Reviews: 2.15.19: Friday (on My Mind) Special: The Weeklings Rock Out at High Noone

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The Weeklings featuring Peter Noone
“Friday on My Mind” (Jem, 2019)

It’s Friday, it’s special, and it’s time for this important question: What happens when a quartet of old pros meet up with an old pro from the 1960s, get amped-up, plugged in and blast out, in smashing fashion, a 52-year-old classic hit of psych pop like it’s their last ride on the roller coaster?

Fireworks of the musical kind ensue! Better stand back, kids, and buckle in! You’re in for a fun, wild ride!

The Weeklings, New Jersey’s fab foursome, this time eschewing their fab influences, have connected with Herman’s Hermits front man Peter Noone to record a blown-up-and-put-together-again-with-a-rocking-bed-of-dynamite version of the Easybeats’ 1966 worldwide smash, “Friday on My Mind.”

Blowing up expectations, the Weeklings–Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack–provide the daring instrumental and vocal backing and hand the lead vocal reins over to Peter Noone who, more in line with his persona on the Tremblers’ 1980 long player, Twice Nightly, aims for outer space as he takes on Harry Vanda and George Young’s classic number.

It’s a hell of a performance, folks; the mix of Noone’s piercing, take-no-prisoners vocal and the Weeklings’ mastery of the original song’s ultra-catchy melody and instrumentation is one of this melodic pop season’s most powerful moments.

As the beat and oomph ramps up in the last seven seconds of this great waxing to about as above ground as humanly possible, Noone looks his microphone in the eye and gives it all he’s got–a throat-shredding scream that lasts all of two seconds but burns itself into your brain for a lifetime.

And now, before this review bids you a fond adieu, enjoy the Weeklings and Peter Noone–the Fab Five, if you will–and their smoking rendition of the Easybeats’ “Friday on My Mind.” These guys are seriously superheros (Marvel or DC, take your pick).

Whew. Produced by Jem Records’ Marty Scott and recorded by the Grip Weeds’ Kurt Reil (Peter Noone’s vocal was recorded by Fernando Perdomo at Reseda Ranch Studios), this pulsating version of “Friday on My Mind” is a keeper, a classic in its own right–a monumental knock on the door of what we expect to hear…an instant classic, if you will.

And you will.

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.

Reviews: 1.31.19: Tim Jackson’s Pure Pop Debut is Right on Time

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Tim Jackson | Better Late than Never (2018)

The thing you need to understand about Tim Jackson, whose debut album is one of the finest first musical volleys in recent memory, is that his record collection is likely pretty similar to the one that has overtaken your living room, den, and/or storage bin.

If you’re a fan of pure pop music from the likes of Andrew Gold, Ben Folds, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Michael Penn, Elton John, Looking Glass, Todd Rundgren, 10cc, Supertramp, Billy Joel, and Bruce Hornsby, you’ll feel right at home spinning Jackson’s songs.

You know that feeling you get when you hear a pure popian tune and your first impossible-to-resist urge is to sing along before you even hear the first chorus?

Yeah, that feeling. Tim Jackson’s got the goods.

Let’s dig in. There is a lot to unpack, story-wise, in the quite catchy, uptempo, hit-bound-in-a-perfect-world title track about a musician’s station in life at various points along his climb up the ladder of success. “We got married and I took a job/Then the band broke up and the dream was gone/We had kids and settled down forever/But now I’m back, it’s better late than never,” Jackson sings atop his percussive keyboard (dig the Andrew Gold-y piano break).

Jackson sinks deep into a contagious seventies groove, powered by a Looking Glass kind of electric piano part which, in the very beginning, recalls Elton John’s “The Bitch is Back”, in the uptempo, horn-fueled “Black Dog” (no, not that “Black Dog”). This toe-tapping nugget, about that thing that tugs at your soul and how you can escape it and break through the clouds, is one of this album’s top keepers.

Influences of varying stripes inhabit the gorgeous mid-tempo ballad “What Lies Ahead,” this album’s penultimate song, about safe, forever love that knows no boundaries. A beautiful chord structure and a lovely melody fuel this instant classic that everyone can relate to (“Cause I won’t let you down/And you will lift me up/When I fall behind/Or you’re feeling out of luck/There’s no need to explain/Or ever hide again/I’ll take away your pain/And then/Who knows what lies ahead”). It’s the story of true love that is always true.

Recorded mostly at home with friends such as Iain Hornal from Jeff Lynne’s ELO, with Jackson playing the keys and singing, Better Late than Never is the kind of classic, pure pop kind of record that fans of instantly lovable melodic pop are drawn to as a matter of course. It is a complete and utter joy all the way through.

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 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: 1.22.19: The Details’ Majestic Album, To Charles Dickens and Back

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The Details
To Charles Dickens and Back (2018)

The way you get there begins here: a crash of glass and a high-pitched whistle and an orchestra tuning up and the audience settling in; the comforting strum of an acoustic guitar atop singular bass notes; water waving; a high-pitched voice, the swell of a cymbal and orchestration atop it all.

Plus: A harmonica, mellow and echoing the sound of music; a classical, wordless interpretation of the Free Design’s vocal style; and horns. It’s an underture of sorts, titled “To Charles Dickens…”, that sets the stage for this glorious album. Welcome to the miraculous work of Matei-Florin Tibacu-Blendea, collected here as an eight-song salute to seemingly every melodic sound ever captured on tape and otherwise from artists as diverse as the Beach Boys (in their mid-period), Simon and Garfunkel, the Hep Stars, Pete Townshend, a parcel of beat groups, the Walker Brothers, and Todd Rundgren. Among others.

The way you get into this miraculous collection, To Charles Dickens and Back, painted with short and long brushstrokes depending on the mood at hand in each song, is “To Charles Dickens…”, the 10-minute left-end bookend that appropriates half of this album’s title and is about as amazing and immersive a creation as can be expected to be heard in this day and age (the right-end buddy, titled “…and Back,” closes out this 45-minute survey of gentle, genius sounds).

These eight songs weave their influences in and out and back in again as they survey what has come before and how it all has settled in Tibacu-Blendea’s consciousness; these songs are as much a representation of what has come before as they are of what populates this experience.

This experience, fluid and mesmerizing, comes in many forms: upbeat two-step, varied tempo, folkpark romps (“For Anyone to Claim” and “Romania is for Sale”), soulful, horn-infused beat sounds (“Stop and Dedicate Some Time to the Sun”), soulful balladry (“Cellophane Nirvana”), and tips of the hat to two classic songs from yesteryear: the Beach Boys’ “Girls on the Beach,” which, in Tibacu-Blendea’s hands, becomes a ghostly-sounding beat number, and Flamin’ Groovies’ 1976 anthem, “Shake Some Action,” here sounding more-than-vaguely ELO-ish and veering off into a dramatic, ominous stage set-piece at the end.

The right-end bookend instrumental that caps off these proceedings, “…and Back,” continues in the many-hued vein of the opener, “To Charles Dickens…”. Twelve mesmerizing minutes later, this album comes to a close with a faint, acoustic piano and acoustic guitar duet that dissolves into a crash of glass. And there you are, just as you were at the start of this journey, ready to set out on these varied paths once again.

To Charles Dickens and Back captures our imagination with great skill and creativity. It is the work of a clever magician–a spectacular feat of musical legerdemain. Matei-Florin Tibacu-Blendea, who mixed, mastered, and produced these songs and plays most of the instruments (Stephen Kalinich is a notable guest), knows how to drive this train across a landscape decorated with the sounds we loved and wind up with a here-and-now creation paying sincere homage. It is a lovely, deeply-felt journey, indeed.

Where to Get It: Amazon, CD Baby, Bandcamp

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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: 1.11.19: The April Family Pops the Cork on “Champagne”

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The April Family “Champagne” (2018)
“Boys are mean and girls let you down,” Kylie Whitney testifies from her heart in the April Family’s catchy, foot-stomping new single “Champagne,” the trailer for the trio’s highly-anticipated upcoming album House of Cards.

Love, as it happens, can scale the higher highs but it sometimes brings us down to the lowest lows, at which point the bottle can come into play as at least a temporary salve. Champagne and other similar liquid refreshments may have their downsides, but they never broke this narrator’s heart.

Singing like the most committed of traditional country truth tellers, Whitney sings this old-fashioned, cautionary tale like it is, acknowledging that drink doesn’t do her “ any favours when it makes me speak the truth / But it sure don’t break my heart like you do.” So, a little liquid solace in the face of an aching heart.

