Maggie Roche: Goodbye, Sweet Songbird

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
(Originally posted 1.23.17)

the rochesA wave of sadness passed through my soul as the news emerged Saturday of the passing of Maggie Roche, the sweet songbird from deepest New Jersey whose singular voice intertwined for decades with her sisters Terre and Suzzy as the Roches. Her beautiful songs, imbued with her loving spirit, will live on.

Marrying lyrical poetry and heaven-sent melodies, Maggie wrote about the human condition, about life’s long and winding road and the twists and turns one takes along the way. From “Hammond Song” and “Quitting Time,” both from the Roches’ 1979 self-titled debut, to the playful “My Winter Coat,” from the sisters’ 1995 album, Can We Go Home Now, her magical perspective and way with words always shone brightly.

So did her sense of humor, through which she communicated all manner of emotion. For proof, look no further than the testament to love that is “My Winter Coat.” Sure, it is ostensibly about a coat whose “fit is generous and loose,” a garment with which to keep warm that is “made of a material that will not rust.”

This is a song about love, of course, sewn up in a garment that makes you feel like you’re “walkin’ around in your bed all day.” There couldn’t possibly be anything better to wrap around you, a point that is communicated in verse after verse punctuated by magical rhymes. “I hope you don’t think I’m merely trying to be clever,” the Roches sing to sew up the story. “I wish this coat would last forever.”

In our lives, we gravitate toward artists who can expand the world to allow us to see more clearly the parts of it that we may not fully understand or appreciate. Artists encourage us to be adventurers, to learn more about ourselves, to step out of our comfort zones and in the process find out more about what makes us who we are.

This is a forever journey that we find ourselves traveling. Through her songs, Maggie Roche was a spirited companion and guide. Safe travels, sweet songbird.

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I Love that Song! #14: “Mrs. Vandebilt” by Paul McCartney and Wings

alanBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
(Originally posted 12.01.16)

So you’re in the jungle, you’re living in a tent, you have zero financial obligations, you have all the time in the world, and you just plain don’t care. Is this a call for celebration?

paul mccartney and wings mrs. vandebiltRight off the bat, I’m probably being too literal, trying to make sense of the lyrics of Band on the Run’s “Mrs. Vandebilt,” one of the great showcases for Paul McCartney’s runaway bass inflections, because that first verse is a slightly-changed, tumbling tip of the hat to British comedian Charlie Chester. Which is really here nor there in the grand scheme of things.

Which is not to say that there is any scheme being practiced within this delicious tour de Macca, other than the crafting of yet another insanely catchy slice of pop and roll by one of the masters of the insanely catchy slice of pop and roll form. “Take things as they come to you!”, McCartney seems to be saying in these lyrics, which might be the case if you’re looking to make a case, but I submit to you that the lyrics could well be carefully positioned red herrings unless you don’t believe in such things and, really, well, that’s kind of getting off the case at hand.

“Mrs. Vandebilt” is a four-on-the-floor, beat-buoyed road trip driven by one of, if not the, world’s most inventive bass players. And don’t argue with me, now! We must not have dissension among the ranks!

“Mrs. Vandebilt” is all about the ever-present, runaway bass line and, of course, the up-and-down, go-high-then-low-then-high-again melody line. The first 72 seconds, and really most of this track, bear this out, painted as they are with just a few aural brushstrokes–rhythmic, acoustic guitar chord stabs, bass, percussion, vocal, and what sounds like some understated keyboard layering close to the first chorus. Then, Howie Casey’s liquid saxophone draws deserved attention for seven punctuated seconds.

A beautifully-rendered electric guitar solo (which recurs later, as does Casey’s sax) is another of the many reasons that this skillfully crafted track, like so many of McCartney’s ingenious constructs, never, ever fails to please; another one is what really is the meat of this four-and-a-half-minute moment: the rip-roaring, get-out-of-the-way, leave-my-kitten-alone close, a let’s-let-loose-at-all-costs, band-on-the-run refrain that plays sweet havoc with what has come before. Above, and for that matter below, the repeated “Ho, hey ho!” cries, McCartney’s runaway bass, sliding up and down the fretboard with determinedly enthusiastic plucks, steals the show, exiting stage right with a quick, descending run of notes before the track fades, clearing the decks for the tour de Lennon that is “Let Me Roll It.”

band on the runThere is a picture of McCartney in the booklet of the 2010 archive collection reissue of Band on the Run, in which the headphone-appointed artist is decked out in his electric blue shirt, sleeves rolled up, his left arm crossed against his chest, his right arm pointing upward and his right hand resting against his lips, pursed into a knowing smile that says, “Man, just wait ’till you hear what I’ve got up my (rolled up) sleeves.” If a picture truly speaks volumes, this one is akin to the length and breadth of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

If I close my eyes, I can see myself sitting on the edge of my bed in my college dorm room, listening to the Band on the Run album over and over as a long-haired friend sits on my no-speed bicycle, pedaling in place with abandon. “You know, this is a really great album,” my friend says as the memory tape rolls in my brain. And when “Mrs. Vandebilt” comes on, the pedaling stops in its tracks. My attention, as well as my friend’s, is suddenly focused on that insistent bass line, and as the track hits midway, my friend and I are plucking the strings of our Hofner air bass guitars even as the track fades, and without even thinking, I walk slowly to my turntable in somewhat of a daze and put the needle back to the beginning and the air Hofner plucking begins again.

