Reviews: 2.15.19: Friday (on My Mind) Special: The Weeklings Rock Out at High Noone

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The Weeklings featuring Peter Noone
“Friday on My Mind” (Jem, 2019)

It’s Friday, it’s special, and it’s time for this important question: What happens when a quartet of old pros meet up with an old pro from the 1960s, get amped-up, plugged in and blast out, in smashing fashion, a 52-year-old classic hit of psych pop like it’s their last ride on the roller coaster?

Fireworks of the musical kind ensue! Better stand back, kids, and buckle in! You’re in for a fun, wild ride!

The Weeklings, New Jersey’s fab foursome, this time eschewing their fab influences, have connected with Herman’s Hermits front man Peter Noone to record a blown-up-and-put-together-again-with-a-rocking-bed-of-dynamite version of the Easybeats’ 1966 worldwide smash, “Friday on My Mind.”

Blowing up expectations, the Weeklings–Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack–provide the daring instrumental and vocal backing and hand the lead vocal reins over to Peter Noone who, more in line with his persona on the Tremblers’ 1980 long player, Twice Nightly, aims for outer space as he takes on Harry Vanda and George Young’s classic number.

It’s a hell of a performance, folks; the mix of Noone’s piercing, take-no-prisoners vocal and the Weeklings’ mastery of the original song’s ultra-catchy melody and instrumentation is one of this melodic pop season’s most powerful moments.

As the beat and oomph ramps up in the last seven seconds of this great waxing to about as above ground as humanly possible, Noone looks his microphone in the eye and gives it all he’s got–a throat-shredding scream that lasts all of two seconds but burns itself into your brain for a lifetime.

And now, before this review bids you a fond adieu, enjoy the Weeklings and Peter Noone–the Fab Five, if you will–and their smoking rendition of the Easybeats’ “Friday on My Mind.” These guys are seriously superheros (Marvel or DC, take your pick).

Whew. Produced by Jem Records’ Marty Scott and recorded by the Grip Weeds’ Kurt Reil (Peter Noone’s vocal was recorded by Fernando Perdomo at Reseda Ranch Studios), this pulsating version of “Friday on My Mind” is a keeper, a classic in its own right–a monumental knock on the door of what we expect to hear…an instant classic, if you will.

And you will.

Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes

radio1

Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August.

Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews: 2.14.19: Valentine’s Day Special: I Heart Bertling Noise Laboratories’ … into thin air

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Bertling Noise Laboratories | … into thin air (2019)

Multi-instrumentalist Nick Bertling, who makes and records the noise in these laboratories, is a marvel. His previous work, covering favorite pop and rock songs on 2017’s A Little Touch of Bertling in the Night and waxing his own creations on 2015’s the flehmen response, stands proudly beside his instrumental backing for Andy Bopp and Gretchen’s Wheel’s Lindsay Murray. Nick is back with a four-song EP, EPs being the more common musical currency in these wackadoo times.

This new collection brings together four songs–three very Nickian interpretations of tunes from other artists and one rollout of a brand-new tune written by Bertling himself. It’s a different way to express creativity–Nick’s way of putting his stamp on other people’s envelopes, so to speak.

Nick’s new song, “Perfect Paragraph,” was written in Chicago and recorded at home, where all four of … into thin air’s songs were captured in perpetuity. This song really is pretty perfect, just like the paragraph referenced in the title, a pretty piano ballad beautifully sung in which the perfect moment is in the spotlight and the influence of Todd Rundgren can clearly be heard.

“Whisper Softly” was the opening, popping salvo on Myracle Brah’s 1998 album, Life on Planet Eartsnop. Nick basically sticks to writer and performer Andy Bopp’s original plot, although he does up the ante with a more pronounced drum beat. “Awry,” a cover of an Aimee Mann-type song from Gretchen Wheel’s 2017 EP, for which Nick provided some percussion, undergoes some reinvention and is now cast as a weightier alternative number, shot with sound effects and an electric guitar solo composed of sometimes stretched and bent notes.

“As One Again,” a midtempo ballad painted with full-on Rundgren colors, has an interesting history. It was originally essayed by Nick and
Chris Catalfo in the late 1990s. Building on Chris’s previously-recorded keyboard part (all that remained from their efforts), Nick finished the song. The song is Chris’s, the recording Nick’s. And it’s a beaut.

