Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio is the premier website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and new-to-you releases. Pure Pop Radio plays the greatest melodic pop in the universe 24 hours a day.
* Listen to the world radio premiere of Cherry Parkes’ previously-unheard ’60s classic, “The Man of the Moment,” tonight at both 8 and 9 pm ET!
Thanks to the Charlatan Record Cartel. *
Cherry Parkes | “The Man of the Moment”
(Charlatan Record Cartel, 2017)
“These were in my basement. Maybe you can do something with them.”
They were words one might expect to hear at a yard sale from a been-in-the-neighborhood-for-decades resident who had finally cleaned out his basement, littered with bric-a-brac and mementos from a life lived generously. “These were in my basement. Maybe you can do something with them.” “How much for this chest of drawers?” “Five dollars. A bargain, if you ask me.” A deal made in the blink of an eye, a treasure successfully transferred to a new home.
Except in this case, “these” were a set of master tapes found abandoned in a basement in Tacoma, Washington that were sent to the progressive Charlatan Record Cartel. All eyes and ears, for that matter, have been transfixed on Jayson Jarmon’s outfit since this past March, when Charlatan began releasing heretofore unheard recordings made by Pacific Northwest practitioners of the pop music art.
Whereas previous Charlatan releases have come from contemporary artists such as the Sunday Brothers, this latest release is a blast from an unknown past. The treasures received were “badly deteriorated four-track master tapes marked simply as ‘Cherry Parkes, October 1966’ and were accompanied by several photos, a handkerchief marked ‘AP,’ and a gig poster describing a Friday night show at Federal Way’s long defunct Spanish Castle club,” according to the label. And what of the significance of the personalized handkerchief? A mystery likely to remain unsolved, sadly.
After baking the 50-year-old tapes in what we can only assume is the Charlatan lab rats’ version of the famous childhood kitchen appliance known as the Easy-Bake Oven, and mixing and mastering to improve sonic clarity, Charlatan staff auditioned the four Parkes tracks. What they heard was nothing less than magical. What happened next literally and figuratively knocked the socks off their feet, clear across the floor, until they ran smack into Charlatan’s cherry wood-paneled walls.
Amanda “Cherry” Parkes’ introduction to the world is the first song released from Charlatan’s momentous find. “The Man of the Moment” is reminiscent of the best of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s output, but also calls to mind various James Bond movie theme songs and classic sides waxed by female vocalists of the 1960s, such as Vicki Carr and Eydie Gorme. One listen to the melody-infused track, about a woman who chooses a spouse who is, perhaps, less than savory and maybe not the right catch (“And do you think she’ll ever wonder how it came to this?/And will she willingly exchange a wedding vow/With such a piece of work as this?”) is all it takes to understand how much gold has been dropped into Charlatan’s considerable lap.
Pure Pop Radio is proud to be presenting the world radio premiere of Amanda “Cherry” Parkes’ “The Man of the Moment” tonight at 8 and 9 pm ET. The track will be available for purchase this Friday, June 30, on Charlatan’s Bandcamp page (check back for the link). It’s not often that a track of such import is imported into our playlist; we urge you to drop everything this evening and hear for yourself this magical musical missive.
Cherry Parkes’ “The Man of the Moment” is but one of hundreds of new and new-to-you songs that have recently been added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a slew of reviews of just-released classic recordings from such artists of the moment as Richard X. Heyman, Bill DeMain, The Naturals, Carpenter Caswell, and The Junipers’ Robyn Gibson.
Ray Paul | “I Need Your Love Tonight” | This is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio Volume 4
(Kool Kat Musik) 2017
Just one month shy of a year since the release of Whimsicality, Ray Paul’s glorious, rock ’em, sock ’em return to recording, which in July of 2016 we called “one of this year’s best albums… a delicious mix of originals and well-chosen covers,” Ray returns with another, so-very-catchy slice of pop, and it’s a doozy.
“I Need Your Love Tonight” mines both the sweet and crunchy sides of the Raspberries sound (with just a hint of The Grass Roots) for four minutes of indisputable proof that this heritage artist, whose work passionately promoting indie pop artists is well-known and treasured, is top of the pops.
Ray’s signature, booming bass and strong vocals (stronger than ever, actually), Terry Draper’s drums, tambourine and piano, and Bill Nadeau’s crunchy guitars distinguish “I Need Your Love Tonight,” co-produced in grand style last month by Ray and Terry at Terry’s Swamp Manor studio in Oak Ridges, ON, Canada. The track is certain to be one of the highlights of the much-anticipated This is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio Volume 4 compilation, being released by Ray Gianchetti’s Kool Kat Musik label.
Pure Pop Radio is proud to be the first independent radio outlet to play “I Need Your Love Tonight” outside of Dana and Carl’s This is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio show. The song is now gracing our air and playing in hot rotation. We dig us some new Ray.
