“I’d Love One of Those Great Melodic Pop Albums for My Holiday Gift.” That’s Easy.

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Our 2018 Holiday Gift-Giving Guide is in full swing. We’ve got more suggestions for great gifts for your melodic pop-loving friends and family. We lead off today’s post with the new album from Louise Goffin…

Louise Goffin | All These Hellos
(Majority of One, 2018)
An exceptional dialog driven by melody and emotion, All These Hellos is a steamer trunk full of memories placed under a microscope to help us figure our place under the sun.

Anchored by Goffin’s lovely, fragile vocals and superb playing from star musicians such as Fernando Perdomo (whose latest album is reviewed tomorrow), these 10 songs are quite an attractive showcase for superlative songwriting. The artist is clearly invested in these slices of reflective pop; such is the strength of communication with the listener.

The mystical duet with Rufus Wainwright, “Chinatown,” benefits from a lovely melody, peerless singing, and an exquisite string arrangement by Van Dyke Parks. This song, about magic and inspiration alive in a moment, is perfectly placed, coming right before the equally spiritual feel of “Turn to Gold,” its ambience bolstered by a stream of percussive and instrumental grace.

Goffin embraces her pop side with a number of straight ahead, upbeat charmers. “Good Times Call” is a soulful and very catchy sixties-esque pop number about being in love and feeling it. “Life Lessons,” another upbeat pop tune with piano at its core and punctuated by horns, is about being true to yourself and following your heart. And the title song is an inviting mid-tempo number about needing the memories of a childhood place to fade.

“Bridge of Sighs,” the mid-tempo ballad that closes these proceedings, is about investing in a relationship while wondering what the payoff is. The gorgeous chorus is sung in harmony; wordless bursts of harmony come alive towards the end.

It’s difficult to talk about a Louise Goffin album without broaching her lineage. She is, of course, the daughter of… well, if you don’t know, you’ll investigate, and if you do, consider yourself ahead of the game. Adding All These Hellos to your shopping list puts you ahead of the game, too.

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes

Kai Danzberg with Lisa Mychols | “Just Let Me Know”
(Big Stir, 2018)
Up-and-comer Kai Danzberg teams with powerhouse singer-songwriter Lisa Mychols for a catchy, high-energy pop tune that is sure to please. Heavy snare hits, guitars, keys and thumping bass merge for a breathless, explosive four-minute thrill ride that bodes quite well for Danzberg’s upcoming 2019 album on Big Stir, Not Only Sunshine. Terrific.

Where to Get It: Big Stir Digital Singles

Super 8 | Hi Lo
(Futureman, 2018)
He said he’d pull off the tough go of a 2018 hat trick, getting three albums out in a single year, and he’s done it, done it good.

Paul Ryan, d/b/a Super 8, has ended the year with another top-flight recording, 11 strong songs about employing hopefulness along one’s path through life. A fine slice of subject matter, you’ll likely agree.

“Angels and Neil Diamond” is a tremendous piece of writing, an easygoing, acoustic look back on childhood’s glory days, reliving one’s youth through good times and bad. It’s a lovely, affecting song that is followed by proof that the title is holly holy. Ryan presents a clever take on Diamond’s wonderful “Cherry, Cherry,” which is pretty life affirming on its own, especially in Ryan’s recasting of the tune as part garage, part coffee house, and all Super 8.

The Rolling Stones nod, “Good Times” (“Had enough of the bad times”), is a happy stroke in the running order, as is the pop-folk hybrid “Bob Dylan Said That,” about getting by in life with your own vision, and, no doubt, following on from what you’ve learned from the bard’s poetry.

The hits just keep on coming; you’ll love every one of them, delivered in Ryan’s emotive style. And for those of you wondering why the man didn’t go for four albums in a single year, just remember…there’s always 2019.

