New on Pure Pop Radio 4-7-21: The Weeklings Fool No One, Astral Drive’s Summery Breeze, and Ken Sharp Creates Dreamy Miniatures

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By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The Weeklings | “April’s Fool” (Jem, 2021)

Really, truly, you just couldn’t–you just couldn’t have picked a better day to release this rollicking, very Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack kind of tune, very Merseybeat-ish with a healthy dose of toe-tappery and a clever-beyond-compare aural allusion to a certain Fab track beloved by zillions.

Amirite, Mr. Jem? I should think so!

New Jersey’s Fabbest Four return with a hot-to-trot track kicking off with Smokestack’s pounding, beatitudinal drum swipes and the narrator’s spot-on reportage of the girl in front of him–“Dressed to the nines, you were so / Out of my league,” he sings, and she answers: “She said it’s alright boy, wontcha come home with me.” But all is not well, as it turns out–our narrator is an April’s fool.

But this track is no fool, name-checking a fave Beatles song title at 1:18, jumping head, hands and feet first into a joyous “Hey Bulldog” nod for 31 blissful seconds from 2:05, and going sweet a cappella for a quick bit before turning the whole rocking compote into a faux funk workout before the fade puts the track to rest.

It comes as no surprise that Lefty and Zeek turn in some truly impressive vocal-chord-stretching workouts, that Lefty wrings every possible emotion out of his bass strings, that Smokestack keeps the beat alive, that Rocky’s guitarring astounds one and all, all the way through. It comes as no surprise that “April’s Fool” is one heck of a track–a classic among all of the Weeklings tracks that came before it.

A must-have? Why, certainly.

Where to Get It: AmazonApple Music

Astral Drive | “No Matter What” (Lojinx, 2021)

The forces of magic and nature emanating from West London in the United Kingdom know no boundaries; even the ongoing pandemic year cannot keep Phil Thornalley, working tirelessly and social distancy in his Swamp studio, from his appointed rounds, during which he fills the hearts of melodic pop lovers with joy just when they need it most.

So it is absolutely no surprise that Phil’s Astral Drive project keeps rolling along with cheery, Todd Rundgren-esque nuggets, except when they’re not Rundgren-esque at all; Astral Drive’s latest release, a sweet reimagining of Badfinger’s “No Matter What,” is all Phil, all the time.

On this astral plane, “No Matter What” sheds its power pop roots for a seasonal, summery approach. Atop a light bossa nova beat and acoustic guitar pluckings, Phil sings softly as the Thornalley singers (all Phil, all the time) ooh and ooh some more just when they’re needed most, while Sally Herbert and Ian Burdge play violins and cello according to Phil’s delicate string arrangement, punctuated by particularly effective wriggling string parts that sound for all the world like slight wind gusts turning the page of a book outside on a warm day.

Welcome in to your world Astral Drive’s take on “No Matter What,” a classic song reimagined with joy and spirit in mind.

Where to Get It: AmazonApple Music

Ken Sharp | Miniatures (2021)

In your dream, it’s as if, on a summery day in August, say, or July, even, you find yourself riding through the countryside in your convertible, top down, your hair floating every which way, sunglasses filtering out the brightest light, and you come to a fork in the road; your GPS is no good here, but you luckily have a keen sense of direction.

That way, then, it is; you eschew your electronic signal and hold your left hand outward like in the old days, when you took your driving test and the instructor demanded you signal the old-fashioned way. You drive for a minute, maybe two, and there it is, a compact house built with various sizes of stone, surrounded by a finely-kept lawn. You drive up, park and walk to the front door; as you get closer to the knob, you start hearing the sounds being made inside by a musician who’s been making music for decades, lovely, short songs, a mix of baroque, folk, sixties and seventies soft pop; you knock on the door and you hear “Come on in,” so you do. You wipe your feet on the rug that says “Smile all who enter here.”

And the music plays on–guitars, keyboards, vibes, bell trees, mellotrons, ebows, bass, maracas, handclaps, and the human voice, singing sweetly and filling the house with love and joy and melodies. You meet the music maker, as you had pre-arranged; he introduces himself and says his name is Ken; his hands are busy making the sounds you are hearing, so you don’t shake his. You ask what kind of music he is making and Ken says, “I’m making catchy music–short songs, stretches of idea, none longer than a minute and fifty-seven seconds.” The shortest, Ken offers, is 50 seconds.

“There are 32 of what I call ‘Miniatures,’ and they’re a whole lot different than what I usually do. They’re lo-fi, too, but high in fiber.” Why do you call them Miniatures, you ask. “Because that’s what they are,” Ken says, smiling. “Are you doing all of this by yourself?”, you wonder aloud. “Well, Fernando Perdomo and Kaitlin Wolfberg pop up every so often, but otherwise, it’s all me.” You smile and you know that this is all a dream, or at least that’s how this all feels, the music evoking memories of Harpers Bizarre and the Left Banke and Curt Boettcher and the mid-sixties Beach Boys, among others, washing over and around and within you, sounding so comfortable as if it is all a part of you, which, of course, it is, because these are the sounds that ground you in your life, sounds that have been with you ever since you heard sounds like these growing up in decades past, from the radio, from your parents’ stereo, from your record player. This is what gets created, Ken says, when creation is filled with love.

“This is the kind of music I would play at home, at picnics, in the basement, in the attic, in the wherever,” you say. Ken says this will all be finished soon and ready for public consumption, to which you say “That is a good thing.” And then, suddenly, you wake; it all feels so real, this dream you had, and then you find yourself listening to the finished project and feeling as though you have heard it all before. And you phone a friend or instant message or tweet or whatever the kids do today to stay in touch, and you say, “You’ve got to hear these ‘Miniatures’ that Ken created. This is how dreams become reality. You really must make these ‘Miniatures’ yours.”

