Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio is the premier website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and new-to-you releases. Pure Pop Radio plays the greatest melodic pop in the universe 24 hours a day.
Paul McCartney stunned and delighted the crowd at this past weekend’s Desert Trip classic rock festival in California by playing live, for the first time, the Beatles’ legendary track “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road?” Aiding and abetting Paul was classic rocker Neil Young, who seemed to be overjoyed at essaying this beloved track from the Fabs’ 1968 self-titled double-album.
Here is the dynamic duo, pounding out a beat-heavy rock take on “Road”:
The only thing that surprises me about this performance is that it took so long to happen. I have long loved this track. In fact, I wrote about it extensively in January 2015; it was the seventh entry in our ongoing series, I Love that Song!. Check it out for the first time, or revisit it, by clicking here.
I’m keeping a close eye on any surprise performances Paul might include in future live shows. I’m fairly certain that a wild and woolly take on “Wild Honey Pie”is just around the corner!
All-new episodes of Jammin’ James Riley’s Catching a Wave, Scott McPherson’s The Weird and the Wonderful, and the weekly Beatles roundtable, Things We Said Today, will delight your senses this week on Pure Pop Radio.
You’d better wax your surfboard in anticipation of tonight’s hour in the surf and sun with Jammin’ James Riley’s Catching a Wave. Jammin’ James talks to legendary Los Straitjackets guitarist Eddie Angel, and spins sumptuous sides from Dick Dale, The Martin Denny Orchestra, The Neanderthals, The Chantays, Glen Campbell, and many more of your favorites. Tune in at 8 pm ET. Surf’s up!
This Wednesday afternoon, October 12 at 1 pm ET, Pop 4 and Tiny Volcano’s master of melody Scott McPherson brings you another pop-filled episode of The Weird and the Wonderful. Scott gets nostalgic from the sounds of not-too-long-ago as he plays songs from Colorworks, The Corner Laughers, Sondre Lerche, and The Blood Sugars. Plus, you’ll find out how to sing like the great Doobie Brother Michael McDonald, baby!
Wrapping up this week’s slate of specialty shows on Pure Pop Radio, Ken Michaels, Steve Marinucci, Al Sussman, and Allan Kozinn look back on some of their favorite moments from past Things We Said Today shows. Celebrating 200 information-filled roundtables, Allan remembers the panel’s conversation with Wings guitarist Laurence Juber; Steve remembers a conversation with Paul McCartney guitar player Rusty Anderson; Ken revisits Allan’s look at the progression of “Strawberry Fields Forever” from a show that concerned itself with The Beatles’ greatest studio miracles, and Al fondly talks about Beatlefan senior editor Rick Glover, whose Fans on the Run designation refers to the many, many Paul McCartney shows he has been to. It’s a show you won’t want to miss.
That’s this week’s specialty show rundown. Keep listening to Pure Pop Radio, all day and all of the night. We play the best melodic pop in the universe!
And real soon, too. Like a week from this coming Tuesday. Tuesday, October 18 to be exact, at 8 pm ET. An all-new episode of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation that’s going to knock your socks off–the ones with guitars and drumsticks and slabs of vinyl free-falling. The ones you like to wear because it’s cool. Who’s the guest that night? Or, who are the guests? Oh, wouldn’t you like to know! And you will, in just a few days from now.
Our mystery guest, or guests as the case may be, on the October 18 edition of In Conversation will help kick off a number of new shows airing one after the other in the coming weeks. Big names! Big songs! You won’t want to miss a second!
Factor in all of the new music we’re continuing to add to our playlist, and a couple of surprises on the cusp of being announced, and you’ve got some pretty great things happening here at Pure Pop Radio, including yet another new specialty show which we’re pretty excited about. But mum’s the word for now.
Looking fairly far ahead, but not too far, we’ve got the holidays in our sights: As we’ve done the past few years, we’ll be bringing you 30-plus hours of holiday tunes beginning this Christmas Eve day. And just after the start of 2017, which isn’t all that far away, we’ll be presenting our Stars of ’16: our favorite records of the year. You certainly won’t want to miss that.
Really, the only thing you’ll want to say about all of this is “Wow!” It’s okay. We know how you feel.
More info next week and during the weeks ahead. We’ve got all sorts of stuff on the horizon here at your original 24-hour Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today…Pure Pop Radio!
The Legal Matters set a new standard for vocal harmonies in melodic pop music.
Spins and Reviews | 10.4.16 | by Alan Haber
The Legal Matters | Conrad (Omnivore, 2016)
On the inside left panel of the gatefold sleeve of The Association’s 1970 double album “Live”, a list of the band members, titled The Players, fed into a section titled And Their Instruments, which named usual suspects such as guitars, drums and bass guitar along with suspects that were perhaps not so usual for a rock ‘n’ roll album: soprano recorder, tenor recorder, and pocket trumpet.
And, in the manner that cast credits for a film or television show might spotlight a particular actor–and Kiefer Sutherland, for example–the following was noted, perhaps as an afterthought to some: “and the human voice.” As a 15-year-old, music obsessed boy whose world turned around rich vocal harmonies, this was the most important piece of information on offer for an album that was, for me, a monumental achievement.
My young world, as informed as it was by my favorite comic book artists–Neal Adams, Gil Kane, Berni Wrightson–my stamp collection, my dedication to the television shows that defined my generation–The Twilight Zone,The Flintstones,I Dream of Jeannie–and my transistor radio, which connected me to broadcasts both local and far away, was moreover defined by the sound of the human voice singing the songs that were written by my favorite recording artists.
The Beach Boys were certainly important to me for that very reason, as were The Four Seasons and The Association, whose records I cherished (no pun intended) and played probably more than those of any other artists in my collection (don’t tell John, Paul, George or Ringo). A committed vocal, with just the right amount of heart and soul, could stop me in my tracks, but a two- or three- or four-or-more-part rich harmony was something else again; it was something magical, something quite amazing.
Thankfully, the melodic pop music I have devoted my life to championing these past 21 years, in reviews and on the radio, very often continues to put the spotlight on the vocal harmonies that I so cherish. Bands like Kate Stephenson’s Myrtle Park’s Fishing Club carry on that vocal harmony tradition in a way that mirrors the many hours I spent as a child listening to music playing on my stereo and coming out of my transistor radio.
Another band that carries on the vocal harmony tradition and, indeed, practically redefines it, is The Legal Matters out of Detroit, Michigan, a long-standing, storied music town whose favorite musical sons are many and varied and legendary. It wouldn’t be out of line to include Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Keith Klingensmith in that group, such has been the level of acceptance of their wares on the part of fans of melodic pop music.
Their list of credits, spanning more years than probably any of them would care to acknowledge, is long and celebrated and includes a variety of solo and group releases. Just mention The Reed Brothers, An American Underdog, Chris Richards and the Subtractions, The Pantookas, and The Phenomenal Cats to those in the know and see what kind of a reaction you get.
As often happens in storied partnerships, the coming together of Andy, Chris, and Keith ignited a fertile spark that resulted in them recording together. 2014’s self-titled Legal Matters album was a warm, 10-song affair that was crafted in the dead of winter inside Andy’s Reed Recording Company studio in Bay City, Michigan, with drummer Cody Marecek and guitarist Nick Piunti, a top-flight pop artist in his own right, in tow.
Their musical sensibilities clicked from the start as the cold weather whipped around them, and songs such as the melody-rich, uptempo “The Legend of Walter Wright” and the pretty ballad “Mary Anne” were born. “Mary Anne,” in particular, was something of a triumph, in that its rich vocal harmonies showed the heights that Andy, Chris, and Keith could reach as a unit.
A second album was inevitable. Its name is Conrad; the cover art depicts a mouthless, seemingly silent, colorfully shirted koala bear. The 11 songs are a natural progression from the 10 on the first release, taken at a slower, but not slow, pace; the harmonies are more intricate and deeply felt. The vocal harmonies are more up front and alive. This is the sound of a band that has come into its own, that has benefitted from time spent feeling each other out, turning complex vocal structures into seemingly simpler constructs that aren’t at all simple.
The rich, finely detailed vocal harmonies are the collective star of Conrad’s show, but by no means the only performer; the instrumentation, supplied by Andy, Chris, and Keith, with Donny Brown and Andy Dalton handling drum duties, is peerless, and the songs are sweetly realized, from the opener “Anything,” not the first track on this album tipping its hat to the much-loved Beach Boys vocal vibe, to the upbeat, single-worthy “Short Term Memory,” which tips its drumsticks to Ringo Starr in a delightful fill and puts forth some top-notch electric guitar playing.
But it’s the rich vocal harmonies that set Conrad apart from a slew of other, recent melodic pop music releases. Nowhere is this more evident and true than on the short, coda-like, penultimate track “Lull and Bye,” a virtually a cappella, powerful slice of emotion-filled vocalese that is a thrilling testament to the power of the human voice that The Association so aptly included in the list of instruments played on their “Live” album. Other than the beautiful harmonies, the only instrument in evidence is a ghostly, spare piano, barely heard, that acts as really nothing more than a light, percussive underpinning. This track is so powerful that it recalls Brian Wilson’s “One for the Boys,” a majestic cut included on his first, self-titled solo album.
In order to truly appreciate the power of “Lull and Bye,” one must listen to the vocals-only mix available to purchasers of Conrad as a download bonus. For this experience, the piano part is gone and only the lovely vocal harmonies remain. To listen to it is a thrilling experience, along the lines of listening to the most vibrant of The Beach Boys’ recordings, stripped of instrumentation.
The vocals-only mix of Conrad should be considered an important part of the total listening experience, especially for musicians and students of how-it-is-done, although, of course, you can and will enjoy the album proper without ever setting the bonus tracks into motion. In fact, forget I said anything; Conrad is just fine–perfect, really–as it is.
This year has been particularly rich–there is that word again–with strong albums released by both heritage artists and artists new to the melodic pop world stage. As always, artists who stress vocal harmony as a key element of their musical makeup rise to the top of the heap for me. In just 11 lovely songs, The Legal Matters have set a new standard for vocal harmonies in melodic pop music. Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Keith Klingensmith are the players, and their human voices are their instruments.
Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Anything,” “I’m Sorry Love,” and “Hip Hooray”; more tracks coming soon. When and Where to Get It: Anywhere and everywhere on October 28.
This first full week of October brings to you a full slate of weird and wonderful specialty shows on Pure Pop Radio. What’s in store?
This week’s big event is the premiere of the new show hosted by Pop 4 and Tiny Volcano’s melody maker, Scott McPherson. Scott’s The Weird and the Wonderful debuts this Wednesday afternoon at 1 pm ET. Yes, we’re filling your mid-week lunchtime slot with sounds spun by a master of melodic wonder, including, during this first go-around, songs from The Major Labels, Seth Swirsky, Roswell, and Jon Brion. Plus, Scott converses celestially with one of the top hep cats ever to tread the show business boards, Sammy Davis, Jr. (Scott has, you know, connections.)
Before we turn the calendar pages to this Wednesday, we look to tonight’s specialty show fare. At 8 pm ET, Ken Michaels is back with an all-new edition of Every Little Thing. This week, Ken talks to famed Beach Boys lyricist and poet Stephen Kalinich, and spins an acoustic set featuring both Beatles and solo Beatles tracks.
Jammin’ James Riley follows tonight in the 9 o’clock slot with his latest survey of cool summer sounds on Catching a Wave, where The Explorers Club, Donna Loren, The Beach Boys, The Sabres and Danny Amis and the Twin Tones negotiate the sun-soaked vibes rocking our host’s virtual beach.
After Scott McPherson’s The Weird and the Wonderful kicks off its run this Wednesday at 1 pm ET, musician Brian Bringelson lowers the tone arm onto a bevy of records on the latest edition of Needle Meets Vinyl. Tune in at 8 pm ET on Wednesday for a triple-play of Beatles tunes, and equally fantastic sides from across the decades from such artists as The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Michael Nesmith and the First National Band, and Emitt Rhodes. It’s all vinyl, all the time for a festive celebration of 33 1/3 and 45 rpm spins.
We close the book on this first week of October’s run of specialty shows on Pure Pop Radio with another very special edition of the weekly Beatles roundtable, Things We Said Today. This Thursday at 8 pm ET, our esteemed panel of Fab experts speaks with Nigel Sinclair, the producer, and Paul Crowder, the editor of Ron Howard’s Beatles film, Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years. This is your chance to go deep inside the making of this popular film, now playing on Hulu and in specialty theaters.
Don’t miss the debut of Scott McPherson’s lunchtime show, The Weird and the Wonderful, and all-new editions of Every Little Thing, Catching a Wave, Needle Meets Vinyl and Things We Said Today. Pure Pop Radio has your nighttime listening covered!