Reviews: 6.6.19: New Releases: The Weeklings, Alex Chilton, Bryan Estepa, and Jacob Panic

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The Weeklings | “I Want You Again” (Jem, 2019)

It is a bushelful of happy that greets me on this day, almost a month since I last posted due to various bits and bobs. Finding a new Weeklings song in my email inbox–an old-fashioned Weeklings song, if truth be known–speaks to my most get-in-there, take-it-apart-and-put-it-back-together-again-for-you instincts. Because what fun it is to wear the happiness that Weeklings recordings bring, like a new suit resplendent in audio jewels that really make me smile.

Started at London’s Abbey Road Studios, written by Lefty and Zeek Weekling, and finished off at home base in New Jersey, “I Want You Again” is perhaps a quintessential example of the Weeklings’ melodic sense that embodies significant Beatles and fellow traveler touchstones as much as the group’s own contemporary identity.

An I-really-shouldn’t-have-pushed-you-away-and-by-the-way-can-I-get-you-back song with a beat and a beating heart, “I Want You Again” is a jangly joy with a McCartney-esque bass line, Merseyside guitar stabs in the bridge, an “A Hard Day’s Night” namecheck (“When I think, of the time, when our love burned bright / When we shared, every word, singin’ ‘A Hard Days’ Night'”), and, most importantly, echoes of the Fabs’ “You Won’t See Me” and a closing melody quote from Badfinger’s “Baby Blue.”

“I Want You Again” is just the latest example of New Jersey’s finest fab foursome’s pursuit of audio excellence that bridges decades of catchy melodic pop. A bushelful of happy, if you will.

Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes. Stream on Spotify

∴

Alex Chilton | From Memphis to New Orleans (Bar/None, 2019)
Songs from Robin Hood Lane (Bar/None, 2019)

When most people think of Alex Chilton, they likely remember his work with the Box Tops, whose big 1967 hit, “The Letter,” he sang at age 16 with the maturity of a much older and perhaps wiser artist, and Big Star, an influential group blessed with a deep vat of melodicism and rock-influenced pop songs that have stood the test of time, such as “September Gurls,” “The Ballad of El Goodo,” and “Thirteen.”

It is less likely that casual music fans–people who grew up with the Box Tops and Big Star–also embraced Chilton’s music that followed. Two new, comprehensive compilations from Bar/None seek to mend the fences over which Chilton jumped in the 1980s and 1990s to make music that was stripped down, less commerical, and sometimes undersold, yet still viable and enjoyable and quintessentially Chilton.

From Memphis to New Orleans draws from four releases produced in the second half of the 1980s. A mix of original and covered punchy, seductive bluesy rock (David Porter and Isaac Hayes’ “B-A-B-Y”), punchy rockers (Ronny and the Daytonas’ “Little GTO”), Bakersfield country (Chilton’s “Paradise”), gentle pop with a beat (“Let Me Get Close to You,” a Skeeter Davis flip side scribed by Carole King and Gerry Goffin that originally appear on High Priest) and rock and soul grooves, the album chugs happily along as it shows off the wares of Chilton’s post-Box-Tops-and-Big-Star eras.

Probably, the sides compiled on From Memphis to New Orleans are closer cousins to Chilton’s previous work and likely more palatable to fans of the Box Tops and Big Star, but it’s the covers of classic songs in the style of the music that he heard growing up, compiled on Songs from Robin Hood Lane, that might just provide a clearer picture of where Chilton’s heart really found the most peace.

Songs from two Chilton releases–1991’s Medium Cool and 1994’s Cliches–sit comfortably alongside four previously unreleased sides on Songs from Robin Hood Lane. Chilton nestles quite comfortably in the moods and emotions of a dozen jazz, blues and pop numbers, showing quite different sides of his musical persona. They are, in their way, just as emotional and effective as the singer’s work during his rock and pop years.

Highlights include the quietly bouncy “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” cut by Nina Simone in the 1950s and played out here with only Chilton’s masterly acoustic guitar picking and playful, jazzy vocal; “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,” a jazzy, supper club take on the 1940s standard and one of the four previously-unreleased tracks on this collection; and “That Old Feeling,” a half instrumental and half sumptuous vocal workout of Sammy Fain and Lew Brown’s classic written in the 1930s and essayed by many classic vocalists, including Patti Page and Frank Sinatra.

