Reviews: 3.5.19: The Big Believe Meets Tania, Kenny Herbert is the Luckiest Man in the World, and the Well Wishers are Feeling Fine

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The Big Believe | “Tania Was a Truth Teller”
b/w “Girl With Cassettes” (2018)

A paean of four-on-the-floor Blondie in 2018? That’s the engine driving the intrigue-laced “Tania Was a Truth Teller,” the first of the two top tracks that make up The Big Believe’s late-2018 pop blast; both were mixed in you-are-there stereo by Fritz Catlin of the band 23 Skidoo. (Dig the pop art cover by Peter Quinnell.)

Meeting by the bridge in the dead of night, Tania has the answers to the questions at hand. But can she be trusted? “Tania was a truth teller,” the narrator notes. “She liked to dress like a feller.” She lives “on and on and on and on,” but is she the real thing? “I thought I saw Tania on the high road/But it was just the sunlight in my eyes.” Hmm… A mystery in song, and a catchy one at that, featuring The New Pornagraphers’ Todd Fancey on guitar.

Fancey also features on “Girl With Cassettes,” a fast, fizzy and loud pop-rocker about the girl who dazzles her way to point b from point a with nary a care (“She drives through the red/She stops at the green/Is blinded by everything in between”). She’s the girl “in the green t-shirt” who’s got her eyes transfixed on the one who can make things happen: “Oh if only they knew what a boy can do/To the girl who collects cassettes, cassettes, cassettes.” OMD meets Duran Duran in this grand, imaginative romp.

The Big Believe, aka Amanda Thompson, is working on the band’s second album, Juggernaut, to be released later this year. You’d better…believe we’re psyched.

Where to Get It: 7-inch with mp3 download: The Big Believe’s website; iTunes, Amazon

Kenny Herbert | “The Luckiest Man in the World” (2019)

I have been absolutely delighted and enriched to have the music of Kenny Herbert in my life for going on 15-plus years. His melodic prowess is virtually unequaled. Everything he releases speaks directly to my heart.

“The Luckiest Man in the World,” just released, is another classic creation from up Edinburgh, Scotland way–a beautifully realized mid-tempo ballad about the love he shares with his beloved wife Caroline. With music surrounding them, they are charmed, and so is the listener.

Produced by Bob Heatlie and featuring Rab Howat singing backgrounds, “The Luckiest Man in the World” expresses Kenny’s thoughts through clever lyrics, such as this clever verse invoking the Chairman of the Board: “Feel like the luckiest man in the world/
I’ve got my music and my beautiful girl/Feel like Sinatra playing the Sands/I’m gonna love you like no other man.”

The cover art for this truly wonderful song, among Kenny’s best, says it all, really; it depicts Kenny and Caroline in dreamy silhouette and was lensed this year in Liverpool, home of the Fab Four.

Enjoy a lovely, live acoustic version of “The Luckiest Man in the World,” performed by Kenny at the water’s edge in St. Fillans in Scotland’s central highlands:

Add this song to your collection? By all means.

Where to Get It: iTunes

The Well Wishers | “Feelin Fine” b/w “Second Hand News” (2019)

Jeff Shelton’s outfit returns with a snappy, poppy, upbeat, guaranteed-to-please popper that keeps the beat going with pure joy on its mind. “Feelin Fine” raises the stakes with a very R.E.M.-ish feel, a catchy chorus, and some widescreen harmony touches. The Wishers’ take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Second Hand News” is basically a reverent tip-of-the-hat to one of those Lindsey Buckingham earworms that takes up permanent residence in there. Must’ve been fun to record.

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: 2.26.19: The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness Craft a Masterpiece of Melody and Harmony

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness | Dead Calm (Pretty Olivia, 2019)

When Spain’s Pretty Olivia Records released a split single with The Tree House Melodies and the mysterious-but-familiar-sounding The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness back in July of last year, it was fairly obvious, at least to me, that the perpetually nervous boys were at least, in part, Scotland’s least-of-all-nervous purveyors of gorgeously melodic and harmonic pop, Dropkick. I mean, it was as if TBWTPN was a jumble of letters that, when rearranged, would reveal the band’s true identity right before your eyes.

