John Borack Guests Tonight on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation

john-borackEsteemed pop music journalist John Borack guests on tonight’s edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, discussing the momentous tribute to Elvis Costello that he produced with Olivia Frain. The program begins at 8 pm ET on Pure Pop Radio. (Click on one of the links below to listen.)

beyond-beliefBeyond Belief: A Tribute to Elvis Costello presents 50 artists paying homage to the writer and performer of such classic songs as “Alison,” “Pump It Up,” “Everyday I Write the Book,” “Welcome to the Working Week,” and “Radio Sweetheart,” among so many others. Artists appearing on Beyond Belief, such as the Rubinoos, Matthew Sweet, David Myhr, Chris Richards and the Subtractions, and Bill Lloyd deliver classic performances that put the spotlight on an artist who has been setting the bar higher and higher since he exploded on the music scene nearly four decades ago.

elvis-costelloComprising 50 songs on three CDs, Beyond Belief is a standout example of the art of compilation. John goes in-depth with Alan Haber, detailing every step from the spark of the idea to the tribute’s release. Musicians, Elvis Costello fans, and lovers of great music alike will be fascinated by this engaging program, during which three songs from this hall-of-fame-worthy set, released by Spyderpop Records, will be played.

Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation is Internet radio’s premiere melodic pop talk show. Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation puts the spotlight on artists, writers, music critics and record company executives who talk candidly with Alan Haber about their work. Archived, podcast versions of interviews are posted on the In Conversation PodOmatic podcast page; click here to listen to more than 60 shows previously broadcast on Pure Pop Radio.

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Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

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Jeff Lynne’s Other Great Songs: 10 (Plus One) that are Top of the Pops

by Alan Haber jeff-lynne-photo

It’s usually “Mr. Blue Sky” or “Showdown” or “Evil Woman” or “Telephone Line” or “Don’t Bring Me Down” or “Rock ‘n’ Roll is King” that get singled out when someone writes about the magical, musical pen of Jeff Lynne, a matter of fact that got me to thinking about some of the man’s other songs–the ones that don’t get mentioned often enough or often at all; songs that may even be more delectable than the usual suspects. We used to refer to these “other” songs as deep tracks or buried treasures, but the truth of it is they’re neither deep nor buried. They are, in fact, right on top alongside the songs you may love perhaps a bit more; they simply don’t get as much attention.

So attention I shall pay. Here is a list, in no particular order, and I’m well aware that you may either disagree or beg to differ, of 11 of Jeff Lynne’s other songs–the ones that seem to bubble under the hits until, thanks to lists like this one, they bubble over the river and through the woods until they get to grandmother’s house and then they go, go, go to the top of the charts. Why 11 and not simply 10? Eleven is louder, isn’t it?

And here they are:

elo-discovery1. “Need Her Love” Discovery; Electric Light Orchestra, 1979. An intrinsically, clearly stated, pretty song with a classically-structured melody, “Need Her Love” is all about true love–about being in love and knowing you’re the luckiest person on the face of the earth because of it. And being grateful for all that being in love entails. What’s more, this is a romantic song. We should all be in such a state in our lives. Plus, there’s this lyric, which says it all so very well: “She came in from the west, a summer breeze I couldn’t rest.” There’s also a George Harrison-esque slide guitar solo and a lovely middle-eight with a gorgeous chord progression that just makes you feel all gooey inside, like your mate has just won you the great big teddy bear at the fair. Quite affecting.

elo-xanadu2. “All Over the World” Xanadu; Electric Light Orchestra, 1980. I have great affection for this movie, which never struck me as the slightest bit cheesy, as it has many others over the years. Jeff Lynne’s soundtrack songs are right up there with his best work. (Side note: John Farrar wrote the supremely fantastic big band-cum-rock showstopper “Dancin’,” which pairs Olivia Newton-John with the Tubes to exciting effect.) Lynne’s “All Over the World,” which was the triumphant opener at his Hyde Park concert last year, is an infectious, mid-tempo pop-rocker celebrating an all-night party that’s happening all over the world. A message of good cheer, then, set to a solid 4/4 beat. A perennial favorite around these parts.