Miniatures by Ken Sharp

Miniatures by Ken Sharp

Miniatures by Ken Sharp

Where to Get It:  BandcampApple Music

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Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premier website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, interviews and a wide variety of features.

New on Pure Pop Radio 2-4-21: Terry Draper’s Lost, Dave Caruso’s Radio-Friendly Radiophonic Supersonic and Astral Drive’s ’70s Rundgren Breeze, “Water Lilies,” Dazzle

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By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Terry Draper | Lost (2020)
In dreams, captivated by the promise of a slate wiped clean, of the promise of better days, of being lost in a new world different enough from the old one to matter, of not having to look over your shoulder, you are safe, as the title song, placed first in the running order of Terry Draper’s beautifully realized, hopeful and atmospheric song cycle, Lost, proffers.

“One door will open as another closes,” Terry sings, as the heart of the next song, “A New Journey,” plays and reveals itself. “Let a new journey begin,” comes the offer, and with that you reach out into the unknown universe ahead and follow along because you feel safe and secure. The feelings espoused by these melodically rich songs, Terry’s latest–and possibly his best–are weaved into a thoughtful song cycle that is real and comforting. In any universe, Lost is akin to being found, of being comforted and seeing–tasting–a safe and prosperous path forward.

Being comforted sometimes also means knowing when what is revealed is not what it seems, as the narrator of the sprightly confection “A Walk in the Park,” sweetened by Dana and Tricia Countryman’s lovely background vocal harmonies, finds: “The children all were playing tag / But now the kids are playing rough / I’m running home with all my stuff.” The smooth surfaces upon which we walk are sometimes accented by hard-to-see potholes of a sort; still, what you will find, in the end, on your journey is worth the risk. Look ahead with hope and wonder!

Also worth the risk are a foraging trip through space by the Voyager satellite (“I am Voyager,” a very Klaatu-sounding song with room to breathe and Spongetone Jamie Hoover’s lovely background vocals), and coming to the realization that “Home” is where the heart, and brain, are, as long as you accept the reality of our shared situation and know what’s what (“I’m tellin’ you all to stay at home / If you’re feelin’ lonely pick up a book / Pick up the phone / Yes, I’m tellin’ you all to stay at home / But if you feel you must go out / Please send your clone”). “Home,” a fanciful number with a lyrical tongue planted firmly in cheek, is made all the more enjoyable by Probyn Gregory’s ukelele, Dana Countryman’s “clarinet wrangling,” and Lisa Mychols’ background vocals.

During your journey through Lost and Terry Draper’s universe of possibilities, believe in what you see and stay the course, as the song “Armchair Travelers” lays out in directional fashion: “When you’re leaving your neighbourhood / Leaving your town / Crossing the borderline / No, don’t turn around.” Keep moving forward. Sage advice.

In Terry Draper’s more than capable hands, as you listen to Lost and contemplate the melodic wonders ahead, you will find yourself face-to-face with an array of characters such as Queen Victoria, Ponce de Leon, an assortment of bullies covering up their lack of confidence, sultans, and lost worlds needing to be found. In Terry Draper’s more than capable hands, within songs scored with a classic songwriter’s muscle and supported with ace guest appearances from Lisa Mychols, Dana and Tricia Countryman, and Jamie Hoover, Lost is found.

(More relentlessly clever videos, created by Jamie Grant for Lost’s songs, can be viewed here.)

Where to Get It: terrydraper.com, Amazon, Apple Music, Bandcamp

Dave Caruso | Radiophonic Supersonic (2020)
Michigander Caruso follows up his 2017 stunner Buddha Pesto Manifesto with a high-wire act that one would expect from a seasoned musician of four decades and counting: a 10-song, radio-friendly batch of hit-single-worthy tracks that instantly registers with waiting ears.

Songs like the jangly “Little Miss Sunshine” and equally upbeat slices of catchy melodic pop such as “The Drop,” with its attractive hanging chord at the end, and the energetic “A Piece of the Action” are top-tier compositions played with drive and gusto, a Caruso trademark.

But listeners should be most attracted to three soulful pop songs that hover high atop the plain of extraordinary musical creations: “Tuesday’s Gone,” a clever, affecting, enchanting mix of instrumentation wrapped in a dreamlike ribbon of orchestration that would sound grand segued with Sting’s “Seven Days,” another song concerned with the days of the week; “Indelible,” a Philly soul vibe featuring a 14-second-long vocal-less bridge of sorts driven by piano, xylophone and orchestration; and “Heaven Minus Love,” that recalls the soulful pop of 1980s beloved band, ABC.

Radiophonic Supersonic by Dave Caruso

Radiophonic Supersonic by Dave Caruso

Dave Caruso is the type of artist who burns the midnight oil over every note and lyric syllable until each and every one is just right, and it shows. On this release that has garnered boatloads of acclaim from the melodic pop community, Dave has continued his strong winning streak and laid the groundwork for a swell of anticipation for his next release.

Radiophonic Supersonic is a triumphant winner.

