Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio is the premier website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and new-to-you releases. Pure Pop Radio plays the greatest melodic pop in the universe 24 hours a day.
Spins and Reviews | (Originally posted 1.10.17)
By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
Dana Countryman’s Girlville! New Songs in the Style of Yesterday’s Hits (Teensville) 2017
And now for something completely different? Not completely, actually, because this heartfelt, loving tribute to the sounds of 1960s girl groups shares the same depth of commitment and heart that Dana Countryman put into his much-loved pop songs trilogy, concluded in 2015 with Pop 3! Welcome to My Time Warp!.
The only tangible difference here is that the 19 songs on offer are sung by an array of talented female vocalists chosen by Dana because they could match him heartbeat for heartbeat and bring to life his wonderful, period-esque songs, written from the perspective of a 16-year-old girl living in the early 1960s.
Both familiar and perhaps new-to-you vocalists such as Lisa Mychols, Swan Dive’s Molly Felder, Pop 4’s Andrea Perry, Kelly Harland, Lisa Jenio, Julie Johnson Sand, Kathy Hettel, and Tricia Countryman, along with Tana Cunningham and Mary Chris Henry, beautifully communicate the joy that has been woven by Dana and his co-writers into the fabric of this musical homage to the catchy sounds of a comparatively simpler time.
The characters who populate these songs have nothing more in mind than being smitten with boys, being jealous of girls who like the boys they like, true love, loving a Beatle, and twisting at Granny’s house. A simpler time? Most certainly, and certainly a period of their lives during which everything is full of wonder, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.
(left to right) Dana Countryman and Klaatu’s Dee Long
A sense of wonder permeates the proceedings throughout this delightful album, for which Dana plays most of the instruments and sings backup vocals (guests include the artist’s good luck charm, Klaatu’s Dee Long). And the highlights are many, such as the Phil Spector-y toe-tapper “Chemistry,” sung by Kathy Hettel in the guise of a girl bored in chemistry class until she partners up with the boy who sits behind her for a class project. The pair falls in love, holds hands and sits side-by-side, learning about, yes, chemistry.
“Proud to Be His Girlfriend,” sung with honest emotion by Lisa Mychols, is the simple story of a girl who is proud to be her guy’s gal. It’s a gorgeous mix of ’60s Brian Wilson and Carole King innocence. “My Heart Belongs to One Boy,” sung beautifully by Lisa Jenio, should rule the AM radio charts, and if it were around back in the good old days, it probably would have.
I’ve always felt that Dana’s music would have ruled the charts back in whichever day you might choose to focus on. The reason is simple, I think: His mantra when writing songs is always to entertain, to brighten the listener’s day. You know that feeling you get when something you hear, whether it’s a song on the radio or coming out of your home stereo or computer speakers, takes root in you in just the right way and you feel a certain type of tingling? That’s what happens when you connect with popular art that moves you.
Dana’s music moves me and always has–I’ve certainly written enough about it and played so much of it on the radio. Call it the Countryman Effect or simply accept it into your consciousness, but accept it without question and let it be a part of your life. Girlville! New Songs in the Style of Yesterday’s Hits is a joyful experience that you and I and everyone else will be remembering and enjoying for a long time to come.
Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: The entire album: “Girlville,” “It’s Not Your Fault,” “I’ve Run All Out of Tears,” “My Heart Belongs to One Boy,” “How Do You Know When You Love a Boy?,” “I’m in Love with George Harrison,” “Bom Sh Bom Bom,” “Pretty Good Sign,” “Because I Love Him,” “Chemistry,” “Jealous Girl,” “One Last Dance Together,” “Love Till the End of Time,” “Little Shy Boy,” “Proud to be His Girlfriend,” “Twist Party at Granny’s House,” “I’ll be Good For You,” “Little Bitty Snowflake,” and “Johnny Still Loves Me” Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Kook Kat, iTunes
Bill Lloyd | Lloyd*ering (SypderPop, 2016) Review by Alan Haber
It’s easy to be an armchair musician sitting in front of your stereo with the remote in front of you, an ice cold beverage always within reach, and the air instrument of your choice at the ready. Your favorite musician belts out his version of one of your favorite songs, and you shake your head with the might of a gale force wind and bellow, “If you had a clue, you’d be doing that tune this way!”
