Reviews | 10.17.18: The Grip Weeds’ Energetic Trip Around the Sun

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The Grip Weeds | Trip Around the Sun (Jem, 2018)
TATS Cover 1500 x 1500Either the members of the Grip Weeds are, to coin a phrase, cautiously rambunctious or they’re settling into a new, more connected mindset. And by connected, I mean tugging liberally on yesterday’s signposts at the same time as they’re poised to swim contentedly in contemporary musical waters.

Your guess is as good as mine, I guess, but whichever direction you’re leaning, you will have to admit that this well-oiled quartet is firing on all cylinders with a pulsating set of songs that generally and simultaneously beat with a sixties heart and a contemporary pulse.

The Grip Weeds–Kurt Reil, Kristin Pinell Reil, Rick Reil, and Dave DeSantis, top-flight instrumentalists all–have been keeping busy; they released their previous album, How I Won The War, in 2015, and Force of Nature: Live In NYC, a concert DVD, last year. And they crafted this latest collection of songs at their home base, House of Vibes, the studio they operate in Highland Park, New Jersey. For the dozen songs they’ve chosen to populate Trip Around the Sun with, they have upped the level of urgency normally associated with their work. In other words, business as usual, with a bit more zing.

In the well-appointed, melody-drenched opener, “Vibrations,” the stage is set with a mix of chiming guitars and rich harmony parts. Not for the first time on this album, I felt as though I were listening to Free Design vocalizing decades after that group’s 1960s and 1970s heyday. The effect that the Grip Weeds have achieved with this song alone is hall-of-fame worthy.

the grip weeds band photo september 2018So it should hardly come as a surprise to listeners that the band’s deft weaving together of yesterday’s musical signposts and today’s contemporary approaches continue throughout these songs. Take the poppy “After the Sunrise,” for example, which slides from tender acoustic to more upbeat electric guitar stances so expertly, with a lovely melody and sweet harmonies in tow.

The muscular “Truth Behind the Lie,” an old song now finally recorded, ups the ante, past the winning Free Design vocal harmony approach, with a fluid, rubbery, John Entwistle-y bass line and an infectious Who-meets-Byrds vibe (there is no mistaking the Roger McGuinn-like solo a little more than halfway through). To my mind, this is Trip Around the Sun’s best slice of madness.

The rocking, energetic to a fault “Casual Observer (To a Crime),” sung by multi-instrumentalist Reil, his voice pinning in the red, explodes with a get-out-of-its-way electric guitar solo and, unusual for a Grip Weeds record, a blazing horn section (Vincent Troyani on tenor sax, Jim Bell on trumpet, and Tom Rosenthal on bari sax). And I haven’t even mentioned the surprising marching band intro…well, I guess I just did.

The whole pop-rocking ball of wax rolls into the exhaustive closer, the six-minute-long title track, which states its introductory case firmly opened in widescreen, Who territory and concludes with all instruments and vocals blazing and coming together in an impassioned burst of emotion.

All of the songs on Trip Around the Sun are, in fact, impassioned bursts of emotion. This will come as no surprise to the Grip Weeds faithful; to everyone else, this will come as a revelation. What a welcome burst of energetic joy this album brings!

black box Where to Get It: The Grip Weeds’ Trip Around the Sun Store, Amazon
(Release date: October 19)

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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. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream, which ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018, succeeded the weekly Pure Pop Radio show, which began in 1995. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

And the Winners Are…

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By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

mcpherson grant album coverTwo copies of Song, the debut CD by Scott McPherson and Jamie Grant, or as they’re known around town, McPherson Grant, were practically itching to wing their way to lucky winners of our latest Pure Pop Radio contest.

And now, the winging shall begin. Congratulations are due to Nadja Witherbee and Gene Good. Let the waiting-by-the-mailbox commence!

More cool Pure Pop Radio contests are coming soon. Stay tuned!