Andrew Taylor

And it came to pass, with the announcement of TBWTPN’s full-length album, Dead Calm, that the cat, or the nervous boys, in this case, was out of the proverbial bag. TBWTPN is a golden duo featuring Dropkick’s Andrew Taylor, who wrote music for the album’s 10 songs, and Gonzalo Marcos, from the indie pop group El Palacio de Linares, who wrote the lyrics. Gonzalo played the drums; Andrew was responsible for everything else.

Named after the song “The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness” by the Feelies, from their 1980 album, Crazy Rhythms, TBWTPN recorded Dead Calm in Madrid, Spain and Edinburgh, Scotland over two sessions last October. Andrew and Gonzalo came together after a visit to Scotland by Gonzalo and his family.

“The idea of doing something was really spontaneous,” remembers Andrew. “In summer 2017, Gonzalo visited Edinburgh for a holiday with his family. We’ve known each other for a while. He had promoted our first Dropkick show in Madrid in 2011 and released a limited CD pressing of our album Homeward in 2014.

“We planned to meet up and show him Dropkick HQ. I suggested we should record something, as he is a drummer. He sent me some words for a song called “Nervous Man.” I chopped up the lines to fit the first thing that appeared in my head. Next day we recorded it. It eventually came out as a split 7-inch for a Pretty Olivia giveaway single for loyal customers (pairing “Nervous Man” and The Tree House Melodies’ similarly-fashioned “All I Understand” – Alan). I thought it was a nice one-off thing.”

The writing of the songs went quickly. “The songs were pretty much written in a couple of evenings,” says Andrew. “Just went on instinct. Revised nothing and left it ‘fresh’.

“In Madrid we recorded together, [Gonzalo] on drums and me on acoustic and vocal. The takes are mostly first or second takes and very rough, done live with glass between us. A few days after, I overdubbed the bass, harmonies and electric guitars in Edinburgh. Probably less than 20 hours recording time. [The album] was mixed and mastered the following week.
I sent it to Pretty Olivia and had no idea of the plans for release or when it would come out. It’s all a lovely surprise.”

Dropkick fans, and really any fans of melodic pop who smile a mile wide at the sound of rich harmonies and gorgeous melodies, will embrace this album with open arms. Andrew and Gonzalo have created a little slice of heaven, as even a listen to the very first song will attest.

Gonzalo Marcos

The album opener, a jubilant, poppy, uptempo statement of purpose titled “TBWTPN,” sets the mood quite efficiently, with its melange of catchy melody, harmony, Byrdsian guitars, and Teenage Fanclub ambiance. Songs like the jangly “Close the Doors,” with its supremely catchy chorus, sporting some truly luminous harmonies, and a very ’60s kind of electric guitar solo, and the aforementioned “Nervous Man,” typify this warmhearted collection of lovely songs.

 

Mostly composed of upbeat numbers, Dead Calm does settle into a balladic mood with a pair of slower, thoughtful songs. “Need You to Know,” a quietly pretty specimen, puts the spotlight on Andrew’s soft, measured vocals and his understated acoustic guitar (the wordless harmonies that take over the soundfield for the last 30 seconds are so affecting, they made me shiver with delight). The relatively short title song which closes out this truly magnificent collection is another pretty piece of work, so quiet that you can hear the squeaks emitted as Andrew moves his fingers across his guitar’s fretboard. It’s an emotional performance that will stay with you for a very long time.

The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness, known in their everyday skin as Dropkick’s Andrew Taylor and El Palacio de Linares’s Gonzalo Marcos, have produced a landmark recording that is nothing less than an aural document that shows how it is done. You will likely not find a better example of harmonic and melodic excellence this year.

Dead Calm is a masterpiece of melody and harmony.

Where to Get It (Releases on March 1): Pretty Olivia Records, Dropkick’s Bandcamp 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 last August.

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

Win Something Cool from Pure Pop Radio!

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Or should that read somethings? Because we’ve burrowed deep into the Pure Pop Radio prize closet for a three-pack of melodic goodness on CD, and you can win. It’s Friday giveaway time, people!

First up in our prize pack is Caper Clowns’ latest album, their sophomore collection entitled A Salty Taste to the Lake. Eleven tasty melodic morsels, including top tracks like the poptastic “Sacre Bleu,” tell the tale of a band that is turning heads from sea to shining sea.

Next up for offer, we have America’s Heritage: Home Recordings/Demos 1970-1973, which presents embryonic versions of such top tracks as “Riverside” and “Ventura Highway.”

And finally, we’re offering up the CD reissue of Laura Nyro’s classic Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, which features Nyro classics like “Sweet Blindness,” “Eli’s Comin’,” and “Stoned Soul Picnic.” Three demos complete the package.

You can be the winner of this Pure Pop Radio prize pack by filling out the form below and sending it to us so that it reaches our mailbox by tomorrow, Saturday, February 23, at 2 pm ET. US residents only. Type “Prize Pack” in the Comment field, and don’t forget to include your email address where noted.

Good luck! Coming up next week here on the Pure Pop Radio website: Reviews and more!

 

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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: 2.15.19: Friday (on My Mind) Special: The Weeklings Rock Out at High Noone

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The Weeklings featuring Peter Noone
“Friday on My Mind” (Jem, 2019)

It’s Friday, it’s special, and it’s time for this important question: What happens when a quartet of old pros meet up with an old pro from the 1960s, get amped-up, plugged in and blast out, in smashing fashion, a 52-year-old classic hit of psych pop like it’s their last ride on the roller coaster?

Fireworks of the musical kind ensue! Better stand back, kids, and buckle in! You’re in for a fun, wild ride!

The Weeklings, New Jersey’s fab foursome, this time eschewing their fab influences, have connected with Herman’s Hermits front man Peter Noone to record a blown-up-and-put-together-again-with-a-rocking-bed-of-dynamite version of the Easybeats’ 1966 worldwide smash, “Friday on My Mind.”

Blowing up expectations, the Weeklings–Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack–provide the daring instrumental and vocal backing and hand the lead vocal reins over to Peter Noone who, more in line with his persona on the Tremblers’ 1980 long player, Twice Nightly, aims for outer space as he takes on Harry Vanda and George Young’s classic number.

It’s a hell of a performance, folks; the mix of Noone’s piercing, take-no-prisoners vocal and the Weeklings’ mastery of the original song’s ultra-catchy melody and instrumentation is one of this melodic pop season’s most powerful moments.

As the beat and oomph ramps up in the last seven seconds of this great waxing to about as above ground as humanly possible, Noone looks his microphone in the eye and gives it all he’s got–a throat-shredding scream that lasts all of two seconds but burns itself into your brain for a lifetime.

And now, before this review bids you a fond adieu, enjoy the Weeklings and Peter Noone–the Fab Five, if you will–and their smoking rendition of the Easybeats’ “Friday on My Mind.” These guys are seriously superheros (Marvel or DC, take your pick).

Whew. Produced by Jem Records’ Marty Scott and recorded by the Grip Weeds’ Kurt Reil (Peter Noone’s vocal was recorded by Fernando Perdomo at Reseda Ranch Studios), this pulsating version of “Friday on My Mind” is a keeper, a classic in its own right–a monumental knock on the door of what we expect to hear…an instant classic, if you will.

And you will.

Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes

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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: 2.14.19: Valentine’s Day Special: I Heart Bertling Noise Laboratories’ … into thin air

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Bertling Noise Laboratories | … into thin air (2019)

Multi-instrumentalist Nick Bertling, who makes and records the noise in these laboratories, is a marvel. His previous work, covering favorite pop and rock songs on 2017’s A Little Touch of Bertling in the Night and waxing his own creations on 2015’s the flehmen response, stands proudly beside his instrumental backing for Andy Bopp and Gretchen’s Wheel’s Lindsay Murray. Nick is back with a four-song EP, EPs being the more common musical currency in these wackadoo times.

This new collection brings together four songs–three very Nickian interpretations of tunes from other artists and one rollout of a brand-new tune written by Bertling himself. It’s a different way to express creativity–Nick’s way of putting his stamp on other people’s envelopes, so to speak.

Nick’s new song, “Perfect Paragraph,” was written in Chicago and recorded at home, where all four of … into thin air’s songs were captured in perpetuity. This song really is pretty perfect, just like the paragraph referenced in the title, a pretty piano ballad beautifully sung in which the perfect moment is in the spotlight and the influence of Todd Rundgren can clearly be heard.

“Whisper Softly” was the opening, popping salvo on Myracle Brah’s 1998 album, Life on Planet Eartsnop. Nick basically sticks to writer and performer Andy Bopp’s original plot, although he does up the ante with a more pronounced drum beat. “Awry,” a cover of an Aimee Mann-type song from Gretchen Wheel’s 2017 EP, for which Nick provided some percussion, undergoes some reinvention and is now cast as a weightier alternative number, shot with sound effects and an electric guitar solo composed of sometimes stretched and bent notes.

“As One Again,” a midtempo ballad painted with full-on Rundgren colors, has an interesting history. It was originally essayed by Nick and
Chris Catalfo in the late 1990s. Building on Chris’s previously-recorded keyboard part (all that remained from their efforts), Nick finished the song. The song is Chris’s, the recording Nick’s. And it’s a beaut.

It continues to be my pleasure to be able to put the Pure Pop Radio spotlight on melodic pop’s great practitioners. Nick Bertling is certainly one of them, and … into thin air is his latest release.

I heart Bertling Noise Laboratories’ …into the air.

Where to Get It and Listen: 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: 2.7.19: Caper Clowns and Sons of Morning

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Caper Clowns | “Second to None” b/w “Verboten” (2019)

The hits just keep on coming! The fourth single from Caper Clowns’ fantastic sophomore long-player, A Salty Taste to the Lake (one of our Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2018), is a double dose of delight. The album’s catchy, uptempo popper, “Second to None,” is supported by the previously-unavailable “Verboten,” a truly astonishing slice of pop complexity composed of three distinct sections, all circling a decidedly Beatlesque-by-way-of-the-Rembrandts beacon. The first section lays all of the song’s catchy cards on the table; it’s followed by a lovely, wordless, 30-second bridge, and the third piece of the puzzle, similar to the first but, perhaps, a bit sweeter.

Caper Clowns’ b-sides continue to marvel, in much the same way that their a-sides do. Odense, Denmark’s favorite sons continue to prove that they can do no wrong.

Where to Get It: Amazon (Releases February 11)

Sons of Morning | “Cold and Blue” b/w “Evangeline” (Big Stir, 2019)

Sounding as if they were plucked from the set list of a band playing school dances in the late 1950s or early 1960s, Connecticut popsters Sons of Morning’s latest songs are of a piece. “Cold and Blue” is a dreamy ballad about hopeful, forever love, and “Evangeline” is a rather stark statement of amour.

The 11th in the ongoing series of digital singles being released by the fine folks at Big Stir, this is pop balladry like it used to rock the house. Savory, sweet joy.

Where to Get It: Purchase and preview at Big Stir Digital Singles

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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: 2.5.19: Lannie Flowers, The Keys, Clifford Ulrich, and Scott McGinn

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Lannie Flowers | “Summer Blue” (2019)

If there is one thing that people living through the chill of winter can agree on, it’s that the warm summer months can not come soon enough. This 11th in the ongoing series of free Lannie Flowers songs being given away during the run-up to Lannie’s new album (due any time now) is a typically warm and inviting mid-tempo celebration of melodic wonder starring rich harmonies and inviting guitar lines.

The clever lyric suggests, at least to me, that the idea of summer can translate to just about anything that warms us up with joyous optimism. Summer, in fact, can even be a song on the radio: “She seems a thousand miles away/but I can feel her on my radio/I’m just looking for a ray of sunshine/Anything to get me out of the cold.”