This is why the professionals take on the task of doing the heavy lifting. In the hands of a master musician, one whose vision and ability are well regarded and keenly tuned, a cover version of a favorite song sounds suddenly fresh and new. Such is the case with the twelve favorite songs gathered together on the cleverly titled Lloyd*ering, a new release from SpyderPop that presents proof positive that Bill Lloyd is the man for the job–the job, in this case, being the wearing of someone else’s suit of clothes and making them look just as, or even more, spiffy.
These dozen suits of clothes, if you will, are indeed spiffy, showing, in addition to Bill’s ability to make another artist’s song his own, the wide breadth of musical styles he adores and cherishes. So, there are easy jumps from covering songs from the dB’s and Wreckless Eric to ones from Harry Nilsson and the Lovin’ Spoonful. You get Bill’s take on Bobby Fuller’s “Let Her Dance” and, in the next breath, the Beatles’ “Across the Universe.” Always, you get the sound of Bill Lloyd, the golden payoff for your price of admission.
A sweet, country-flavored reimagining of Nilsson’s “The Lottery Song,” capped by a highly satisfying, a cappella close, is only one of the highlights of an equally sweet bunch. A weighty take on Badfinger’s “Lonely You” draws out the sadness in Pete Ham’s lyric, surrounding it with ramped up electric guitars and a deeply-felt drum track. A reverent take on the Byrds’ “The World Turns All Around Her” celebrates, with an energetic presence, the song’s gorgeous melody, golden-voiced harmony vocals, and deft electric guitar work.
Bill has an enormous amount of fun playing through the Bobby Fuller Four’s joyous “Let Her Dance,” stomping with glee as the mix of percussive hits, lyrical bass and that incredible melody swirl around him. His take on the Hollies’ equally joyous upbeat confection “Step Inside” may well be the best thing here, which is truly saying something: the glorious harmonies, intoxicating melody and the head-turning key change near the end are simply out of this world, which you might think is the only possible place this kind of magic could be performed.
But, of course, you’d be mistaken, for we regularly encounter this kind of legerdemain right here on earth as the tricks of the trade of such inventive, decidedly brilliant musicians as Bill Lloyd, who dazzles whether he is working in pop, country, rock or who knows where else.
Lloyd*ering, twelve cover versions of favorite songs, are presented here in the key of Bill Lloyd for your listening pleasure, wrapped in an eye-catching package fronted by one of the most colorful, effective covers I’ve seen this year. We’re playing all of these songs in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. Sing along if you know the words.
So here’s the scoop: We’ve been adding new music to the Pure Pop Radio playlist for the last couple of months–all sorts of melodic pop from new and heritage artists; songs with sent-from-heaven hooks and harmonies that are pretty much guaranteed to put a big smile on your face.
Let’s get right down to it. Here are just some of the new songs and artists now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. This is but a quick sprinkle of what we have in store for your ears. You’ll be reading about all of our recent adds to the playlist over the next few weeks. Sit back, relax, and start singing along.
Michael Carpenter | The Big Radio To say that Aussie Michael Carpenter has been a major force in helping to shape the sound of melodic pop music would be barely scratching the surface of the run of his estimable achievements. Michael’s first album, released by Not Lame in 1999, was called Baby; it featured a dozen songs that, like a well-orchestrated fireworks display in the summer sky, showed how it was done if one wanted to do it well. Sixteen years later, The Big Radio, an explosive, musical fireworks display, an all-consuming expression of passion fueled by skill and a keen sense of purpose, is here and nothing, really, has changed.
Which is the kind of good news one wants when hitting the play button on what will surely wind up being one of the best power pop albums of the year–power being the operative word. It’s impossible to not feel the electricity in every note of The Big Radio’s opening salvo, the vigilant, energized, take-no-prisoners number, “Don’t Open that Door,” which announces itself with a flip-flopping, upside-and-then-down rolling drum call-to-arms that feeds directly into a classically-styled, electric guitar-fueled blast of melodic wonder and manages to pack a half-hour’s punch into just over three minutes of playing time.