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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 (the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream, which ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018, succeeded the weekly Pure Pop Radio show, which began in 1995). Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews | 10.11.18: Ken Sharp, The Cherry Bluestorms, Lannie Flowers, The Lunar Laugh, and Pat Walsh

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Ken Sharp | Beauty in the Backseat (2018)
ken sharp beauty in the backseat 2018 coverFancy spinning a big old super-sized love letter to 1970s pop, like the kind you might have heard on AM radio back in the day? Ken Sharp’s fun follow-up to his sterling 2016 long player, New Mourning, might well be just your ticket.

Played mostly by Ken and co-producer Fernando Perdomo, with guest appearances by Hall and Oates’ John Oates, Utopia’s Kasim Sulton, Kiss’s Ace Frehley, Marshall Crenshaw, and melodic pop stalwart Rob Bonfiglio, Beauty in the Backseat plays its affectionate and catchy cards throughout.

The poppy, upbeat “Lemons to Lemonade,” decked out in Kyle Vincent-esque splendor, presents a narrator who turns sad into glad. “Listen to Me” is a feel-good number about people taking “a million tiny steps” to come together and make a difference. And “Philly Kind of Night” brings the aforementioned John Oates to the microphone to provide soulful background vocals for a tribute to the art of Philadelphia soul, this time adorned with Ken’s usual pop edge.

Don’t miss “Rock Show,” which gets these proceedings off to a showstopping start, telling the story of a band getting ready to hit the stage and make musical magic. Ace Frehley delivers an energetic, runaway guitar solo during the close. The sobering balladic tribute to a favorite, fallen musician, “The Day that David Bowie Died,” is an affecting song, and the should-be-a-radio-hit, happy-sounding “The Hardest Part” concerns itself with the dissolution of a relationship and the avoidance of any measure of regret that might follow.

Solid.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Amazon

The Cherry Bluestorms | Whirligig! (2018)
the cherry bluestorms whirligig album coverThe Los Angeles-based pop-rockers Deborah Gee and Glen Laughlin take the world stage with their most assured and accessible long player yet.

Mixing Rolling Stones affects from the Brian Jones era with other mid-sixties sounds, the Bluestorms deliver a smashing collection of songs sure to please. The rolling rocker “Heel to Toe,” sporting a most melodic, very catchy chorus is one such pearl; the flattering, rocky, Gee-sung portrait “Roy Wood,” which quotes the Stones rather cleverly and takes an unexpected turn at the end with a comforting, orchestrated coda is another.

Other nuggets include the Stonesy “Rays of the Sun” and “Seven League Boots,” and the lovely “Caroline,” which announces itself as a gentle acoustic number and ends up a full-band excursion with a pretty melody. The closing, anthemic “Be Here Now” shows off multi-instrumentalist Glen Laughlin’s guitar prowess in grand style, as he blisters off into the sunset. Excellent entry into the growing Bluestorms catalog.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, iTunes

Lannie Flowers | “Where Did All the Fun Go” (2018)
lannie flowers where did coverThe eighth in the continuing series of ace songs given away for free during the run-up to his upcoming album Home, “Where Did All the Fun Go” is an upbeat, catchy explosion of melody and sentiment relating to the good memories that fade in the face of today’s fast-paced world. Dig the harmony-drenched a cappella ending and the rocking sitar! Already, before Home arrives, Lannie has released nearly an album’s worth of classic, top-flight tracks. Dig it, indeed!

black box Where to Get It: Spyderpop Records (Free download)

The Lunar Laugh | “By the Light of the Living Room” (2018)
the lunar laugh by the light of the living room coverWith George Harrison-y slide guitar in tow, Jared Lekites’ latest, slated for inclusion on the Lunar Laugh’s next album, is a catchy slice of happy-sounding melodic pop about a sore subject–a fractured relationship that might, could possibly be saved (“When I woke up you were crying/Bitter tears that made me feel like dying/Is it too late to kiss and make up/We’ve been together too long to break up”). An attractive chorus shines. Don’t miss it.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Pat Walsh | “Another Nightingale” (2018)
pat walsh another nightingaleAn always reliable songwriter and performer, encountered early in the run of the weekly Pure Pop Radio Show on WEBR, Pat Walsh continues to release luscious, sophisticated, and genuinely affecting melodic pop songs. His latest, a lovely mid-tempo ballad about hope wiping away the darkness in a person’s life, is sung sweetly and built around ingenious chord changes. Pat never fails to impress.

black box Where to Get It: Listen on YouTube. After listening, Pat would love it if you would leave a comment on his YouTube page telling him how much you liked this song.

