Reviews: 1.31.19: Tim Jackson’s Pure Pop Debut is Right on Time

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Tim Jackson | Better Late than Never (2018)

The thing you need to understand about Tim Jackson, whose debut album is one of the finest first musical volleys in recent memory, is that his record collection is likely pretty similar to the one that has overtaken your living room, den, and/or storage bin.

If you’re a fan of pure pop music from the likes of Andrew Gold, Ben Folds, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Michael Penn, Elton John, Looking Glass, Todd Rundgren, 10cc, Supertramp, Billy Joel, and Bruce Hornsby, you’ll feel right at home spinning Jackson’s songs.

You know that feeling you get when you hear a pure popian tune and your first impossible-to-resist urge is to sing along before you even hear the first chorus?

Yeah, that feeling. Tim Jackson’s got the goods.

Let’s dig in. There is a lot to unpack, story-wise, in the quite catchy, uptempo, hit-bound-in-a-perfect-world title track about a musician’s station in life at various points along his climb up the ladder of success. “We got married and I took a job/Then the band broke up and the dream was gone/We had kids and settled down forever/But now I’m back, it’s better late than never,” Jackson sings atop his percussive keyboard (dig the Andrew Gold-y piano break).

Jackson sinks deep into a contagious seventies groove, powered by a Looking Glass kind of electric piano part which, in the very beginning, recalls Elton John’s “The Bitch is Back”, in the uptempo, horn-fueled “Black Dog” (no, not that “Black Dog”). This toe-tapping nugget, about that thing that tugs at your soul and how you can escape it and break through the clouds, is one of this album’s top keepers.

Influences of varying stripes inhabit the gorgeous mid-tempo ballad “What Lies Ahead,” this album’s penultimate song, about safe, forever love that knows no boundaries. A beautiful chord structure and a lovely melody fuel this instant classic that everyone can relate to (“Cause I won’t let you down/And you will lift me up/When I fall behind/Or you’re feeling out of luck/There’s no need to explain/Or ever hide again/I’ll take away your pain/And then/Who knows what lies ahead”). It’s the story of true love that is always true.

Recorded mostly at home with friends such as Iain Hornal from Jeff Lynne’s ELO, with Jackson playing the keys and singing, Better Late than Never is the kind of classic, pure pop kind of record that fans of instantly lovable melodic pop are drawn to as a matter of course. It is a complete and utter joy all the way through.

Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes | Stream on Spotify

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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. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August.

Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews: 1.30.19: Smith and Jones’ Top-Flight “Secondhand Heart”

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Smith and Jones
“Secondhand Heart”
(from the forthcoming album Something Worth Learning (2019)

Deftly chronicling the lack of an in-for-a-penny, in-for-a-pound element of romance missing from a relationship, Abby Smith and Sophie Jones’ glorious and catchy new single, released in advance of their forthcoming second album, Something Worth Learning, makes the case for music being the able vehicle for examining heartbreak and allowing the heart to heal.

Anchored by an emotionally-charged drums and piano base, the uptempo, melodic “Secondhand Heart,” written by Smith, adopts a classic pop structure, as the song tackles a weighty subject atop a catchy melody. Smith and Jones trade lead vocals and take on acoustic guitar and piano duties; Matt Ferry plays lead guitar and Michael Carpenter plays bass and the intricate, thundering drum pattern. Sweet lead and harmony vocalizing abound.

A particularly inventive video (watch below) brings the story of “Secondhand Heart” to life. Part performance, part interpretive dance energetically performed by Alison Plevey, the action takes place in a spacious, bare room in what looks like an industrial structure.

Plevey’s movement suggests a woman wanting to get close to a lover who is relatively, emotionally empty; drawn to him, she pushes closer, then apart, always moving, always searching for next steps. In addition to viewers watching the song unfold before their eyes, and the song is the thing, of course, the suggestion is for viewers to think and determine how they feel about what is going on. It’s a bargain that pays dividends.

“Secondhand Heart” is a triumph, a great, thinking person’s pop piece that heightens anticipation for Smith and Jones’ second album, Something Worth Learning, which releases in March. I can’t wait.

Where to Get It: Check back for purchase links

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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. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews: 1.29.19: Rogers & Butler, and Coke Belda

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Rogers & Butler | Diana Dors (Zip, 2019)

Edward Rogers teams up with Smash Palace’s Stephen Butler for a smashing four-song EP full of rock and pop swing, anchored by the pretty title song, a love letter to the English actress Diana Dors, “forgotten to the past.”

Rock and pop collide in the mid-tempo “Seven Hour Man,” which features a nifty psych-infused instro section, and “Witness Tree,” a toe tapper about guilt and innocence and the truth that lies in between that sounds like a second cousin to Wings’ “Deliver Your Children.” The big number–the should-be radio hit–is the closing, catchy pop-rocker “Possibilities,” about letting colors bleed into a black-and-white view of the world in order to see the light.

Guitars are crisp and up-front throughout this EP; melodies are catchy, and the Smithereens’ Dennis Diken supplies the sturdy beat. Solid stuff.

Where to Get It: Amazon (releases on February 8)

Coke Belda | “Can I Stay With You” (2018)

It’s always a great day when Pure Pop Radio favorite Coke Belda releases one of his magical recordings. Until his next original collection of tuneful pop songs, we have this sweetly-realized cover of Nick Garrie’s “Can I Stay With You,” which originally appeared on Garrie’s classic 1969 album, The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas.

That Coke turns Garrie’s tune into something that sounds like it could have been nailed by the Bee Gees should come as no surprise–Coke released a wonderful collection of Gibb brothers covers on Futureman in 2017. Snap this up pronto; it’s a free download. And, as you will hear, it’s wonderful.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

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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. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews: 1.22.19: The Details’ Majestic Album, To Charles Dickens and Back

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The Details
To Charles Dickens and Back (2018)

The way you get there begins here: a crash of glass and a high-pitched whistle and an orchestra tuning up and the audience settling in; the comforting strum of an acoustic guitar atop singular bass notes; water waving; a high-pitched voice, the swell of a cymbal and orchestration atop it all.

Plus: A harmonica, mellow and echoing the sound of music; a classical, wordless interpretation of the Free Design’s vocal style; and horns. It’s an underture of sorts, titled “To Charles Dickens…”, that sets the stage for this glorious album. Welcome to the miraculous work of Matei-Florin Tibacu-Blendea, collected here as an eight-song salute to seemingly every melodic sound ever captured on tape and otherwise from artists as diverse as the Beach Boys (in their mid-period), Simon and Garfunkel, the Hep Stars, Pete Townshend, a parcel of beat groups, the Walker Brothers, and Todd Rundgren. Among others.

The way you get into this miraculous collection, To Charles Dickens and Back, painted with short and long brushstrokes depending on the mood at hand in each song, is “To Charles Dickens…”, the 10-minute left-end bookend that appropriates half of this album’s title and is about as amazing and immersive a creation as can be expected to be heard in this day and age (the right-end buddy, titled “…and Back,” closes out this 45-minute survey of gentle, genius sounds).

These eight songs weave their influences in and out and back in again as they survey what has come before and how it all has settled in Tibacu-Blendea’s consciousness; these songs are as much a representation of what has come before as they are of what populates this experience.

This experience, fluid and mesmerizing, comes in many forms: upbeat two-step, varied tempo, folkpark romps (“For Anyone to Claim” and “Romania is for Sale”), soulful, horn-infused beat sounds (“Stop and Dedicate Some Time to the Sun”), soulful balladry (“Cellophane Nirvana”), and tips of the hat to two classic songs from yesteryear: the Beach Boys’ “Girls on the Beach,” which, in Tibacu-Blendea’s hands, becomes a ghostly-sounding beat number, and Flamin’ Groovies’ 1976 anthem, “Shake Some Action,” here sounding more-than-vaguely ELO-ish and veering off into a dramatic, ominous stage set-piece at the end.

The right-end bookend instrumental that caps off these proceedings, “…and Back,” continues in the many-hued vein of the opener, “To Charles Dickens…”. Twelve mesmerizing minutes later, this album comes to a close with a faint, acoustic piano and acoustic guitar duet that dissolves into a crash of glass. And there you are, just as you were at the start of this journey, ready to set out on these varied paths once again.

To Charles Dickens and Back captures our imagination with great skill and creativity. It is the work of a clever magician–a spectacular feat of musical legerdemain. Matei-Florin Tibacu-Blendea, who mixed, mastered, and produced these songs and plays most of the instruments (Stephen Kalinich is a notable guest), knows how to drive this train across a landscape decorated with the sounds we loved and wind up with a here-and-now creation paying sincere homage. It is a lovely, deeply-felt journey, indeed.

Where to Get It: Amazon, CD Baby, Bandcamp

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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. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews: 1.16.19: Berlin Horse Rides a Psych Pop Road

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Berlin Horse
After The Headrush (2018)
First off, the question shouldn’t be what comes after the headrush, but rather what exactly is the headrush? And the answer? It’s simple, really: the headrush is what you get listening to this outstanding collection of songs from Brit Adam S. Leslie, working primarily on his own (save for drumming from Simon J. Turner). You’re not likely to know Mr. Leslie before now, but you will.

This mix of superlative psych-tinged, folk-peppered pop comes under the nom de plume Berlin Horse for reasons unknown but that most likely have to do with the aforementioned headrush. Speaking of a headrush, Mr. Leslie, back in the altogether heady days of Pure Pop Radio the radio station, put together a single, smashing hour-long program, manning the board and the microphone, and that was unfortunately it.

Adam S. Leslie (aka Berlin Horse)

Adam reenters our universe so many years later with this 12-song headrush of an album sporting so many highlights it’s hard to pick a favorite. Well, they’re all favorites, aren’t they? Well again, if they’re not right here and now, they soon will be.

Our favorites–our standout picks to click–are the very melodic Andy Partridge-meets-early-Pink Floyd “Lucidity Hazard of Celebrity,” brought to life with a variable, inventive arrangement–complete with a few brief sound effect side trips and spoken word bits–that swirls around the listener’s head. Introduced by a gaggle of giddy youngsters, it’s a marvel. “Have You Ever,” our second favorite, is a short, sweet uke flower blooming before your ears that brings to mind some of Donovan’s catchier confections.

And there is more, of course, from the Bo Diddley-meets-Buddy Holly organ-fueled stomper “Coming Up the Stairs” to the atmospherically sweet instrumental “Electric Bataleur,” spiced with backwards guitar and deft electric and acoustic guitar playing. (A bataleur, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, is “a short-tailed African eagle.” And from that you can plan your next flight of fancy.

Released in the waning days of 2018, After the Headrush will likely and fairly quickly be followed by a sequel; Leslie is already hard at work on that eventuality. Meantime, snag a copy of this masterwork at the ever-popular Name Your Price dollar amount and, well, you’re welcome.

Where to Get It:  Bandcamp

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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. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended this last August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews: 1.11.19: The April Family Pops the Cork on “Champagne”

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The April Family “Champagne” (2018)
“Boys are mean and girls let you down,” Kylie Whitney testifies from her heart in the April Family’s catchy, foot-stomping new single “Champagne,” the trailer for the trio’s highly-anticipated upcoming album House of Cards.

Love, as it happens, can scale the higher highs but it sometimes brings us down to the lowest lows, at which point the bottle can come into play as at least a temporary salve. Champagne and other similar liquid refreshments may have their downsides, but they never broke this narrator’s heart.

Singing like the most committed of traditional country truth tellers, Whitney sings this old-fashioned, cautionary tale like it is, acknowledging that drink doesn’t do her “ any favours when it makes me speak the truth / But it sure don’t break my heart like you do.” So, a little liquid solace in the face of an aching heart.

This truth-telling session is set to a stomping beat, a celebration of uptempo country heartache, played with gusto by lead guitarist Casey Atkins and multi-instrumentalist and Pure Pop Radio favorite Michael Carpenter, who makes the track sing playing an upright bass, acoustic guitar, banjo, a snare drum, and percussion. As noted above, Kylie Whitney sings her Loretta Lynn heart out, turning out a standout lead vocal. All three Family members stomp and clap.

And we, the audience, applaud. Love’s a tough road to travel; records like this one make the trip easier. Now, bring on the album.

Where to Get It:  Amazon, iTunes, Google Play. Stream on Spotify

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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. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended this last August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today. Happy New Year!

Reviews: 1.10.19: Addison Love’s Energetic Two-Tune Single

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Addison Love
cover“Endless” b/w “Unsolicited Phone Calls” | (Big Stir Digital Single #10, 2018)
The youthful Orange County, California singer-songwriter builds on his growing reputation as an ace popster (his album Thoughts on Lunch has made pop people sit up and take notice) with this energetic two-tune single that gives the word breathless a whole new meaning.

Imagine you’re a determined locomotive tootling downwind toward your destination and you can’t keep your pace level… That’s how you’ll feel listening to these two vigorous tunes, each boasting varied tempos and stuffed with imagination on fire.

Addison Love

“Endless,” an uptempo kind of twisted relationship song, and “Unsolicited Phone Calls,” a clever melodic narrative about dealing with those pesky folks who just know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you need enhanced health insurance and the mother of all wants, something else, blast into your listening room with passionate delivery.

You’ll dig the clever musical doodads delivered in both songs, such as the double-time (at least!) electric guitar rave-up and lead vocal gymnastics in “Endless” and the push-button dialing sounds in “Unsolicited Phone Calls” that play melody lines. And let’s not forget “Unsolicited Phone Calls”‘s snappy opening, a zippy intro that recalls the beginning to the Beatles’ “Get Back.”

This concluding 2018 entry in Big Stir Records’ series of digital singles is a catchy keeper. You’ll love Addison Love’s latest.

Where to Get It:  Big Stir Digital Singles (third entry on page)

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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. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended this last August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today. Happy New Year!