Which is why I love this song.

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New on Pure Pop Radio: Dana Countryman’s Girlville! Sparkles!

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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

dana countryman's girlvilleAnd 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.

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(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.

black box 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”
black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Kook Kat, iTunes

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Boo! The Taters Join Alan Haber for the Pop Tunes Deejay Show Halloween Party Tomorrow at 2 pm ET. It’s Booriffic!

Join Ameripopacana Musical Mirth Makers The Taters and Your Humble Halloween Host for a Booriffic, Very Special Pop Tunes Deejay Show Halloween Party!

pop tunes disc smallJoin ameripopacana musical mirth makers The Taters and me, your humble Halloween host, tomorrow afternoon at 2 pm ET for a very special, booriffic edition of Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, first broadcast on October 26, 2015.

the tatersThe Taters and yours truly, dressed to the nines in our spooky garb, will be in our scary, spooky haunted broadcasting house complete with living skeletons, booing ghosts, and your favorite pun-wielding, joke-telling, pop culture fanatical Taters, sitting in front of our orange (hey, it’s Halloween!) microphones, for a really fun time. Join us, won’t you? Costumes optional!

To get you in the ghostly spirit, The Taters have recorded a very special Halloween greeting for you, our treasured Pop Tunes fans. Press the button, if you dare!:

the-taters-dont-screamThat’s right–Craig Evans, Brad Tucker and Chris Mendez from the jolly ameripopacana band The Taters are my special guests tomorrow afternoon at 2 pm ET, talking about their scary good EP, Don’t Scream! Songs to Keep You Up at Night! (Get it here!) The boys, puns ‘n’ jokes ‘n’ pop culture references at the ready, help me, in between the greatest puns and jokes ever told, to play some well and not-so-well-known Halloween tunes. Who from? The late, great Zacherle, The Tremblers, Caravan of Thieves, Jackdaw 4, Groovie Goolies, Blue Ash, Jamie and Steve, and, of course, The Taters! The tunes, the laughs and the scares come fast and furious in this 90-minute holiday spook-a-thon!

Alan Haber: Proud Music Geek!

Gather ’round the Halloween radio receptacle for a blast through our musically-appointed haunted house for a very special rebroadcast of Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show’s Halloween Party! Tune in at 2 pm ET tomorrow…that’s Halloween! Scare you there!

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Pure Pop Radio’s New Music Bowl Starts Next Tuesday, September 13

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Pure Pop Radio’s New Music Bowl, a celebration of the latest songs and artists added to our ever-growing playlist, kicks off next Tuesday, September 13, at 6 am ET. The event concludes next Thursday, September 15, at 11 pm ET.

We’ve added hundreds of songs and new artists to our 24-hour rotation, and we want you to hear them all. You won’t want to miss the latest sounds being crafted by melodic pop music’s brightest lights (you’ll hear, for example, tracks from the Beatles’ Live at the Hollywood Bowl CD).

Why not visit our Facebook event page and tell us you’ll be joining us next week for this exciting event? Click here to be magically transported.

See you on the radio beginning at 6 am ET next Tuesday, September 13 for Pure Pop Radio’s New Music Bowl!

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Bob Lind, Jamie Hoover, and Mark Bacino In Conversation Shows Now Available for Listening and Downloading

Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation on PodOMatic!

Recent Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation shows starring classic singer-songwriter Bob Lind, the great Jamie Hoover, and melodic popster Mark Bacino are now available for listening and downloading on In Conversation’s PodOmatic podcast page.

bob lind posebob lind magellanBob Lind spoke to Alan Haber on August 23 about his brand-new album, Magellan Was Wrong, just out on Big Beat/Ace. On the docket: the stories behind three of Bob’s new songs–“Blind Love,” “Magellan Was Wrong,” and “From the Road”–and a celebration of the iconic song “Elusive Butterfly,” 50 years young this year.

jamie hover photo smallJamie Hoover spoke to Alan, also on August 23, about producing many of the songs on Bob’s album, Magellan Was Wrong. He also spoke about what it’s like to produce Bob, how he goes about arranging Bob’s tunes, and how Bob’s music has affected his own work. It’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes discussion. Plus, he talked about “Elusive Butterfly,” a song that has meant so much to him.

mark bacinoClassic melodic popster Mark Bacino appeared on In Conversation on July 26 to talk about his typically-catchy new song, “Not that Guy.” In addition, we set the WABAC (pronounced Wayback) Machine for 1998, when Mark’s first album, Pop Job…the Long Player!, was released on Parasol Records. Mark talks about the album’s song “Kay.”

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Seth Swirsky’s Wonderful, Bigger Truth

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Spins and Reviews | 8.11.16 | by Alan Haber

seth swirsky new album coverSeth Swirsky | Circles and Squares
Listening to and absorbing and becoming one with the songs contained on Seth Swirsky’s amazing new album Circles and Squares, I turned inward and posed the following question:

You know those things in life that just click with you upon a first gaze or as they first come within earshot, those things that are more than just things, that are tangible signs that your life has been changed if only a little bit, or perhaps a lot, and perhaps you’re not the same as you were before and you know in your heart of hearts that things are going to be different from now on?

For those of a certain age, or really, any age at all, those moments that speak to what make us who we are, that speak to who we’ve become because something has changed the way we look at things, are hard to quantify, but we try to take them at their word as they announce themselves as part of us and define how we are affected by this, that, and the other thing.

The thing is, hearing music as one of the things that defines us is easy for those for whom a sly key change, or a simple and direct melody played out against a complicated chord structure, or the introduction of a square instrumental peg into a round hole is an exciting event. And, depending on the song, there could be one or two or even more events that work in concert to make us smile or cry or define our emotions in a new and invigorating way.

seth swirsky photoThere are only so many notes and keys and tempos to work with, so if you’re a songwriter who is also a performer, and as a performer, you play the lion’s share of the instruments that paint your musical picture, and you come up with a song that makes a listener smile or laugh or even cry, you’ve done something special, something truly extraordinary, painting with the tools in your toolbox in your own quite special way.

Which is exactly what Seth Swirsky has done. He began writing songs to order, back in the day, for a variety of performers. He wrote books about baseball, and he collected baseballs, so many of which are classified as rare. And, more importantly, he started writing and performing his own music. This latest batch of songs that speak the truth about his life and ours too quite simply towers over just about everything he has done before. It will be tough to beat after the dust has settled on this monumental album, Circles and Squares, releasing on August 19.

Proving that a creative, heartfelt approach to making music will yield magic almost every time, Swirsky has crafted a collection of songs that draws on all of his strengths, and perhaps incorporates a couple of new ones. Moreover, these songs reveal the truth about all of our lives, right from the first track, “Shine,” his statement of purpose, the one that sets the stage for what comes next. The song’s melodious mix of Beach Boys, Free Design, and Burt Bacharach touchstones; gorgeous harmony stacks, with voices sitting on top of and passing around and through each other, and clever sectioning of ideas that also fit together, work as one.

seth swirsky hanging“Shine” slides effortlessly into “Circles and Squares/Go,” initially a sprightly pop confection that ever so slightly incorporates a hint of the Beatles’ “I’ll Be Back” and, halfway through, turns into an introspective plea to move on and change one’s approach to life. A mix of Beatles Rubber Soul and 1970s soft-pop atmosphere, “Old Letter” carries that idea further, singing a song about holding on to memories in the face of trying to move forward into happiness. “Let’s Move to Spain,” adopting an early rock ‘n’ roll groove (think “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”), concerns itself with shedding one’s memories, leaving material possessions behind, and transplanting the physical form to a place where the only things that are real are the feelings between one another.

Could there be anything more real…a bigger truth? Can we live with our gaze placed firmly on the little things in life, on minimizing what we interact with on a daily basis? It probably depends on how many of those little things are in play. In the Byrdsian popper “Table,” the table is crowded and needs a simplifying of its space. And in the lovely confessional and autobiographical “I Don’t Have Anything (If I Don’t Have You),” the narrator allows that life means nothing at all without the proverbial “one”: “I’ve got some baseballs/That are pretty rare/Got a swimming pool/And a fast car/But I don’t care/’Cause I don’t have anything if I don’t have you…I’ve got gold records/Hanging on my wall/But without your love/Baby you can have ’em all…”

Which is not to say that the music on Circles and Squares matches Swirsky’s lyrical introspection note for note; indeed, the music is generally pretty and sweet and full of joy and played almost exclusively by Swirsky himself; against this base, the author’s words are made to shine. So these 16 songs, the best that their author has brought together–better than the groups of songs on his debut, Instant Pleasure, and his second album, Watercolor Day, which is really saying something–shine too. They shine brightly and provide a beacon for emotional truth.

seth swirsky keyboardIn this album’s opening statement of purpose, “Shine,” Swirsky’s celebration of melody and, especially, harmony, of happiness and joy and how it can and should be, shows what this kind of talent can mold out of what wasn’t there before; imagine sitting down at your table with a blank slate in front of you and summoning the courage to translate your ideas into something as beautiful as this.

That’s what it’s all about. It’s all about crafting beauty and working through one’s emotions to come out healed on the other side. These 16 songs, circles and squares one and all, are the latest expression of craft brought forth by one of pop music’s most important artists. These are the things that matter, and in Seth Swirsky’s hands, they sing.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Shine,” “Circles and Squares/Go,” “Old Letter,” “Far Away,” “Trying to Keep It Simple,” “Belong,” “Sonic Ferris Wheel,” “Let’s Move to Spain,” “Table,” and “Don’t Have Anything (If I Don’t Have You).”
black box When and Where to Get It: Circles and Squares releases on August 19 at seth.com and retailers such as Kool Kat Musik, Amazon and iTunes.

 

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It’s Summertime All Year Long on Jammin’ James Riley’s Catching a Wave; New Specialty Show Debuts August 29 on Pure Pop Radio

by Alan Haber  alan 5 small

summer at the beachLay out the blankets, stack the snacks and cold beverages, and slather on the SPF: It’s summertime all year long when Jammin’ James Riley’s Catching a Wave show is on the air! This fun, brand-new hour-long celebration of the catchiest sounds around will fill the airwaves with sun-drenched joy on Monday nights at 9 pm ET, right after Ken Michaels’ Every Little Thing, on Pure Pop Radio. The first show airs on Monday, August 29.

The lyric line in Brian Wilson’s great song “Catch a Wave”–“Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world”–speaks to the fun in store for listeners as they soak up the sounds that make Catching a Wave so much fun to listen to. Jammin’ James is stoked to get started. He’s waxing up his summer sounds surfboard as I type these words!

jammin james rileyCatching a Wave is the sounds of summer, surf and good-time rock and roll,” says Jammin’ James. “It’s the only place where it’s summer all year long!” What will you hear on the show? “You’ll hear everything from classic bands like the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Dick Dale and the Ventures to newer acts such as Messer Chups from Russia, the Explorers Club, Los Straitjackets, and all in between. We’ll also have periodic exclusive interview snippets, countdowns, giveaways, games and all kinds of fun (fun, fun)!”

I’m thrilled to be bringing Jammin’ James Riley’s Catching a Wave to Pure Pop Radio beginning Monday, August 29, at 8 pm ET. Jammin’ James, also host of the Rockabilly ‘n’ Blues Radio Hour, is capturing the fun of the super summer sounds, much of which we’re already playing in rotation. James’s unique mix of songs stocked deep with strong melodies, harmony and an infectious sense of fun, fun, fun will fit in well with our other specialty shows: my interview program, Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation; Brian Bringelson’s mix of pop and classic rock, played from vinyl records (Needle Meets Vinyl); the weekly Beatles roundtable discussion, Things We Said Today, and Ken Michaels’ Every Little Thing.

Mark your calendars for Jammin’ James Riley’s Catching a Wave premiering Monday, August 29 at 8 pm ET. Meanwhile, just think about all the fun, fun, fun you’ll be having! It’s summertime all year long on Pure Pop Radio!

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New on Pure Pop Radio | 8.9.16: New Legal Matters Now Spinning in Rotation!

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Extra-Special Legal Matters Edition | 8.9.16 | by Alan Haber

the legal matters - an intro - use this oneThe Legal Matters | An Intro…
Chris Richards, Andy Reed, and Keith Klingensmith, collectively known as the Legal Matters, are gifting their fans with a superb summer sampler titled An Intro…, available today for zero shekels (click here). In other words, this is free!

In addition to two ace songs from the Legal Matters’ first, self-titled album–“The Legend of Walter Wright” and “We Were Enemies–and a cover of Teenage Fanclub’s “Don’t Look Back,” unavailable anywhere else, this sterling introductory EP includes the gorgeous, harmony-soaked, melodic wonder “Anything,” the leadoff track from the Matters’ forthcoming second album, Conrad, being released later this summer on Omnivore Records. And, of course, we’re spinning this great song in rotation!

the legal matters photoIt’s like Christmas in August, I’m telling you…a brand-new track from the Legal Matters’ upcoming, second album, Conrad, an otherwise unavailable Teenage Fanclub cover, and two songs from the Matters’ first album. What could be better? Don’t miss this! Remember…it’s free!
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Anything,” “The Legend of Walter Wright,” “We Were Enemies,” and “Don’t Look Back.”
black box Where to Get It for Free: Noisetrade

 

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