Both From Memphis to New Orleans and Songs from Robin Hood Lane sport beautifully-laid-out packaging that includes immersive and informative liner notes by Glenn Morrow and track personnel and discographical facts. Bar/None is to be congratulated on both releases; listeners will come away from hearing a fuller picture of Chilton the artist.

Essential.

Where to Get It: Bar/None, Amazon (From Memphis to New Orleans; Songs from Robin Hood Lane), and iTunes (From Memphis to New Orleans; Songs from Robin Hood Lane)

∴

Bryan Estepa | “I’m Not Ready for This” (2019)

The lesson learned in pop-rocker Bryan Estepa’s new digital release, “I’m Not Ready for This,” is that first loves are woven into one’s heart forever (“Forgetting first loves can’t be done”).

What to do with such a realization is another thing entirely, as noted in this mid-paced guitar popper. After all, first loves can be a fleeting thing (“Stay together for a little while / Run its course on this crooked mile”).

This track, with its smooth lead vocal, engaging backgrounds, and lovely, pleasing chords, will stay with you for a long while, even if your first love isn’t showing in your rearview mirror.

(Watch the stylish black-and-white video for “I’m Not Ready for This” below. The use of light fading quietly in and out to suggest the memory of a first love fading in and out over time is quite impressive.)

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

∴

Jacob Panic | “The Heart/Breaks” (2019)

The banjo’s the thing here, which is the thing that counts most in Jacob Panic’s world. A rock/pop hybrid love song exhibiting immense power and emotion, “The Heart/Breaks” is all about love, and the more of it–the stronger it comes on–the better.

“Put your lovin’ arms around me / And everything’ll be alright,” Panic sings, and when those lovin’ arms lock tight, an explosion of emotion comes due. “Listen to the heart beat go / A mile a minute / Many miles it flows / It gets dark / It gets cold,” and where do you go from there?

Mostly, the choruses are drawn with thunderous drums and instrumentation mixing with powerful vocals; the connecting tissue is softer, limber. The feeling, near as I can tell, is when you truly feel love and it totally encompasses you, you fall hook, line and sinker.

A tremendous track from a tremendous performer, co-written by Panic and Steve Antonelli, and featuring Antonelli on guitar, bass, and drums and Lea B. singing backgrounds. 

Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

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

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

radio1Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

New on Pure Pop Radio 05.11.17: Cait Brennan, Bryan Estepa, The Wellingtons, Kenny Herbert, Pat Walsh, and More

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

Spins and Reviews | 05.11.17
By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

cait brennab thirdCait Brennan | Third (2017)
Quite simply, and before I say anything specific about Cait Brennan’s miraculous, astounding, audacious new album, the pairing of this one-of-a-kind artist and multi-instrumentalist and ace producer Fernando Perdomo is surely one of those fortified-in-heaven happenings that make life on earth a wonderful thing. Captain Obvious here, in other words.

Soaking up the atmosphere at Memphis, Tennessee’s legendary Ardent Studios, where, it may be hard to believe, Big Star only scratched the surface of artists who waxed classic recordings, Brennan and Perdomo made the magic that lines the virtual walls of Brennan’s new album, Third.

It’s one thing to have great songs when going into a studio–any studio–but it’s another to have the chutzpah and the moxie to make them so great that they emerge on disc fully-formed as state-of-the-art classics, which is exactly how the baker’s dozen songs on Third turned out.

What the hell was in the water when Brennan and Perdomo cooked up the ingredients that, stirred in just the right way, made the amazing “Catiebots Don’t Cry” a reality? Because more of that kind of crafting, okay? This gut-wrenching you-love-her-I-love-her-what-are-we-gonna-do-about-it slow-to-mid-tempo burner is a skewed kind of aromatic love song that would have been great had it just been delivered with Brennan singing solo over a gutsy piano track, but with the considered pop and roll stew played out with Perdomo, whose delicious ’70s-styled wah-wah guitar lines are something to behold, and Brennan, whose multi-tracked, three-dimensional vocal harmony stacks are a thing of beauty, it’s something else entirely that dares you and your band to even try to better it. And, I would bet the house on this, you won’t ever.

The equally amazing and spitfire rave-up that is “Shake Away” carries on the rich vocal harmony tradition set by “Catiebots Don’t Cry” in the form of a Motown/Stax-fortified rave-up, and believe me, this thing about getting love right shakes, baby, in a kind of boom-boom way. There’s a whole lot of shaking going on in this pounding number charged with maximum voltage; this thing is practically, deliberately breathless. Speaking of breathless, “A Hard Man to Love” is defiantly so; the grounding, pounding piano pushes the proceedings along until every element gets toppled by the late-song, packed-tight verse that Brennan sings so precise and quick. It outdoes that old Federal Express fast-talking spokesperson, leaving him flat in the dust.

Not every song on Third bristles with quick temperament: “Perish the Thought” is a thoughtful ballad that closes with a clarion a cappella call to arms that will send shivers up and down your spine. And “Bad at Apologies,” a mid-tempo ballad about attraction at all costs (“Another minute without him/I would probably die”), pours buckets of emotion on the flames of obsessive love.

A roller coaster ride through all of life’s travails, Third is an emotional wake up call for all humans negotiating the pathways of their existence. That it pops and rolls like the best works of melodic art is a given. Cait Brennan’s third go-round is astonishing, bold, and seemingly effortless. Captain Obvious, signing out.

black box Now playing on Pure Pop Radio: “Bad at Apologies,” “He Knows Too Much,” “At the End of the World,” “A Hard Man to Love,” “Catiebots Don’t Cry,” “Shake Away,” “The Angels Lie,” and “Perish the Thought”
black box Where to Get It: Amazon, Omnivore Store

bryan estepa rattled and rolledBryan Estepa | “Rattled and Rolled” (2017)
Just 11 days shy of a year ago, we added tracks from Sydney, Australia singer-songwriter Bryan Estepa’s wonderful album, Every Little Thing. He returns to Pure Pop Radio with this fine, melodic track, on which he is joined by ace musician Michael Carpenter; Bryan slings the guitars, Michael slings everything else (he also produced, recorded, mixed & mastered). What stands out most of all are Bryan’s astoundingly assured vocal, always on target; Michael’s humming Hammond organ; and the fact that the proceedings were recorded in just eight hours. Echoing the sensibilities of The New Pornographers, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan, this killer track whets our appetites for more. So, off with you then, Bryan Estepa.

black box Now playing on Pure Pop Radio
black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

The Wellingtons End of the Summer front coverThe Wellingtons | End of the Summer (2017)
Today’s second entry from Australia (Melbourne, this time) finds this lively quintet returning to the pop boards with their first album in six years. While the songs are, by and large, a bit too loud for our humble airwaves, four are absolutely perfect. “1963” is a cheery, upbeat, happy-sounding jangly charmer with an intoxicating melody. “She Rides the Bus” is a mid-tempo ballad swirling in Beatlesque ambiance. “So Easy” rides the ABBA waves for a ba-ba-esque celebration of catchy. And the hooky title song would sound good, well, on the radio. So, let’s spin it, shall we?

black box Now playing on Pure Pop Radio: “End of the Summer,” “1963,” “So Easy,” and “She Rides the Bus”
black box Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Bomp Store

kenny herbert i'm comin homeKenny Herbert | “I’m Coming Home” (2017)
One of our favorite singer-songwriters working today, Kenny Herbert continues to write and record wonderful songs that come from the heart. His latest, written and recorded with David Paton (Pilot) and Nobby Clark is a typically pretty tune. Lovely harmonies, a sumptuous melody, and a catchy chorus are in tow. Gorgeous.

black box Now playing on Pure Pop Radio
black box Where to Get It: iTunes

pat walsh bygone daysPat Walsh | “Bygone Days” (2017)
Another Pure Pop Radio favorite, Pat Walsh always delights with his wonderfully melodic songs. “Bygone Days” features another carefully modulated vocal, another terrific melody. Another, another and on and on. Beautiful.

black box Now playing on Pure Pop Radio
black box Where to Get It: Not currently available. Listen on YouTube

Also added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist and currently spinning in rotation:

the outryders - let's live for today The Outryders | “Piangi Con Me (& Live for Today)” (With Joe Algeri and Herb Eimerman) (2017) Bandcamp

lisa mycholsLisa Mychols | “He’s Got Me Dreaming'” and “Don’t Wanna Close My Eyes” (2017) (“He’s Got Me Dreaming” CD Baby; “Don’t Wanna Close My Eyes” CD Baby)

irene pena Irene Peña | “Shut It Down” (2017) (From Trying Not to Smile) Patreon

radio days i'm in love with you haruka Radio Days | “I’m In Love With You, Haruka” and “Teenage Kicks” (Undertones cover) Bandcamp

the dahlmanns forever my babyThe Dahlmanns | “Forever My Baby” and “The Last Time”
Pop Detective Records

alanhaberspurepopradiographiclarge1

New on Pure Pop Radio 6.27.16

banner 5  alan-mic-small 5

Spins and Reviews | June 27, 2016 | by Alan Haber

We kick off this last week of June with a trio of tempting platters…

lucy wainwright roche and suzzy roches mud and applesLucy Wainwright Roche and Suzzy Roche | Mud & Apples Fans of the Roches, New Jersey’s first family of musical wit and harmonic sophistication, will be over the moon for this sparkling duo release from Suzzy Roche and her daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche. Warm harmonies, clever songwriting and the inclusion of  beautifully-sung covers such as Paul Simon’s “Bleecker Street” and the Cascades’ “Rhythm of the Rain” push this 11 track masterpiece into hall-of-fame territory. Surely one of this year’s top expressions of musical joy.
Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: The entire album. “Cold October Day,” “Melancholy Ways,” “Mary,” “Rhythm of the Rain,” “Mud and Apples,” “Bleecker Street,” “There’s a Guy,” “Both Sides Now,” “Desperado,” “Dinner Out,” and “Landslide.”


james starflower- so let's bring on the gershwin girlsjames starflower pet your stereoJames Starflower | Pet Your Stereo
 Pop smarts shower these 10 imagination-fueled songs, produced by Fernando Perdomo with his usual magic touch. The Lennonesque “Baby This is Your Life,” which takes a 360-degree turn towards the end with a Paul McCartney-accented “Hello Goodbye” fade, and the rocker “Echolocation,” with its shimmering guitars and impassioned vocals, lead the pack. Pet’s bonus track, the amazing, 1930s-meets-Beatles-meets-today retro gem “So Let’s Bring on the Gershwin Girls,” is another winner. Another great album, full of invention and whip-smart performances, that will surely hang its hat on a variety of best-of lists this year.
Now Playing in Rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Baby this is Your Life,” “Black Light Star Flower,” “Fade,” “The Geisha’s Guru,” “Mister Goodheart,” “Pet Your Stereo,” “Rabbithole Blues,” and “Welcome 2 Heaven.”

bryan estepaBryan Estepa and the Tempe Two | Every Little Thing Sydney, Australia’s Bryan Estepa, veteran of late ’90s band Swivel and a long-standing solo artist, takes center stage with this top-notch collection of melodic etchings. Single-worthy popper “Don’t Hurry Baby” is a wonderful highlight, as is the gorgeous ballad “Sooner or Later.” Missing this one shouldn’t be an option. Put Every Little Thing on your to-own list.
Now Playing in Rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Headlights,” “Object of My Disaffection,” “Sooner or Later,” “Don’t Hurry Baby,” “Empty Handed,” and “Count Your Blessings.”

alan-mic-zeeAlan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the original 24-hour Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today. From the Beatles to the Monkees, the Posies, McPherson Grant, the Connection and the New Trocaderos, we play the hits and a whole lot more. Tune in by clicking on one of the listen links below.

Listen to Pure Pop Radio on the go using your Android and iOS devices! Download Our Mobile App.

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes