer of Sugar Ray. Is it listed as Shania Twain featuring Billy Currington or Mark McGrath to avoid any confusion on the chart, because it seems that with both duet partners listed on the song you don't know if it's either the country or the pop version on the Billboard Hot 100.
"Party for Two" is one of a handful of songs that have used the word "or" to indicate there are alternate duet partners. You might remember that Kid Rock's "Picture" was listed on the chart credited to "Kid Rock featuring Sheryl Crow or Alison Moorer," because there was a pop version featuring Crow and a country version featuring Moorer. If Billboard used "and" instead of "or" it would have indicated the song was by all three artists, which it was not.
"Party for Two" is credited to "Shania Twain featuring Billy Currington or Mark McGrath" not because we can't make up our minds, but because both versions are garnering airplay and contributing to the song's chart position.
'XANADU' ISN'T EVEN IN THE RUNNING
One more remade signature song to add to the list [of signature songs that artists have recorded twice]: Olivia Newton-John's "I Honestly Love You." The song first charted in 1974 when it spent two weeks atop the Hot 100 and three weeks atop the Adult Contemporary chart [and] it also reached No. 6 on the country chart that year.
In 1977, the same version was re-released to promote Newton-John's "Greatest Hits" album and peaked at No. 48 [on the Hot 100] and No. 49 AC. Newton-John re-recorded the song in 1998 with David Foster and Babyface. The 1998 version peaked at No. 67 [on the Hot 100], No. 18 on the AC chart and No. 16 on the country sales chart.
Although "Physical" (10 weeks) and "Magic" (four weeks) led the Hot 100 longer, I think most would agree that Newton-John's true signature song is "I Honestly Love You."
Thanks for reading!
Would you consider "You're the One That I Want"? No? OK, we'll go with "I Honestly Love You," though I think an argument could be made for "Physical."
I love Fantasia, the new "American Idol." Her CD is excellent, but I don't hear a lot from you guys as far as a review of the CD. What do you think of "Free Yourself?" What do you think of Fantasia?
I love her voice and her emotionally charged performances. I really hope she makes it in the music world. There are far too few singers with a gift like Fantasia's voice. You don't have to worry about her lip-synching with those strong vocals.
Yep, I am a fan.
Janet W. Day
I'm a Fantasia fan, too, both personally and professionally. You might have missed her appearance on "The Billboard Radio Countdown" earlier this year. We interviewed her backstage at the "American Idols Live" concert in Philadelphia. Host Chuck Taylor asked Fantasia about her experiences on the TV series and the tour, and had her introduce her all-time favorite song (which you might be surprised to learn was "I Don't Want To Miss a Thing," written by Diane Warren and originally recorded by Aerosmith).
Fantasia has also been the subject of more than one "Chart Beat" column, and I can tell you she was thrilled when I handed her copies of the magazine with her name in headlines. I don't know if she saw the Billboard review of her album in the issue dated Dec. 4, but I can tell from your E-mail that you missed it. Here's what senior writer Gail Mitchell wrote about "Free Yourself":
Reigning "American Idol" queen Fantasia makes a self-assured debut that belies her novice stature. After listening to this 13-song set, the uninitiated can appreciate the talent of this young singer with the sophisticated, Tina Turner-esque voice. Under the direction of such marquee names as Missy Elliott, Rodney Jerkins and Soulshock & Karlin, Fantasia's vocals are put to good use. The Fantasia/Elliott pairing works to full effect on "Selfish (I Want U 2 Myself)," one of three cuts the female rapper produced and co-wrote. A church-infused version of "You Were Always on My Mind" -- covered notably by Willie Nelson -- is another pleasant surprise. And you can just picture the video that could be made to support the step-lively, single-mother anthem "Baby Mama." One jarring moment on this contemporary R&B outing is Fantasia's rendition of the Gershwin classic "Summertime," her signature song during the "Idol" contest. Simply put, it does not fit within this context.
Janet, my personal favorite track is "Baby Mama," which I'd love to see released as a single.