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!

Reviews | 1.9.19: Astral Drive Rockets into 2019 with Soaring New EP

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Astral Drive | Love is Real (Lojinx, 2019)
Aimed squarely at the melodic pop cosmos and with all rockets super-charged, Phil Thornalley’s 2018 hit Todd Rundgren homage Astral Drive lands in the early days of 2019 with an enticing, exciting three-track digital single.

Built around super mix engineer Dave Bascombe’s radio remix of  “Love is Real,” the original version of which appeared on last year’s Astral Drive album and is now adorned with background harmony vocals from the legendary Kasim Sulton, the single is adorned with two must-hear bonus tracks.

“Wishing I Could Change the World” first appeared on Astral Drive as the album closer; this is a newly-recorded acoustic version with a new lead vocal and new piano track (the charming, toe-tapping seventies rhythm box remains, of course). Thornalley’s vocal is as good as emotionally-charged gets.

The shining light of this three-track pearl is Thornalley’s spacey, a cappella-with-a-hint-of-synth version of Rundgren’s dreamy “A Dream Goes On Forever,” which first appeared on 1974’s double Todd set. Thornalley’s arrangement puts the spotlight on the beauty of Rundgren’s melody; Thornalley’s harmonies are masterful, three-dimensional, and pure.

Astral Drive’s captain ushers in the new year…

Kicking off the new year with a new release from Astral Drive surely sets the stage for a great year of melodic pop ahead. “Love is real,” and so, as before, is Astral Drive.

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 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!

Holly? Jolly? Christmas? We’ve Got All Three! And More Melodic Pop Gift-Giving Suggestions

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

We continue with our Holly Jolly Christmas Party here on day four, reviewing the latest and greatest holiday releases that are perfect for gift giving. You’ve still got some wrapping paper on hand, right?

Before we get to today’s gift suggestions, let’s give our last two-pack of holiday presents to one lucky person. Today, Curry Cuts’ White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams and Now Sounds’ deluxe expanded edition of the Mamas and the Papas’ People Like Us are up for grabs. Enter below.

This is our last post of 2018. As we gather with friends and family to enjoy the holiday season, and prepare our annual Favorite Records of the Year feature (coming in early January), we wish you all the best and thank you for your support. We couldn’t do this without you. Have a Merry Happy and a Gear New Year!

Well then, let’s get to talking about the tunes…

Brad Marino | Almost Here (2018)
The Connection’s Marino, singing all of the vocals and playing all of the instruments, turns in a trio of Christmas musings set to a holiday beat. The title song is an uptempo number about keeping holiday commotion to a bare minimum (“This Christmas is for you and me”). “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year” is another uptempo track celebrating the season (“A time for us to come together/A time for us all to remember/Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”). An uptempo, Rockpile-styled cover of the holiday chestnut “Blue Christmas,” usually delivered in a bluesy frame of mind, caps off a fun EP, perfect for this time of year.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Michael Simmons | “Christmas All Over Again” (2018)
Capping off a really good year in which he released his bravura solo album, First Days of Summer, sparkle*jets u.k.’s Simmons whipped up this bit of holiday joy. Covering Tom Petty’s beloved Christmas tune with good cheer and including Simmons’ best Petty impersonation, sweet background vocals, a nifty electric guitar solo, and bits and bobs of a couple of Christmas classics before the first verse (spot the homages!) is certainly an honest day’s work that we, the listeners, benefit from. Well done, sir.

black box Where to Listen and Get It: Bandcamp

Bob Burger | Christmas Can’t Wait (2016)
This sterling five-track holiday EP shows Zeek Weekling as his actual self, Bob Burger, the long-time New Jersey music man whose solo albums are highly recommended.

Burger helps you celebrate Christmas with, among other top tracks, the upbeat “Gonna Be Christmas,” offering up an enticing melody and attractive harmonies; the humorous, vaguely countryish story song “Santa’s Gonna Crash (Right Through the Ceiling),” which wonders why the big guy can’t just use the front door instead of weighing down the roof, and a knockout version of “Ave Maria,” which features an impassioned lead vocal.

Burger even helps you usher in the new year with the rock shuffle “Happy New Year to Ya.” Whether with the Weeklings or solo, Bob Burger is one of music’s sturdiest artists. Gift this EP to everyone you know, is my suggestion.

Here’s a live version of “Gonna Be Christmas,” with Bob and Jimmy Leahey:

black box Where to Get It: Amazon

The Butties | “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (from 12 Greatest Carols) (2005)
If the Beatles recorded “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” in their early style and modeled it after their version of “Twist and Shout,” you’d have this classic side, just one of a dozen such clever holiday workouts contained on the album 12 Greatest Carols. The Butties also wrap bits of “Let It Be” around “Let It Snow,” and rework “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” with the spirit of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Plus many more smile-inducing tracks, perfect for Beatle fans on your gift list. The Butties are really fab!

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, CD Baby

Pop Co-Op | “Wrap Yourself in Christmas Eve” (from Happy Holidays from the Co-Op Communique) (2018)
On this holiday-themed release, a free download, the Co-Op Communique matches the 12 days of Christmas with a dozen holiday tracks that celebrate the season from artists as diverse as John T. McMullan, the Bradburys, Dw. Dunphy, and Pure Pop Radio favorite Super 8.

Pop Co-Op’s quartet of popsters–the Spongetones’ Steve Stoeckel, Mr. Encrypto’s Bruce Gordon, Stacy Carson, and Joel Tinnel–lead the pack with my favorite offering, written by Stoeckel, “Wrap Yourself in Christmas Eve.” This is a clever acoustic number about availing oneself of the warmth of the night before the big day. The deft acoustic guitar figures are truly special.

Give this one as a gift for maximum good cheer.

black box Where to Listen and Get It: Song: Bandcamp The album: Bandcamp

Win a Pair of Presents!

Enter below to win a pair of melodic presents for the holiday season from Pure Pop Radio (Curry Cuts’ White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams and Now Sounds’ deluxe expanded edition of the Mamas and the Papas’ People Like Us). Be sure to fill in all fields (type “Curry Now” in the Comment field), and send the completed form to us by tomorrow, Saturday, December 22, at 10 am ET. US residents 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. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995 and ended this past August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today. Happy holidays!

Our Holly Jolly Christmas Party is Here in Your Town! Gift Suggestions Below…

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Day three of our Holly Jolly Christmas Party is here to help you with suggestions for holiday tunes you can give as gifts to your family and friends…and maybe even to yourself!

This is also day three of our bountiful Christmas presents giveaway. Today, we’ve got the Monkees’ new Christmas Party and the Grip Weeds’ Under the Influence of Christmas up for grabs. Enter below.

Our 2018 Festive Holiday Gift-Giving Guide has the day off tomorrow, due to a change in schedule here at Pure Pop Radio headquarters. We’ll be back on Friday to continue suggesting some of the great Christmas releases out there, all perfect for gift giving.

And now, here’s a lovely Christmas collection from the hardest working man on today’s music scene…

Fernando Perdomo | Present (2018)
Multi-instrumentalist and supreme multitasker Fernando Perdomo (his new album, a smash, is Zebra Crossing) has put together a lovely, quite entertaining Christmas release called Present. It may not be wrapped in festive paper and topped with a bright red bow, but it’s a gift that will keep on giving and putting a holiday kind of smile on your face.

Perdomo’s facility with melody-rich holiday ballads (“It’s Christmas All Over the World,” “Darling It’s Christmas,” “The Meaning of Christmas,” and especially “December .. The Month of Love”) is just one of the most prominent calling cards presented here, but that’s not all you’ll find: “The Funky Little Drummer Boy” features Eddie Zyne on hard-hitting drums; there’s a slow, dreamy surf version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”; a sleepy take on “Silent Night,” with just electric guitars in the mix, really satisfies, and a punky, in your face version of “Deck the Halls” helps to make your season bright.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Thrift Store Halo | “I Still Love Christmas” (2018)
Written by band members Frank Gradishar and Lance Tawzer, this perky, melody-rich celebration of the holiday finds Chicago’s Thrift Store Halo in a fun, spirit-of-the-season-esque mood and espousing a welcome sense of humor.

Everything is on the table at Christmas–greeting cards, holly wreaths, kid-made ornaments, snowmen, egg nog shakes, and “presents wrapped in gold and plaid (like granddad’s pants).” “It’s the one time each year the whole world is filled with joy and cheer,” Frank sings.

You’ll love this one.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

The Weeklings | “Christmas Time is Here Again” and “Revolution Wonderland” (2017)
New Jersey’s Fab Four–Lefty, Zeke, Rocky and Smokestack–convened in the waning months of 2017 to record a pair of holiday classics chock full of the usual Weeklings Easter eggs and brimming with a whole lot of fun.

In case you missed them the first time around, the Beatles’ “Christmas Time is Here Again” got Weeklingsized by incorporating elements from the Fabs’ “Flying,” “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,” and “Baby, You’re a Rich Man.” And of “Revolution Wonderland”? Well, in this seasonal mashup, “Revolution” meets “Winter Wonderland” meets “Jingle Bell Rock” meets the coolest shoo-be-doo-wah vibe you’ll encounter this or any other year.

Follow Santa on his sleigh, with all of his reindeer and his custom North Pole GPS to add these full-of-good-cheer tunes to your Christmas gifting lists.

black box Where to Get It: “Christmas Time is Here Again”: Amazon, iTunes
“Revolution Wonderland”: Amazon, iTunes

Big Stir Double-A-Side Christmas Single (2018):
Kai Danzberg | “If Santa”
Blake Jones and the Trike Shop | “String Lights and Hold On”

The eighth in the continuing series of digital singles being released by Big Stir Records strikes a decidedly festive Christmasy chord (or two or more!) with holiday tunes from Kai Danzberg and Blake Jones and the Trike Shop.

Danzberg and Jones travel different-sounding paths on their way to stirring up their pots of Christmas magic. Danzberg’s “If Santa” is an upbeat, joyous Phil Spectory exercise with Paul McCartney bass lines, horns and, of course, bells. Jones presents his Christmas tune as art-rock-meets-quirky for a wholly different holiday experience. Both are more-than-worthy, Christmasy choices for gift-giving this holiday season.

black box Where to Get It: Big Stir Digital Singles

Lannie Flowers “Christmas Without You” (2018)
While his fans wait patiently for his new album Home to land, Lannie Flowers has been releasing new songs each month, independent of that release. “Christmas Without You,” newly remixed and remastered from its 2011 appearance, is the 10th in the series. It’s a typically catchy, jangly, melodic slice of melodic pop about wanting and needing the people we love to be with us at Christmas. “Christmas Without You” is a free download at the Spyderpop Records website.

black box Where to Get It: Spyderpop Records

Win a Pair of Presents!

Enter below to win a pair of melodic presents for the holiday season from Pure Pop Radio (the Monkees’ Christmas Party and the Grip Weeds’ Under the Influence of Christmas). Be sure to fill in all fields (type “Monkees Grip” in the Comment field), and send the completed form to us by tomorrow, Thursday, December 20, at noon ET. US residents 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. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995 and ended this past August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today. Happy holidays!