Reviews: 12.11.19: Do You Hear What I Hear? Stockings Full of Musical Holiday Cheer Abound!

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Do you hear what I hear? You will when you add the following tasty musical holiday treats, newly released, to your gift lists (and don’t forget yourself; you deserve some gifts, too!).

Christmas will be here soon (there are only 13 shopping days until the big day), so read on and give the gift of holiday pop music!

The Weeklings | “Gonna Be Christmas” (Jem, 2019)

Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack usher in the holiday season with a jubilant, Weeklings-ized version of a gorgeous song that first appeared on Zeek’s 2007 solo EP, Christmas Can’t Wait.

Sporting lovely, widescreen harmonies and the catchiest of holiday melodies, this warm, upbeat celebration of the joy felt every December 25th seems like a standard that will garner spins for many years to come.

Smokestack’s larger-than-life drum part and Lefty’s fluid, sliding bass line are particular gifts that drive this quite-alive recording and keep on giving with each successive listen.

It goes without saying at this point in the Weeklings’ career, but for those of you who aren’t aware of who is actually who, Lefty is Glen Burtnik, Zeek is Bob Burger, Rocky is John Merjave, and Smokestack is Joe Bellia. All are veteran musicians working at the peak of their powers, as will be evidenced by the forthcoming, incredible, third Weeklings album, about which I will have much to say in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Christmas 2019 is off and running with this classic track from New Jersey’s Fab Foursome.

Where to Get It: Amazon, Apple Music, Google Play. Listen on Spotify

Jamie Hoover | Happy Hoover Days
The Bradburys | “Everywhere It’s Christmastime” b/w “Silver Bells”
(Vandalay, 2019)

Dan Pavelich’s Vandalay Records offers up two delicious doses of Christmas cheer for 2019–a four-song EP from the Spongetones’ and Jamie and Steve’s Jamie Hoover, and a two-track single from Pavelich’s group, the Bradburys.

Hoover, a longtime Pure Pop Radio top favorite (of 25 years standing!), does it all on Happy Hoover Days; he’s responsible for every note played and sung.

Two choice covers–a supercharged take on Gene Autry’s evergreen “Sleigh Bells” and an emotional reading of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s classic perennial “I Believe in Father Christmas”–sit side by side with an original, medium-paced rocker, “The Real Star,” co-written with Nashville songsmith Catesby Jones , and fifth Spongetone Greg James’ lovely ballad, “There’s a Star,” which appeared in a different version on the Spongetones’ 2001 must-have collection, Mersey Christmas.

Hoover’s always thoroughly invested, emotional vocals and playing drive each of these new recordings. He remains one of indie pop’s most versatile and entertaining writers and performers, a true beacon of artistry who never fails to deliver the goods. This more-than-welcome EP is just another example of how to do it.

The Bradburys, fronted by Vandalay Records’ guiding light, Dan Pavelich, digitally wax a pair of tuneful Christmas classics on a double-A-side single that’s sure to please.

The jangly “Everywhere It’s Christmastime,” penned and sung by Pavelich, is a catchy holiday nugget, built atop a sweet melody and laced with lovely, lyrical lead guitar work by John Scholvin, and an understated yet joyous coda powered by the sound of a choir and seasonal bells.

A cleverly conceived, cheerful cover of another of Christmastime’s perennials, “Silver Bells,” mixes Elvis Presley-fyed verses with ’50s rock ‘n’ roll choruses for a rollicking good time.

Pavelich, who writes and draws the wonderful comic strip Just Say Uncle, has fashioned a must-listen-to pair of holiday songs that are perfect for anyone on your gift list.

Where to Get It: Jamie Hoover’s Happy Hoover Days: Kool Kat Musik | The Bradburys’ “Everywhere It’s Christmastime” b/w “Silver Bells”: Apple Music

The Brothers Steve
“I Love the Christmastime” b/w “Listen Up! It’s Christmastime”
(Big Stir, 2019)

If you’re pining for a pair of catchy, Tsar-torial holiday tunes, The Brothers Steve’s new single is tailor-made for you.

Featuring three members of the much-loved band Tsar, including Steve Coulter, a writer who goes by the nom de plume S.W. Lauden, the Steves’ pair of musical gifts are a glittery holiday treat. The upbeat “I Love the Christmastime” is an ABBA-meets-New-Wave-meets-The-Archies-meets-early Beatles kind of celebration, complete with my favorite instrument, sleigh bells. And the thoughtful ballad, “Listen Up! It’s Christmastime” is driven by a lovely melody.

The 54th in the ongoing series of digital singles released by Big Stir Records is a holiday smash. (Side note: Steve Coulter, using his nom de plume, is the co-editor with musician and writer Paul Myers of Go All the Way, a neat book of essays about power pop by well-known writers and musicians, available at Amazon.)

Where to Hear It and Get It: Big Stir Digital Singles

The Taters | Shiny and Brite (2019)

An aptly-named Christmas album if ever there was one, Shiny and Brite finds Richmond, Virginia’s Taters, a longtime Pure Pop Radio favorite group, bringing their trademark musicality and playful joie de vivre to digital and silver disc formats.

As anyone who has seen the Taters play live and dug their everything-fits-if-we-let-it approach to covers can attest, you never know what you’re going to hear when the group sets to making music. This joyful mix of originals, like the tuneful “Last Lone Noel” and the Roy Orbison-y ballad, “My First Christmas With You,” and Taterized versions of well- and little-known Christmas classics is a holiday treat built on a solid foundation of love and respect for these wonderful songs.

Witness the bouyant cover of the Beach Boys/Ronettes’ “I Can Hear Music,” which features an a cappella break atop a swath of sleigh bells that’s squarely in the classic style of Hawthorne, California’s finest; the gorgeous a cappella mix of “Peace on Earth” and “Silent Night”; the supercharged version of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Christmas Dream,” as originally sung by Perry Como, here incorporating the theme from the television comedy classic Hogan’s Heroes; and the lovely take on “The Little Drummer Boy,” with Chris Mendez’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”-esque drum part.

“Peace on Earth/Silent Night” live at The Tin Pan in Richmond, VA, 12/9/17

Craig Evans, Brad Tucker, Gregg Mars and Chris Mendez’s collection of odes to Christmas joy is a wonder to behold and a perfect complement to your holiday soundtrack.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Kenny Herbert |”This is Our Christmas” (2019)

A pretty, orchestrated ballad written by Kenny and Bob Heatlie after Kenny and his wife Caroline visited Edinburgh, Scotland’s Princes Street Market, this sounds as though it’s been instilled in the forevermore section of the everlasting vault of holiday song classics since forever ago. Kenny’s lovely vocal and another melody that seems sent from the heavens above ensure this one will be played, well, forevermore.

Where to Get It: Apple Music

The Lunar Laugh | “Christmas Cheer” (2019)

An upbeat, jolly song about the joys of Christmas, this catchy number was recorded on December 21, 2018, live and in person at VZD’s Restaurant and Bar in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Written and performed by another Pure Pop Radio favorite group, this song sings.

Where to Hear It and Get It: Bandcamp

The JAC (Featuring the Christmas Crew) | “Broken Gnome” (2019)

Anyone trying to hang on to a strained relationship may find a kindred spirit of sorts in Joe Algeri’s 2019 Christmas offering. Pairing an introspective lyric with an upbeat guitar pop track, “Broken Gnome” charts the course of a soon-to-be-extinguished love-light. Or does it? “What will the new year bring / Just let me be a leaf in the wind / Our light’s burning bright and still / I’m a little scared.” A world-class group of musicians help Joe bring this creation to life: Herb Eimerman, who like Joe is a member of the beloved Britannicas, Stefan Johansson, Lars Brusell, and Andy J Prinkkila.

Where to Hear It and Get It: Bandcamp

The Hangabouts | “Colors of Christmas” (2019)

This always engaging Ann Arbor, Michigan foursome unwraps a warm, soulful soft pop musical gift full of Christmas cheer. Pleasing chords and a lovely melody drive this song about the hues of the holiday (“Lights shine from every frosted window / Melting the winter time blues”). This one will put a smile on your face, for sure.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Various Artists | A Kool Kat Kristmas Vol. 3 (Kool Kat, 2019)

Five years on from Vol. 2, Ray Gianchetti’s Kool Kat Musik returns with a third holiday go-round featuring artists that have previously released music on the label. You’re sure to find a few (or more) favorites in this tasty holiday grab bag.

We found more than a few kool kats amongst these offerings: Everet Almond’s uptempo, poppy “Have a Very Very Very Merry Christmas”; The Decibels’ catchy, power pop anthem, “Christmas Wish,” with a neat Roger McGuinn-like guitar solo and a snatch of “Joy to the World” in the close; and The Seasons Greeters’ rocking, Stray Cats-meets-Dave Edmunds “Santa’s Leaving Town.”

