by Jeff Fiedler
Common Thread is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com in which we offer up mini-reviews of a small (and often very diverse) assortment of albums that all have one specific shared trait; that "common thread" can vary from column to column.
Conscious Party, Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers (1987, Virgin)
That Ziggy is the son of reggae legend Bob Marley should be the least surprising bit of trivia in this feature. What you will likely be surprised to learn is that Ziggy managed to do something his father was never quite able to do: score a Top 40 hit in the U.S.. In fact, Bob Marley cracked the Hot 100 only once (with the #51-peaking “Roots, Rock, Reggae.”) Ziggy, on the other hand, went to #39 with the sun-kissed splash of “Tomorrow People,” the lead-off single from this platter, which was produced by Talking Heads members Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz.
Will to Power, Will to Power (1988, Epic)
This dance-pop outfit rocketed all the way to Number One with their first hit (featured on this self-titled debut), an unlikely medley of Peter Frampton’s “Baby, I Love Your Way” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.” Defying critics who tagged them as a one-hit wonder, they’d re-emerge at the end of 1990 with another massive cover, this time of 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love.” The group’s brainchild was Bob Rosenberg, who was the son of Gloria Mann, who made waves herself in 1955 by scoring a pair of hits – ironically, both of them also remakes – with covers of the Penguins’ “Earth Angel” and Gale Storm’s “Teenage Prayer.”
3 Deep, Surface (1990, Columbia)
This New Jersey R&B trio racked up a fair amount of crossover success in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, scoring four Top Twenty pop hits, two of which appear here: “Never Gonna Let You Down” and the silky-smooth Number One smash “The First Time.” But more casual fans of the band may not realize that guitarist/keyboardist David Townsend is actually the son of ‘50s one-hit-wonder Ed Townsend of “For Your Love” fame.
After the Rain, Nelson (1990, Geffen)
Their time in the spotlight may have been short-lived, but twin brothers Matthew and Gunnar Nelson made the most of it, scoring a pair of Top Ten hits (the Number One hit “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection” and the lovely melodies of the criminally underrated follow-up single “After the Rain”) and an additional pair of Top Thirty hits (“More Than Ever” and “Only Time Will Tell”) from this album, which actually sounds quite good today compared to much of the hair-metal of the time. But the fact that these two could write good melodies is no surprise: their father was ‘50s teen idol Ricky Nelson (himself quite underrated), whose run of thirty-five Top 40 hits (nineteen of them Top Ten hits!) includes such fabulous singles as “Travelin’ Man,” “Hello Mary Lou,” “It’s Late,” “Poor Little Fool,” “Stood Up,” “It’s Up for You,” “For You,” and “Garden Party.”
The One and Only, Chesney Hawkes (1991, Chrysalis)
He only ever had one hit in the U.S., but the adult-contemporary rock of the Top Ten-charting title cut of this disc from British pop star Chesney Hawkes is one of the great lost one-hit-wonder singles of the earliest years of the ‘90s. [There's a reason this song - also featured over the opening credits of the Michael J. Fox-Julie Warner romantic comedy Doc Hollywood - is so surprisingly good: it's written by '80s rocker Nik Kershaw of “Wouldn't It Be Good” fame.] Though the song has sadly long disappeared from radio on these shores, his dad’s music continues to pop up frequently on oldies stations: Len “Chip” Hawkes was a member of The Tremeloes, who quickly racked up three Top 40 hits in 1967, including the enduring radio staples “Here Comes My Baby” (actually a cover of a song by Cat Stevens, long before he ever had his first American hit with “Wild World”) and “Silence Is Golden” (actually a cover of a Four Seasons B-side).
Tal Bachman, Tal Bachman (1999, Columbia)
In a year dominated by teen-pop and Latin music, this Canadian singer-songwriter helped keep rock alive on Top 40 radio, thanks to his muscular and very infectious single “She’s So High,” taken from this self-titled disc and sadly the only hit he ever had in this country. His famous dad, on the other hand, has scored Top 40 hits in the U.S. with not just one, or even two, but three different bands; Randy Bachman first made waves as the guitarist for The Guess Who (“No Time,” “American Woman,” “These Eyes”) before departing in 1970 and later going on to form his own outfit Bachman-Turner Overdrive, themselves a hit-making machine with such classic-rock radio staples as “Takin’ Care of Business,” “Let It Ride,” and “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” and, then, as the leader of the late-‘70s band Ironhorse, reaching the Top 40 once more with the fun disco-rock of “Sweet Lui-Louise.”