elo-secret-messages3. “Four Little Diamonds” Secret Messages; Electric Light Orchestra, 1983. A driving pop-rocker about love gone wrong, this is Jeff Lynne in succinct storyteller mode. The picaresque tale of the cheating woman who got away and can’t be found features pounding drums that keep the beat steady, great harmony vocals, a satisfying cold ending, and a bit of a musicianly countdown joke at the beginning (Lynne bangs on his microphone and asks, “Is this on?” “Okay, after four.” Pause. “Four!”). Gets the blood pumping, this one.

elo-a-new-world-record4. “Rockaria!” A New World Record; Electric Light Orchestra, 1976. Speaking of driving pop-rockers, this nifty 4/4 song adds a spot and a half of opera to the mix for a tantalizing tale about rockin’ with the classical crowd and being keen on the singer who’s “sweet on Wagner,” Beethoven, Puccini, and Verdi. The mix of old world and then-current music styles is perfectly balanced and realized. It’s worth its weight in clever, in other words. And, like “Four Little Diamonds,” it starts off with a bit of a giggle when the opera singer flubs her first note.

elo-eldorado5. “Illusions in G Major” Eldorado; Electric Light Orchestra, 1974. A somewhat leisurely rocker with strings and horns and a fat and juicy fuzz guitar solo, this yesterday’s-poets-meet-today’s-rock-and-roll-kings barn burner gets it all done in an economical two minutes and thirty-seven seconds. “It’s all good entertainment, it doesn’t cost a penny,” Lynne sings, and he’s right, you know. A kitchen sink approach strikes gold in them there hills, for sure.

elo-balance-of-power6. “Calling America” Balance of Power; Electric Light Orchestra, 1986. An Electric Light Orchestra album without strings? It was, and depending on your viewpoint, it may have been all the better for it, for it allowed Jeff Lynne, Bev Bevan and Richard Tandy to shine from a musicianly standpoint. Arguably the obvious single amongst the 10 songs on the original record, “Calling America” is a shining example of the work of someone who knows how to craft a catchy pop song that demands repeat listening. Plus, it’s crafted with care, particularly in regard to the wonderfully rich, deeply-stacked background vocal harmonies that elevate the careful song construction at every turn. The beautiful melody makes an imprint on your brain. Once heard, you simply can’t forget it. And you’ll be moved to sing along, always a good thing. A triumph in a song catalog full of them.

elo-zoom7. “Easy Money” Zoom; Electric Light Orchestra, 2001. Essentially a Jeff Lynne solo album, Zoom collected a baker’s dozen songs reflecting the many musical moods of its star attraction. “Easy Money” found Jeff Lynne in pure fun, bluesy, old-style rocker mode, with the steady backbeat provided by the one and only Ringo Starr. At its lyrical heart, the song is about kicking a selfish lover to the curb (“Funny thing about it/Don’t even make me blue/’Cause there’s no better deal around/Than saying goodbye to you”), but it’s also about the fun of bashing about, having a musical laugh on the way toward turning out a catchy, rocking number. And here’s another tune with a bit of a joke positioned just before the guitar solo: Lynne hands off the solo…to himself (“Take it Jeff!”).

elo-time8. “The Way Life’s Meant to Be” Time; Electric Light Orchestra; 1981. The castanets add a lively touch to a lively song that was a standout track featuring one of Jeff Lynne’s great melodies (and echoes of future Traveling Wilburys bandmate Roy Orbison). Happily strummed acoustic guitars carry this song effortlessly from its joyous opening verses and chorus through to its very ’60s middle-eight and guitar solo and on to its very satisfying, cold ending. A particular favorite here at Pure Pop Radio headquarters.

