Reviews | 10.10.18: McPherson Grant’s Song

review with graphic and by alan haber final sharpened smallestalan headshot from school

Win McPherson Grant’s debut CD…Enter below!

McPherson Grant | Song (2018)
mcpherson grant album coverFrom Tiny Volcano’s Scott McPherson in Tacoma, Washington to Pop Vultures’ Jamie Grant in Toronto, Ontario in Canada and back again, the various song parts created by these two melody wizards flew. All told, they combined to make the magic that informs the duo’s marvelous debut album, Song.

Paying sweet homage to the melodic pop ruling class headed by Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney, Klaatu, Brian Wilson and the like, McPherson Grant–their last names fused together in joyous harmony–have crafted almost an hour’s worth of sturdy earworms. Endlessly endearing songs like the lovely and charming “Housekeeper,” about cleaning up a romantic life gone sour and empty (“I wish that she’d come everyday/The mess I make should want her to stay”) and honestly assessing the less-than-attractive situation (“Yeah, I know that I will be missing you/Like I’m missing two spoons”), ensure repeatability. (Videos for the songs talked about in this review appear below; all, and more, were created by the multi-talented Jamie Grant.)

Cut from the catchy cloth of so many ’70s classics, the perky “Come Around Again,” about learning to realize and revel in the bountiful joy in front of one’s face, is propelled by Zak Nilsson’s drums and a sunny disposition that wouldn’t feel out of place during the summer months. And speaking of summer, “Let’s Drive to Summer” recounts a slow-growing, toe-tapping Beach Boys-by-way-of-Holland road course from cold Canada to warm Florida (“We’ll just follow the coast/Our sandals and shorts in tow/Waiting till the palms wave hello”).

A loving nod to the wonder of, among other things, Klaatu, “The Marvelous and Mysterious Adventures of Sir Ollie and His Ox” marries vaudeville, Queen, opera and a contemporary chorus in a musical ceremony celebrating the life-affirming nature of melodic pop. Klaatu’s Terry Draper essays the drums on this standout track; his Klaatu compatriot, Dee Long, plays keyboards and sings on Song’s opening salvo, “Little Green Men,” about charting a course and extending life in space (“Like Jane and Tarzan we’ll be new age Martians/Like Brad and Janet on our forbidden planet/Making little green men”).

Produced, written, played, arranged and recorded by Scott and Jamie (and don’t ask who did what; it’s a mystery even to both halves of the duo), Song travels the path negotiated by so many artists who came before them, but in a way that is significantly and characteristically their own.

“It’s the day that you’ve been waiting for,” the duo energetically warble, along with background vocalists Clara and Robin Moir, within the confines of the energetic pop-rocker “It’s the Day.” Speaking of the day, this is the day for discovering your new favorite record. McPherson Grant are here.

black box Where to Get It: Tiny Volcano’s Web Shop, Kool Kat Musik

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Win McPherson Grant’s debut CD, Song, from Tiny Volcano’s Scott McPherson and Pop Vultures’ Jamie Grant. Two copies are up for grabs. To enter, fill in the form below (be sure to include your email address and type “MG” in the Comment field) and send it in by this Friday, October 12 at 5 pm ET. Only one entry per person. U.S. 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. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream, which ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018, succeeded the weekly Pure Pop Radio show, which began in 1995. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews | 9.27.18: The Toms and the Maladaptive Solution

review with graphic and by alan haber final sharpened smallestalan headshot from school

The Toms | “Life Raft” (2018)
the toms life raftFrom the upcoming new and much anticipated Toms album D7, Tommy Marolda’s enticing, acoustic, rhythmic tapestry, awash in warm sixties sensibilities, is a classic slice of songcraft and performance. “Life Raft” is about holding on, taking advantage of second chances, and doing whatever it takes to keep love alive (“The waves will carry us, it’s a long way home.”) A tremendous achievement from one of pop music’s greatest creators.


black box Where to Get It: Check back for purchase links

The Maladaptive Solution | “Consort (Queen of Everything)” (2018)
Consort Single CoverWhirling around songwriter and performer Brad Beard is the loose gathering of musicians who come together to infrequently record and release songs intended for a long-gestating project called Symphonies (To God). This latest musical missive, brought to life by Beard, Michael Carpenter, Jimmy Haber, Kylie Whitney and Michael Giblin, is a marvelous mid-tempo, Tom Petty-esque charmer about recognizing and celebrating one’s true love. Recorded in the United States and in Australia at Carpenter’s Love Hz studio, “Consort (Queen of Everything)” is an endearing pop-rock creation. I love it, and I bet you will too.

black box Where to Get It: The usual digital platforms on September 28 (check back for links to purchase)

radio1Alan 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. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream, which ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018, succeeded the weekly Pure Pop Radio show, which began in 1995. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today. (For more About-type information, click here)

Reviews | 9.20.18: Danny Wilkerson, Jay Stansfield’s Charity Single, Dana Countryman and Scott McPherson, and Bryan Estepa

review with graphic and by alan haber final sharpened smallestalan headshot from school

Danny Wilkerson | Wilkerson (Spyderpop, 2018)
wilkerson album coverWorking together with Bleu, who produced this superlative pure pop platter and co-wrote the songs, Danny Wilkerson, the always-and-forever Pengwin, has whipped up a self-titled opus that is by far this year’s most affecting collection of catchy, melodic earworms.

Joined in the studio by Jellyfish’s Roger Joseph Manning Jr., Taylor Locke, Ducky Carlisle, the New Pornographers’ Joe Sieders, and Idle Jets’ Pat Buchanan, Wilkerson has crafted 10 slices of sweet-sounding pop that, like Frampton, have come alive. Wilkerson is a thing of wonder.

Any, and all, for that matter, of these dazzling songs could, and do, serve as examples of how to do it. Take the dynamic leadoff track, “Everybody Loves to Love,” a masterful piece of writing and statement of melodic purpose that begins drawing breath as if it were arranged by Burt Bacharach and goes on to incorporate a variety of tempos and approaches during its alluring five-and-one-half minutes. “I’m just looking for a sitar and a Hofner/A Rickenbacker and a giant stack of ahhs/Sweet harmony,” Wilkerson sings.

Take, also, the mid-tempo, slide guitar-powered charmer “You Still Owe Me a Kiss,” sporting a lovely melody, gorgeous harmonies, and expressive horns, or the hit-worthy, catchy, upbeat “Too Much of a Good Thing,” which, for my money, could have gone on another few minutes and would never even remotely have resembled too much of a good thing.

All told, Wilkerson is nothing less than a good thing. It is, in fact, a great thing, and another feather in the cap of the mighty Spyderpop record label. Don’t miss it.

Where to Get It: The Spyderpop Store, Kool Kat Musik, CD Baby, and iTunes

Jay Stansfield | “A Song for Edward” (2018)
jay standfield a song for edwardjay standfield a song for edward logoSongsmith Jay Stansfield, a longtime fixture on Pure Pop Radio, has done a very good thing: he has composed and recorded a wonderful, catchy pop song that celebrates the vibrant life of Edward Dee, a 10-year-old boy who was a bright light in his British community and suddenly passed away from meningitis and sepsis. Reading about Edward, who brought joy to everyone he came in contact with, and the fund created in his honor (you can do that here) will move you, I hope, to contribute to a most worthy cause.

All profits from the sale of “A Song for Edward” go to the Edward Dee Fund.

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, and Bandcamp

Dana Countryman and Scott McPherson | “You’re Still Number One” (Sterling Swan Records and Tapes, 2018)
dana countryman you're still number one coverBuddying up with Tiny Volcano caretaker Scott McPherson for one of this year’s sweetest vocal duets, Dana Countryman, the master of Seattle Retro-Pop, proves that there is no end in sight for just how good he can be. Atop a sprightly seventies disco-fyed, string-laden bed, anchored by Chad Quist’s period-happy electric guitar, Dana and Scott sing about the truest sort of love–the perfect pairing that makes life worth living. A lovely love letter to his wife Tricia, blessed with a gorgeous voice and a recording artist in her own right, Dana Countryman’s “You’re Still Number One” is a radio hit waiting to happen.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Bryan Estepa | “No Ordinary” | (Lilystars Records, 2018)
bryan estepa no ordinaryLast heard from this past April essaying, in grand fashion, George Michael’s “Heal the Pain” with Coke Belda, Bryan Estepa returns with this top-flight rocking original, a pep talk of-sorts for a guy who’s considering going all-in on a relationship (“She’s not so ordinary/Maybe the greatest/And gamble everything/ Till you’re seeing red”). You’ll dig the guitars, all electrified, and the melody too, because the whole thing sings. It’s great to have Bryan Estepa back. More, please.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

radio1Alan 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. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews | 9.6.18: Nick Piunti and Phyllis Johnson

review with graphic and by alan haber final sharpened smallestalan headshot from school

Nick Piunti | Temporary High (Jem, 2018)
nick piunti temporary high album coverThe guy in the salmon-colored sneakers about to teeter off the ledge high up off the ground on the cover of Nick Piunti’s new album is just kidding, right?

I mean, oh, the horrors! Stay put, my friend, get back inside and crank up the stereo for the latest high-energy, ultra-satisfying tour de force from Detroit, Michigan’s ace guitar-and-keyboard-toting purveyor of pop, rock and roll.

Working with kindred collaborators Donny Brown, Andy Reed and Chris Richards (from the Legal Matters), Geoff Michael (who co-produced with Nick), Ryan Allen (Extra Arms), and Plink Giglio, Piunti lays down a mix of melody-rich, guitar-centric jams that keep the beats pumping and speak to the hearts of power pop fans everywhere.

Whether breathlessly rocking (the four-on-the-floor title track about boxing life’s possibilities into a corner and “Keep Me Guessing,” about a second chance at love with conditions on the table) or ruminating about a disconnected romance (“If This Was Right”), Piunti hits the mark every time with this tip-top 10-song collection.

Another popping platter from Marty Scott’s Jem Records.

black box Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Bandcamp, Amazon, and iTunes

Phyllis Johnson | “Foolish Girl” (2018)
phyllis johnson foolish girlPossessor of one of the great, most expressive and powerful female voices in pop and roll, Phyllis Johnson returns with one of her too infrequent releases–a song, tinged with sadness, about the perils of missed opportunity. A seductive melody and a wide stereo soundfield draw the listener in. Phyllis tackles keys, bass and drums; husband Stefan turns in a deft, George Harrison-like slide part and plays the electric guitars. A free download from Phyllis’s Bandcamp page, this is a must-get and cause for celebration. Don’t miss it.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

radio1Alan 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. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Klaatu Celebration Week Concludes: John, Dee, Terry (and Alan) Pick Favorite Klaatu Songs

klaatu sir army suit cover

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By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Picking your favorite songs by your favorite artists can sometimes be a fairly unreliable exercise, because your three favorites today might be totally different tomorrow.

Nevertheless, John Woloschuk, Dee Long, and Terry Draper were happy to play the favorite songs game when I spoke with them recently. Each of them chose three Klaatu favorites, and here they are, along with three of my favorites because, well, I wanted to play, too (my choices appear at the bottom of this page) (right-click on the audio streams to save them to your computer).

And with today’s post, we wind up our weeklong celebration of Klaatu’s Sir Army Suit, released 40 years ago this month. It’s been a lot of fun walking down memory lane; we hope you’ve had as good a time as we have.

John Woloschuk talks about three of his favorite Klaatu songs

Dee Long talks about three of his favorite Klaatu songs

Terry Draper talks about three of his favorite Klaatu songs

Alan Haber: Proud Music Geek!And now, without further ado, here are five of my favorite Klaatu songs (“Sub-Rosa Subway,” from 3:47 E.S.T., resides in its own little exalted corner of my brain and so does not appear here):

  1. “Blue Smoke” | Magentalane (1981)
    Originally titled “The List of Endangered Species,” this blazing rocker from Klaatu’s fifth and final album features particularly perky piano, John Woloschuk’s sitar, and Terry Draper’s stylish slide trombone, and rocking guitars too (crunchy and otherwise), all dressed up in the band’s usual fanciful wrapping. (John talks about this song here.)
  2. “All Good Things” | Endangered Species (1980)
    Short (under two minutes) and particularly sweet, this wistful, acoustic song, last in the running order on the Endangered Species album, also has an interesting story (John tells the tale here). Surely one of John’s prettiest melodies.
  3. “Hope” | Hope (1977)
    The glorious second Klaatu album’s closing and title song sports another of John’s prettiest melodies and offers up as positive a message as anyone could summon. Note the creative bass line that perfectly complements the melody. John told me that when he wrote this song, he was working above his pay grade. “When faith gives way to fear/When motivation disappears/All is lost if one abandons hope,” he sings. Words for every beating heart.
  4. “Calling Occupants (Of Interplanetary Craft)” | 3:47 E.S.T. (1976)
    This signature song, a grand statement if ever there was one, leads off Klaatu’s eclectic first album. Anything I could say here would be superfluous, especially since John and Terry, who co-wrote the song, speak so eloquently about it in their interviews posted above (Dee also talks about it). I will say, however, that any song that preaches friendship–even friendship across the galaxies–is okay in my book.
  5. “Perpetual Motion Machine” | Sir Army Suit (1978)
    Dee Long’s sprightly toe-tapper about the gift you didn’t know you needed is one of four solo written numbers on Sir Army Suit (he cowrote “Silly Boys” with John). What it’s really about, though, is anyone’s guess, but its lyrics speak to the collector in me (“You can have one today just send right away/We deliver right to your home”), so I’ll go with that.

radio1Alan 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. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Klaatu Celebration Week Continues: John, Dee and Terry Wax Poetic About Sir Army Suit

alan headshot from schoolBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

This week, we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of Klaatu’s momentous third album, Sir Army Suit, because, as I often say, history is important. With each song, with each collection of songs that we treasure from our favorite artists, we strengthen the musical foundation that we build upon.

klaatu sir army suit coverIt is important to know where things come from. Klaatu’s Sir Army Suit came after the group’s eclectic first album, 3:47 E.S.T., and the follow-up, the orchestrated concept long player Hope. Sir Army Suit was an attempt to build on Klaatu’s strengths with shorter, radio-friendly songs sporting indelible melodies, clever chord progressions, picturesque lyrics, and creative production for the purpose of increasing the band’s marketplace footprint.

Shorter, radio-friendly songs. No problem! From the opening classic “A Routine Day” to “Perpetual Motion Machine,” a sprightly tune about acquiring the gift you didn’t know you needed, this is what Sir Army Suit delivered. Moreover, the album served up a diverse musical experience that continues to resonate with fans today.

Klaatu’s John Woloschuk, Dee Long and Terry Draper spoke to me recently about Sir Army Suit, an album they look back on fondly. Click on the photos below to hear what they have to say about one of the great melodic pop albums of our time (then right-click on the stream graphic to download each interview).

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John Woloschuk looks back at Sir Army Suit

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Dee Long looks back at Sir Army Suit and ahead to new music

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Terry Draper takes a look at Sir Army Suit

In the spirit of our ongoing celebration of Sir Army Suit, on the occasion of the album’s 40th anniversary, we return this Friday with John, Dee and Terry each talking about three of their favorite Klaatu songs. Don’t miss it.

radio1Alan 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. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

I Love that Album! #3: Klaatu’s Sir Army Suit (1978)

alan headshot from schoolBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

klaatu sir army suit cover“We all rose to the challenge,” Terry Draper says about “Calling Occupants (Of Interplanetary Craft),” Klaatu’s momentous signature song that opened the band’s debut album, 3:47 E.S.T., but he might as well have been referring to Sir Army Suit, the Canadian trio’s triumphant third album, released in August 1978 and now celebrating its 40th anniversary.

klaatu juicy luicy 45 labelThe challenge Terry, John Woloschuk and Dee Long were faced with, as they gathered to work on Sir Army Suit–really no challenge at all–was to write and record relatively short radio-friendly songs that would increase Klaatu’s marketplace footprint. And with wonderful nuggets such as “Juicy Luicy,” a catchy disco parody; “Tokeymor Field,” a hummable soft-pop romantic romp inspired by the music of the Young Rascals; and “Older,” a rocker about making time count before it’s gone, success should have been a fait accompli. And it was, for fans who held 3:47 E.S.T. and Hope, Klaatu’s previous two albums, dear.

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(l to r) John Woloschuk, Dee Long, and Terry Draper

John, Dee and Terry’s mandate was always to write and record songs that were different from each other, and for Sir Army Suit, they came up with their most diverse set yet. Songs about long getaways (“Everybody Took a Holiday”), the gift you didn’t know you needed (“Perpetual Motion Machine”), falling in love from a berth on the high seas (“Dear Christine”), and leading a humdrum existence (“A Routine Day”) were brought to life with fanciful, creative arrangements. Working with producer Terry Brown, the band’s George Martin, Klaatu delivered exactly what was called for– an album stocked full of unique treasures that is as enjoyable today as it was 40 years ago.

One of Sir Army Suit’s most engaging slices of songcraft is the cinematic number that opens the album. John’s majestic “A Routine Day,” about a man living possibly the most humdrum existence imaginable, offers up exquisite and complex chord progressions, one of the loveliest, most seductive melodies in Klaatu’s catalog, and a surprising Twilight Zone-esque ending, in which the hapless narrator waits on the pier, as one does, for Charon, the ferryman of Hades.

Then, there are the tremendous songs written by Dee Long, charming, melodic wonders all: the aforementioned “Everybody Took a Holiday” and “Perpetual Motion Machine,” and “Older,” “Mr. Manson,” and “Cherie” (Dee also cowrote the wild sci-fi closer, “Silly Boys,” with John). “Cherie” may well be the loveliest of all of Dee’s creatures on this album:

Of course, a band is more than just one member’s vision; Sir Army Suit wouldn’t be the creative triumph it is without John Woloschuk, Dee Long and Terry Draper working together to fuse their ideas into a successful whole. And, it cannot be said often enough that the trio, working together with Terry Brown, were collectively a tremendous close-knit, creative force.

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Sir Army Suit’s Back Cover

All of this sterling work came wrapped inside Hugh Syme’s beautiful, imaginative cover art that finally provided visual proof that the members of Klaatu had never been Beatles, even if the band members and fellow travelers depicted didn’t come with names attached. That would have to wait until Klaatu’s next album, Endangered Species.

Klaatu produced five albums in their relatively brief lifetime; all of them offer slices of hope and a little courage, but Sir Army Suit is perhaps the most courageous of all.

radio1Alan 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. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.