Escape, Enrique Iglesias (2001, Interscope)
Arguably the longest-lasting of all the pop stars to emerge from the Latin-music boom of the late ’90s (his most recent trip to the Top 40 was in 2014 with the near-Top-Ten-hit “Bailando”), Iglesias’ run of hits over the years has been so plentiful (eleven visits to the Top 40 in all, five of those Top Five hits) that it’s easy to forget that he’s actually the son of Spanish-music superstar Julio Iglesias (best known to U.S. audiences as Willie Nelson’s duet partner on “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”). If you’ve never actually taken the time to listen to one of Enrique’s albums, you may be surprised by the hints of rock to be found on his earliest English-language records. 1999’s Enrique, for instance, is best known for yielding the hits “Bailamos,” “Be with You,” and “Rhythm Divine,” but it’s also got a surprisingly excellent cover of the Bruce Springsteen obscurity “Sad Eyes,” while this follow-up album (best known for spawning the inspirational ballad “Hero”) boasts a criminally overlooked title cut that sadly missed the Top Ten by just a few spots but sounds eerily like a lost Roxy Music song from the late ‘70s (circa Manifesto) - not at all a bad thing to sound like!
Come Away with Me, Norah Jones (2002, Blue Note)
This Grammy darling brought jazz back into the mainstream in a big way in 2002 with the release of this disc and its equal-parts-infectious-and-relaxing lead-off single “Don’t Know Why” before quickly changing course and setting a more experimental career path for herself, branching out into country, blues, folk, and indie-pop with interesting results, particularly the appealing adult-contemporary pop of “Chasing Pirates” from 2009’s The Fall. But it’s this album that remains the biggest and most musically significant release of her career and a fixture at cocktail parties and dinner galas everywhere. You’d never guess it, but Jones is actually the daughter of legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar, perhaps best known to U.S. audiences for his appearances on the chart-topping and Grammy-winning benefit album The Concert for Bangladesh, assembled by longtime disciple George Harrison.
Metro Station, Metro Station (2008, Columbia)
It’s certainly no secret that former country star Billy Ray Cyrus of “Achy Breaky Heart” is the father of pop superstar Miley Cyrus of “Party in the U.S.A.” and “Wrecking Ball” fame. What you may not be aware of is that he actually has a second child who has also replicated his feat of reaching the Top Ten on the pop charts, his son Trace, who’s the guitarist for this band, who made waves in 2008 with the irresistible dance-rock of “Shake It.” [Trace isn’t even the only member in the band with a famous relative – primary lead singer Mason Musso is the brother of Miley’s former Hannah Montana co-star Mitchel Musso!]
Exposed, Kristinia DeBarge (2009, Island)
Her time in the spotlight was sadly much too short-lived (to the extent that the follow-up to this disc, 2013’s Young and Restless, was shockingly released only in Japan), but the lovely Kristinia DeBarge was actually a lot more talented than most of her teen-pop peers, delivering mature and occasionally even sassy pop songs in an appealing youthful and restrained way, making her seem comparable in ways to Rihanna or Britney Spears, but without the raunch factor. Her lone Top 40 hit, “Goodbye,” borrowed its chorus from Steam’s classic 1969 Number One hit “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” but any lack of originality was masked by the sheer force of the song’s pounding beats and Kristinia’s appealing vocal on the track (just listen to the brilliant, almost jazz-like way in which she delivers the line “Take this final piece of advice”). Kristinia’s just one of many famous musicians within her extended family tree. Her father James, uncles El, Mark, and Randy, and aunt Bunny were all members of ‘80s R&B royalty DeBarge (“Rhythm of the Night,” “Who’s Holding Donna Now,” “All This Love,” “Time Will Reveal”), uncle Chico had a solo hit in 1987 with “Talk to Me,” and uncles Brother and Tommy were members of Switch of “There’ll Never Be” fame.
Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke (2013, Star Trak/Interscope)
Thicke scored one of the two biggest – albeit also one of the most controversial – hits of 2013 with the title cut of this record. It’s no secret that Robin is the son of beloved television actor Alan Thicke of Growing Pains fame, but music comes genetically to him. Both his famous father and his mother, Gloria Loring, are responsible for writing countless television theme songs, most notably the themes for Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, while Loring (who was starring on Days of Our Lives at the time) stopped just one slot shy of topping the U.S. charts in 1986, alongside duet partner Carl Anderson, with the ballad “Friends and Lovers.”