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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. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream, which ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018, succeeded the weekly Pure Pop Radio show, which began in 1995. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews | 10.10.18: McPherson Grant’s Song

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Win McPherson Grant’s debut CD…Enter below!

McPherson Grant | Song (2018)
mcpherson grant album coverFrom Tiny Volcano’s Scott McPherson in Tacoma, Washington to Pop Vultures’ Jamie Grant in Toronto, Ontario in Canada and back again, the various song parts created by these two melody wizards flew. All told, they combined to make the magic that informs the duo’s marvelous debut album, Song.

Paying sweet homage to the melodic pop ruling class headed by Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney, Klaatu, Brian Wilson and the like, McPherson Grant–their last names fused together in joyous harmony–have crafted almost an hour’s worth of sturdy earworms. Endlessly endearing songs like the lovely and charming “Housekeeper,” about cleaning up a romantic life gone sour and empty (“I wish that she’d come everyday/The mess I make should want her to stay”) and honestly assessing the less-than-attractive situation (“Yeah, I know that I will be missing you/Like I’m missing two spoons”), ensure repeatability. (Videos for the songs talked about in this review appear below; all, and more, were created by the multi-talented Jamie Grant.)

Cut from the catchy cloth of so many ’70s classics, the perky “Come Around Again,” about learning to realize and revel in the bountiful joy in front of one’s face, is propelled by Zak Nilsson’s drums and a sunny disposition that wouldn’t feel out of place during the summer months. And speaking of summer, “Let’s Drive to Summer” recounts a slow-growing, toe-tapping Beach Boys-by-way-of-Holland road course from cold Canada to warm Florida (“We’ll just follow the coast/Our sandals and shorts in tow/Waiting till the palms wave hello”).

A loving nod to the wonder of, among other things, Klaatu, “The Marvelous and Mysterious Adventures of Sir Ollie and His Ox” marries vaudeville, Queen, opera and a contemporary chorus in a musical ceremony celebrating the life-affirming nature of melodic pop. Klaatu’s Terry Draper essays the drums on this standout track; his Klaatu compatriot, Dee Long, plays keyboards and sings on Song’s opening salvo, “Little Green Men,” about charting a course and extending life in space (“Like Jane and Tarzan we’ll be new age Martians/Like Brad and Janet on our forbidden planet/Making little green men”).

Produced, written, played, arranged and recorded by Scott and Jamie (and don’t ask who did what; it’s a mystery even to both halves of the duo), Song travels the path negotiated by so many artists who came before them, but in a way that is significantly and characteristically their own.

“It’s the day that you’ve been waiting for,” the duo energetically warble, along with background vocalists Clara and Robin Moir, within the confines of the energetic pop-rocker “It’s the Day.” Speaking of the day, this is the day for discovering your new favorite record. McPherson Grant are here.

black box Where to Get It: Tiny Volcano’s Web Shop, Kool Kat Musik

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Win McPherson Grant’s debut CD, Song, from Tiny Volcano’s Scott McPherson and Pop Vultures’ Jamie Grant. Two copies are up for grabs. To enter, fill in the form below (be sure to include your email address and type “MG” in the Comment field) and send it in by this Friday, October 12 at 5 pm ET. Only one entry per person. U.S. only. Good luck!

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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. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream, which ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018, succeeded the weekly Pure Pop Radio show, which began in 1995. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.