Now playing on Pure Pop Radio Where to Get It: Coming soon
Spins and Reviews | 05.02.17 By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
A Pure Pop Radio Exclusive:
Bill DeMain | “Honey Bear” and “Leroy Boy” (from the forthcoming album Transatlantic Romantic, 2017)
Last December, I had the great pleasure of adding to the Pure Pop Radio playlist a gorgeous cover of the Beach Boys’ “Wendy,” essayed in grand style by Swan Dive’s Bill DeMain. This glorious cover, stacked rich with harmonies atop a muscular, baroque base, will appear on Bill’s forthcoming, much-anticipated solo album, Transatlantic Romantic. Piano-based magic lies ahead.
Also appearing on Transatlantic Romantic are two songs that Bill has allowed me to play first on the radio: “Honey Bear” and “Leroy Boy.” Color all of us lucky. “Honey Bear” is a lovely meeting of gold-standard influence, blending a distinct Randy Newman/Harry Nilsson vibe with Van Dyke Parks ambiance, pedal steel guitar, played by Jim Hoke, horns, and a sprinkling of Beach Boys’ style percussion. Written with Larry Goldings, this has standard written all over it. It’s beautiful.
“Leroy Boy” takes its cue from Todd Rundgren’s iconic “We Gotta Get You a Woman” (Bill had originally thought to write a sequel to the song, but opted instead to wax poetic from personal experience). Rundgren fans will dig this easy-going number, which draws on the sound of Philadelphia soul; fans of Carole King will be similarly entranced. There’s a bit of a Steely Dan vibe in here, as well. There’s also a beautiful string arrangement topping the bill. You really couldn’t ask for anything more. Or delicious.
“Leroy boy, where you been all this time?” Bill sings as “Leroy Boy” gets out of the starting gate. Well, the answer is it’s Bill DeMain we’re talking about, and he’s been fashioning what promises to be one of the best albums of the year. Certainly, with “Leroy Boy” and “Honey Bear,” and the wonderful cover of “Wendy,” Bill is off to a great start.
Spins and Reviews | (Originally posted 1.10.17)
By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
Dana Countryman’s Girlville! New Songs in the Style of Yesterday’s Hits (Teensville) 2017
And now for something completely different? Not completely, actually, because this heartfelt, loving tribute to the sounds of 1960s girl groups shares the same depth of commitment and heart that Dana Countryman put into his much-loved pop songs trilogy, concluded in 2015 with Pop 3! Welcome to My Time Warp!.
The only tangible difference here is that the 19 songs on offer are sung by an array of talented female vocalists chosen by Dana because they could match him heartbeat for heartbeat and bring to life his wonderful, period-esque songs, written from the perspective of a 16-year-old girl living in the early 1960s.
Both familiar and perhaps new-to-you vocalists such as Lisa Mychols, Swan Dive’s Molly Felder, Pop 4’s Andrea Perry, Kelly Harland, Lisa Jenio, Julie Johnson Sand, Kathy Hettel, and Tricia Countryman, along with Tana Cunningham and Mary Chris Henry, beautifully communicate the joy that has been woven by Dana and his co-writers into the fabric of this musical homage to the catchy sounds of a comparatively simpler time.
The characters who populate these songs have nothing more in mind than being smitten with boys, being jealous of girls who like the boys they like, true love, loving a Beatle, and twisting at Granny’s house. A simpler time? Most certainly, and certainly a period of their lives during which everything is full of wonder, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.
(left to right) Dana Countryman and Klaatu’s Dee Long
A sense of wonder permeates the proceedings throughout this delightful album, for which Dana plays most of the instruments and sings backup vocals (guests include the artist’s good luck charm, Klaatu’s Dee Long). And the highlights are many, such as the Phil Spector-y toe-tapper “Chemistry,” sung by Kathy Hettel in the guise of a girl bored in chemistry class until she partners up with the boy who sits behind her for a class project. The pair falls in love, holds hands and sits side-by-side, learning about, yes, chemistry.
“Proud to Be His Girlfriend,” sung with honest emotion by Lisa Mychols, is the simple story of a girl who is proud to be her guy’s gal. It’s a gorgeous mix of ’60s Brian Wilson and Carole King innocence. “My Heart Belongs to One Boy,” sung beautifully by Lisa Jenio, should rule the AM radio charts, and if it were around back in the good old days, it probably would have.
I’ve always felt that Dana’s music would have ruled the charts back in whichever day you might choose to focus on. The reason is simple, I think: His mantra when writing songs is always to entertain, to brighten the listener’s day. You know that feeling you get when something you hear, whether it’s a song on the radio or coming out of your home stereo or computer speakers, takes root in you in just the right way and you feel a certain type of tingling? That’s what happens when you connect with popular art that moves you.
Dana’s music moves me and always has–I’ve certainly written enough about it and played so much of it on the radio. Call it the Countryman Effect or simply accept it into your consciousness, but accept it without question and let it be a part of your life. Girlville! New Songs in the Style of Yesterday’s Hits is a joyful experience that you and I and everyone else will be remembering and enjoying for a long time to come.
Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: The entire album: “Girlville,” “It’s Not Your Fault,” “I’ve Run All Out of Tears,” “My Heart Belongs to One Boy,” “How Do You Know When You Love a Boy?,” “I’m in Love with George Harrison,” “Bom Sh Bom Bom,” “Pretty Good Sign,” “Because I Love Him,” “Chemistry,” “Jealous Girl,” “One Last Dance Together,” “Love Till the End of Time,” “Little Shy Boy,” “Proud to be His Girlfriend,” “Twist Party at Granny’s House,” “I’ll be Good For You,” “Little Bitty Snowflake,” and “Johnny Still Loves Me” Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Kook Kat, iTunes
It seemed to fall from out of the sky, so different was it from everything else, its descent to earth slow and determined and harmony bound, as if protected by angels who knew that it was a gift from heaven. So it was, and on into the marketplace it went.
The Roches, Maggie, Terre and Suzzy, clearly a collective gift so pure and honest and true, recorded their first album as a trio with Robert Fripp, who produced the self-titled collection at New York’s Hit Factory in “audio verité,” with engineer Ed Sprigg at the controls. Instrumentation was spare throughout, with only acoustic guitars, synthesizer, bass, triangle, and shaker supporting the sisters’ lovely lead and harmony close-miked vocals, positioned up front where they clearly belonged. These are intimate performances, beautifully realized.
Released in 1979 on Warner Brothers, The Roches was like nothing that had come before in the rock era. It wasn’t rock and it wasn’t roll; it wasn’t folk or strictly pop but, rather, a meeting of the genre minds with glorious harmony singing and lovely melodies. The 10 songs were pretty and clever and, really, pretty clever. Written by the three sisters both separately and as a trio, they were, and continue to be, powerful specimens.
Maggie and Terre had come into view earlier in the seventies; they sang backup on Paul Simon’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon in 1973, on a wistful song called “Was a Sunny Day,” a lazy kind of summer, slice of life character number. Two years later, the duo released an album called Seductive Reasoning, a collection of astounding songs mostly written by Maggie and with the cleverly-titled “If You Empty Out Your Pockets You Could Not Make the Change,” which was produced by Simon.
And then 1979 beckoned, and The Roches was released. Maggie’s “The Married Men,” a song about women hanging on to the words of cads who promised their secret crushes everything and, in the end, delivered nothing everlasting, was one of the highlights of the album; the song was recorded by Phoebe Snow on her Against the Grain album a year earlier.
But there were other astounding songs on offer. Certainly the opener, “We,” a wry musical introduction to the sisters, was a blast of a melodic calling card, a two-and-a-half minute how-they-got-here song that spelled it all out, including admissions that the Roches didn’t give out their phone numbers, and lived in New York City by way of “deepest New Jersey” (“We better get [outta] there/Before the shit hits the fan”).
Maggie’s glorious “Hammond Song” and “Quitting Time” were highlights, too; the former about keeping from going down the wrong path, and the latter about living the life that makes you happy (“You can go south in winter/Be what you are a goose/Honk all the moon out the ocean/Your clothes can fit you loose”). Clever wordplay was clearly in evidence.
Terre’s “Mr. Sellack” tells the story of a person who pleads with the owner of a restaurant to give her her job back, even though he might not remember her (“O Mr. Sellack/I didn’t think I’d be back/I worked here last year/Remember?”). Melodically strong and full of rich vocal harmony, the lyrical wordplay is clever: “Waiting tables ain’t that bad/Since I’ve seen you last/I’ve waited for some things that you would not believe/To come true.”
Suzzy’s atmospheric, practically Hitchcockian “The Train” charts the travels of a narrator who is trying to make it through, but has to endure obstacles (“I spy on the big guy/Sitting next to me/He’s drinking two beers/And reading the New York Post/Trying not to get in my way/Everybody knows the kind of day that is”).
The Roches was followed by the otherworldly Nurds in 1980, a different kind of album stacked full of classic songs such as Terre’s examination of the inner psyche, “My Sick Mind,” and Suzzy and Terre’s hysterical, tongue-planted-so-firmly-in-cheek-it-hurts “The Death of Suzzy Roche” (in which the battle for top dog in the laundromat is settled with comically violent results). A sterling, a cappella rendition of Cole Porter’s “It’s Bad for Me” provided, perhaps, some much-needed balance.
The Roches’ rich, natural vocal blend is a collective thing of beauty, just as it was on the sisters’ debut album, which sounds as fresh today as it did 37 years ago. The Roches continue to sound pure and honest and true.
Lovingly crafted and full of heart, Alejandro’s Visions is Steve Eggers’ masterpiece
The Nines | Alejandro’s Visions | 2016
After incorporating a variety of styles into a stream of releases spanning a nearly-20-year-long career, the Nines’ Steve Eggers has delivered perhaps his most heartfelt musical statement—a love letter to the classic song structures that populated the output of artists in the pre-1962 era and the more contemporary sounds that have influenced him.
