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 | 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!

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.

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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.

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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

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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!