Lannie has always done top-notch work; his songs continue to be treasured by fans. The 11 songs being given away for absolutely nothing at all, essentially functioning as a complete, full-length album in advance of the actual album everyone has been waiting for, are arguably his best work. And that’s really saying something. Get “Summer Blue” just for the asking and brighten your day.

Where to Get It: Spyderpop Records (Free download)

The Keys | Grand Reopening (Zero Hour, 2019)

Because bands are composed of real people whose lives, at a certain point in time, take a variety of turns at speeds approaching and often exceeding the speed limit, the story of Bob Koenig, who logged time in a band called Abandon Here and then assembled Long Island power poppers the Keys, may seem familiar to you and, perhaps, you too.

Growing up in Mineola on Long Island and then moving to Levittown, Bob has, in addition to pumping out catchy power pop tunes, logged time as vice president of the Levittown Historical Society. He has been called Mr. Levittown but might as well be called Mr. Long Island. Such are the turns Bob’s life has taken (and oh, by the way, he was a mailman for 32 years and is now retired).

Perhaps we will take a closer look at Bob’s story in the future–it’s rather an interesting one–but for now let’s take a look at the music of the Keys, collected in typically fine fashion by the folks at Zero Hour records. Comprising 20 tracks–two recorded by Abandon Here–it is a powerful, melodic ride that stretches from 1984 to 1993. It is most certainly a ride worth taking.

Throughout these tracks, there is a palpable sense of the sound of Badfinger, if it’s a reference that you’re seeking. But mostly, the Keys sound like the Keys, which is ultimately the only reference that matters. All of the hallmarks that power pop fans crave are here: attractive, memorable melodies, rich harmonies, guitar prowess, and powerful drums.

Tracks like “Change of Seasons,” “Poison Pen,” and “Herky Jerky Love” will satisfy most power pop cravings, but so will Bob’s “Pool of Tears” and “See Cybill Cry,” which open with soft, serene backings and become mid-tempo pop-rockers with great, catchy melodies, lyrical guitar solos and strong lead vocals and vocal harmonies. They are the cats meows of this album.

Dig into 20 tracks of power pop goodness here with Long Island’s the Keys and stay tuned for more of Bob Koenig’s story.

Where to Get It: Zero Hour, Amazon, Kool Kat

Clifford Ulrich | “I’m Going to Miss Her” b/w “Like a River Glorious”
(Big Stir, 2019)

Cover art by Ridley Broome

The 15th Big Stir digital single belongs to the Armoire’s Clifford Ulrich, who also does duty in Owensmouth and writes songs for Skates and Rays. Here in solo artist mode, Ulrich polishes this two-fer with a Byrdsian shine.

First up is Ulrich’s jangly “I’m Going to Miss Her,” which originally appeared on Skates and Rays’ You Are My Home album and practically implores you to close your eyes and imagine Roger McGuinn playing the glorious solo that softly punches through the final 25-second section. Song number two is his sweet folk-pop rendition of “Like a River Glorious,” a hymn that dates back to the 1800s and was authored by James Mountain and Frances Ridley Havergal. Just like “I’m Going to Miss Her,” this is a magical listening experience. (Click on the highlighted song titles to listen.)

Where to Get It: Big Stir Digital Singles

Scott McGinn | Purr-Ever Beach (2018)

Face Dancer’s Scott McGinn steps out for a solo turn on an album stacked high with songs that shake hands with pop and rock and often meet somewhere in between.

You’re sure to find favorites among these numbers, both new and revived from Face Dancer and 1980s techno-popsters Growing Up Different. Key tracks include “Forever Beach,” upbeat pop with nice harmonies and an ELO-ish string part, and “Delicatessen,” upbeat pop with a nifty piano riff and rocking guitar, ELO style.

Where to Get It: Amazon, CD Baby, iTunes, Trax on Wax (Call or stop in to this Catonsville, MD vinyl landmark)

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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.