Rolling and then filtering the influence of the music of writers such as George Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart into a mix peppered with the harmony styles of the Beach Boys, the Four Freshmen and even doo-wop, and then topping the resulting flow with his love of artists such as the Electric Light Orchestra and XTC, Eggers has delivered a harmony- and melody-drenched soundtrack to an imaginary film, somewhat of a sequel to the last Nines album, Night Surfer and the Cassette Kids.
In the story that drives the songs on Alejandro’s Visions, Alejandro, one of the main characters of the garage-rock-centered Night Surfer, travels back in time to an alternate version of the late 1950s, where he falls in love with a girl named Marie. Unfortunately, it’s a love that doesn’t last.
The songs on Alejandro’s Visions bring Eggers’ ideas to life. Witness such lovingly crafted creations as the beautiful, bittersweet, old-fashioned “When Our Love Was in Bloom,” stacked deep with gorgeous harmonies and an irresistible melody; and the early rock and roll/pop hybrid “Operator (Coming Home to You),” which sports a meaty, catchy, percussive piano riff, opens with an aural allusion to the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” and lays out a delectable Jeff Lynne-ish bridge that will make you smile.
A student of popular songs created across the decades, Eggers continues to write and record music that moves him and, as evidenced by his ongoing popularity, his ever-growing audience. Alejandro’s Visions, while perhaps a collection of songs that is unexpected, is moreover a sterling addition to a body of work that stands tall among pop music’s greatest achievements. This is Eggers’ best and most assured work yet, an immensely satisfying work that belongs in every melodic pop music fan’s collection.
Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “And Suddenly,” “Beachfront in New York,” “Can’t Go Back to Ocean Town,” “Darling I Adore You,” “Escape from a Small Town,” “Everybody Knows Me,” “I Have Found You,” “I’m an Old Soul and You’re Old Fashioned,” and “Operator (Coming Home to You)”
When and Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, CD Baby, and Amazon (mp3)
Here are four more recent additions to the Pure Pop Radio playlist:
Chris Murphy with Michael Carpenter | “Real Love” This absolutely gorgeous ballad recasting of John Lennon’s song, released in 1996 on the Beatles Anthology 2 as the second new group track after “Free as a Bird,” is one of this year’s major triumphs in melodic pop music. For one thing, the tempo has been slowed, allowing Murphy to lovingly communicate the depth of the emotional lyric. Murphy’s vocal may well be the best vocal performance of the year. His ability to hold a melody line’s final note in such an artful way, to sustain its resonance and maximize its impact on the listener, is something to behold.
Recorded with precision and heart by Carpenter on the occasion of singer Kylie Whitney’s wedding (Whitney also sang background vocals), this new version of this wonderful song is proof positive that covers can reveal new layers of emotion not previously brought to the surface. Murphy, whose superb solo work can also be heard on Pure Pop Radio, proves, in the space of four minutes and ten seconds, all this and much more. Carpenter plays all of the instruments. Essential listening. Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio When and Where to Get It: iTunes. Hear it on Spotify, and see the lovely video on YouTube
Lisa Mychols | “I’ve Run All Out of Tears (To Cry Over You)” I had the great pleasure and distinct honor of premiering this lovely retro-charmer, the first single from the forthcoming labor of love, Dana Countryman’s Girlville! New Songs in the Style of Yesterday’s Hits, on November 10. The occasion was an exclusive interview with Dana on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, during which he talked publicly for the first time about this album, which I predict will be one of the most talked-about long players of 2017.
Close your eyes while listening to this three-minute-long, lovingly-crafted number, built on a genuine love for the girl group and Brill Building sounds of the early 1960s, and you will find yourself transported back to a much simpler time, perhaps, when melody and joy were king. Lisa Mychols’ authentic, warm-hearted vocal is a blast of musical love. Dana paints his soundscape with colorful, period brushstrokes, even as he tops his creation off with a Brian May-like guitar solo from Klaatu’s Dee Long.