jeff-lynne-armchair-theatre9. “Save Me Now” Armchair Theatre; Jeff Lynne, 1990. A deceptively simple ecological message in the form of an plaintive folk song in the style of Woody Guthrie, “Save Me Now” is understated with spare instrumentation and not much more than Jeff Lynne’s acoustic guitar in the mix. The achingly beautiful melody and simply direct lyric lead the charge; the close-miked, rich lead vocal and harmonies in the chorus are quite affecting. “Sometimes I wish my guests/Would move away somewhere/Yes I’m burning up all over/I can’t even breathe the air,” the earth sings. There’s never a dry eye in this house when this song is played.

elo-face-the-music10. “Nightrider” Face the Music; Electric Light Orchestra, 1975. A grand musical statement, pairing relatively low-key verses with more aggressive, pop choruses, “Nightrider” gets the full, early ELO treatment–notably, strings aplenty, and plenty of them. This song packs a solid punch that is full of life, and remains one of my favorite Jeff Lynne songs to this day.

elo-out-of-the-blue11. “Wild West Hero” Out of the Blue; Electric Light Orchestra, 1977. Out of all of Jeff Lynne’s ballads, this is my favorite–a romantic tale of nostalgic freedom, of roaming the prairie lands “tryin’ to do what’s right,” when, all the while, this boy is just aching to “be with my western girl round the fire, oh so bright.” The a cappella section that starts at 2:47 is among the most joyous expressions of harmony to appear on a record ever. A grand statement? Yes, it is. Different from other of Jeff Lynne’s grand musical statements through the years, but grand nonetheless.

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Ken Michaels Shares Ringo Starr’s Postcards from Paradise on Tonight’s Every Little Thing

Ken Michaels' Every Little Thing...For the Beatles Fan Who Craves All Things Fab! Airs Every Monday at 9 pm ET on Pure Pop Radio!

Ken Michaels’ Every Little Thing…For the Beatles Fan Who Craves All Things Fab! Airs Every Monday at 9 pm ET on Pure Pop Radio!

Tonight, on Ken Michaels’ Every Little Thing, you’ll be treated to a song from Ringo Starr’s just-released album, get Anthologized, and learn a word or two in some foreign languages. The fun begins at 9 pm ET on Pure Pop Radio.

The first, varied segment kicks things off with a John Lennon track, a live take from George Harrison, and the title song from Ringo’s latest album, Postcards from Paradise. See how many Beatles song titles you can pick out in Ringo’s tune!

Tonight’s second segment features a pair of songs from various Anthology releases, including an alternate version of the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” from Anthology Vol. 3, and an alternate version of “Goodnight Vienna” from John’s Anthology box set. A track from the Weeklings’ debut album, a cover of “You Know What to Do,” caps off this terrific set.

Get ready to learn a thing or two during tonight’s third segment, which serves up songs employing foreign languages. The Beatles lead off with “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand,” and Paul McCartney finishes things off with “Ou Est Le Soleil.” An interview with Ringo’s ex-girlfriend, Nancy Lee Andrews, runs during this segment.

Be at your Internet radio machine tonight at 9 pm ET for show 62 of Every Little Thing. A fab time is guaranteed for all!

Every Little Thing is the premiere, syndicated program playing Beatles group and solo recordings. Hosted by longtime radio personality Ken Michaels, the show airs every Monday night at 9 pm ET on Pure Pop Radio.

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Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

John Lennon’s Mind Games Album Goes Under the Microscope on Tomorrow Night’s Edition of Things We Said Today

the-beatles-things-we-said-todayOn tomorrow night’s edition of Things We Said Today, the usual gang of Beatles experts, joined by WFUV on-air host Darren DeVivo, gets together to talk about John Lennon’s 1973 album, Mind Games. The thought-provoking discussion gets underway at 9 pm ET on Pure Pop Radio.

john-lennon-mind-gamesA top 10 album in the United States and top 20 in the UK, Mind Games was Lennon’s next release after the politically-charged Some Time in New York City.

john-lennon-some-time-in-new-york-cityAs with all of their get-togethers, Ken Michaels, Steve Marinucci, Al Sussman, Allan Kozinn and guest DeVivo shed informative light on their topic at hand, an album that sought to rectify the icy reception that Some Time in New York City received from both critics and fans. Was Lennon successful? Listen to the experts’ opinions tomorrow night at 9 pm ET and see what you think.