Where to Get It: davecarusomusic.com, Bandcamp, Apple Music, Kool Kat Musik

Astral Drive | “Water Lilies” (2021, Lojinx)
Pure Pop Radio favorite, super-producer and artist extraordinaire Phil Thornalley returns with another sweetheart swing-and-sway-on-a-lazy-summer’s-day (yes, even in the cold, snowy winter) mid-tempo ballad bathed in the aura of the Hermit of Mink Hollow, aka Todd Rundgren. “Water Lilies,” a dreamy landscape of a tune about true heart-to-heart love, posits a deeply felt attraction painted in a wide swath of color and feeling (“Do you know what my love is / It’s never ending / Like the giant canvasses of water lilies”) as it projects a melody that is warm and true.

With “Water Lilies,” recorded in his garage in 2020 and now released as the lead track from Astral Drive’s upcoming, much-anticipated sophomore album, Thornalley has graced the start of this pandemic year with the sweet sounds of hummable love.

Where to Get It: Apple Music, Amazon

Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premier website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, interviews and a wide variety of features.

Reviews: 6.25.19: Astral Drive’s Plea for Love, Butch Young’s Stories of People in Crisis, and Farrington’s Retro-Fueled Pretty Pictures

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Astral Drive | “Wishing I Could Change the World”
(Lojinx, 2019)

Phil Thornalley, Britain’s champion of 1970s-era Todd Rundgren, returns as his Astral Drive nom de plume with a joyful Dave Bascombe (Tears for Fears) radio remix of “Wishing I Could Change the World,” originally waxed for 2018’s self-titled Astral Drive album. Also on board: two new tracks.

A plea for love becoming the constant that makes everything alright (“I keep wishing that the world would change / Love come pouring down like gentle rain / I’m still praying / Dreaming like every boy and girl / Wishing we could change the world”), the song’s jubilant, hopeful arrangement, and yearning vocal signify the coming of a melodic pop standard that really can change the world.

Accompanying the Bascombe-ized “Wishing I Could Change the World” are two new tracks, easily slottable into your growing Astral Drive collector’s bucket. A passionate, slowed-down take on the classic “Up On the Roof,” complete with Thornalley’s Rundgren-ized, understated vocal harmony stacks, draws new levels of emotion from the lyric (“Right smack dab in the middle of town / I’ve found a paradise that’s trouble proof”). The roof, in the case of Goffin and King’s classic song, is the perennial happy place, where hope triumphs over the alternative.

“Who Loves You,” essentially a new song (an unfinished number that didn’t make the Astral Drive album), “…is about how life can change in a heartbeat and how insecurity can haunt us just as easily as love can lift us,” according to Thornalley, quoted on the Lojinx website. Another Rundgren-esque number and as good as anything on the Astral Drive album, “Who Loves You” is a question perhaps best asked…up on the roof, where the answer should become clear.

Another melodic triumph for Astral Drive, this new single shines a light on the world at large, praying for love to conquer all.

Where to Get It: Lojinx, Amazon, iTunes

Butch Young | “Captain Serious” b/w “Beautiful Dreamer”
(Big Stir, 2019)

For all the sour, sad sack boys and girls out there, Butch Young’s eminently catchy, sweet-with-the-sour, Brian Wilson-with-a-touch-of-George Harrison ditty “Captain Serious,” about a guy to whom a smile is just a frown turned upside down, is your song. For everyone else, this song is a melodic pop confection par excellence from a Pure Pop Radio favorite.

I quote lyrics fairly often in my reviews, because I believe the words married to music are just as important in the long run, if not more so. Young’s depiction of this much-too-serious captain of his industry includes some rather clever wordsmithing. To wit: “Captain Serious / Is looking sour as a lime or a grape / His face is dour as some days-old lemonade / Left to spoil in the rain”. And this: “Oh, did your mom make you so? / She never really let you play your rock ‘n’ roll / Oh, did your Dad come home / And catch you reading Tolstoy all alone?”

The flip of this sterling Big Stir digital single, “Beautiful Dreamer,” a wonderful, dramatically orchestrated, catchy ELO-ish ballad, charts the course of a person who hides within sleep to avoid doom and gloom (“Bad feelings bottled up and then / An imminent calamity / Run baby, run”). Will these bad feelings pass, beautiful dreamer? “Have another wink or two / Before you spring to life / When will you open up / Your heart to see / The spell you’re under?”

Young’s 2016 album, Mercury Man, was a big hit for me, and was one of the bright stars of my Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2016 feature. I wrote: “Butch Young’s miraculous, hall-of-fame-worthy album is a modern classic by way of its dazzling array of 1970s-styled instant classic songs, peppered with a mix of Paul McCartney and Harry Nilsson-esque magic. Every one of these Los Angeles-based artist’s songs is a clear winner, like the title track, ‘Persephone,’ ‘One Foot In,’ and ‘The Fools of May.'”

I also said Mercury Man was awesome. And so are these incredible, miraculous songs that make up the 31st Big Stir digital single offering (both are earmarked for an album release next year). Don’t miss this one.

Where to Listen and Get ’em: Big Stir Digital Singles (scroll to the second entry)

Farrington | Pictures of Pretty Things (2019)

This monumental, audacious bundle of retro-fueled imagination, wackadoo musical composition and performance closes with a majestic, classically-influenced instrumental in which impassioned orchestration and lyrical guitar work play as the audience exits the auditorium–you being the audience and your music listening room being the auditorium.

But don’t exit the auditorium just yet: hang in there for the last 12 seconds of this album’s title track, the very last track, when a burst of packed-tight harmony voices shouting “Pretty things!” bounces off the walls like a Spalding® High-Bounce Handball. It’s a reminder of what you’ve just heard: a never-mind-the-boundaries kind of album in which glam meets pop meets rock meets all sorts of other stuff, too.

Farrington’s Pictures of Pretty Things packs a box set’s worth of ideas and musical manipulations into just about 35 minutes of–what’s the word I used up top? Audacious? Well, audacious it all is, without a doubt.

Farrington, aka mad musical scientist James Patrick, works his magic in a Queen frame of mind, singing like a glam superstar with a pure pop heart. And save for a few harder-edged rockers, the artist stays put squarely in a melodic pop sandbox which, for my tastes, is an eminently satisfying domicile.

Piano and other keyboards, played with passion, save for one song, by Farrington, majorly drive these songs, although the drums, played by co-producer Marcos de la Cruz, also pack quite a desirable punch. Anthony King, playing a good chunk of the guitar and bass parts, and other fine folks, including Kai Danzberg and Fernando Perdomo, help to make this astounding mix of great songs and performances a towering achievement. These songs are all about the sound and how the hooks aplenty grab hold of you and don’t let go.

Achieving towering status are any number of top-drawer tunes, including the ultra-poppy “The Love Show,” a mid-tempo Queen-tinged song which is ultimately about love, love, love; the power-poppy “Long Way to Nowhere,” ultimately about the power of music (“Blondie dancing in a heart of glass / She makes me dizzy”); and “When I Was You,” an uptempo beat-driven pop song about ultra-disappointment in a doomed relationship (“I wish you were dead, she said / Yeah, I guess the feeling is more than mutual / So take me back to yesterday / When I was you”).

These songs are all about the sound; frankly, I’m not entirely sure what most of these songs are about, but they sure sound good as good can be. “Blue,” a mid-tempo pop-rocker bops ahead with a decidedly Sweet “Love is Like Oxygen” vibe that is intensely infectious. And “Violins,” another poppy pick-to-click, tells the tale of a girl in a shaky relationship who finds solace in the sound of violins (“She listens to violins / And her imagination runs wild again / She listens to violins / The music makes her smile again”).

A box set’s worth of magical ideas imaginatively whipped into shape by a mad musical scientist who knows how to mix just the right ingredients, Pictures of Pretty Things is one heck of an achievement.

Where to Get It: Check back soon for purchase links

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Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August.

Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

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

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

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

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

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

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

Astral Drive’s captain ushers in the new year…

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

Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes (stream on Spotify)

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Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended this last August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today. Happy New Year!

Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2018

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Happy New Year, and welcome to the list.

About said list…it was the subject of my one and only New Year’s resolution: to keep the number of entries to 15. Well, good luck with that, I told myself, and wouldn’t you know it…I couldn’t make that work. How about 20? No? Okay then, how about 22? Twenty-two it is.

My annual list of the year’s best full-length releases collects what are, to me, the absolute top of the pops–the very bestest of the bunch. I liked and loved and adored many more long players, of course, but these are the ones I thought about and returned to the most.

As in past years, my favorite records of the year are listed in random order. I’ve never been able to compile lists of any kind in order of importance, size, or weight; my number five of today might drop to number 11 or rise two spots tomorrow, depending on my mood. So, random order it is.

Here are some truly exceptional releases–Pure Pop Radio’s Favorite Records of the Year: The Stars of 2018, presented randomly, all shiny and bright, all perfect for a place in your collection of great melodic pop music. A gathering of honorable mentions appears after the main list.

Enjoy.

David Myhr | Lucky Day (Lojinx, 2018)
A beautifully rendered selection of melody-rich songs from one of melodic pop music’s greatest practitioners, Lucky Day is the sound of a master songwriter’s loving embrace.

A warmhearted musical journey, Lucky Day’s 10 lovingly crafted songs, written solo and with some of melodic pop’s top writers, feature beautiful melodies and top-notch playing and singing. All contribute to one of 2018’s best albums. “Room to Grow,” written with Pure Pop Radio favorite Bill DeMain, about giving a romance all the chances it deserves to prosper, is just one gorgeous example of the treasures on offer.

Produced by Brad Jones, Andreas Dahlbäck and Myhr, Lucky Day is a wonderful gift to lovers of melodic pop.

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, Lojinx

The Cherry Drops | Good to the Last Drop (2018)
On-air and mobile deejay Vern Shank’s melange of bubblegum and sunshine pop populates the Cherry Drops’ third welcome, rousing collection of smile-inducing songs that simultaneously evoke memories of favorite old songs and create memories of new numbers written and performed in the manner of the ’60s and ’70s.

Featuring co-writes with fellow Cherry Drop Joshua Cobb and classic popsters such as the Archies’ Ron Dante, the Grass Roots’ Mark Dawson, and the late Gary DeCarlo of Steam, and choice covers of treasured hit classic numbers, Good to the Last Drop is a mighty fun ride.

“One More Try” is a Paul McCartney-esque mid-tempo slice of pure pop topped with Queen-styled electric guitar runs. “Feels Like Summer Love” is a loving nod to ’60s Beach Boys balladry, maybe the truest such tip of the hat in recent memory. The harmonies are gorgeous. The Cherry Drops pay homage to the Lovin’ Spoonful’s classic “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice,” bringing in original Spoonful member Steve Boone on bass and opening with a lovely a cappella-over-keyboard opening.

A fun time will be had by all.

black box Where to Get It: The Cherry Drops’ Website, CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes

mothboxer open sky coverMothboxer | Open Sky (2018)
Dave Ody’s outfit stretches into some of the most creative, expression-filled songs of its long history on an album steeped in clever songcraft. A coming together and pulling apart experience built around surprising chord changes and elastic melodies, set against primarily alternative instrumental backings, Open Sky is aptly named.

Among the many highlights: “Sunshine Sound,” a slow-to-mid tempo song set sound-wise vaguely in the Beach Boys’ Holland era, and “Million Miles Away,” perhaps the most immediate sounding song on the album, a piano-based tune with harmony vocals that shine.

Open Sky is a keeper, maybe Mothboxer’s best.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Mothboxer’s Web Store

Alice Bierhorst | Ready for My Close-Up (2018)
The followup to 2016’s The Beacon is an even more astute collection of piano-based musical wizardry from this New York-based artist. High art meets accessible in these 10 songs that recall the works of early Carly Simon, Claire Hamill and Laura Nyro.

The title song is a pleasing, dramatic collision of Broadway and British folk. “Save It for a Rainy Day” is a slow burn of a ballad that shows off Bierhorst’s dynamic vocal range. “Beginners” is a drawing room waltz that rolls atop Peter Kiesewalter’s lively arrangement.

Call it all classical pop or singer-songwriter musings for the 2010s, but do call it yours by adding Ready for My Close-Up to your collection of smart pop. Bierhorst’s melodies reach the highest heights; Bierhorst is ready for her close-up, and then some.

black box Where to Get It: Alice Bierhorst’s Website, Bandcamp

Danny Wilkerson | Wilkerson (Spyderpop, 2018)
Working 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.

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. Like 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.

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.

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

McPherson Grant | McPherson Grant (2018)
Paying sweet homage to the melodic pop ruling class headed by Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney, Klaatu, Brian Wilson and the like, Scott McPherson and Jamie 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 and honestly assessing the less-than-attractive situation ensure repeatability.

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”).

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), and featuring guest turns by Zak Nilsson and Klaatu’s Terry Draper and Dee Long, Song travels the path negotiated by so many artists who came before them, but in a way that is significantly and characteristically their own. Song is a marvel.

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

The Davenports | Don’t Be Mad at Me (2018)
Scott Klass and crew’s fourth long player, arriving 18 years after their smashing debut, Speaking Of, is the usual collection of literate, assured, thinking person’s pop songs. Anchored by the masterful title song, a tremendously enriching melodically-charged experience about a family light whose world has slowed to a crawl, who is needing help to maneuver through her days, this album swims in waters populated with one incredibly rich song after another.

“Away From Me,” sporting a typically attractive Klass melody, is a vaguely countryish construct about saying goodbye to one side of one’s personality, supported by strings that bend somewhat ominously around the melody. And “I Don’t Know What to Do,” an insanely catchy kind of left-field number co-written by Klass and David Myhr, is built around a clever, rocky riff and does its business in just over two minutes. It’s quite ingenious.

A great album.

black box Where to Get It: The Davenports’ Online Store, Amazon, Kool Kat Musik, iTunes

Caper Clowns | A Salty Taste to the Lake (2018)
The mighty Caper Clowns are back with their sophomore long player, another well-crafted collection of top-flight melodic pop gems. From the undeniably catchy opening confection “The Way I Dream,” which sports a clever acoustic guitar riff and an enchanting melody, to “Sacre Bleu,” a piano-based, harmony wonder that sounds like the kind of song radio should be embracing and sending up to the top of the charts, A Salty Taste to the Lake is a winner all the way. That makes two in a row. Good job, guys.

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

Les Bicyclettes de Belsize | The Twelve Days of Christmas (2018)
A late-year surprise and not only a charming, top-flight holiday-themed album but one of the best melodic pop albums of the year, Charlie Darling’s collection of original from-the-heart Christmas songs will warm you like a heaping cup of peppermint candy cane-flavored good cheer.

Bittersweet holiday tales told in pretty swaths of lovingly rendered melody, and sung with an everyman’s sweetness, color this delightful song cycle; sincere, understated orchestration, a literary approach to lyrical conceits, and a pinch of sleigh bells catch the ear time and again in lovely slow- and mid-tempo-ballads.

Darling’s vocals, sort of a contemporary cross between the tones of the Big Dish’s Steven Lindsay and Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant, are key to making  songs like gentle ballads “Every Christmas,” about missing a love gone away grab hold of your heart. And then the artist changes course: “Andy Partridge (From XTC)” is a spirited pop sprint substituting the names of pop and rock bands through the ages for the various creatures evidenced in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (Three Dog Night, the Dave Clark Five, Gang of Four, Nine Inch Nails and Joe Strummer (strumming), among them).

One of the best albums of the year, Christmas-oriented or not? Yes, indeed.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Bill Lloyd | Working the Long Game (Spyderpop, 2018)
Bill Lloyd, one of melodic pop’s most distinguished practitioners of the art, has released one of the very best albums of 2018, with which you will fall in love.

Working the Long Game’s dozen melodic pearls, whether written solo or with top song scribes like 10cc’s Graham Gouldman, Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson, and Wanderlust’s Scot Sax, are gorgeous, instantly classic gems of the Lloydian variety. Like the co-write with Graham Gouldman, “What Time Won’t Heal,” about letting love in again after a relationship withers away (“What time won’t heal/Love will repair/And if you open up your heart/You’ll find it there”).

The closer, “Shining,” is a beautiful ballad of the one-man-band variety that features some lovely sixties-inspired guitar lines and harmonies. The narrator sings about his true love and you will feel the emotion. It’s all fantastic, so get ready to fall in love.

black box Where to Get It: Spyderpop, Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, CD Baby

Fernando Perdomo | Zebra Crossing (2018)
Recorded in famed Abbey Road Studios and in Perdomo’s own Reseda Ranch Studios, the wearer of many musical hats’ fourth album is a rich tapestry of styles centered around the artist’s considerable composing and instrumental prowess. It’s a clear winner.

Highlights are many. The gorgeous ballad, “I’m Here,” is as good and classy an opening track as one could imagine; a strong melody and emotive vocals make the proceedings shine. The poppy “Sometimes I Feel Like Nothing at All,” cowritten by Beach Boys lyricist Stephen Kalinich, is an inviting tune topped by sensitive strings. And popster Ken Sharp guests on guitar on the should-be-a-radio-hit “Find Love,” a spectacular upbeat, McCartneyesque pop song.

Speaking of Fab connections, an all-in, emotionally reverent cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” credited to the Zebra Crossing All Star Band, finds guest vocalists Diane Birch, Shawn Lee, and Jason and Daphna Rowe and lead guitarist Perdomo taking center stage for a thrilling album closer. What better Beatles track to cover for an album named in tribute to the area in front of the studio the Fabs called home?

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

Mick Terry | Days Go By (Kool Kat, 2018)
Mick Terry’s Days Go By is 2018’s standout pure melodic pop album. It’s filled with the kind of songs that used to jump out of transistor radios way back in the when.

Every one of these 10 songs is golden. Witness: “Emily Come Back,” an upbeat, poppy tune that’s sure to please and features this album’s title in the lyric. “Everybody’s Talking” is an upbeat, sixties influenced Motown-meets-Billy Joel song (think around the time of Joel’s An Innocent Man album), a toe-tapping classic if ever I heard one. And “Friends Like That” is another upbeat gem with a great melody, handclaps, horns and a crazy, meaty guitar solo.

Working with producer Jim Boggia, Terry has produced a clear, melodic winner.

black box Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Mick Terry on Bandcamp

Astral Drive | Astral Drive (Lojinx, 2018)
Longtime producer and songwriter Phil Thornalley has made nothing less than the Todd Rundgren album that Todd Rundgren never made in the 1970s. Astral Drive is nothing less than one of the best albums of 2018.

Astral Drive finds Phil Thornalley doing most of the heavy lifting for a joyous tour de force composed of original songs that echo the catchy sounds that the Hermit of Mink Hollow made all those many years ago. Thornalley, a legendary producer and songwriter whose lengthy list of credits includes co-writing Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” fell in love with Todd Rundgren’s music when he heard Todd’s song “Useless Begging.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Astral Drive’s go-to, so-much-fun-to-listen-to song “Summer of ’76” practically demands that you sing along, whether you know the words or not. You will love, with all of your heart, the warm ballad “Wishing I Could Change the World,” which honors the classic Todd-meets-Philly-Soul bond, and the glorious, melody-infused, upbeat “Love is Real.”

One of 2018’s biggest and happiest surprises, without a doubt.

black box Where to Get It:  The Lojinx shop, Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, and iTunes

Michael Simmons | First Days of Summer (2018)
Musician and high school educator Michael Simmons, from Yorktown Lads and the much-missed sparkle*jets u.k., has crafted a stylistically diverse collection of songs that expertly lays out the artist’s diverse musical vision and dedication to craft.

From the opening and closing near-perfect, soft-pop bookends “Do Your Best to Care,” a keyboard driven toe-tapper featuring a determined, jazzy electric guitar solo, and the sleepy, closing ballad “Center of the Spiral,” which ends as if a turntable’s needle has become comfortably stuck in a loop within a record’s runoff wax, First Days of Summer speaks to melody-hungry melodic pop fans.

What shines brightly and decisively from within these dozen tracks is the passion that Michael Simmons has for making and playing music (he played most of the instruments on this album). He would do well to keep at this music thing and start planning his next collection with due haste.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Linus of Hollywood | Cabin Life (2018)
Nearly 20 years after his debut long player landed on planet Earth, Linus of Hollywood has served up 10 scoops of tasty, melodic treats on Cabin Fever, his delightful fifth effort that really, truly is the kind of thing that puts a spring in your step.

Some heartfelt words of wisdom are imparted in the fast-paced pop song “Won’t Let It Get Me Down,” played and sung with gusto. Cabin Life’s tender closing ballad, “It Was You,” details a love story for the ages. Beautifully sung and dedicated to Linus’s wife Augusta, the emotional arrangement marries delicate orchestration to nimble acoustic guitar playing as Linus sings about his true soul mate. “I finally got out of my own way,” he sings. “Everything just felt so easy/And I left behind my yesterday/You saved me from myself, believe me.”

“Drive up to the hills/Take that winding road/I think I remember where it goes,” the title song sings. And that winding road? It goes to one of 2018’s very best albums–Linus of Hollywood’s lovely Cabin Life.

black box Where to Get It: Linus of Hollywood’s web store, Amazon, iTunes

Dana Countryman | Cabaret of Love (Sterling Swan, 2018)
The year is not complete without a musical missive from melodic pop music’s melody and harmony king. Dana Countryman’s Cabaret of Love is one of 2018’s top long players, a joyous song cycle that surveys the feeling that unites us all: love.

Every number is a winner in this Cabaret of Love. “Just See If I Care” is a happy-sounding, hit-the-road-Jill Merseybeat-styled rocker featuring the Spongetones’ Jamie Hoover singing along and playing lead guitar in quite a Fab way. The heartfelt Four Freshmen homage, “The Night I Fell in Love With You,” is an unforgettable, romantic number with an affecting tea room orchestra arrangement and warm lead vocal sung by Tim Smolens from I.S.S. (Ideal Social Situation).

Cabaret of Love is chock full of guest star turns from such pop favorites as Klaatu’s Terry Draper (who turns in a top-shelf, particularly romantic lead vocal on “I’ll Be Shining Above You”), Klaatu’s Dee Long (electric guitar on “Shout”), and Tiny Volcano’s Scott McPherson (vocals on “You’re Still Number One”).

Cabaret of Love is a glorious gift for music lovers everywhere.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Amazon

Carpenter Smith and Jones | Petty (Big Radio, 2018)
Petty is a sincere and lovely celebration of the music of one of rock’s most magnanimous songwriters and performers, now sadly departed. It is a triumphant achievement, performed with heart by Michael Carpenter and songbirds Abby Smith and Sophie Jones.

The trio’s earthy vocal blend and the perhaps more deliberate pacing of the songs combine to amplify the emotions contained within the lyrics and music for a particularly engaging listen.

“Runnin’ Down a Dream” is recast as a slow, sometimes moody shuffle, a vocal workout bolstered by bracing electric guitars and Carpenter’s forceful drums. “Don’t Come Around Here No More” finds itself swimming atop a dreamy landscape played out with only nimble electric guitar backing beneath the trio’s emotional vocals (the final harmony stack is a joy to behold). And the Traveling Wilburys’ “End of the Line,” which closes this collection, takes on a singalong gospel tone; handclaps and joyous, freeing vocals abound. Prepare for an emotionally uplifting listening experience.

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

The Grand Levé | The Grand Levé (2018)
Göran Hjertstedt, who made the quite grand The Grand Levé with Europe’s (the Swedish rock band, not the continent) Ian Haugland, Ulf Holmberg, Göran Holmberg, Staffan Ebbesten, and Jonas Karlberg, is a music making veteran (best known for the equally grand Longplayer).

Although The Grand Levé fairly obviously shares cell structure with the music of Jeff Lynne, 10cc, Queen, Tom Petty and other members of the usual suspects club, and traffics in motifs pioneered during such periods as the 1960s and 1700s (note the classically-inclined first track, “And Light Appeared,” which straddles influences by either consciously or subconsciously quoting Elton John), the artist Hjertstedt is his own man, and The Grand Levé is his album.

Dig the Electric Light Orchestra vibe of “All in the City.” “Free” is very melody-rich Tom Petty, and “Yesterday Man” is very pure pop and Göran Hjertstedt by way of Longplayer. The mutli-retro “Two to Tango,” a bluesy drawing room number about love and dancing that namechecks Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, is another slice of joy.

The Grand Levé makes its mark because its sound pictures, drawn with love and affection, tell an affecting, collective tale. The Grand Levé is nothing less than a triumph for fans of melodic pop music.

black box Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, CD Baby. Stream on YouTube and Spotify

Louise Goffin | All These Hellos (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, 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.

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.

A wonderfully rich collection of songs; a terrific album.

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes

 ∴

Super 8 | Hi Lo (Futureman, 2018)
Paul Ryan, d/b/a Super 8, ended 2018 with another top-flight recording–his third of the year–collecting 11 strong songs about employing hopefulness along one’s path through life.

“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 this year.

Where to Get It: Futureman, Kool Kat Musik

The Grip Weeds | Trip Around the Sun (Jem, 2018)
This dynamic collection, recorded at the Grip Weeds’ home base, House of Vibes in Highland Park, New Jersey, pushes across the finish line a dozen high energy songs. The band has 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.

So it should hardly come as a surprise 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 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. What a welcome shout of energetic joy this album brings!

black box Where to Get It: The Grip Weeds’ Trip Around the Sun Store, Amazon

Vegas With Randolph | Legs & Luggage (2018)
Legs & Luggage is Vegas With Randolph’s best album yet. It is a marvel. This is a new-phase VWR 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.

For this new album, the band has recorded songs with flashy hooks just as they have done all along, but this time around, there is perhaps a little more oomph spitting out of the engine. This new-phase VWR is a well-oiled and rocking machine.

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”).

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.

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

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order, with Bandcamp/CD Baby/website links):

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Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended this last August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today. Happy New Year!

Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation Podcasts: Astral Drive’s Phil Thornalley (Airdate: June 6, 2018)

alan headshot from schoolBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Fans of 1970s Todd Rundgren will thoroughly enjoy my in-depth interview with Astral Drive’s Phil Tornalley, which aired June 6 on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation.

astral drive phil pose photo
Mr. Astral Drive

Longtime producer and songwriter Phil Thornalley has made nothing less than the Todd Rundgren album that Todd Rundgren never made in the 1970s. Astral Drive, the album, being released on July 6 by Lojinx, is nothing less than one of the best albums of the year.

 

astral drive coverAstral Drive finds Phil Thornalley doing most of the heavy lifting for a joyous tour de force composed of original songs that echo the catchy sounds that the Hermit of Mink Hollow made all those many years ago. Thornalley, a legendary producer and songwriter whose lengthy list of credits includes co-writing Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” producing the Cure’s album Pornography when he was 21 years old, and working as an engineer at London’s RAK Studios for producers Mickie Most, Steve Lillywhite and Alex Sadkin, fell in love with Todd Rundgren’s music when he heard Todd’s song “Useless Begging.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Within Astral Drive’s catchy, Rundgren-esque grooves, Thornalley celebrates the sound of Rundgren’s ’70s work with 11 original compositions. Standout songs like the album’s first single, the infectious, ultra-catchy and so-much-fun-to-listen-to “Summer of ’76” (watch the official lyric video below) might as well come with a singalong module; the songs don’t invite listener participation so much as pretty much require it. And mark my words–you will want to sing along, whether you know the words or not.

During this supersized edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, which began with Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” Thornalley talked about, and we played, three of Astral Drive’s standout songs: the aforementioned “Summer of ’76,” which you can now hear playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio; the warm ballad “Wishing I Could Change the World,” which honors the classic Todd-meets-Philly-Soul bond; and the glorious, melody-infused upbeat number “Love is Real.” You’ll hear Thornalley talk about how he wrote these songs, and take a tour through his illustrious career. Towards the beginning of this typically in-depth In Conversation back-and-forth, Thornalley charted the path that “Torn” took prior to being recorded by Imbruglia.

Help celebrate the wonder and joy delivered by Phil Thornalley by way of the lovingly-rendered songs on Astral Drive by listening to this very special episode of In Conversation.  Prepare for one of those very special experiences that only great melodic pop music can provide.

Preorder Astral Drive at the Lojinx shop, Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, and iTunes.

in conversation new graphic grey

pprListen to my interview with Astral Drive’s Phil Thornalley from the June 6 edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation by clicking the play button on the following player, or click on the Pure Pop Radio button to the left to download (then right click and choose “Save audio as” to save the file to your computer). (This interview is presented in scoped format; the songs have been removed due to copyright concerns.)

 


Listen to a wide selection of previously-aired Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation interviews by clicking here.

ppr radio purple background - insetPure Pop Radio plays the greatest melodic pop music from across the decades, 24 hours a day. Listen by clicking on the Live365 Listen Now button at left. Hear us once and you’ll be a listener for life. Join us, won’t you? You’ll be glad you did!

Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation (Wednesday, 9 pm ET) and Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show (Thursday, 8 pm ET), air exclusively on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

This Week’s Specialty Shows: Phil Thornalley Celebrates the Sound of ’70s Todd Rundgren on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, and a Host of New and New-to-You Tunes Spin During an All-New Pop Tunes Deejay Show

in conversation new graphic grey

new on pp banner hybrid 2-use this one, it's fixed

alan headshot from schoolBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Fans of 1970s Todd Rundgren will want to gather in front of their Internet radio receptacles this Wednesday night (June 6) at 9 pm ET for an all-new edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation. Longtime producer and songwriter Phil Thornalley has made nothing less than the Todd Rundgren album that Todd Rundgren never made in the 1970s, and it is nothing less than one of the best albums of the year. Read on to find out why.

Astral Drive | Astral Drive (Lojinx, 2018)
astral drive coverThe self-titled Astral Drive finds Phil Thornalley doing most of the heavy lifting for a joyous tour de force composed of original songs that echo the catchy sounds that the Hermit of Mink Hollow made all those many years ago. Thornalley, a legendary producer and songwriter whose lengthy list of credits includes co-writing Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” producing the Cure’s album Pornography when he was 21 years old, and working as an engineer at London’s RAK Studios for producers Mickie Most, Steve Lillywhite and Alex Sadkin, fell in love with Todd Rundgren’s music when he heard Todd’s song “Useless Begging.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Astral Drive finds Thornalley celebrating the sound of Rundgren’s ’70s work with 11 original compositions. Catchy songs like the album’s first single, the infectious “Summer of ’76,” might as well come with a singalong module; they don’t invite listener participation so much as pretty much require it. And mark my words–you will want to sing along, whether you know the words or not.

During this supersized, 74 minute edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, which begins with Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” you will hear and listen to Thornalley talk about three of Astral Drive’s standout songs: the aforementioned “Summer of ’76,” which you can now hear playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio; the warm ballad “Wishing I Could Change the World,” which honors the classic Todd-meets-Philly-Soul bond; and the glorious, melody-infused upbeat number “Love is Real.” You’ll hear Thornalley talk about how he wrote these songs, and take a tour through his illustrious career. Towards the beginning of this typically in-depth In Conversation back-and-forth, he charts the path that “Torn” took prior to being recorded by Imbruglia.

On this very special edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, we celebrate the wonder and joy delivered by Phil Thornalley by way of the lovingly-rendered songs on Astral Drive. Prepare for one of those very special experiences that only great melodic pop music can provide.

black box Now Playing in Rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Summer of ’76” (Check back soon for more additions to our playlist)
black box Where to Get It: Preorder at the Lojinx shop, Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, and iTunes

Don’t miss producer-songwriter Phil Thornalley talking with me this Wednesday night at 9 pm ET on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation. I believe this is a shining highlight of this year’s crop of shows–one you won’t want to miss.

pop tunes disc smallWhile you’re scribbling down a reminder to listen to this week’s all-new edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, why not add a note to dig the scene on Thursday night at 8 pm ET, when the 55th Pop Tunes Deejay Show airs, with lots of new and new-to-you songs from Astral Drive, Wilkerson, Blaine Campbell, Peter Holsapple, Lannie Flowers, Arthur Alexander, the Davenports, Dave Sheinin, Ian Thompson, Tom Guerra, Lisa Mychols, Starbelly, Zuider Zee, and classics from Andrew Gold, Paul McCartney, and the Spongetones. You won’t to miss this hour-long spin, punctuated by spirited and snappy deejay patter from yours truly. And who wouldn’t want to enjoy a spot of spirited and snappy deejay patter?

There’s this week’s nighttime listening sorted, then. Don’t miss a minute!

Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation (Wednesday, 9 pm ET) and Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show (Thursday, 8 pm ET), air exclusively on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

ppr radio purple background - insetPure Pop Radio plays the greatest melodic pop music from across the decades, 24 hours a day. Listen by clicking on the Live365 Listen Now button at left. Hear us once and you’ll be a listener for life. Join us, won’t you? You’ll be glad you did!