You will hear more, much more, about the girl group sounds lovingly celebrated on Dana Countryman’s Girlville! New Songs in the Style of Yesterday’s Hits closer to the album’s January 13, 2017 release by Australia’s Teensville Records. Until then, savor this lead track and smile. Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio (exclusively through November 15) When and Where to Get It: Bandcamp
The Flat Five | It’s a World of Love and Hope From out Chicago way comes this group of harmony-centric harmony hounds. A supergroup of sorts due to the member’s affiliation with artists such as Neko Case and the New Pornographers, the Flat Five took a long road toward making this, their first album, playing a growing number of gigs during which they performed songs written by group member Scott Ligon’s brother Chris. Intent on getting a wide audience for Chris’s songs, they set about recording them. The result is a deliciously wondrous assortment of luscious pop dressed in a variety of comfortable musical clothing that runs the gamut from the Manhattan Transfer-meets-hep cat vibe of the delightful “Buglight” to the Paul McCartney retro-sway of “I Could Fall in Love with You” and the pretty back porch balladry of Roches-like “Bottom Buck.” Records like this one don’t come along every day, which makes It’s a World of Love and Hope pretty special. Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Florida,” “Buglight,” “Bottom Buck,” I Could Fall in Love with You,” “Birmingham,” and “This is Your Night,” which sounds like a cross between the Free Design and the Association, an unlikely combination perhaps, but oh so tasty. When and Where to Get It:Bloodshot Records,Amazon, and Bandcamp
Cult of Wedge | Loch Ness Monsters and Motherships This latest musical missive from UK parish Rowley Regis’s Pete Hackett notches a best-album-yet nod for its top-notch selection of catchy songs, all performed with gusto. Hackett’s obvious love of the pop form glistens on the half-dozen songs from this album now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. Earworms all. Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “That Song Last Summer,” “When I Was Young,” “Miss America,” “Oh Lindsay,” “Wish Ourselves Away,” and “Shine on Me” When and Where to Get It: Bandcamp
Carl Funk | Black Horizon Vanilla fans will be familiar with Carl Funk from his widescreen lead vocal on “The Angel of Swain’s Lane” from the group’s 2.0 album (also appearing here), sung, as I said in my October 15, 2014 review of the song, “with deep emotion and old world style.” Carl’s committed, soulful voice drives these songs, carved with (and yes, I am coining a new word) an Amerisoulfulcana blade which fit perfectly among the various pop colors in our on-air mix. Wonderful stuff. Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Time and Time,” “Resolution,” and “The Angel of Swain’s Lane” When and Where to Get It: carlfunk.com
The Weeklings ‘ Studio 2 captivates with Beatlesque charm
The Weeklings | Studio 2 | 2016 (Jem Records)
A review/essay by Alan Haber
Who would ever have thought, who would ever have dreamt that, in the 60 minutes that passed between eight and nine o’clock on Sunday, February 9, 1964, everything, every single hope and dream poised to define so many of the youngsters sitting only a short distance from their family’s television sets would change or at least be significantly altered?
During those historic 60 minutes, a mixed bag of performers paraded onto and then off of the stage on the ground floor of what was originally known as Hammerstein’s Theatre and came to be known as the Ed Sullivan Theater. Families, gathered together in front of their television sets in their living rooms as they usually were on Sunday nights, watched the cast of the Broadway show Oliver! (with future Monkee Davy Jones, then only 19, in tow) sing “I’d Do Anything.” Comedian and impressionist Frank Gorshin, soon to become famous as the Riddler on the Batman television show, also performed, as did Welsh entertainer Tessie O’Shea and acrobatics ensemble Wells and the Four Fays.
Also performing that fateful night was a group of youngsters called the Beatles. They hailed from Liverpool, England, which seemed to be a world and a half away from just about anywhere anyone could imagine. Parents were befuddled with the attention their kids paid to the four mop tops, who would obviously constitute the proverbial flash in the pan, gone in sixty seconds, or at least the sixty minutes it took for Ed to open and close that night’s show.
History tells us that the Beatles’ performance that night, five songs strong, was anything but a flash in the pan. Indeed, there was plenty of flash on the Ed Sullivan Theater stage, but not a single pan in sight. That night, as referenced in Vinyl Kings’ song “A Little Trip,” was responsible for convincing legions of kids that they could do just what John, Paul, George and Ringo were doing, if only their parents would buy them a guitar and let them grow their hair long.
Written by Vinyl Kings’ Josh Leo, “A Little Trip” begins by recounting a conversation a father has with his son about what the son wants to be when he grows up. The answer is clear to the son as Ed Sullivan’s 2/9/64 show, a really big show, carries on. “I promise to send you a letter/When I am a big jet-setter,” the son sings. “Just say you believe in me/And send me all your love.”
Beyond the spectacle of the pomp and circumstance of rock and roll is the song, without which the flash means nothing. One of the innumerable characteristics that distinguished the Beatles throughout their career and beyond was, and continues to be, their mastery of melody, their ability to create songs that resonate with listeners and, in their own way, help to change the world.
Perhaps that’s too grandiose a thought, but perhaps not: Music has always had the power to affect listeners in many ways, some tangible and others less clearly defined. Good music, even great music, has the power to charm and captivate, to wash the blues away, to make us think, to make us smile.
The Weeklings, the Beatlesque, New Jersey big-beat foursome who know all about the power of music, are Glen Burtnik, Bob Burger, John Merjave, and Joe Bellia, music veterans all. They go by the nom de plumes Lefty, Zeek, Rocky, and Smokestack, respectively. By any measure, their passion and dedication to the art of making music would tower above most practitioners’ efforts. It would not be wrong to say that they are fab.
Studio 2, the Weeklings’ second record, about to be released, follows the quartet’s first, self-titled album, affectionately known as Monophonic, which combined covers of six songs that John Lennon and Paul McCartney gave away to other artists with six Beatle-flavored originals penned by Burtnik and Burger. Studio 2 takes somewhat of a different tack than Monophonic: this time around, eight original songs share real estate with four rare Lennon/McCartney numbers not given away to other artists, none of which were released by the Beatles and are unknown to all but the most fervent Beatles fans.