More tasty treats: Tommy and the Rockets’ “December Snow,” upbeat and poppy all the way; Ed Ryan’s rocking slice of power pop, “Noel (You’ve Gotta Sing)”; and, last but not least, Emperor Penguin’s truly different country-and-western song, “Lonesome Cowboy,” sounding sort of like the Sons of the Pioneers if they were pop pickers, until, that is, the ending, when the band rocks out. “Merry Christmas to cowboys everywhere!”, indeed. Yee-haw!

Where to Get It: CD: Kool Kat Musik. Listen and download: Futureman Records (Note that $5.00 from the sale of every CD and download goes to the American Cancer Society).

Kai Danzberg and Scott McPherson | “The Day Before Christmas”
(Big Stir, 2019)

Hanover, Germany’s own Kai Danzberg, an increasingly familiar name in melodic pop circles, teams up with Tiny Volcano and Pop 4’s Scott McPherson for a lively co-write that makes quite a lot of merry. It’s a big and happy holiday treat with a poppy heart, sugary and surefooted. Don’t be surprised to find yourself singing along at first listen. Full of joy.

Where to Get It: Big Stir Digital Singles (part of the exclusive Big Stir Holiday Maxi-Single), Bandcamp

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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, 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 in August 2018.

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

Tonight at 8 pm ET: Pure Pop Radio Worldwide Premieres from Brandon Schott and the Jangle Band

purepoplogoTwo weeks ago, Pure Pop Radio brought you the world radio premiere of Pop 4’s luscious, melodic gem, “Don’t You Be Like That.” Tonight at 8 pm ET, we’re bringing you not one, but two premieres: “Wake Up, Mary,” a charming, bouncy tune from Brandon Schott’s new, forthcoming album, Crayons and Angels; and another jangly, hooky, Byrdsian number from the aptly-named Jangle Band, which counts Pure Pop Radio favorite Joe Algeri amongst its members.

brandon schott crayons and angelsFirst up at 8 pm ET: Brandon Schott’s “Wake Up, Mary,” a bouncy, clap along song that could sit comfortably alongside Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia.” Opening with the steady sound of a ticking alarm clock that suddenly goes off as the rise-and-shine wake up jingle artfully pans across the stereo sound field and gives way to acoustic guitars and percussion, the singer signals the day’s beginning with guarded optimism: “Wake up, Mary/The night is done/There’s so much more for us out in the sun/We’ve been sleeping for too long my dear/And if we stay too long we’ll settle here.”

Not simply a song about waking up and getting the day started, “Wake Up, Mary” is about rehabilitating a perhaps slightly stale relationship; it’s about getting in the car and driving to greener pastures for a new start and growing the weary bones of a union that holds so much promise. “Can’t hide it any longer,” the singer intones. “My spirit’s falling under/Maybe we should wake up, Mary.” The song ends with a cacophony of sound–the rush of cymbals, the sound of birds cooing, the outdoors watching over the souls of the earth. This is a grand musical achievement–just one example of the treasures awaiting you when Crayons and Angels is released. (Connect with Brandon Schott on his Facebook page by clicking here.)

jangle band picksImmediately following Brandon’s “Wake Up, Mary,” we have the worldwide radio premiere of the Jangle Band’s melodic, Byrdsian wonder, “Love You Too.” Following a drum intro echoing the glory of the immortal “Be My Baby,” guitars, organ, bass and drums signal in the instantly memorable, seductive melody in the first verses and middle eight, which leads to the golden chorus, a joyous celebration of everything that captures the fans of melodic pop music. All this and some groovy Beatlesque vocal harmonies at 3:14. Sweet. (Connect with the Jangle Band on their Facebook page by clicking here.)

We’re thrilled to be bringing you these worldwide radio premieres! Enjoy both of these great songs, and look out for more from the artists. The release of Brandon Schott’s Crayons and Angels is imminent; the Jangle Band’s “Love You Too” is slated for release later this year.

Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the original 24-hour-a-day Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s through today. Featuring the great heritage bands, such as the Beatles and the Beach Boys, and contemporary artists carrying on the melodic tradition, from the Legal Matters and Bill Lloyd to Cloud Eleven, Jamie & Steve and Dana Countryman, the station is supported by a comprehensive website featuring station updates, reviews and articles touching on the wonders of melody, harmony and downright catchy songs.

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Week Two. Day One. It’s Another Selection of New Adds to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. Dig in!

Hundreds of newly-added songs are now airing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio, and we’ve only just begun. We’re anxious to tell you all about them, so let’s get right to it, shall we? Week two, day one begins…now!