It continues to be my pleasure to be able to put the Pure Pop Radio spotlight on melodic pop’s great practitioners. Nick Bertling is certainly one of them, and … into thin air is his latest release.

I heart Bertling Noise Laboratories’ …into the air.

Where to Get It and Listen: Bandcamp

radio1

Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August.

Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews: 2.7.19: Caper Clowns and Sons of Morning

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Caper Clowns | “Second to None” b/w “Verboten” (2019)

The hits just keep on coming! The fourth single from Caper Clowns’ fantastic sophomore long-player, A Salty Taste to the Lake (one of our Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2018), is a double dose of delight. The album’s catchy, uptempo popper, “Second to None,” is supported by the previously-unavailable “Verboten,” a truly astonishing slice of pop complexity composed of three distinct sections, all circling a decidedly Beatlesque-by-way-of-the-Rembrandts beacon. The first section lays all of the song’s catchy cards on the table; it’s followed by a lovely, wordless, 30-second bridge, and the third piece of the puzzle, similar to the first but, perhaps, a bit sweeter.

Caper Clowns’ b-sides continue to marvel, in much the same way that their a-sides do. Odense, Denmark’s favorite sons continue to prove that they can do no wrong.

Where to Get It: Amazon (Releases February 11)

Sons of Morning | “Cold and Blue” b/w “Evangeline” (Big Stir, 2019)

Sounding as if they were plucked from the set list of a band playing school dances in the late 1950s or early 1960s, Connecticut popsters Sons of Morning’s latest songs are of a piece. “Cold and Blue” is a dreamy ballad about hopeful, forever love, and “Evangeline” is a rather stark statement of amour.

The 11th in the ongoing series of digital singles being released by the fine folks at Big Stir, this is pop balladry like it used to rock the house. Savory, sweet joy.

Where to Get It: Purchase and preview at Big Stir Digital Singles

radio1

Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August.

Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews: 2.5.19: Lannie Flowers, The Keys, Clifford Ulrich, and Scott McGinn

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Lannie Flowers | “Summer Blue” (2019)

If there is one thing that people living through the chill of winter can agree on, it’s that the warm summer months can not come soon enough. This 11th in the ongoing series of free Lannie Flowers songs being given away during the run-up to Lannie’s new album (due any time now) is a typically warm and inviting mid-tempo celebration of melodic wonder starring rich harmonies and inviting guitar lines.

The clever lyric suggests, at least to me, that the idea of summer can translate to just about anything that warms us up with joyous optimism. Summer, in fact, can even be a song on the radio: “She seems a thousand miles away/but I can feel her on my radio/I’m just looking for a ray of sunshine/Anything to get me out of the cold.”

Lannie has always done top-notch work; his songs continue to be treasured by fans. The 11 songs being given away for absolutely nothing at all, essentially functioning as a complete, full-length album in advance of the actual album everyone has been waiting for, are arguably his best work. And that’s really saying something. Get “Summer Blue” just for the asking and brighten your day.

Where to Get It: Spyderpop Records (Free download)

The Keys | Grand Reopening (Zero Hour, 2019)

Because bands are composed of real people whose lives, at a certain point in time, take a variety of turns at speeds approaching and often exceeding the speed limit, the story of Bob Koenig, who logged time in a band called Abandon Here and then assembled Long Island power poppers the Keys, may seem familiar to you and, perhaps, you too.

Growing up in Mineola on Long Island and then moving to Levittown, Bob has, in addition to pumping out catchy power pop tunes, logged time as vice president of the Levittown Historical Society. He has been called Mr. Levittown but might as well be called Mr. Long Island. Such are the turns Bob’s life has taken (and oh, by the way, he was a mailman for 32 years and is now retired).

Perhaps we will take a closer look at Bob’s story in the future–it’s rather an interesting one–but for now let’s take a look at the music of the Keys, collected in typically fine fashion by the folks at Zero Hour records. Comprising 20 tracks–two recorded by Abandon Here–it is a powerful, melodic ride that stretches from 1984 to 1993. It is most certainly a ride worth taking.

Throughout these tracks, there is a palpable sense of the sound of Badfinger, if it’s a reference that you’re seeking. But mostly, the Keys sound like the Keys, which is ultimately the only reference that matters. All of the hallmarks that power pop fans crave are here: attractive, memorable melodies, rich harmonies, guitar prowess, and powerful drums.

Tracks like “Change of Seasons,” “Poison Pen,” and “Herky Jerky Love” will satisfy most power pop cravings, but so will Bob’s “Pool of Tears” and “See Cybill Cry,” which open with soft, serene backings and become mid-tempo pop-rockers with great, catchy melodies, lyrical guitar solos and strong lead vocals and vocal harmonies. They are the cats meows of this album.

Dig into 20 tracks of power pop goodness here with Long Island’s the Keys and stay tuned for more of Bob Koenig’s story.

Where to Get It: Zero Hour, Amazon, Kool Kat

Clifford Ulrich | “I’m Going to Miss Her” b/w “Like a River Glorious”
(Big Stir, 2019)

Cover art by Ridley Broome

The 15th Big Stir digital single belongs to the Armoire’s Clifford Ulrich, who also does duty in Owensmouth and writes songs for Skates and Rays. Here in solo artist mode, Ulrich polishes this two-fer with a Byrdsian shine.

First up is Ulrich’s jangly “I’m Going to Miss Her,” which originally appeared on Skates and Rays’ You Are My Home album and practically implores you to close your eyes and imagine Roger McGuinn playing the glorious solo that softly punches through the final 25-second section. Song number two is his sweet folk-pop rendition of “Like a River Glorious,” a hymn that dates back to the 1800s and was authored by James Mountain and Frances Ridley Havergal. Just like “I’m Going to Miss Her,” this is a magical listening experience. (Click on the highlighted song titles to listen.)

Where to Get It: Big Stir Digital Singles

Scott McGinn | Purr-Ever Beach (2018)

Face Dancer’s Scott McGinn steps out for a solo turn on an album stacked high with songs that shake hands with pop and rock and often meet somewhere in between.

You’re sure to find favorites among these numbers, both new and revived from Face Dancer and 1980s techno-popsters Growing Up Different. Key tracks include “Forever Beach,” upbeat pop with nice harmonies and an ELO-ish string part, and “Delicatessen,” upbeat pop with a nifty piano riff and rocking guitar, ELO style.

Where to Get It: Amazon, CD Baby, iTunes, Trax on Wax (Call or stop in to this Catonsville, MD vinyl landmark)

radio1

Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August.

Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews: 1.31.19: Tim Jackson’s Pure Pop Debut is Right on Time

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Tim Jackson | Better Late than Never (2018)

The thing you need to understand about Tim Jackson, whose debut album is one of the finest first musical volleys in recent memory, is that his record collection is likely pretty similar to the one that has overtaken your living room, den, and/or storage bin.

If you’re a fan of pure pop music from the likes of Andrew Gold, Ben Folds, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Michael Penn, Elton John, Looking Glass, Todd Rundgren, 10cc, Supertramp, Billy Joel, and Bruce Hornsby, you’ll feel right at home spinning Jackson’s songs.

You know that feeling you get when you hear a pure popian tune and your first impossible-to-resist urge is to sing along before you even hear the first chorus?

Yeah, that feeling. Tim Jackson’s got the goods.

Let’s dig in. There is a lot to unpack, story-wise, in the quite catchy, uptempo, hit-bound-in-a-perfect-world title track about a musician’s station in life at various points along his climb up the ladder of success. “We got married and I took a job/Then the band broke up and the dream was gone/We had kids and settled down forever/But now I’m back, it’s better late than never,” Jackson sings atop his percussive keyboard (dig the Andrew Gold-y piano break).

Jackson sinks deep into a contagious seventies groove, powered by a Looking Glass kind of electric piano part which, in the very beginning, recalls Elton John’s “The Bitch is Back”, in the uptempo, horn-fueled “Black Dog” (no, not that “Black Dog”). This toe-tapping nugget, about that thing that tugs at your soul and how you can escape it and break through the clouds, is one of this album’s top keepers.

Influences of varying stripes inhabit the gorgeous mid-tempo ballad “What Lies Ahead,” this album’s penultimate song, about safe, forever love that knows no boundaries. A beautiful chord structure and a lovely melody fuel this instant classic that everyone can relate to (“Cause I won’t let you down/And you will lift me up/When I fall behind/Or you’re feeling out of luck/There’s no need to explain/Or ever hide again/I’ll take away your pain/And then/Who knows what lies ahead”). It’s the story of true love that is always true.

Recorded mostly at home with friends such as Iain Hornal from Jeff Lynne’s ELO, with Jackson playing the keys and singing, Better Late than Never is the kind of classic, pure pop kind of record that fans of instantly lovable melodic pop are drawn to as a matter of course. It is a complete and utter joy all the way through.

Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes | Stream on Spotify

radio1

Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August.

Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews: 1.30.19: Smith and Jones’ Top-Flight “Secondhand Heart”

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Smith and Jones
“Secondhand Heart”
(from the forthcoming album Something Worth Learning (2019)

Deftly chronicling the lack of an in-for-a-penny, in-for-a-pound element of romance missing from a relationship, Abby Smith and Sophie Jones’ glorious and catchy new single, released in advance of their forthcoming second album, Something Worth Learning, makes the case for music being the able vehicle for examining heartbreak and allowing the heart to heal.

Anchored by an emotionally-charged drums and piano base, the uptempo, melodic “Secondhand Heart,” written by Smith, adopts a classic pop structure, as the song tackles a weighty subject atop a catchy melody. Smith and Jones trade lead vocals and take on acoustic guitar and piano duties; Matt Ferry plays lead guitar and Michael Carpenter plays bass and the intricate, thundering drum pattern. Sweet lead and harmony vocalizing abound.

A particularly inventive video (watch below) brings the story of “Secondhand Heart” to life. Part performance, part interpretive dance energetically performed by Alison Plevey, the action takes place in a spacious, bare room in what looks like an industrial structure.

Plevey’s movement suggests a woman wanting to get close to a lover who is relatively, emotionally empty; drawn to him, she pushes closer, then apart, always moving, always searching for next steps. In addition to viewers watching the song unfold before their eyes, and the song is the thing, of course, the suggestion is for viewers to think and determine how they feel about what is going on. It’s a bargain that pays dividends.

“Secondhand Heart” is a triumph, a great, thinking person’s pop piece that heightens anticipation for Smith and Jones’ second album, Something Worth Learning, which releases in March. I can’t wait.

Where to Get It: Check back for purchase links

radio1

Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews: 1.29.19: Rogers & Butler, and Coke Belda

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Rogers & Butler | Diana Dors (Zip, 2019)

Edward Rogers teams up with Smash Palace’s Stephen Butler for a smashing four-song EP full of rock and pop swing, anchored by the pretty title song, a love letter to the English actress Diana Dors, “forgotten to the past.”

Rock and pop collide in the mid-tempo “Seven Hour Man,” which features a nifty psych-infused instro section, and “Witness Tree,” a toe tapper about guilt and innocence and the truth that lies in between that sounds like a second cousin to Wings’ “Deliver Your Children.” The big number–the should-be radio hit–is the closing, catchy pop-rocker “Possibilities,” about letting colors bleed into a black-and-white view of the world in order to see the light.

Guitars are crisp and up-front throughout this EP; melodies are catchy, and the Smithereens’ Dennis Diken supplies the sturdy beat. Solid stuff.

Where to Get It: Amazon (releases on February 8)

Coke Belda | “Can I Stay With You” (2018)

It’s always a great day when Pure Pop Radio favorite Coke Belda releases one of his magical recordings. Until his next original collection of tuneful pop songs, we have this sweetly-realized cover of Nick Garrie’s “Can I Stay With You,” which originally appeared on Garrie’s classic 1969 album, The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas.

That Coke turns Garrie’s tune into something that sounds like it could have been nailed by the Bee Gees should come as no surprise–Coke released a wonderful collection of Gibb brothers covers on Futureman in 2017. Snap this up pronto; it’s a free download. And, as you will hear, it’s wonderful.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

radio1

Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.