Spins and Reviews | 06.29.17
By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
We’ve added hundreds of new and new-to-you songs and artists to our playlist; here are reviews of two of our favorite new albums from two of our favorite melodic pop artists…
A Richard X. Heyman Spectacular:
Incognito (Turn-Up, 2017) and seven songs left off the album and now playing in rotation on an exclusive permission-granted basis
The music of Richard X. Heyman has been a steady presence during the 22-year history of Pure Pop Radio. I picked up on Richard’s wonderful songs just prior to the release of Cornerstone, his third album. Thanks to a suggestion from the Spongtones’ Jamie Hoover, I contacted Richard’s wife, Nancy, who began sending me cassettes of the work-in-progress. Nine albums later, Incognito arrives, Richard’s 12th long player, and his best work by far.
It is hard to fathom exactly what drives an artist to produce such good work so far into his career, other than the simple desire to create and the presence of a never-depleting well of inspiration and innate talent. It is evident at every step that Incognito’s 14 songs are proof positive that Richard’s mission has been and continues to be fulfilled.
Dazzling songs and equally dazzling performances greet you at every turn. In the pure popper “A Fool’s Errand,” the narrator tells the world that his love for his partner is solid and for the ages. “Her Garden Path” is a muscular track with a grandly attractive riff that chronicles a man’s escape from a woman’s web. And the horn-infused, soulful pop number, “So What,” finds Richard sounding as though he’s channeling the Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere.
Richard’s playing is stellar. Incognito is stellar, a monumental achievement from an artist who never disappoints. Richard recorded seven additional songs for this album that wound up on the cutting room floor. Each one is a pearl in a sea full of them (particularly “Advantage Girl,” an speedy, upbeat pop song with expressive guitar lines, Richard’s trademark three-dimensional harmonies, and those incredible drums). While not for sale, they are playing in rotation on our air on an exclusive permission-granted basis, so thanks to Richard and Nancy for being so gracious.
Now playing on Pure Pop Radio: From Incognito: “Incognito,” “A Fool’s Errand,” “And Then,” “Gleam,” “So What,” “In Our Best Interest,” “Her Garden Path,” “Lift,” “Miss Shenandoah Martin,” “All You Can Do,” “Terry Two Timer,” and “These Troubled Times”
Plus: Seven Incognito outtakes: “Advantage Girl,” “And Now It’s All This,” “Follow Me Down,” “If I Didn’t Know Her Better,” “No One Left to Blame,” “Pocket Full of Holes,” and “The Golden Coast”
Where to Get Incognito: Richard X. Heyman’s website
Bill DeMain | Transatlantic Romantic (2017)
As one-half of the transcendent duo Swan Dive and the artist behind 2012’s wonderfully melodic EP, Extended Stay, Bill DeMain is, like Richard X. Heyman, a familiar presence on our airwaves. Bill’s new album, a delicious, wonderfully arranged song cycle stacked high with sweet, beautifully written and performed classic-sounding songs in the style of Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Van Dyke Parks, and Harpers Bizarre, is as perfect a record as could be offered to earthlings in 2017.
Built around Bill’s piano and lovely vocals, and co-producer Jim Hoke’s tasteful string and horn arrangements, which ought to get some kind of arranger’s award (someone get on that right away), these songs will absolutely, positively stay with you for all eternity. I’ve written about a few of the songs that’s we’ve been playing on the air exclusively for awhile (read about “Honey Bear” and “Leroy Boy” here) but there are others worthy of more than a mere mention.
“Lemon Yellow” is a lovely waltz blessed by Van Dyke Parks-meets-George Martin strings, Randy Newman-esque piano, and a charming story about the love of a car that came “all the way from Germany.” The life of a boy growing up with the world snuggled up around him takes place in and around that lemon yellow automobile. Witness: true love, near yet far (“I was too shy to kiss her”); driving through the summer sun with a cassette of Genesis’s Selling England by the Pound album playing; going off to college and missing the four wheels every day; and pledging affection despite some really rather tiny imperfections (“If she was a little quirky/Water pooled beneath the seat/Wash me on a window dirty/And the dimples on fenders.”) You, as do I, will wish you had written this gem.
The cinematic midtempo ballad “Brewster, Illinois (April 3rd, 1952)” is a sweet musical snapshot of the day-to-day goings-on in a small town as the calendar pages turn and days turn into nights and nights turn back into days. The song was sparked when Bill was looking through newspapers from where he grew up in New Jersey. Charmed by the everyday events chronicled, he was moved to write this number, which builds to a bridge from which a measure of sunny-day town square-like bursts of ebullience emerge. It’s a masterful creation.
Honestly, this is the kind of album that hardly anyone makes anymore, which is a shame. In these often trying days, we search valiantly for some sunlight, for some melodies to hum to ourselves to cheer ourselves up. Bill DeMain’s brilliant, heartfelt album (with nary a guitar present), bursting softly with charm to spare, ought to do the trick.
Now playing on Pure Pop Radio: “Begin,” “Leroy Boy,” “Honey Bear,” “Lemon Yellow,” “Brewster, Illinois (April 3rd, 1952),” “Boffo and Beans,” “Dori,” “Alaska,” “Wendy” (Beach Boys cover), and “The Golden Age” (The entire album)
Where to Get It: Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org to order a CD for $12.00 (includes postage)