Peter Lacey's Last LeafPeter Lacey – Last Leaf. Lacey’s latest, a song cycle that harkens back to the singer-songwriter’s folk roots, is a tremendous collection and without question one of the best albums released by any artist so far this year. Many miles away from the beach, Last Leaf plays its hand in the circles of everyday, country life: on patches of grass surrounded by sprouting trees, and by the water, on a calmly-stated lake. Lacey’s new songs are about the simpler, and more important, things in life; every element of this album is calm and soothing and powerful. Recorded with precision and heart, songs such as the beautiful “The Woodwind” and the astonishing instrumental “Seven Hills to Hangleton,” which paces itself carefully until a fiddle infused, percussive attack ends the song cold, are acoustic keepers. In addition to these two songs, we’ve added “Right as Rain,” “Harvest Moon,” “Fisherman,” “He is Sleeping,” and “Boy in the Rings of a Tree,” a particular favorite. We are proud to be featuring Lacey’s new songs that enter as a blessed whisper and move on in the manner of a sprite granting wishes to deserving souls. Best of the year material for sure.

The Tangerines' Turn on the LightThe Tangerines – Turn on the Light. An album packed with equal measures of delight and magic, Turn on the Light delights with no less than 16 catchy songs and as many merry melodies, all crafted with care and songwriting prowess. The Tangerines have put together a spirited group of songs laced with chiming guitars that practically demands repeat play. Honestly, we loved this album so much that we were happy to add all of its songs to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. The rundown: “Turn on the Light,” “It’s Alright,” “Once in a Lifetime,” “Girls’ Girls’ World,” “Sitting in the Greenhouse,” “She,” “She’s so Fluffy,” “Everyday a Drama,” “How Does it Feel,” “Don’t Get Lonely,” “Waiting at Her Door,” “Late,” “Heartbeat,” “Up the Country,” “Love You Still,” and “All Through the Years.” This is the Tangerines’ White Album and, not surprisingly, an instant classic. A whole lot of fun awaits you.

Identical SunsIdentical Suns – “Show Me a Sign” and “Common Ground.” We’ve added two more songs from Identical Suns, a band to watch and grow with. “Show Me a Sign” is a soulful number, kicking off with single voice and electric piano, adding harmonies, bass, drums and expressive electric guitar. “Common Ground” is an upbeat, harmony-rich summer song that features out-of-this-world background vocals from the Sonic Executive Sessions’ Christian Phillips. More pearls to come from this spirited group of music makers. We love the Identical Suns.

 

Also playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio this week, and new to the playlist:

* Cool King Chris – “You Can’t Stop It.” While we wait for the highly-anticipated, brand-new EP from this Pure Pop Radio favorite, who not long ago was featured with producer pal Jamie Hoover on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, we are able to bring you this musical pearl, produced by Jamie. The moral of this song’s story? Once a movement gathers enough steam, you can’t stop it. A timely lyric from a great singer-songwriter, now playing in rotation.

* The Simple Carnival – “The Problem with Friends.” We are longtime fans of the Simple Carnival. We always hope and pray that the Carnival (aka Pennsylvania’s own Jeff Boller, a most creative fellow) will record a new album of wonderful songs, but Jeff’s attention has lately been on creating 3D moving pictures. We’re happy as can be to be able to share this wonderful song, an easygoing, Bacharach-David-esque tune that even mentions 3D in its lyrics. We’re interested in anything Jeff does, so we hope for more at some point in time. Meanwhile, enjoy “The Problem with Friends.”

* Marc Platt – “I Can’t Hide”, “What a Life” and “Selling Crazy.” This top talent continues to write and record top-flight songs. We’ve got three of them for you: “I Can’t Hide” is a Byrdsian kind of tune, “What a Life” sounds like it was plucked from somewhere around 1966, and “Selling Crazy”? Yeah, about 1966 or so, too. Great stuff, now spinning in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. More to come, soon.

* Lauren O’Hara – Sol. We’ve got two songs from this intriguing EP now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “No Remission,” a spirited, lovely acoustic song, topped off with a wonderful violin part; and a meaty tune, “Sunday Sun,” powered by our friend Joe Algeri’s drums, bass and organ. Joe also mixed this song and mastered the entire EP. Lauren O’Hara is definitely a talent to follow.

That’s it for today. More tomorrow, of course, and through this second week of our exclusive melodic pop songs explosion. Ka-boom, indeed!

 

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