Where to Get It: Futureman, Kool Kat Musik

P. Hux | This is the One
(Nine 18, 2018)

Eleven songs strong, as much rock as pop, with typically melodic and memorable results, This is the One is a great addition to the Parthenon Huxley catalog. Hux handles all of the guitars and pours the coffee; the supporting players, from drummer Ricky Wise and bassist David Phenicie to keyboard player Dan Clarke and beyond, keep the melodies flowing in catchy numbers like “Running Home to You,” “Real Tough Day,” a mid-tempo melodic relationship song, and the quite catchy “Honey Sweet Baby.” Hux fans: this is the one for you.

black box Where to Get It: CD Baby, Amazon, P. Hux Store

More Great 2018 Releases, Perfect for Gift Giving

We’ve reviewed many terrific 2018 releases recently, any of which would make great gifts for the melodic pop fans in your life. Here are just a few (click on the links to read our reviews and then add the releases to your shopping list):

radio1

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!

Need Gift Ideas for the Melodic Pop Fans In Your Life? For You? We’ve Got ’em, All This Week

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

We are now officially in the 2018 holiday gift giving season. I know…it seems like only yesterday, blah blah blah… Well, it does, but here we are again, faced with making those decisions that, year after year, are just plain hard to make.

Well, we’re here to make it all easier for you. We’re here to help you to choose gifts for the melodic pop fans in your lives (and for yourself). Relax. Below, you’ll find  new reviews of new 2018 releases, in-depth as always, along with links that will take you to the very websites from which you can purchase them. You’ll also find links to previously posted reviews of albums you should consider.

Be with us every day this week. There’s a whole lot of gold out there from which to choose the perfect melodic pop presents for your friends and loved ones. Let’s get started.

Mikah Wilson | Sunshine Grooves
(You are the Cosmos, Burger Records, 2018)
A real find, Los Angeles’s Mikah Wilson pretty much defines the state of sunshine pop in 2018. Let’s just say that if your jam is 1960s Beach Boys, Curt Boettcher, current sensations the Wrecking Two and their like-minded compatriots, this will be your jam, too. Comprising “Sunshine Grooves” and the two songs contained on the “Sweet Jules” single (“Sweet Jules” and “Look at the Way”), this is the soft-pop EP of the moment. Don’t miss it.

black box Where to Get It: You are the Cosmos, Bandcamp

Various Artists | White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams
(Curry Cuts, 2018)

Curry Cuts’ loving tribute to singer, songwriter and all-around entertainer guy Paul Williams, White Lace and Promises, releases on December 7 in digital form and around a week or so later in physical form and on streaming platforms. I’ve already sung its virtues here, where I waxed poetic about some of the tracks. I’ve now heard the entire megillah, so it seems prudent for me to wax poetic some more.

It’s obvious, to me at least, that the artists who have signed on to Andrew Curry’s latest tribute harbor a great affection for Paul Williams’ work; each of the 23 tracks here functions as a great big hug, a happy thank you to the artist for doing what he does so very well.

Here are some of my favorites, standout tracks all:
* “Someday Man.” Zach Jones turns in an affectionate, somewhat faster version than Paul Williams’ cut
* “You and Me Against the World.” Lisa Mychols ramps up the tempo on this classic. The harmonies and electric guitars really shine
* “Rainy Days and Mondays.” Cliff Hillis sings this lovely song, made famous by Karen and Richard Carpenter, solo
* “I Won’t Last a Day Without You.” Chris Price gives the Carpenters’ version a bit of a run for its money, turning in a lead vocal that is sincere and without question his best yet
* “You Give a Little Love.” This song from famed film Bugsy Malone gets a joyous Broadway kind of treatment from the Corner Laughers’ Karla Kane, and it’s fabulous
* “An Old Fashioned Love Song.” Cait Brennan turns one of Paul Williams’ greatest songs into a deeply-felt, alternative romp, centered around Cait’s intense, emotional vocal

“You know you’re gonna be remembered for the things that you say and do,” Karla Kane sings as part of “You Give a Little Love.” Wise words that have deep meaning. The world is going to remember the great works of musical art that Paul Williams and his collaborators have given to the world; here, 23 artists have paid homage to that art, and we, the world’s listeners, are the grateful recipients. White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams is essential listening.

