Saturday, June 18, 2011

The #53 Album of All-Time in the Rock Era--"Make It Big" by Wham!

One by one, Inside the Rock Era* is featuring The Top 100 Albums of All-Time in the Rock Era*.  We started May 1st and we are now up to #53.

It is the only Wham album to make the list, although two solo efforts from George Michael are included.  The album reached #1 on March 2, 1985, taking over from another big album Like a Virgin by Madonna.  Three other outstanding albums provided the competition for this album--Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen, Reckless by Bryan Adams and Private Dancer from Tina Turner.  When you can get to #1 amidst that competition, it's a pretty big deal.  This one remained there for three weeks, and more importantly, remained in the Top 10 for 25.  Make It Big spent 80 weeks on the album chart (over a year and a half) and has so far sold 6 million copies.  Also, since it was released near the end of the "LP era", very few of those are "double purchases"; i.e. buying a CD to upgrade the quality of the album.  For the older albums, you have to somewhat discount sales because many are going to be the same original consumers to get CD quality.

The chart performance and sales statistics were greatly influenced by the airplay that four smash singles earned for the album as well as a solid 9.13 Track Rating* that influenced positive word of mouth advertising.  "Careless Whisper" essentially was a Michael solo effort, since he recorded it alone.  It went on to become one of The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era*.  "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" was also a #1 record on Billboard magazine, although my research shows that it shouldn't have been, and it still isn't extremely popular.  In fact, "Freedom", the album's fourth single, shows up far better in research despite only making #3.  "Everything She Wants" made it three #1 songs on Make It Big.  The four singles kept the album fresh in the minds of listeners for nearly a year, one of the strongest things the album has going for it.

Whereas an album like The Wall by Pink Floyd is a pure concept album, which is ideal in consideration of The Top 100 Albums*, this one is not.  It is more a collection of the four hit singles.  That said, those four are so great and the other tracks are good enough for the album to make it.  The only other track besides the singles that I would call "very good" is "Credit Card Baby"; the others are "average".  Still, they are good enough to keep the Track Rating* above 9, and that, combined with the huge airplay and sales statistics, earn it a spot.

Wham! won the American Music Award for Favorite Group Video Artist and the Best British Group Award at the BRIT Awards.  They were nominated for Favorite Pop Single "Careless Whisper" at the American Music Awards, Pop Vocal Group at the Grammies, International Album of the Year and two nominations for International Single of the Year (for "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and "Careless Whisper") at the Juno Awards.

Make It Big:
(All songs by George Michael, unless otherwise noted.)

Side one
1.  "Wake Me up Before You Go-Go" --3:50
2.  "Everything She Wants" --5:01
3.  "Heartbeat" --4:42
4.  "Like a Baby" --4:12

Side two
1.  "Freedom" --5:01
2.  "If You Were There" (The Isley Brothers) --3:38
3.  "Credit Card Baby" --5:08
4.  "Careless Whisper" (George Michael & Andrew Ridgeley) --6:30

Michael played keyboards and sang lead vocals on the album, while both Michael and Ridgeley provided backup vocals.  Ridgeley also played electric guitar and acoustic guitar along with Hugh Burns.  Deon Estus played bass, Trevor Morrell was the drummer, Tommy Eyre and Andy Richards also played keyboards, David Baptiste and Steve Gregory were on sax and Colin Graham and Paul Spong played trumpet.

Make It Big was recorded from July to September of 1984.  Michael also arranged and produced the album.  The Engineer was Chris Porter while Tony McGee provided photography.  The album was released October 23, 1984 on Columbia Records.

Wham! have the #53 Album--Make It Big.

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