Things We Said Today is a weekly survey of all things Beatles that is hosted by a quartet of Beatles experts–today’s Fab Four, if you will. Ken Michaels, host of Every Little Thing, is joined by Beatlefan Executive Editor Al Sussman, Steve Marinucci (Beatles Examiner), and Allan Kozinn, longtime music critic. Other well-known Beatles experts sometimes sit in with the core group. Things We Said Today airs every Tuesday night at 9 pm ET on Pure Pop Radio.

Click here to download our app for listening on the go with Android and iOS devices!

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

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Live Track Sizzles at Philadelphia’s Fire Venue and Bar. It’s the Latest Timmy Sean Song of the Week!

timmy-sean-song-of-the-weekFor this week’s Song of the Week, a fun project we’ve been covering since its inception at the beginning of January, Timmy Sean delivers a sizzling track, recorded at Philadelphia’s Fire Venue and Bar last October–a live, full band version of “There’s No Other Way,” a track from Timmy’s so fine 2010 album, Noisewater.

“There’s No Other Way” is a mid-tempo tune that sounds like a leisurely, melodic slice of heaven that could have come out of the Beatles’ White Album sessions. An enticing chord progression and lead guitar lines that, especially around 2:28, sound quite George Harrison-esque, propel this one into your consciousness. The melody is the usual top-notch specimen that we’ve come to expect from this master of pop and rock forms.

Timmy says: “While I put the final touches on some brand new studio recordings of originals for the next couple weeks, I wanted to drop this one in the ‘ol ‘Song of the Week’ queue.

“…I wanted to feature another live recording from the last time I performed in PA. Back in February I featured an acoustic version of a song from Noisewater, ‘Hold On,’ so here is the opposite–a full-band version of a song that was originally just acoustic and vocals on the album. Recorded this past October at the Fire in Philadelphia, PA, here is ‘There’s No Other Way,’ featuring my east coast line-up of the Celebrities–Frankie Pedano on keys and backup vocals, Michael Vivas on bass, Michael J. Roxx on lead guitar, and John Tiedemann on drums.”

Add Timmy Sean’s live version of “There’s No Other Way” to your collection by clicking here. To get all of Timmy’s music, click here. Highly, so very highly recommended by your friends here at Pure Pop Radio.

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Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Record Store Day 2015: Crazy, Man. Crazy Good.

frederick-street-catonsville-maryland

Frederick Road in Catonsville, Maryland

by Alan Haber

It’s after lunch on this sunny Saturday, sometime after the regular crowd shuffles in to the various quick- and long-stop eateries along Frederick Road in Catonsville, Maryland. A woman, probably in her late thirties, maybe her early forties, walks carefully around the tight corners and through the narrow walkways separating the fully-stocked shelves and displays populating Objects Found, a neighborhood antique store within which shiny, happy jewelry pieces and Elvis Presley collectibles sit happily side by side in nooks and crannies and behind glass doors in crowded cases.

patsy-cline-crazy-45-label-sized-for-web-storyThe woman, looking here and over there, but not too far afield, is hearing the songs played through the store’s audio system, and they are coming one after the other and, what with her looking for just the right item or items to bring home, wrapped in tissue paper and put in bags at the counter, it is hard to distinguish one song from the other, but as if by some magical means, one song catches the woman’s ear and burrows into it. “Crazy,” the woman sings, “I’m crazy for feeling so lonely.” Whether she knows it or not, the woman is singing something approaching a duet with Patsy Cline; the woman matches Patsy word for word, perhaps not exactly in meter or in key, but she is right on the button with her.