These 14 songs, from the propulsive, runaway train that is “I’ve Been Lovin’ You,” to the catchy, medium tempo nugget, “The Little Blue Box,” and “Too Late,” a rubbery, determined, slowish burner of a rocker sliced and diced with Keith Richards-y electric guitar flourishes, The Big Radio is nothing less than exactly what you would expect to get when Michael Carpenter shows up at your door with a new album. Turn ‘er up and let your power pop flag fly.
Of course, we’re playing all of these songs in rotation, and they are: “Don’t Open that Door,” “She’s in Love With Herself,” “Blind,” “I Kissed that Girl,” “I’ve Been Lovin’ You,” “Father,” “The Only One,” “The Little Blue Box,” “Chrissie Hynde,” “Run Away,” “Too Late,” “Never Be the One,” “Never Know You,” and “Place in Our World.”
It’s a pleasure and a privilege to welcome Michael Carpenter back.
Andy Reed | Relay Vol. 1 Andy Reed, multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, recording artist, producer, engineer and yeah, probably that too, steps out from behind his An American Underdog moniker for five songs worth of pretty near perfect pop. Coupling four originals (one written with Donny Brown, whose songs are playing in rotation here on Pure Pop Radio) with a lovely cover of Sloan’s “I Love a Long Goodbye,” the master music craftsman produces pure delights aplenty. The first focus track, an insanely catchy, melodic gem, “Dreaming of the West Coast,” is but one of the wonders on offer; the gorgeous ballad, “Love is Gone,” marries a luscious melody to a beautiful, fluid chord structure. We’re playing the songs mentioned here, plus “Waves” and “Darlin’, You Don’t Know.” Absolutely essential listening, and we can’t wait for more.
Duncan Faure | 4 For more than four decades, from Rabbitt to the Bay City Rollers and through to his solo career, Duncan Faure has been a popular tunesmith and a master of the pop song. It’s only fitting that Duncan’s latest release is titled 4. We’re playing the following songs in rotation, all catchy, joyous and full of life: “Back to the Day,” “Lies and Promises,” and “The Day that I Found Love.” The mark of a great pop song is how strong the pull is to hit the repeat button and play it again. Guess how strong the pull is here.
Paul Starling | The Wild Wolf According to his blog, Paul Starling is a left-handed bass and guitar player and a right-handed drummer (make of that what you will), whose favorite male singer is Paul McCartney (which guarantees him an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner) and whose favorite food is clam chowder (which is apropos of nothing but interesting nonetheless). He is also a member of Anchor and Bear, a quite wonderful group whose album, Ahoy!, is currently playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. What’s more, he curates, using his real name, Brian Bringelson, a fine and quite dandy deejay show called Needle Meets Vinyl, which airs here on Wednesday nights at 8 pm ET.
All dressed up in his Paul Starling clothes, this talented artist is currently watching his latest long player, The Wild Wolf, climb to the top of the pops. Well, we certainly love it here at Pure Pop Radio. We love not only the music, which is quite catchy and full of hooks and heart, but also the lyrics, every set of them creatively poised to listeners to ponder. Consider the title song, for example, as near as we can tell the story of a lover who takes, doesn’t give back and slinks off into the night without regret. Plus, she may be less than the sum of her parts: “She’s been kissing all the boys without a raincoat/Seems her reasons lack the water, sink and won’t float.” Another of our favorites, the vaguely mid-1960s-flavored stomper, “Tarantula,” about a love affair pulling apart from itself, also makes the grade with us.
In addition to the two aforementioned songs, we’re also playing the rest of the album in rotation: “Boots,” “Seance,” “Endless Waiting,” “Midnight Turns Into Day,” “Seven,” “Middle of Darkness,” “Waiting,” “Broken Bones,” “EP Foster,” and “Giving Up the Ghost.” We love them all, and we bet you will too.
Well, it’s time to get back to work. We’ll be reporting on more of the new music added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist throughout the next few weeks. We’ve added hundreds and hundreds more of the finest melodic pop songs being crafted and released by the top recording artists you know and love. Keep listening to Pure Pop Radio; simply click on one of the listen links below and sing along if you know the words.
Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the original 24-hour Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today. From the Beatles to the Spongetones, the Nines, Kurt Baker, the Connection and the New Trocaderos, we play the hits and a whole lot more. Tune in by clicking on one of the listen links below.