This truth-telling session is set to a stomping beat, a celebration of uptempo country heartache, played with gusto by lead guitarist Casey Atkins and multi-instrumentalist and Pure Pop Radio favorite Michael Carpenter, who makes the track sing playing an upright bass, acoustic guitar, banjo, a snare drum, and percussion. As noted above, Kylie Whitney sings her Loretta Lynn heart out, turning out a standout lead vocal. All three Family members stomp and clap.

And we, the audience, applaud. Love’s a tough road to travel; records like this one make the trip easier. Now, bring on the album.

Where to Get It:  Amazon, iTunes, Google Play. 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!

I Love that Album! #3: Klaatu’s Sir Army Suit (1978)

alan headshot from schoolBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

klaatu sir army suit cover“We all rose to the challenge,” Terry Draper says about “Calling Occupants (Of Interplanetary Craft),” Klaatu’s momentous signature song that opened the band’s debut album, 3:47 E.S.T., but he might as well have been referring to Sir Army Suit, the Canadian trio’s triumphant third album, released in August 1978 and now celebrating its 40th anniversary.

klaatu juicy luicy 45 labelThe challenge Terry, John Woloschuk and Dee Long were faced with, as they gathered to work on Sir Army Suit–really no challenge at all–was to write and record relatively short radio-friendly songs that would increase Klaatu’s marketplace footprint. And with wonderful nuggets such as “Juicy Luicy,” a catchy disco parody; “Tokeymor Field,” a hummable soft-pop romantic romp inspired by the music of the Young Rascals; and “Older,” a rocker about making time count before it’s gone, success should have been a fait accompli. And it was, for fans who held 3:47 E.S.T. and Hope, Klaatu’s previous two albums, dear.

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(l to r) John Woloschuk, Dee Long, and Terry Draper

John, Dee and Terry’s mandate was always to write and record songs that were different from each other, and for Sir Army Suit, they came up with their most diverse set yet. Songs about long getaways (“Everybody Took a Holiday”), the gift you didn’t know you needed (“Perpetual Motion Machine”), falling in love from a berth on the high seas (“Dear Christine”), and leading a humdrum existence (“A Routine Day”) were brought to life with fanciful, creative arrangements. Working with producer Terry Brown, the band’s George Martin, Klaatu delivered exactly what was called for– an album stocked full of unique treasures that is as enjoyable today as it was 40 years ago.

One of Sir Army Suit’s most engaging slices of songcraft is the cinematic number that opens the album. John’s majestic “A Routine Day,” about a man living possibly the most humdrum existence imaginable, offers up exquisite and complex chord progressions, one of the loveliest, most seductive melodies in Klaatu’s catalog, and a surprising Twilight Zone-esque ending, in which the hapless narrator waits on the pier, as one does, for Charon, the ferryman of Hades.

Then, there are the tremendous songs written by Dee Long, charming, melodic wonders all: the aforementioned “Everybody Took a Holiday” and “Perpetual Motion Machine,” and “Older,” “Mr. Manson,” and “Cherie” (Dee also cowrote the wild sci-fi closer, “Silly Boys,” with John). “Cherie” may well be the loveliest of all of Dee’s creatures on this album:

Of course, a band is more than just one member’s vision; Sir Army Suit wouldn’t be the creative triumph it is without John Woloschuk, Dee Long and Terry Draper working together to fuse their ideas into a successful whole. And, it cannot be said often enough that the trio, working together with Terry Brown, were collectively a tremendous close-knit, creative force.

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Sir Army Suit’s Back Cover

All of this sterling work came wrapped inside Hugh Syme’s beautiful, imaginative cover art that finally provided visual proof that the members of Klaatu had never been Beatles, even if the band members and fellow travelers depicted didn’t come with names attached. That would have to wait until Klaatu’s next album, Endangered Species.

Klaatu produced five albums in their relatively brief lifetime; all of them offer slices of hope and a little courage, but Sir Army Suit is perhaps the most courageous of all.