Monophonic and Studio 2, both presented in mono, spring from the same DNA, even though they take slightly different approaches. What they share, more than anything else, is an intrinsic love of Beatles music, more so the sound of the group’s earlier albums than the later ones. Even the cover of Studio 2 is a knowing nod to the Beatles, affectionately modeled after the frontispiece of The Beatles’ Second Album, right down to the legend The Monophonic Sound placed at the top, the album title subhead (NEW HITS BY THE WEEKLINGS Plus 4 Rare Lennon/McCartney Songs), and the short list of featured tunes and Jem Records legend on the right.
The details count, and that counts for the music on Studio 2 as well as the wrapper it’s contained within. So it will come as no surprise that the original songs, seven of which are co-written by Burtnik and Burger (“You’re the One” is a Burger/Merjave composition), and the more or less unknown Lennon/McCartney numbers are top-notch and injected with the spirit of the early Beatles records and other musical touchstones, for an overall sound that is uniquely Weeklings-esque. The whole affair is inspired, and the effect is akin to taking a lovely walk in the park on a beautiful, warm summer’s day. Listening to these songs is nothing less than a delightful experience.
Speaking of delightful, you get to play everyone’s favorite musical game, Spot the Reference, also known as Suss Out the Easter Eggs, while you listen to Studio 2. The band has woven a good number of musical and lyrical quotes into the fabric of these songs; it’s a blast to try and uncover them. I wouldn’t propose to totally spoil the fun for you, so I’ll only note a few: the sustained piano chord at the end of the rocking “Little Elvis” not only echoes the end of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” it was played on the actual piano used on that song in the actual Studio 2. (By the way, Studio 2, the album, was recorded in the actual Studio 2 at London’s Abbey Road Studios, a fact which I’ve neglected to mention so far because I’ve covered it in detail here. Lefty and Zeek talked about it at length on a recent edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, which re-airs tomorrow night at 8 pm ET; click on any of the listen links below to dig in.)
Here is another tasty Studio 2 Easter egg: The Weeklings’ take on Paul McCartney’s “Love of the Loved,” essayed most assuredly by Cilla Black, is recast as a lovely lullaby with rich vocal harmonies; it is ushered into the sound field with a recreation of the chord thrash that welcomes in “Her Majesty” on the Beatles’ Abbey Road album. And here is another one: The guitar stabs that open the unreleased Lennon/McCartney number “You Must Write” are right out of the kick off to the Beatles’ version of Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music”; the end section is a musical quote from the group’s “The Ballad of John and Yoko.”
There is more, of course–much, much more. There is the opening, mid-tempo, harmonica-rich charmer “Morning, Noon and Night”; the energetic rocker “Don’t Know, Don’t Care,” which rolls through to its conclusion like a wild, runaway train; and the lovely harmony-drenched “Melody,” which sounds like it could have been plucked from the soundtrack of A Hard Day’s Night (plus, it has a quite satisfying key change near the end, which is always a plus in my book).
Records are time capsules, audio snapshots of the years in which they were conceived. At the same time, they are also snapshots of the times that influenced them. Burtnik and Burger have studied the Beatles’ music inside and out, soaking up every aspect that made it great and everlasting. The Weeklings’ Studio 2 and, for that matter Monophonic, are not only passionate love letters to the music that continues to inspire Burtnik and Burger, but also a demonstration of how that inspiration manifests itself in their own music. The result is a wonderful, memorable experience for listeners–an experience that will last a lifetime.
Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: Every song: “Morning, Noon and Night,” “Little Elvis,” “Don’t Know, Don’t Care,” “Love Can,” “You’re the One,” “Next Big Thing,” “Stop Your Running Around,” “Melody,” “You Must Write,” “Because I Know You Love Me So,” “Some Days,” and “Love of the Loved.” Plus three bonus tracks from the limited edition cassette version of the album: “It Won’t Be Long,” “All I’ve Got to Do,” and “I’m Down.” When and Where to Get It: Beginning November 18 at the usual locations. Links to purchase this wonderful album are coming soon.
It’s the biggest promotion Pure Pop Radio has ever done because, well, The Weeklings!
The Weeklings, New Jersey’s Beatlesque big-beat combo playing original songs that echo the sweet sounds of the Fab Four’s recordings and rare Lennon and McCartney compositions, take over the Pure Pop Radio airwaves beginning this Monday, November 7 at 6 am ET. The Eight Days a Weeklingmarathon continues through Friday, November 18, the day that The Weeklings’ smashing new album, Studio 2, will be released. (Please join our Facebook event page by clicking here.)
What will you hear during the Eight Days a Weekling marathon? Here’s your official schedule; cut it out and affix it to your refrigerator and next to your Internet radio receptacle so you don’t miss a single moment:
Pure Pop Radio’s Eight Days a Weekling Marathon Schedule: Clip and Save!
Beginning this Monday, November 7 at 6 am ET, Glen Burtnik, Bob Burger, John Merjave and Joe Bellia, collectively known as the fabulous modern, Beatlesque beat combo The Weeklings will take over the Pure Pop Radio airwaves for a total of 11 toe-tapping days.
What will you be listening to, Weeklings wise? Here is everything you need to know:
* Monday, November 7, 6 am ET-Friday, November 18: Weeklings Double Shots begin airing hourly, with one Weeklings track from either the band’s forthcoming album, Studio 2, or the debut, Monophonic, plus a solo song from either Glen Burtnik or Bob Burger
* Wednesday, November 9, approximately 12 noon ET: Alan Haber’s in-depth review of The Weeklings’ Studio 2 album is posted on the Pure Pop Radio website (http://purepopradio.com)
* Wednesday, November 9, 9 pm ET: Glen Burtnik’s 1997 in-studio session with Alan Haber on the old, weekly Pure Pop Radio show is heard for the first time in nearly 20 years! Includes two live acoustic performances by Glen and lively conversation
* Thursday, November 10, 8 pm ET: Glen “Lefty” Weekling and Bob “Zeek” Weekling visit with Alan Haber on a repeat airing of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation. The boys go in-depth on the recording of Studio 2 in Abbey Road’s Beatles sanctuary, and talk about a few of the album’s songs, which you’ll hear in glorious monophonic sound!
* Friday, November 11, approximately 11:45 am ET: Enter our Eight Days a Weekling contest to win Studio 2 CDs and an extra special surprise! Pure Pop Radio website link to follow.
It’s release day for The Legal Matters’ new album, Conrad, who, by the way, says “Hi!” There certainly has been no lack of attention paid to this tremendous long player; this is for good reason. Conrad is quite simply a winning achievement.
My in-depth review, originally published here on October 4, is reproduced below for those of you who missed it the first time around. In the review, I state that “The Legal Matters have set a new standard for vocal harmonies in melodic pop music.” If ever there were a case to be made for musicians being drawn together because it had to be, this album is it. This is the audio proof. Don’t miss this one. – Alan Haber
The Legal Matters | Conrad (Omnivore, 2016)
A review by Alan Haber
On the inside left panel of the gatefold sleeve of The Association’s 1970 double album “Live”, a list of the band members, titled The Players, fed into a section titled And Their Instruments, which named usual suspects such as guitars, drums and bass guitar along with suspects that were perhaps not so usual for a rock ‘n’ roll album: soprano recorder, tenor recorder, and pocket trumpet.
And, in the manner that cast credits for a film or television show might spotlight a particular actor–and Kiefer Sutherland, for example–the following was noted, perhaps as an afterthought to some: “and the human voice.” As a 15-year-old, music obsessed boy whose world turned around rich vocal harmonies, this was the most important piece of information on offer for an album that was, for me, a monumental achievement.
My young world, as informed as it was by my favorite comic book artists–Neal Adams, Gil Kane, Berni Wrightson–my stamp collection, my dedication to the television shows that defined my generation–The Twilight Zone,The Flintstones,I Dream of Jeannie–and my transistor radio, which connected me to broadcasts both local and far away, was moreover defined by the sound of the human voice singing the songs that were written by my favorite recording artists.
The Beach Boys were certainly important to me for that very reason, as were The Four Seasons and The Association, whose records I cherished (no pun intended) and played probably more than those of any other artists in my collection (don’t tell John, Paul, George or Ringo). A committed vocal, with just the right amount of heart and soul, could stop me in my tracks, but a two- or three- or four-or-more-part rich harmony was something else again; it was something magical, something quite amazing.
Thankfully, the melodic pop music I have devoted my life to championing these past 21 years, in reviews and on the radio, very often continues to put the spotlight on the vocal harmonies that I so cherish. Bands like Kate Stephenson’s Myrtle Park’s Fishing Club carry on that vocal harmony tradition in a way that mirrors the many hours I spent as a child listening to music playing on my stereo and coming out of my transistor radio.
Another band that carries on the vocal harmony tradition and, indeed, practically redefines it, is The Legal Matters out of Detroit, Michigan, a long-standing, storied music town whose favorite musical sons are many and varied and legendary. It wouldn’t be out of line to include Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Keith Klingensmith in that group, such has been the level of acceptance of their wares on the part of fans of melodic pop music.
Their list of credits, spanning more years than probably any of them would care to acknowledge, is long and celebrated and includes a variety of solo and group releases. Just mention The Reed Brothers, An American Underdog, Chris Richards and the Subtractions, The Pantookas, and The Phenomenal Cats to those in the know and see what kind of a reaction you get.
As often happens in storied partnerships, the coming together of Andy, Chris, and Keith ignited a fertile spark that resulted in them recording together. 2014’s self-titled Legal Matters album was a warm, 10-song affair that was crafted in the dead of winter inside Andy’s Reed Recording Company studio in Bay City, Michigan, with drummer Cody Marecek and guitarist Nick Piunti, a top-flight pop artist in his own right, in tow.
Their musical sensibilities clicked from the start as the cold weather whipped around them, and songs such as the melody-rich, uptempo “The Legend of Walter Wright” and the pretty ballad “Mary Anne” were born. “Mary Anne,” in particular, was something of a triumph, in that its rich vocal harmonies showed the heights that Andy, Chris, and Keith could reach as a unit.
A second album was inevitable. Its name is Conrad; the cover art depicts a mouthless, seemingly silent, colorfully shirted koala bear. The 11 songs are a natural progression from the 10 on the first release, taken at a slower, but not slow, pace; the harmonies are more intricate and deeply felt. The vocal harmonies are more up front and alive. This is the sound of a band that has come into its own, that has benefitted from time spent feeling each other out, turning complex vocal structures into seemingly simpler constructs that aren’t at all simple.
The rich, finely detailed vocal harmonies are the collective star of Conrad’s show, but by no means the only performer; the instrumentation, supplied by Andy, Chris, and Keith, with Donny Brown and Andy Dalton handling drum duties, is peerless, and the songs are sweetly realized, from the opener “Anything,” not the first track on this album tipping its hat to the much-loved Beach Boys vocal vibe, to the upbeat, single-worthy “Short Term Memory,” which tips its drumsticks to Ringo Starr in a delightful fill and puts forth some top-notch electric guitar playing.
But it’s the rich vocal harmonies that set Conrad apart from a slew of other, recent melodic pop music releases. Nowhere is this more evident and true than on the short, coda-like, penultimate track “Lull and Bye,” a virtually a cappella, powerful slice of emotion-filled vocalese that is a thrilling testament to the power of the human voice that The Association so aptly included in the list of instruments played on their “Live” album. Other than the beautiful harmonies, the only instrument in evidence is a ghostly, spare piano, barely heard, that acts as really nothing more than a light, percussive underpinning. This track is so powerful that it recalls Brian Wilson’s “One for the Boys,” a majestic cut included on his first, self-titled solo album.
In order to truly appreciate the power of “Lull and Bye,” one must listen to the vocals-only mix available to purchasers of Conrad as a download bonus. For this experience, the piano part is gone and only the lovely vocal harmonies remain. To listen to it is a thrilling experience, along the lines of listening to the most vibrant of The Beach Boys’ recordings, stripped of instrumentation.
The vocals-only mix of Conrad should be considered an important part of the total listening experience, especially for musicians and students of how-it-is-done, although, of course, you can and will enjoy the album proper without ever setting the bonus tracks into motion. In fact, forget I said anything; Conrad is just fine–perfect, really–as it is.
This year has been particularly rich–there is that word again–with strong albums released by both heritage artists and artists new to the melodic pop world stage. As always, artists who stress vocal harmony as a key element of their musical makeup rise to the top of the heap for me. In just 11 lovely songs, The Legal Matters have set a new standard for vocal harmonies in melodic pop music. Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Keith Klingensmith are the players, and their human voices are their instruments.
Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Anything,” “I’m Sorry Love,” “Hip Hooray,” “Minor Key,” “Short Term Memory (Radio Version),” “She Called Me to Say,” “The Cool Kid,” and “Lull and Bye.” When and Where to Get It: Kool Kat Music, Amazon, iTunes, CD Universe.
The Legal Matters | Conrad (Omnivore, 2016)
The countdown is on for a number of career-defining, musical paragons set to release within the next few weeks. These meticulously crafted recordings not only prove their worth by being accepted with open arms by knowledgeable, discerning listeners, they further prime the field by suggesting that if someone is going to love what they’ve done, they’ll likely love a whole lot more, too.
Much has been written and said about The Legal Matters’ second album, Conrad, which will be available in just 10 days from now on October 28, all of it good (my in-depth review is here). The chatter on social media points to a prosperous melodic pop universe that has so much to offer from artists whose talent turns heads because their work is that good. I’ve got much more to say on this matter in the coming weeks, but for now let me reiterate my love for these 11 songs, showcases for as-close-to-perfect-as-is-possible, deeply felt harmonies, wonderfully realized songwriting, and career defining performances.
Released by the well-respected label Omnivore, whose lovingly curated sets by Big Star and NRBQ, among others, are helping to define the state of the art, Conrad is one of this year’s best new albums, and, speaking the absolute truth, one of the best albums released by a melodic pop group in a very long time. That Pure Pop Radio is, as of today, playing all of Conrad’s songs in heavy rotation, should come as no surprise.
These songs arrive at a time when the pop community needs heroes to help it fight the good fight, to show the world that is defined by a hard-to-quantify number of genres and genre offshoots that melodic music is not only an extremely viable concern, it is, quite frankly, where it’s at.
The Legal Matters’ Conrad is where it’s at.
Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: The entire album: “Anything,” “I’m Sorry Love,” “Minor Key” “Short Term Memory (Radio Version),” “More Birds More Bees,” “Pull My String,” “She Called Me to Say,” “The Cool Kid,” “Hip Hooray,” “Lull and Bye,” and “Better Days.” When and Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, iTunes.