Longtime Pure Pop Radio listeners (and readers of this website) know we’re all about adding as much new music as we possibly can. And so it goes–today, we’ve got another group of songs and artists playing for the very first time on your 24-hour-a-day home for the greatest melodic pop music in the universe.
Without further ado, here we go!
Steve Robinson and Ed Woltil | Cycle We have long been fans of Steve Robinson’s music; Ed Woltil’s solo release from last year, Paper Boats, A Reverie in Thirteen Acts, was one of our Favorite Records of 2014, which is only fair since Ed is an old power-pop hand, having served time in the Ditchflowers, another favorite act around these parts. Steve and Ed have joined forces to create what amounts to a clear winner of a song cycle that should garner a picnic basket-sized bucket of kudos and huzzahs when the best-of 2015 honors are dispensed.
Full of clever twists and turns and knowing nods to a variety of pop styles, Cycle’s heartbeat is perhaps best demonstrated in the gorgeous. slightly trippy folk-pop number, “Elastic Man,” a sixties hug with echoes of Paul McCartney and Donovan that sounds like it’s enclosed in a Dukes of Stratosphear wrapper. The elegant “Wake Up Dreamin'” evokes images of a warm summer night that follows a sunny day that was chock full of surprise. The very English ballad “Little Regrets” conjures up images of Martin Newell as arranged by George Martin, a very good thing.
And there you have it: three examples of what you’ll find on this special record, written, recorded and performed by two of pop’s most prodigious creators. We’re playing the entire album, minus a short instrumental that opens up the proceedings: “Love Somebody,” “Wake Up Dreamin’,” “Elastic Man,” “Godspeed,” “Little Regrets,” “Wintersleeping,” “The Boy from Down the Hill,” “Who You Are,” “Hello, Hello (We’re Back Again),” “Butterflies,” “Liberty Daze,” and “Seize the Day.” Miraculous.
The Connection | Labor of Love When we get a new album by the Connection for airplay, we get the dance floor ready for action (and prime the spacious, roped-off area we have for air guitar enthusiasts). Labor of Love, just released digitally, does not disappoint; what it does do is get the proverbial power pop juices flowing in a big, massive, huge, megaton kind of way. The title cut, which opens these proceedings, bashes and explodes out of the speakers with muscular guitars, thrashing drums, and insistent, energized vocals for a workout that puts you in the center of the action. The upbeat, driving “Good Things” keeps the party going with a slightly less-manic attack that still delivers the crunch guitar effect. Similarly, “You Ain’t Special” takes the less-manic approach, mixing in keyboards amidst the rock ‘n’ pop muscle.
There is a whole lot to savor here–even a countrified pop-rocker (a la the Rolling Stones), “Let the Jukebox Take Me,” about the magic of the jukebox and the comfort of the feeling of being at home in one’s surroundings. Brad Marino and Geoff Palmer have written a great bunch of songs, and we’re playing all 10 of them, in rotation: “Circles,” “Don’t Come Back,” “Pathetic Kind of Man,” “Red, White and Blue,” “So Easy,” “Treat You So Bad,” and the songs already mentioned. Listen to Pure Pop Radio and hear songs from what will surely be one of the most talked about–and played–albums of the year.
Gordon Weiss | It’s About Time Gordon Weiss, a Pure Pop Radio regular, hits a melodic bulls-eye with this just-released collection of beautiful, cleverly constructed songs that speak from the heart. From the opening, Rolling Stones-kissed number, “The Ugly Inside,” to the cleverly arranged ballad “The Great Imitator” and the album’s centerpiece, the glorious, anthemic “Spinning ‘Round,” which features a beautiful string arrangement from Wim Oudijk, this is a classy collection that will hold pride of place in your music library. We’re playing, in rotation, the aforementioned songs, plus “Saccharin, Aspartame, Splenda, You and Me,” “My Love Still Grows,” and “Sticky Thoughts.” Nice going, Gordon.
Alicia Witt | Revisionary History Ever since we first encountered the music of actress Alicia Witt (we played her great holiday number, “I’m Not Ready for Christmas,” during this past holiday season’s annual holiday extravaganza), we have longed to play more of her piano-based tunes. Her new album is pretty much bursting with great songs, from the powerful power-ballad “Consolation Prize” and the emotional “Already Gone” to the very pretty “New Word,” a song that builds nicely and features Alicia’s distinctive keyboard work. All told, we’re playing seven songs: the aforementioned numbers and “Friend”; “About Me”; “Blind”; and “Theme from Pasadena (You Can Go Home),” performed with Ben Folds. Distinctive, adult pop from a most talented practitioner.
The Orange Peels | Begin the Begone Another sterling collection of songs from this veteran group, comprising the talents of Allen Clapp, Jill Pries, John Moremen and Gabriel Coan. This is not really a surprise, of course; the proof is in the estimable grooves. The Peels’ sixth album is represented on Pure Pop Radio by five great numbers: the upbeat, sixties vibing “Embers,” which switches gears and becomes an ethereal, atmospheric wonder with a minute and 26 seconds to go; the hip, pop-rocker “9,” which slides into a lovely coda anchored by an acoustic guitar part that plays out through its fade ending; the assured, determined beat of “Head Cleaner”; the energetic push of “Wintergreen”; and the lovely, deeply-felt, mid-tempo, marathon soundscape, “Satellite Song,” buoyed by a beautiful vocal arrangement, elastic electric guitar lines, and a blissful ending. Now playing in rotation, proudly.
Your Gracious Host | The Writers of Our Destiny Michigan’s Tom Curless based this commanding song cycle on a short story he wrote; the results are a tremendous mix of catchy, upbeat pop with close harmony vocals (“If You Ever Have Your Doubts”), atmospheric, wordless balladry (the affecting instrumental “Train Passing”), and Paul McCartney-esque, eighties-inflected, pop-becomes-Beatles/sixties jam (the bouncy-into-wonderfully-paced instrumental bliss of “Heart on the Table”). We’re playing all three of these songs, plus “Facing Me,” “Love or Fear, Pt. 2,” and “World Within a World.” A great record, now playing in rotation.
The Milk Carton Kids | Monterey An album of pure beauty, stocked deep with warm, honest songs sung in the classic Everly Brothers style, Monterey is a relatively quiet collection that is nonetheless alive with feeling and emotion. Backed by deftly played acoustic guitars, Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, hailing from out California way, build on a folk-pop base which they turn on its head to deliver emotional, classic, contemporary numbers like “Secrets of the Stars,” “The City of Our Lady,” and “Getaway.” Affecting and impossible to resist, this is the romantic side of Pure Pop Radio played expertly with heart to spare. We’re playing the aforementioned three songs in rotation, along with “Asheville Skies,” “Monterey,” “Freedom,” “High Hopes,” “Shooting Shadows,” and “Poison Tree.” Simply gorgeous throughout.
The Hollywood Project | No One Like U One of the big, happy surprises of this year has to be this collection of songs written and performed by poet and lyricist Stephen J. Kalinich, who collaborated on songs recorded by the Beach Boys, and musician Dave Humphries. Supporting players, including Wolfgang Grasekamp, who produced and arranged, are instrumental in bringing these numbers to life. At the heart of it all is the one-two punch of Kalinich’s lyrics and Humphries’ melodies. Songs such as the lively, Bob Dylan-influenced title track and the sixties singalong, “Jelly Bean Song,” really sing, as does the gentle, swaying ballad, “I Turn to You.” We’re playing the entire album in rotation–the aforementioned songs, plus “Can There Ever Be?,” “I Break Down and Cry,” “New World,” “I Will Be Strong,” “What Life is For,” and “Enough Love.” Great stuff.
The Custard | “Way Over My Head” Here is another one of those amazing recordings coming out of the Facebook Theme Music group, comprising the considerable talents of the Tor Guides’ Torbjorn Petersson (lead vocals and guitars), Michael Lorant on drums, Frank Padellaro on bass, and the Legal Matters’ Keith Klingensmith on vocals. Catchy? Check. Great melody? Check. Replayability? Is a thousand times too much? Now playing in rotation.
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In case you were curious, and we know that you are, we have plenty more new songs and artists to announce as additions to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. Look for another list of exciting, melodic treasures next week. Until then, click on one of the listen links below and check out the nearly 7,000 melodic pop songs we have playing in rotation every day of the year. Enjoy the melodic soundtrack of your life on Pure Pop Radio!