Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio

Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio is the archive for the premiere website that covered the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We are now closed for new activity.

Dave Caruso’s Delicious Soft-Pop Stew Serves Up a Tantalizing Meal

dave 1
Dave Caruso

Dave Caruso | Cardboard Vegas Roundabout | 2014

Dave Caruso | Elizabeth Parker | 2004

A Review by Alan Haber

(We’re giving away nine copies of this great album, by the way. See the contest form at the end of this page for details.)

God knows how these things happen, but they do, they really do, and thank God they do because we’d have to invent this kind of thing if they didn’t.This kind of thing, this magical musical mixture exhibiting the tasty influences of Barry Manilow, the Carpenters, the Beach Boys and, hey why not, Paul McCartney, is a thing of beauty, an artful excursion that can and will enrich your life, take you to your happy places and prove to you that good things absolutely do come in all manner of packages–small, medium, large and beyond.

Here lies the magnificent sound of Dave Caruso, whose skills as a maker of music that speaks to you and takes you to a higher place are without peer as they are within you and cannot exist without you. Dave Caruso’s lovely, melodic songs are of a place that hardly exists in today’s world of processed and premeditated music that populates the radio airwaves. These songs are crafted with care, note by note, lyrically tuned to evoke emotion, and sent off into the world only when they’re right with themselves and right for the world.

You get all of this with the deluxe edition of Dave Caruso's Cardboard Vegas Roundabout
You get all of this with the deluxe edition of Dave Caruso’s Cardboard Vegas Roundabout
Dave Caruso's Cardboard Vegas Roundabout
Dave Caruso’s Cardboard Vegas Roundabout

By which I mean they either feel right or they stay home, under the covers to bake a little longer, until the thing of it–the heart and soul of it–is beating in synch. Songs like the Beach Boys homage (with Carpenters shadings) “Champion,” on Dave’s new album, Cardboard Vegas Roundabout, stand out as the album’s fuel. These beautiful melodies, sharp musicianship and gorgeous, multi-part harmonies take listeners away. Likewise, the astounding tight harmony singing that kicks off and populates the beautiful “I’ve Tried to Write You” makes everything else in your life irrelevant for the four minutes and sixteen seconds it takes for the song to play.

The aura of Barry Manilow shapes the very seventies vibe of the upbeat “The Art of Erica.” It’s a radio song if ever I heard one, a serious contender for a concert staple delivered to adoring, screaming fans who shake, rattle and roll at the sound of its first notes and marvel as they are bathed in the warmth of the closing Beatles chord.

Saving the best for last, Dave rolls out a powerful, solo take on a soulful, light gospel number, “It’s a Great Day for the Angels.” Powered by some keen Carole King-esque piano, Dave’s strong vocals (lead and background) and some tasty synth shading, this song promises to be covered by scores of artists looking for that signature number to feature in their shows, albeit a signature song that has someone else’s signature. It’s a beauty.

Cardboard Vegas Roundabout, start to finish, is as fine a soft pop experience as exists today, but it’s only half of the story. The deluxe edition of this album features a second disc, packed tight with alternate versions, different mixes and demos. It’s the kind of thing collectors drool over, and as you will now be counting yourself as a Caruso fan, you too will be drooling. Amongst the treasures on Slip Road (the regular album is known as Main Road) are a stripped-down version of “Champion” that puts the deserved spotlight on Caruso’s incredible vocals (and ups the Carpenters effect), and a stripped-down version of the proper album’s opener, the bossa nova-esque “Mystery & Sweetness,” that also puts Dave’s voice in the spotlight. And rightly so.

Dave Caruso's Elizabeth Parker EP
Dave Caruso’s Elizabeth Parker EP

The magic exhibited on Cardboard Vegas Roundabout was also evident on Dave’s equally-astounding EP Elizabeth Parker, released in 2004. By turns jangly (the opening, Byrds-like title track), pure poppy (the Elvis Costello tip of the hat “I Can’t be on Time”), Beatley (especially on the perfect-for-A Hard Day’s Night samba-esque acoustic ballad, “If I Died Today”), and rocky (the organic, propulsive “Letter to My Ex”), this is as good as Roundabout, and just as essential.

Kudos to Dave for putting together a solid, visual package for Roundabout that you can hold in your hands and admire. The 12-page booklet even includes the lyrics to the songs and full musician credits. As you might expect, Dave plays a trillion instruments, and all of them swell.

For those of you who already know Dave’s music, and for the rest of you to whom Dave is a new favorite, Roundabout will become a treasured part of your music collection. You will be doing yourself a huge favor by picking up everything Dave has released–a visit to Dave’s website will set you up.

And now, because I am in love, love, love with Dave’s music, I’ve decided to give away nine, count ’em, nine autographed copies of Cardboard Vegas Roundabout. If you’d like to win one, simply fill in the form below and type “Dave!” in the Comments box. Deadline for entering is noon ET on Monday, September 29. Only one entry per person, please. Good luck! And enjoy the wonderful world of Dave Caruso!

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