By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
Terry Draper | Lost (2020)
In dreams, captivated by the promise of a slate wiped clean, of the promise of better days, of being lost in a new world different enough from the old one to matter, of not having to look over your shoulder, you are safe, as the title song, placed first in the running order of Terry Draper’s beautifully realized, hopeful and atmospheric song cycle, Lost, proffers.
“One door will open as another closes,” Terry sings, as the heart of the next song, “A New Journey,” plays and reveals itself. “Let a new journey begin,” comes the offer, and with that you reach out into the unknown universe ahead and follow along because you feel safe and secure. The feelings espoused by these melodically rich songs, Terry’s latest–and possibly his best–are weaved into a thoughtful song cycle that is real and comforting. In any universe, Lost is akin to being found, of being comforted and seeing–tasting–a safe and prosperous path forward.
Being comforted sometimes also means knowing when what is revealed is not what it seems, as the narrator of the sprightly confection “A Walk in the Park,” sweetened by Dana and Tricia Countryman’s lovely background vocal harmonies, finds: “The children all were playing tag / But now the kids are playing rough / I’m running home with all my stuff.” The smooth surfaces upon which we walk are sometimes accented by hard-to-see potholes of a sort; still, what you will find, in the end, on your journey is worth the risk. Look ahead with hope and wonder!
Also worth the risk are a foraging trip through space by the Voyager satellite (“I am Voyager,” a very Klaatu-sounding song with room to breathe and Spongetone Jamie Hoover’s lovely background vocals), and coming to the realization that “Home” is where the heart, and brain, are, as long as you accept the reality of our shared situation and know what’s what (“I’m tellin’ you all to stay at home / If you’re feelin’ lonely pick up a book / Pick up the phone / Yes, I’m tellin’ you all to stay at home / But if you feel you must go out / Please send your clone”). “Home,” a fanciful number with a lyrical tongue planted firmly in cheek, is made all the more enjoyable by Probyn Gregory’s ukelele, Dana Countryman’s “clarinet wrangling,” and Lisa Mychols’ background vocals.
During your journey through Lost and Terry Draper’s universe of possibilities, believe in what you see and stay the course, as the song “Armchair Travelers” lays out in directional fashion: “When you’re leaving your neighbourhood / Leaving your town / Crossing the borderline / No, don’t turn around.” Keep moving forward. Sage advice.
In Terry Draper’s more than capable hands, as you listen to Lost and contemplate the melodic wonders ahead, you will find yourself face-to-face with an array of characters such as Queen Victoria, Ponce de Leon, an assortment of bullies covering up their lack of confidence, sultans, and lost worlds needing to be found. In Terry Draper’s more than capable hands, within songs scored with a classic songwriter’s muscle and supported with ace guest appearances from Lisa Mychols, Dana and Tricia Countryman, and Jamie Hoover, Lost is found.
(More relentlessly clever videos, created by Jamie Grant for Lost’s songs, can be viewed here.)
Dave Caruso | Radiophonic Supersonic (2020)
Michigander Caruso follows up his 2017 stunner Buddha Pesto Manifesto with a high-wire act that one would expect from a seasoned musician of four decades and counting: a 10-song, radio-friendly batch of hit-single-worthy tracks that instantly registers with waiting ears.
Songs like the jangly “Little Miss Sunshine” and equally upbeat slices of catchy melodic pop such as “The Drop,” with its attractive hanging chord at the end, and the energetic “A Piece of the Action” are top-tier compositions played with drive and gusto, a Caruso trademark.
But listeners should be most attracted to three soulful pop songs that hover high atop the plain of extraordinary musical creations: “Tuesday’s Gone,” a clever, affecting, enchanting mix of instrumentation wrapped in a dreamlike ribbon of orchestration that would sound grand segued with Sting’s “Seven Days,” another song concerned with the days of the week; “Indelible,” a Philly soul vibe featuring a 14-second-long vocal-less bridge of sorts driven by piano, xylophone and orchestration; and “Heaven Minus Love,” that recalls the soulful pop of 1980s beloved band, ABC.
Dave Caruso is the type of artist who burns the midnight oil over every note and lyric syllable until each and every one is just right, and it shows. On this release that has garnered boatloads of acclaim from the melodic pop community, Dave has continued his strong winning streak and laid the groundwork for a swell of anticipation for his next release.
Radiophonic Supersonic is a triumphant winner.
Astral Drive | “Water Lilies” (2021, Lojinx)
Pure Pop Radio favorite, super-producer and artist extraordinaire Phil Thornalley returns with another sweetheart swing-and-sway-on-a-lazy-summer’s-day (yes, even in the cold, snowy winter) mid-tempo ballad bathed in the aura of the Hermit of Mink Hollow, aka Todd Rundgren. “Water Lilies,” a dreamy landscape of a tune about true heart-to-heart love, posits a deeply felt attraction painted in a wide swath of color and feeling (“Do you know what my love is / It’s never ending / Like the giant canvasses of water lilies”) as it projects a melody that is warm and true.
With “Water Lilies,” recorded in his garage in 2020 and now released as the lead track from Astral Drive’s upcoming, much-anticipated sophomore album, Thornalley has graced the start of this pandemic year with the sweet sounds of hummable love.
Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premier website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, interviews and a wide variety of features.