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 7.25.18: The Quite Grand Debut of the Grand Leve

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alan headshot from schoolBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Spins and Reviews | 7.25.18

The Grand Levé | The Grand Levé (2018)
the grand leve coverThe music reviewer’s job, the same as it ever was, is to paint a picture with words that convince you that an album either isn’t worth a scintilla of your time (which, of course, we don’t do here) or should rise to the top of your must-buy list. So, we talk about an artist’s influences and how he or she fits into the scheme of things that matter to you and yours. Are the songs good? Are they catchy? Do they matter?

Then, it’s up to you, and if we’ve done our job, your next move is easy.

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, knows that making the next move–the creative move, in this case–is never easy. His more than four decades making music, primarily with hit duo Visitors in the late 1980s, Brains Beat Beauty in 1997, and Longplayer beginning in 2010, can be looked at as an extended ramping-up period during which he soaked up the key attributes that attracted him to his favorite artists and led to his new songs (even if two of them date back to the time of Visitors).

Basically, Göran Hjertstedt has the same record collection as you do, which means that you and his new songs will get along just fine.

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.

This enticing mix of catchy, well-crafted songs knows how to command your attention. “All in the City,” very Electric Light Orchestra in every imaginable and loving way; “Free,” very melody-rich Tom Petty; and “Yesterday Man,” very pure pop and Göran Hjertstedt by way of Longplayer, lead the more than sufficiently well-appointed pack. The mutli-retro “Two to Tango,” a bluesy drawing room number about love and dancing that namechecks Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and “What Am I Gonna Do (Lunar City Heartache),” a luscious, romantic mid-tempo ballad with sci-fi overtones, are two more superlative melodic wonders. The alluring, closing instrumental, “Memory Lane,” is perhaps the perfect ruminative end to these proceedings, marked by lovely, expressive electric guitar lines that sing.

When all is said and done, 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. Same as it ever was, in fact.

black box Now Playing in Rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Ride the Wind,” “All in the City,” “Two to Tango,” “Free,” “What Am I Gonna Do (Lunar City Heartache),” and “Yesterday Man”
black box Where to Get It: Digital download at Amazon. Stream on YouTube and Spotify

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New on Pure Pop Radio 4.19.18: Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Where Did You Go To”

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alan headshot from schoolBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Spins and Reviews | 4.19.18

Gilbert O’Sullivan | “Where Did You Go To” | Gilbert O’Sullivan, 2018

All it takes is a song, not necessarily new but often so, to bring me back to my youth, back to my days listening to records in my bedroom, one after another after another still, closing my eyes and feeling each note and change and anticipating, because that’s what you did, the song’s fade. I swear that I could pick up the tone arm of my Symphonic all-in-one turntable without even peering ever so slightly through my closed eyelids and drop it at the beginning of a record to start the listening process all over again with hardly any effort at all and, it should be said, 100-percent accuracy.

gilbert o'sullivan 2018 albumSuch was the memory that overtook me after listening to the lovely first single from the brand-new, self-titled album from veteran singer-songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan, releasing August 10. “Where Did You Go To” finds Gilbert in peak form, sounding all the world like he always has, singing warm melodies atop his singular piano playing and, this is the most important part: sounding like no one else in the whole wide world.

As “Where Did You Go To” was ending, and the sustained organ note at the close was coming to a full stop, I shut my eyes and remembered the feeling of listening to Gilbert’s first album, the one with “Alone Again (Naturally),” which I’d gotten from the Columbia Record Club. I became obsessed with that album, with that big hit single that graced the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100, that was all over the radio back in the day.

But it was another song on that first album that captured my imagination even more. “Houdini Said,” a bonanza of melody and clever, stream-of-consciousness wordplay about anything and everything (and then some) seemed somehow otherworldly, yet completely relatable. I continue to play it frequently today. It is, as are so many of Gilbert’s songs, part of me.

I look forward to Gilbert O’Sullivan, to a dozen new songs that will undoubtedly capture my imagination in the same way that most all of the artist’s work has. In anticipation, I will close my eyes and sing to my inner self the opening lines of “Houdini Said”: “Doctor in love who is above/All others close to you…”

black box Where to Get It: Pre-order Gilbert O’Sullivan in various bundle configurations in Gilbert’s store. Pre-order CD, vinyl or cassette at Amazon. Pre-order the digital download and/or purchase “Where Did You Go To” immediately at Amazon.

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