black box Where to Get It: Releases December 7 in digital form and about a week later in physical form and on streaming platforms; you can pre-order on Curry Cuts’ Bandcamp page

Karla Kane | “Goodguy Sun” b/w “Sisters of the Pollen”
(Big Stir, 2018)
Bkarla kane - sisters of the pollen coverkarla-kane-goodguy-sun-coverig Stir Records, helmed by good guy Rex Broome and good gal Christina Bulbenko from the Armoires, have set into motion a series of delicious digital singles with this double-sided wonder from the Corner Laughers’ Karla Kane, whose 2017 folk-pop solo album, King’s Daughters Home for Incurables, was a big spinner on Pure Pop Radio.

“Goodguy Sun,” written by Cleaners from Venus’s Martin Newell, is a charmingly melodic, very British mid-tempo ballad with the Bye Bye Blackbirds’ Bradley Skaught playing alongside usual fellow travelers Khoi Huyhn and KC Bowman (Gina Sperindle contributes lovely vocal harmony). Kane’s “Sisters of the Pollen,” a mesmerizing folk-pop pearl recorded with husband Huyhn, closes out with an a cappella workout and the actual sound of bees doing their business. Delicious.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Big Stir Records

Irwin | Ride On (2018)
Jamie and Steve’s Jamie Hoover worked with Bill Irwin, from late-1980s-1990s Georgia pop-rockers Impulse Ride, to produce this tasty EP, pairing four new tracks with two previously unreleased Impulse Ride tracks from 1994. The new tracks, mostly mid-tempo, tuneful slices of pop, were written by Irwin and Hoover and feature both on a variety of instruments. Of the new songs, “King,” a soulful Beatlesque power ballad with Paul McCartney-inspired bass and an indelible melody, and “Georgia Peach,” an easygoing sway of an Americana-soaked pop song with a lovely, joyous melody, are tops.

black box Where to Get It: CD Baby, Amazon

Kenny Herbert | “I’m Growing Old With You” (2018)
Kenny Herbert’s charming pop confections were a mainstay of my playlists throughout Pure Pop Radio’s 23-year history. I continue to be enthralled by everything Kenny adds to his considerable, collectible catalog. His latest release is a typically melodic, uptempo love song, inspired by Caroline, the love of his life. It has a lovely Bobby Goldsboro-meets-Gallagher and Lyle vibe about it. It’s one of those very special recordings that just makes you feel good to be alive.

Here’s a live take on this wonderful song:

Where to Get It: iTunes

More Great 2018 Releases, Perfect for Gift Giving

We’ve reviewed many terrific 2018 releases, any of which would make great gifts for the melodic pop fans in your life. Here are just a few (click on the links to read our reviews and then add the releases to your shopping list):

radio1

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!

 

Reviews| 11.1.18: Exclusive Preview: White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams

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

Various Artists | White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams
(Curry Cuts, 2018)
white lace and promises the songs of paul williams - curry cuts - cover 2018Singer, songwriter, actor and, really truly, bon vivant Paul Williams has been plying his trade or, more accurately trades, for five decades, making his mark in the wide world of entertainment with Muppets, hit records, and Burt Reynolds in tow (which is really just scratching the surface of his storied career; click here to immerse yourself in Williams’s many and varied greatest hits).

Curry Cuts’ upcoming tribute to Williams (slated for release before year’s end), White Lace and Promises, focuses in on the artist’s considerable artistry as evidenced in the world of song. There are treasures to be found in nearly every nook and cranny of Williams’s recorded output, which touches on a wide variety of song types. (White Lace and Promises is slated for release this year; one song has been released as a single (see below)).