“I’m crazy, crazy for feeling so blue…” All the while, as the melody flows through her, her face never betrays the feeling; she knows the song, has lived with that song for at least a time; maybe she heard it when she was growing up or discovered it at a friend’s house. Maybe she heard it on the radio, on some country station or oldies outlet. It doesn’t matter; she knows that song, and the act of singing it as she is shopping for something to cherish, however large or small, means that she cherishes the song, too. And then, as “Crazy” fades into another song that perhaps doesn’t strike a chord with her, the woman stops singing and moves forward through the store; a ring or a doll that looks vaguely Victorian is calling out to her, the way that music, the way that particular songs call out to people and burrow in and, really, what can you do about that other than sing along?

spot's-watering-holeThere was a lot of singing along, mostly, probably, silently, and tapping of feet at the famed Catonsville depot for vinyl records old and new and newer still on this Saturday in April, round about mid-month, just after tax day–a beautiful day, with the temperature rolling around the 80-degree mark; a day when even Fido could cool off with a tasty drink; shirt-sleeve weather delighting passersby and record geeks and music fans and folks who love the oldies or the latest hits or some kind of thing in between; people both young and older; people whose high-end sound systems can blow the roof off of their houses and their neighbors’ houses, and people with entry-level, all-in-one turntable systems; people for whom only the finest vinyl pressings will do and those who aren’t quite so fussy.

happy-birthday-golden-recordAll of these people are gathered at Trax on Wax in Catonsville, Maryland at about 11:30 in the morning, gathered together as one like-minded group, even if they don’t know it, snapping up the special Record Store Day releases and thumbing through the stacks that house upwards of somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 albums, give or take. Even a stack of old Golden Record 45s and other single delights shines brightly with one entitled Happy Birthday on top; the record inside of the brightly colored sleeve, depicting a kids’ party complete with lit candles on a festive cake, has part one of “Happy Birthday” on the a-side and part two on the b-side. The record, which advertises on the back of the sleeve other Golden Records–“3 Little Golden Records on a 45 RPM EP – 6 Songs and Famous Littles on Both 78 RPM and 45 RPM”–features the song stylings of the Sandpipers and Mitch Miller and his Orchestra and is from about 1960, when it could be had for a measly 29 cents. The Famous Littles were priced slightly higher in Canada–35 cents, to be exact. “Ask for the Fabulous Golden LP records, only $1.98 ea.” You could get a lot for so little back in the day.

But these Golden treasures, stacked on the floor in the back of the store, were only the tip of a very large iceberg; rock, pop, jazz, specialty, soul, comedy and just about anything you could want ruled the day and lined the shelves. Special Record Store Day releases were displayed on the walls to the left of Trax’s entrance.

trax-on-wax-full-of-customersAmidst the Record Store day chatter, you could probably hear people saying, “Hey, there’s the Sly and the Family Stone live album recorded at the Fillmore and never released until now!”, “Man, I love the White Stripes!”, or “Those Kinks EPs look rather tasty!” And “Do you have–” Well, that was probably the number one question asked of Trax on Wax owner Gary Gebler and his manager Jeff Ball and the other knowledgeable, passionate-about-music-just-like-you folks working that day. It was a day all about family; it was a day all about people who like the feeling they get when they are around other music and vinyl fans, people who grew up with the sounds of music and carried those deeply-set feelings through adulthood and people who just discovered the joy of holding a record album in their hands, of looking at people-sized artwork and included posters and stickers and full credits that tell you who played what and twiddled the knobs in the studio.

david-harris-and-gary-at-trax-on-wax-from-2014-sized-for-website-story

(Left to right) Vinyl collector and music fan David Harris with Trax on Wax owner Gary Gebler

It was a day about the extended family of vinyl hounds and casual music fans converging on the little store that does in Catonsville, and, really, it was a day of getting together and turning each other on to some band or singer or spoken word artist who really rings the magic bell time and time again. It was a day of joy for  David Harris, a collector of records played on fine audio equipment who knows what’s what, who is like a moth drawn to a flame when color pressings are in his sights; a man who lives and breathes music and for whom vinyl is a way of life–a man who talks about his favorite records and vinyl finds and lights up with such strength that he could probably power a city like Las Vegas, if such a thing were possible.

For David Harris, vinyl is king, as he explains in the following interview:

gwen-mister

Longtime music fan Gwen Mister shows off the special 180 gram mono edition of the Doors’ Strange Days album at Trax on Wax

The first 45 that Gwen Mister owned was “Shop Around” by the Miracles (actually, by the Miracles featuring Bill “Smokey” Robinson, as the credits read on the Tamla single label). Gwen was at Trax on Wax looking for Record Store Day releases such as the 180 gram mono pressing of the Doors’ Strange Days album, which she found and proudly shows off in the picture at left.

shop-around-tamla-45-resizedIn a perfect world, if you looked in the dictionary under “dedicated music fan,” you would probably find a photo of Miss Mister. A retired accountant, who used to study the violin and loves Diana Ross, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Motown, Grace Slick, Bonnie Raitt and, perhaps most especially, John Lennon, Miss Mister is a gracious and dedicated music fan, as is obvious by listening to the following interview:

In a perfect world, and this world of vinyl hounds and fans of Diana Ross and fans of just plain good music is about as perfect as it gets, every day would be Record Store Day–that is, a day to visit local, independent record stores to visit with the staff, talk to the owner, greet the day with a new vinyl find and pledge to come back again soon now, you hear?

gary-gebler-and-alan

(Left to right) Trax on Wax Owner Gary Gebler tells Alan Haber that Record Store Day 2015 was a great day

For Gary Gebler of Trax on Wax, Record Store Day 2015 was as perfect a day as he has had the pleasure to experience. Listen to Gary wax poetic:

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Frederick Road, Catonsville, Maryland

On April 18, 2015, a sunny day, a beautiful day along Frederick Road in Catonsville, Maryland, at the center, the hub of vinyl experience for vinyl hounds and music fans who know what’s what and what’s up and what to look for in a sea of treasures, Record Store Day shone. It was a crazy day, a great day, a day that will stand among other days that came before and will come after. This day, this quite sunny and spectacular day, will be remembered by the people who were there. These people will play their records and think back to this day, and next year, around the same time, they will hope for sunny skies still, but really, really, it’s all a state of mind; every day is a sunny day when the music is playing and the beat, ultimately, will go on.

*     *     *     *     *

Trax on Wax, Your Vinyl Destination in Catonsville, MarylandTrax on Wax, in Catonsville, Maryland, is the official record store of Pure Pop Radio. When in the Baltimore area, we recommend that you make Trax on Wax your number one vinyl destination. Visit Trax on Wax’s website by clicking here.

peanuts-cruiserThe Peanuts Crosley Cruiser is the official turntable of Pure Pop Radio.

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Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Ken, Steve, Al, and Darren Discuss Grammy Awards-Related Beatles Happenings and More on Tonight’s Things We Said Today

the-beatles-things-we-said-todayThe usual gang of Beatles experts–Ken Michaels, Steve Marinucci and Al Sussman, along with guest Darren DeVivo from WFUV radio, jump in and talk about Beatles-related happenings at this year’s Grammy awards ceremony on tonight’s edition of Things We Said Today. The discussion begins at 9 pm ET on Pure Pop Radio.

Of course, Paul McCartney’s performance, with Rhianna and Kanye West, of the hit song “Four Five Seconds” is under discussion during the program, as is the Lifetime Achievement Award honoring George Harrison that was presented during the Grammy telecast. Also on tonight’s docket: the gang picks the best years that the Beatles had as a group. It’s another winning get-together with the best Beatles brains out there.

Tune in tonight at 9 pm ET for Things We Said Today, airing on Pure Pop Radio. A splendid time, etc.!

Things We Said Today is a weekly survey of all things Beatles that is hosted by a quartet of Beatles experts–today’s Fab Four, if you will. Ken Michaels, host of Every Little Thing, is joined by Beatlefan Executive Editor Al Sussman, Steve Marinucci (Beatles Examiner), and Allan Kozinn, longtime music critic. Other well-known Beatles experts sometimes sit in with the core group. Things We Said Today airs every Tuesday night at 9 pm ET on Pure Pop Radio.

Click here to download our app for listening on the go with Android and iOS devices!

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes