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

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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)

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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

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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

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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.

New on Pure Pop Radio: Picking in the Panic Room, Disconnected at Third Man Records, and More

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

Spins and Reviews 12.7.16
Alan Haber — Pure Pop Radio
(Originally posted on 12.07.16)

jacob panic 2016Jacob Panic | Jacob Panic (2016)
Picker extraordinaire Jacob Panic traverses his banjo’s fretboard with a sure-footed sense of purpose on five tunes borne from fertile ground rooted in pop and bluegrass. This self-titled EP finds the Baltimore-Maryland singer-songwriter’s multi-instrumentalist clothes, which he wore for 2012’s Pop Grass, in storage; for this release, he concentrates on the banjo as a crack team of players backs him up on his ace originals.

Recording in Nashville with producer Randy Kohrs (Grammy® winner for Jim Lauderdale’s The Bluegrass Diaries), Panic paints with a baroque brush on the four-on-the-floor stomper, “The Lie that You Told,” and takes a second, loving look at one of the top tracks from Pop Grass, the beautiful, lyrical “Hold Your Freight Train.” Panic recently opened for Ricky Scaggs and Kentucky Thunder, which says a thing or two about how good this masterful player is. Jacob Panic is always welcome here at Pure Pop Radio.

black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: The entire EP: “The Flame,” “Drown,” “A Lie that You Told,” “Hold Your Freight Train,” and “Hocus Opus”

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

stephen poff at third man recordsOne Like Son, “Disconnected” Historic platter recorded direct to disc via the Voice-o-Graph by Stephen Poff in the Record Booth at Third Man Records in Nashville, Tennessee. The booth is a “refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph machine that records up to 2 minutes of audio and dispenses a one-of-a-kind 6″ phonograph disc to the user,” according to the Third Man Record Booth web page. The skip at the end, an otherworldly thing, occurred during the recording, adding a certain charm to the proceedings.

A song about trying to break through to what the heart yearns, “Disconnected” originally appeared on One Like Son’s 2001 album, Goodbye. Poff’s intimate, updated reading of this number into the Voice-o-Graph is a whisper of a melodic moment in time; close your eyes and you are there with the artist, in the Third Man Record Booth, singing along at least in spirit. We are proud to be playing this recording on Pure Pop Radio.

black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio

black box Where to Get It: Not currently available

Also recently added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist:

– Bread and Butter, “Desperation”

– Paul McCartney, “In the Blink of an Eye”; Carl Davis, “Walking in the Park with Eloise”; The Shadows, “Foot Tapper”; Dave Berry, “Little Things”; Rupert’s People, “Reflections of Charles Brown” (all from the soundtrack for the animated film, Ethel and Ernest)

– Gerry Beckley | Carousel (“Nature’s Way,” “Minutes Count,” “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,” “Lifeline,” “To Each and Everyone,” “Serious,” and “Carousel”)

– Teenage Fanclub | Here (“I’m in Love,” “The Darkest Part of the Night,” “I Have Nothing More to Say,” and “It’s a Sin”)

– The Dots | Island in the Sun (“I’ve Been Looking for the Time,” “Wilford Lane,” “Here With You,” “The Stars are Bright Tonight”)

– Tony Low | Rendezvousing (“Do the Mikey,” “Eternal Dawn,” “Hey Now,” and “Should’ve Known”)

– Mike Daly and the Planets, “Never Too Late”

– Louise Goffin, “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman”

– Sir Video | Live at Ardmore Hall (“Take My Breath Away,” “This Magic,” and “Do What You Wanna”)

– The 1957 Tail-Fin Fiasco | The 3 Song Drive EP (“Kiki vs. Alice from the Breakers,” “Big Yellow Box,” “Byron Bay,” and “Blended”)

– Tony Valentino of the Standells, “Is This What U Want?”

– Tuns | Tuns (“Back Among Friends” and “Throw It All Away”)

– Baby Scream | Life’s a Trap (“Life’s Better When Ur High,” “Climbing Down,” “We Can’t Go Back to 17,” “Wish You Were Beer,” “Jokes,” and “Midnight Snack”)

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Pure Pop Radio’s Very Special Explosion of New-to-the-Station Melodic Pop Songs is Finished, But…

… we’ve gotten lots more great music in the past week, so it looks like we’re going to have to keep our noses to the grindstone next week. We’ve got to admit that it’s fun, and pretty spectacular at that, to see the number of songs in our library continue to rise. As of today, we’ve passed the 5,000 mark appreciably. That means more songs, more artists, more variety for you, our faithful listeners.

We're on the road to more great melodic pop!

We’re on the road to more great melodic pop!

So let’s get the show on the road, shall we? Let’s begin with a couple of hurrahs for three of our favorite artists, each of whom took the time to record an original jingle for Pure Pop Radio. Let’s clap for the great Jay Stansfield, the lovely and talented The Taters, and the master of a thousand instruments and banjo player extraordinaire Jacob Panic. We love you and thank you all! You’re tops of the pops!

With that said, here are some more artists and songs that we’ve added to the playlist. They’re all streaming now in rotation on your home of the hits–the original 24-hour Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop songs from the ’60’s to today.

* The Penguin Party. With their new album Mesherlek  just a hop, skip and a jump rope from being released on July 21, we’re playing a couple of typically clever tunes from the album that will burrow inside your noggin and stay there through the coming spring. We’d been playing an early version of the wild and woolly song “The Anti Russell Brand, ” but now we’re spinning the completed track, sporting a rather emotionally-invested choir to open the proceedings. It’s very cool. We’re also spinning two more songs from Mesherlek: the radio edit of the atmospheric, kind-of spooky “My Big Bad Self,” complete with horns!, and the piano pop of the jaunty “Glorious.” All three of these classics point to Mesherlek being one of 2014’s greatest recorded triumphs.

* The Squires of the SubterrainThe Squires of the Subterrain. We’ve been playing the Squire’s unique brand of pop music for many years. We simply dig his take on the catchy tune. The Squire always delivers the goods. From his new, self-titled album, we’re chosen five wonderful songs: “History,” “This Charming Place,” “Private Gherkin’s Psychedelic Silly Mustache Band,” “Attitude and Altitude,” and “You Gave Me the Cold Shoulder (to Cry On).” A splendid time will be had by all who listen to this consistently top-shelf artist and his new collection of top tunes.

* The Jeremy BandAll Over the World. We’ve been spinning Jeremy Morris’s great music since we started Pure Pop Radio nearly 20 years ago. Jeremy’s music is always fun to listen to, and now he’s done it again with this new album stacked high with songs recorded all over the world (Hey! That’s a catchy title!). We treasure Jeremy’s music and are thrilled to be able to bring you more of it. We know you’ll dig the three songs we’ve chosen to add to the playlist: “Cool Your Jets,” “Rise Above the Clouds,” and “Not of this World.”

* Silver Ships. Songs from a Room that Never Moves. Wonderful, creative tunes are the order of the day when multi-instrumentalist Chazz Bessette is at the helm. From the contemporary pop-meets-vaudeville opener, “Poor Thief of Hearts,” to the charming, melodic campfire stomper “My Dear Friend” and the pretty, tempo-changing closer, “We Believe in Love,” Songs from a Room that Never Moves delivers the goods like no other pop album you’ll hear this year. In addition to the previously-mentioned songs, we’ve also added “There Were Trees,” “Summer’s Gone,” “Silver Moon,” and “A Room that Never Moves.” Pure genius.

* Nine Times BlueMatter of Time. We’re happy to bring to you a couple of songs from Nine Times Blue’s latest release. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the band plays power pop with just a hint of Gin Blossoms in their DNA. Listen for these cool tunes: “Sometimes” and “Matter of Time.”

* Three Minute TeaseBite the Hand. With longtime Pure Pop Radio favorite Anton Barbeau in the mix, you know you’re going to get an eclectic approach to pop music, and this new release doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it’s a solid fun-to-listen-to album full of great songs and Anton’s expressive vocals. We’re thrilled to be spinning the mighty catchy “Drinking Horn,” which, without warning, takes a decidedly and cool left turn into the psychedelic zone with about a minute and thirty-seven seconds left. We’re also thrilled to be spinning “Ciao Ciao Chicken,” “Tie My Laces,” “Coffee that Makes the Man Go Mad,” and “Wave Hello.” Very Anton! Very wonderful!

* Edward RogersKaye. A New York City dweller since the age of 12, Rogers serves up a dozen great songs inspired by the late Kevin Ayers. We’re excited to be bringing to you five numbers, including a cover of Ayers’ “After the Show,” and original tunes “Worry for the World,” “What Happened to the News Today,” “Copper Coin,” and “Borrowed and Blue.”

* Steve CarawayUpon this Rock. From Steve’s latest album, we’ve added two terrific tunes: the emotional title song and the rock and pop number “Justine.”

But wait…there will be more! The newest releases and songs from yesteryear are starting to pile up once again, so look for more adds to the playlist next week and beyond. We’re committed to bringing you, our dear listeners, the greatest pop in the universe, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do! Have fun listening to Pure Pop Radio (just click on one of the handy listening links below) and have a great weekend!

 

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

Hunting for Vinyl Vibes: A Visit to Trax on Wax

Alan Haber stands beneath the sign at Trax on Wax

Alan Haber stands beneath the sign at Trax on Wax

It was much like the old days, when I would make my rounds in Greenwich Village, going from record shop to record shop, flipping through the stacks and bins for those hard-to-find gems that had somehow eluded my grasp along the way. It was much like those hours on end, when conversation with a record shop’s owner could extend from the end of daylight into the beginning of night. It was the aroma that made life so much sweeter–the particular smell of vinyl and cardboard sleeves slid into plastic sleeves, slid into plastic bags just before you shook hands with the owner and bid him a fond adieu. “Until next time!”

It was a short, happy trip to just outside Baltimore in a quaint little town called Catonsville in Maryland, up 495 to 95 and on to 166–almost a straight shot along a couple of I’s and an MD. This part of Catonsville seemed like a sleepy, small college town. All sorts of handy shops lined the sides of the narrow street. And there, amidst the quiet of the middle-afternoon, cold and crisp air alight, was Trax on Wax, a shop stocked full of vinyl that spanned the ages. Old, rare, new; rock, pop, jazz and belly dancing; the popular, the left-of-center and the rites of summer, fall, winter and spring. A lost colony, if you will–something akin to a kind of Brigadoon, perhaps. A place out of time and, at the same time, in synch with the world. Or at least the part of it that swings, rocks and rolls.

I was already familiar with Trax, having conversed online with the owner Gary Gebler and enjoyed his posts of record-related pictures on Facebook for some time, so a trip to the store was one that seemed to always be in the cards. A fan of Pure Pop Radio, Gary had the station playing in the store as my wife and I approached it, so I knew we would be in good company.  The door opened and it all seemed so much like the black and white of Kansas changing to the color of Oz–thousands of vinyl record albums all of a sudden present and lining the walls and making themselves known in the center area and behind the counter–all immaculately arranged and displayed. This was the land of milk and honey.

Alan Haber and Trax on Wax store owner Gary Gebler

Alan Haber and Trax on Wax store owner Gary Gebler

“Alan Haber?” Gary and I shook hands and my wife and I said hello. We talked awhile about the store, about music, about those things that one chats about when those sounds are all around them. I noticed a poster aside the counter that was promoting the music of Jacob Panic, whose songs play in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. “I don’t know if you know,” Gary offered, “but that’s my son.” It becomes a smaller and smaller world every day, right? Jacob was out for awhile, but would be back soon. I couldn’t believe my luck. Jacob had quickly become a favorite of mine–a multi-instrumentalist who is part power pop, part bluegrass, and part other stuff. He was the original banjo player in Graham Elvis’s Sgt. Popgrass collective. Truly a most talented individual.

Alan Haber browses at Trax on Wax

Alan Haber browses at Trax on Wax

We browsed and we bought–an self-titled album by a group called Glass Moon that I didn’t own–and met Jacob who, like his dad, was quite the warm and friendly sort. It was a great pleasure shaking Jacob’s hand and chatting with him. And then we took it all in some more. Trax was the kind of place that any music fan would be happy to get lost in or order from (the shop does mail order, too).  We took a few snapshots (lensed by award-winning, Daily Planet photographer Janet Haber) and we talked some more. I wanted the visit to continue, but darkness was falling outside and it was time to go, time to become one with the straight shot back to Virginia.

I understand what people mean when they shout “Vinyl is back!” Truth is, it never left. It’s always been there and continues to live and breathe inside shops like Trax–shops that are run by people who know and love the music and live for those platters that matter. Trax is not a job for Gary Gebler–it’s a calling. It’s the air that he and his customers breathe when they’re feeling the urge to spin a slab of black vinyl–when they can practically feel the head of the tone arm between their fingers; when they can feel the needle resting comfortably in the grooves of the music that gives them that certain feeling that can be felt more than it can be verbally explained.

Alan Haber and musician Jacob Panic at Trax on Wax

Alan Haber and musician Jacob Panic at Trax on Wax

It was indeed much like the old days for my wife and I, but these are the new days–the days on offer today–the days that we can count on to carry us on to tomorrow, when the urge to soak up those sounds that move us grabs hold of us and make us seem brand new. The romance of vinyl–the art of feeling the vibes that we are hunting for–is still with us. The art of putting the needle down into the grooves and laying back with the cover and liner notes and lyrics and posters and stickers and such is still with us.

Alan Haber takes in the atmosphere outside of Trax on Wax

Alan Haber takes in the atmosphere outside of Trax on Wax

It is the art of being alive.

Trax on Wax, Your Vinyl Destination in Catonsville, Maryland

Trax on Wax, Your Vinyl Destination in Catonsville, Maryland

 

 

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