Of all the classic songs he has written, Williams may well be most known by listeners for “Evergreen (Love Theme from “A Star is Born”) and “Rainbow Connection,” the lovely opening number from 1979’s The Muppet Movie (three of the eight songs I’ve heard from White Lace and Promises are from this endearing film).

the davenports evergreen paul williams tribute curry cuts cover

“Evergreen,” written by Williams and Barbra Streisand, plays out in its original form as a slow, emotional ballad; on Curry Cuts’ release, the Davenports up the tempo a bit and season their melodic pop take with pedal steel guitar and Scott Klass’s typically lovely vocal (this track is available as a single, ahead of the album release; see below).

andy reed

Andy Reed

“Rainbow Connection,” written by Williams and Kenny Ascher and essayed on White Lace and Promises by the Legal Matters’ Andy Reed, manifests itself as a waltz punctuated by deep snare hits and widescreen harmonies; a short a cappella section is a nice touch. Reed makes this much-loved song his own in a version overflowing with heart.

andrea perry 5

Andrea Perry

May I wax poetic about some of the other Williams covers I’ve heard from Curry Cuts’ upcoming tribute? “Fill Your Heart,” a showbizzy number written by Williams and singer-songwriter Biff Rose, originally appeared on Rose’s 1968 Tetragrammaton album, The Thorn in Mrs. Rose’s Side, and was covered by both David Bowie on his 1971 album, Hunky Dory, and by Tiny Tim on the flip side of his “Tiptoe through the Tulips” single in 1968. Longtime Pure Pop Radio favorite Andrea Perry’s alluring, poppy version on Curry Cuts’ tribute comes off as something that a cross between Spanky and Our Gang, Margo Guryan and Aimee Mann might come up with.

the corner laughers

The Corner Laughers

In the hands of the Corner Laughers, the easy-going toe-tapper “Movin’ Right Along,” also from The Muppet Movie, moves along at a bit of a faster and busier pace, and sports an electric guitar solo. And do I hear the Laughers’ Karla Kane playfully name-checked near the end?

sitcom neighbor logoOne more White Lace and Promises nugget to preview: Sitcom Neighbor channels Three Dog Night in their tasty, organ-filled version of “Out in the Country,” penned by Williams and Roger Nichols and heard on Williams’s 1972 album, Life Goes On (Three Dog Night’s version was a top 15 hit in 1970).

curry cuts logo 2018So far, so really good. Curry Cuts’ White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams looks to be another hit for the label, the fourth release for the Portland, Oregon start-up, after the entertaining Drink a Toast to Innocence: A Tribute to Lite Rock, Here Comes the Reign Again: The Second British Invasion, and Songs. Bond Songs: The Music of 007.

black box Where to Get It: Coming soon; keep up with the latest announcements concerning White Lace and Promises by following Curry Cuts’ Facebook page. The Davenports’ version of “Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star is Born)” has been released as a single, and is available at Amazon

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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 | 10.31.18: Vegas With Randolph’s Fourth Full-Length Serving, Legs & Luggage

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Vegas With Randolph | Legs & Luggage (2018)

On the Occasion of a Fourth Helping of Vegas With Randolph

vegas with randolph legs and luggage coverFive years ago, a whoop-de-do was set into motion at Northern Virginia’s Jammin’ Java to celebrate the release of Vegas With Randolph’s third album, Rings Around the Sun. The musicians approached, instruments in hand, songs in mind and set up straight across the bandstand; only the drummer, tucked away a bit behind the conga line, was in his own space. He lorded over his high-hat and snare with his toms leering from front to right. And then, he set the beat and the band was set into motion, calling patrons to the stage.

Now, mind you, this scenario doesn’t occur very often, because the lads of Vegas With Randolph, anchored outside of Washington, D.C. by songwriters John Ratts and Eric Kern, who were childhood pals and still are joined at the hip and their guitars and writing songs, as they always have, when they’re not tending to their own families and day jobs, don’t play out or release new albums very often, although their fans, many and plenty, wish that they would.

The lads of Vegas With Randolph, known sometimes by the swinging three-letter calling card VWR, choose to concentrate on recording albums, the fourth of which, Legs & Luggage, has been released. VWR released its first album in 2008, and this is 2018, which means that they have been assembling tuneage for 10 years. You might say their output does not constitute an avalanche, and you’d be right, but the weight of that output is strong and sure, so you’d probably be best not concerning yourself with geology.

Legs & Luggage is VWR’s best album yet. It is a marvel. This is a new-phase Vegas With Randolph album that thunders across the plains with harder-edged chutzpah than their previous releases. The guitars are louder and the sound is more aggressive. The sound is more purposeful, but just as catchy and fun as always.

vegas with randolph legs and luggage blue image“We wanted to kind of rock a little bit on this album,” says John. This is clearly an understatement of some kind, but make no mistake—Vegas With Randolph is a band that has recorded, for this new album, songs with flashy hooks just as they have done all along. This time around, though, there is perhaps a little more oomph spitting out of the band’s engine. This new-phase VWR is a well-oiled and rocking machine.

That the aforementioned oomph, in part, powers the songwriting team of John and Eric is a given, but so does the assembled co-conspirator contingent that plays along with them, skillfully and dutifully, helping the co-pilots steer the ship (a mixed metaphor, I know). Brock Harris’s lyrical guitars and Andy Hamburger’s thundering drums and percussion are essential ingredients in VWR’s new songs—indeed, the songs would not be as alive without them—but the heart and soul of it all may well belong to their bass player, the late and very much missed Dan Aylestock.

vegas with randolph dan ayelstock

Dan Aylestock

Passionate and warm and committed to the music always, Dan passed away last year from liver cancer. A founding member of VWR, he played bass on nearly every one of the songs on each of the band’s releases. These songs on these albums beat with the heart of a player who knew instinctively how to ring emotion out of every note as he traversed up and down the fretboard.

“He would take his time to craft unique parts for every song,” says Eric. “He was always prepared. He was always ready to go.” Just listen to Dan’s work on this album. You will feel his intensity, which manifests itself in any number of ways—with driving force, as on the pounding “She’s an Intellectual,” punching bass notes as one-half of the redoubtable VWR rhythm section, or with sensitivity, in the intro to “I Have You,” and during that ballad’s stronger, more forceful sections.

Dan is right there on this album, which is dedicated to him. Dan is there, and so are the other players, so powerful and electric that their intensity could keep the lights on in a big city for weeks on end. Set the breathless “You Could Say Yes” into motion, propulsive and beat-driven, with fierce drumming, Dan’s pumping bass, and all those guitars keeping the catchy melody afloat, and you’ll see—no, you’ll hear what I mean.

It’s not just the sound of this thing, it’s the words sung sweetly, confidently, meaningfully and powerfully all the way through, telling stories of a scholarly seductress (“She’s An Intellectual”), completely fulfilling forever love (“I Have You”), and riding the roller coaster of love even though it might tug back (“Jacob”). Then, there’s “Three Red Hooks,” presenting the power of music as a metaphor for confident performance with perhaps this album’s most creative lyrics (“Rock steady/Kick it like Eddie/Didn’t know if he meant Van Halen or Vedder/But whatever/While we’re together/We’d better turn it up loud/And kick it on out”).

The songs that make up this fourth Vegas With Randolph album, that present the case for this band being the band of the moment, a band that has come into its own because the songwriters and the players believe in the value of their work more than ever before, are only part of the VWR equation; the way that the songs are written, and how the band performs them, is the rest of it.

“You want a song to be meaningful,” says John. “You want the music to be so catchy that you want to hear it again. You want the lyrics to touch you enough that you want to hear the song again. We’re trying to make people happy. We’re trying to be memorable.”

Employing the talents of Fountains of Wayne’s Jody Porter (on “Chick Fighter”) and Texas popster Lannie Flowers, who cowrote and plays on the lively rocker “The Weekend’s Coming,” certainly helps to make this album memorable. And rocking.

vegas with randolph cd artwork legs and luggage

There will be more Vegas With Randolph recordings after Legs & Luggage; there are more songs, around a dozen of them, in various states of dress, all of which are sparked with the magic of Dan Aylestock’s bass (“The notes he played will have a long sustain,” the band says in Legs & Luggage’s CD booklet). And perhaps, in addition to at least a festive release show for this album, there will be more live performances to come, designed to show people what this band can do in person.

I’ve been there; I’ve seen what this band can do on stage, and I’ve seen how the band members relate to their audience, and each other. I’ve felt the presence of these individual talents, coming together for a common purpose; I’ve seen their faces light up as the music plays and draws people close to them. I’ve felt the warmth and humanity in their songs.

This album is titled Legs & Luggage because the songs are largely about transitioning from one thing to another, about taking chances, about moving on from here to there—about transporting emotion packed neatly, or otherwise, in virtual compartments. Legs & Luggage functions as a bridge to the next chapter in Vegas With Randolph’s life; how that reality will manifest itself is unknown at present. But manifest itself it will.

(The preceding review appears, in a slightly different form, as the liner notes to Vegas With Randolph’s Legs & Luggage)

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon

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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 | 10.30.18: Everet Almond’s Triple Pop Play on CD

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Everet Almond | An Introduction to Everet Almond (Kool Kat Musik, 2018)

Everet Almond | Windsor Field (Kool Kat Musik, 2018)
Everet Almond | Everet Almond (Kool Kat Musik, 2018)

everet almond drums from fb pageWhat I know about Everet Almond I could fit literally on the head of a pin and still have room left for a whole lot more; he’s played drums and percussion with Bryan Scary in Evil Arrows and self-released a number of download-only EPs under the Almond name and as Windsor Field.

What I also know is that this tuneful body of work, very much in the melodic pop style, is now receiving a welcome release on a series of three first time CDs from Ray Gianchetti’s Kool Kat Musik. And now I know even more about this superlative one-man-band, which will certainly leave a little less room on the aforementioned pin. (I also know that it would hardly be out of line to dub the do-it-all Almond the Emitt Rhodes of the 2010s.)

The three releases in Kool Kat’s series shine with weighty slices of melodic pop that more than deserve a place in music collections defined by memorable melody. Let’s take a look at them.

An Introduction to Everet Almond
everet almond - an introduction to coverThe first Kool Kat collection, titled An Introduction to Everet Almond, collects the artist’s first three EPs, originally recorded and released digitally from January 2015 to February 2018: Four Track(s), Left of Center, and Everet Almond Three.

The 14 songs on An Introduction to Everet Almond chart the start of Almond’s musical path, which begins perhaps tentatively as the artist tests the waters before him and ends with more assuredness and a tighter lock on his creative tools. From the early, lo-fi, poppy “Are You a Man” to the uptempo, soulful belter “NYC,” replete with punctuating horns and background vocals, this is the sound of Almond moving quickly ahead, sounding in gear and on target.

Windsor Field
everet almond - windsor field coverBefore adopting the Everet Almond moniker, Almond recorded as Windsor Field; these tracks, now released on Kool Kat as being by Almond in a collection called Windsor Field, catapult the artist’s sound into the pop stratosphere. They are full-fidelity recordings of assured compositions performed with a boatload of gusto.

A trio of Windsor Field’s numbers pretty much define the state of Almond as Field: the upbeat, piano-based, perky “Cry” is an infectious, catchy gem with attractive harmonies; the lovely, folk-pop “Come Home” jumps along atop a plunky bass line and a sweet melody; and the Cars-like “To Your Head” hits with clever background vocal bursts and another enticing melody.

Everet Almond
everet almond - everet almond coverAlmond’s full-length, self-titled collection, the third in Kool Kat’s series and the first release recorded as a full-length, is a joyous listen from start to finish; ears will perk up to the catchy pure popper “I Love You,” courting a delicious melody and joyous harmonies, and, by contrast, the upbeat, guitar-based, harmony-laden pop-rocker “Don’t You Need Me?”. The ultra-poppy “Beautiful Neighbor” boasts all of Almond’s strengths, not the least of which is the song’s rich harmony component and a particularly clever, pumping piano part.

So now I, and you, know a whole lot about Everet Almond. You, and I, are witness to a wealth of wonderful, melodic pop music crafted by a most talented artist. Get listening and singing along, won’t you?

black box Where to Get It: All at Kool Kat Musik’s Online Pop Catalog Store: An Introduction to Everet Almond, Windsor Field, and Everet Almond (self-titled latest release)

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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 | 10.17.18: The Grip Weeds’ Energetic Trip Around the Sun

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The Grip Weeds | Trip Around the Sun (Jem, 2018)
TATS Cover 1500 x 1500Either the members of the Grip Weeds are, to coin a phrase, cautiously rambunctious or they’re settling into a new, more connected mindset. And by connected, I mean tugging liberally on yesterday’s signposts at the same time as they’re poised to swim contentedly in contemporary musical waters.

Your guess is as good as mine, I guess, but whichever direction you’re leaning, you will have to admit that this well-oiled quartet is firing on all cylinders with a pulsating set of songs that generally and simultaneously beat with a sixties heart and a contemporary pulse.

The Grip Weeds–Kurt Reil, Kristin Pinell Reil, Rick Reil, and Dave DeSantis, top-flight instrumentalists all–have been keeping busy; they released their previous album, How I Won The War, in 2015, and Force of Nature: Live In NYC, a concert DVD, last year. And they crafted this latest collection of songs at their home base, House of Vibes, the studio they operate in Highland Park, New Jersey. For the dozen songs they’ve chosen to populate Trip Around the Sun with, they have upped the level of urgency normally associated with their work. In other words, business as usual, with a bit more zing.

In the well-appointed, melody-drenched opener, “Vibrations,” the stage is set with a mix of chiming guitars and rich harmony parts. Not for the first time on this album, I felt as though I were listening to Free Design vocalizing decades after that group’s 1960s and 1970s heyday. The effect that the Grip Weeds have achieved with this song alone is hall-of-fame worthy.

the grip weeds band photo september 2018So it should hardly come as a surprise to listeners that the band’s deft weaving together of yesterday’s musical signposts and today’s contemporary approaches continue throughout these songs. Take the poppy “After the Sunrise,” for example, which slides from tender acoustic to more upbeat electric guitar stances so expertly, with a lovely melody and sweet harmonies in tow.

The muscular “Truth Behind the Lie,” an old song now finally recorded, ups the ante, past the winning Free Design vocal harmony approach, with a fluid, rubbery, John Entwistle-y bass line and an infectious Who-meets-Byrds vibe (there is no mistaking the Roger McGuinn-like solo a little more than halfway through). To my mind, this is Trip Around the Sun’s best slice of madness.

The rocking, energetic to a fault “Casual Observer (To a Crime),” sung by multi-instrumentalist Reil, his voice pinning in the red, explodes with a get-out-of-its-way electric guitar solo and, unusual for a Grip Weeds record, a blazing horn section (Vincent Troyani on tenor sax, Jim Bell on trumpet, and Tom Rosenthal on bari sax). And I haven’t even mentioned the surprising marching band intro…well, I guess I just did.

The whole pop-rocking ball of wax rolls into the exhaustive closer, the six-minute-long title track, which states its introductory case firmly opened in widescreen, Who territory and concludes with all instruments and vocals blazing and coming together in an impassioned burst of emotion.

All of the songs on Trip Around the Sun are, in fact, impassioned bursts of emotion. This will come as no surprise to the Grip Weeds faithful; to everyone else, this will come as a revelation. What a welcome burst of energetic joy this album brings!

black box Where to Get It: The Grip Weeds’ Trip Around the Sun Store, Amazon
(Release date: October 19)

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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 | 10.11.18: Ken Sharp, The Cherry Bluestorms, Lannie Flowers, The Lunar Laugh, and Pat Walsh

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

Ken Sharp | Beauty in the Backseat (2018)
ken sharp beauty in the backseat 2018 coverFancy spinning a big old super-sized love letter to 1970s pop, like the kind you might have heard on AM radio back in the day? Ken Sharp’s fun follow-up to his sterling 2016 long player, New Mourning, might well be just your ticket.

Played mostly by Ken and co-producer Fernando Perdomo, with guest appearances by Hall and Oates’ John Oates, Utopia’s Kasim Sulton, Kiss’s Ace Frehley, Marshall Crenshaw, and melodic pop stalwart Rob Bonfiglio, Beauty in the Backseat plays its affectionate and catchy cards throughout.

The poppy, upbeat “Lemons to Lemonade,” decked out in Kyle Vincent-esque splendor, presents a narrator who turns sad into glad. “Listen to Me” is a feel-good number about people taking “a million tiny steps” to come together and make a difference. And “Philly Kind of Night” brings the aforementioned John Oates to the microphone to provide soulful background vocals for a tribute to the art of Philadelphia soul, this time adorned with Ken’s usual pop edge.

Don’t miss “Rock Show,” which gets these proceedings off to a showstopping start, telling the story of a band getting ready to hit the stage and make musical magic. Ace Frehley delivers an energetic, runaway guitar solo during the close. The sobering balladic tribute to a favorite, fallen musician, “The Day that David Bowie Died,” is an affecting song, and the should-be-a-radio-hit, happy-sounding “The Hardest Part” concerns itself with the dissolution of a relationship and the avoidance of any measure of regret that might follow.

Solid.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Amazon

The Cherry Bluestorms | Whirligig! (2018)
the cherry bluestorms whirligig album coverThe Los Angeles-based pop-rockers Deborah Gee and Glen Laughlin take the world stage with their most assured and accessible long player yet.

Mixing Rolling Stones affects from the Brian Jones era with other mid-sixties sounds, the Bluestorms deliver a smashing collection of songs sure to please. The rolling rocker “Heel to Toe,” sporting a most melodic, very catchy chorus is one such pearl; the flattering, rocky, Gee-sung portrait “Roy Wood,” which quotes the Stones rather cleverly and takes an unexpected turn at the end with a comforting, orchestrated coda is another.

Other nuggets include the Stonesy “Rays of the Sun” and “Seven League Boots,” and the lovely “Caroline,” which announces itself as a gentle acoustic number and ends up a full-band excursion with a pretty melody. The closing, anthemic “Be Here Now” shows off multi-instrumentalist Glen Laughlin’s guitar prowess in grand style, as he blisters off into the sunset. Excellent entry into the growing Bluestorms catalog.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, iTunes

Lannie Flowers | “Where Did All the Fun Go” (2018)
lannie flowers where did coverThe eighth in the continuing series of ace songs given away for free during the run-up to his upcoming album Home, “Where Did All the Fun Go” is an upbeat, catchy explosion of melody and sentiment relating to the good memories that fade in the face of today’s fast-paced world. Dig the harmony-drenched a cappella ending and the rocking sitar! Already, before Home arrives, Lannie has released nearly an album’s worth of classic, top-flight tracks. Dig it, indeed!

black box Where to Get It: Spyderpop Records (Free download)

The Lunar Laugh | “By the Light of the Living Room” (2018)
the lunar laugh by the light of the living room coverWith George Harrison-y slide guitar in tow, Jared Lekites’ latest, slated for inclusion on the Lunar Laugh’s next album, is a catchy slice of happy-sounding melodic pop about a sore subject–a fractured relationship that might, could possibly be saved (“When I woke up you were crying/Bitter tears that made me feel like dying/Is it too late to kiss and make up/We’ve been together too long to break up”). An attractive chorus shines. Don’t miss it.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Pat Walsh | “Another Nightingale” (2018)
pat walsh another nightingaleAn always reliable songwriter and performer, encountered early in the run of the weekly Pure Pop Radio Show on WEBR, Pat Walsh continues to release luscious, sophisticated, and genuinely affecting melodic pop songs. His latest, a lovely mid-tempo ballad about hope wiping away the darkness in a person’s life, is sung sweetly and built around ingenious chord changes. Pat never fails to impress.

black box Where to Get It: Listen on YouTube. After listening, Pat would love it if you would leave a comment on his YouTube page telling him how much you liked this song.

radio1

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.