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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!

Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2018

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Happy New Year, and welcome to the list.

About said list…it was the subject of my one and only New Year’s resolution: to keep the number of entries to 15. Well, good luck with that, I told myself, and wouldn’t you know it…I couldn’t make that work. How about 20? No? Okay then, how about 22? Twenty-two it is.

My annual list of the year’s best full-length releases collects what are, to me, the absolute top of the pops–the very bestest of the bunch. I liked and loved and adored many more long players, of course, but these are the ones I thought about and returned to the most.

As in past years, my favorite records of the year are listed in random order. I’ve never been able to compile lists of any kind in order of importance, size, or weight; my number five of today might drop to number 11 or rise two spots tomorrow, depending on my mood. So, random order it is.

Here are some truly exceptional releases–Pure Pop Radio’s Favorite Records of the Year: The Stars of 2018, presented randomly, all shiny and bright, all perfect for a place in your collection of great melodic pop music. A gathering of honorable mentions appears after the main list.

Enjoy.

David Myhr | Lucky Day (Lojinx, 2018)
A beautifully rendered selection of melody-rich songs from one of melodic pop music’s greatest practitioners, Lucky Day is the sound of a master songwriter’s loving embrace.

A warmhearted musical journey, Lucky Day’s 10 lovingly crafted songs, written solo and with some of melodic pop’s top writers, feature beautiful melodies and top-notch playing and singing. All contribute to one of 2018’s best albums. “Room to Grow,” written with Pure Pop Radio favorite Bill DeMain, about giving a romance all the chances it deserves to prosper, is just one gorgeous example of the treasures on offer.

Produced by Brad Jones, Andreas Dahlbäck and Myhr, Lucky Day is a wonderful gift to lovers of melodic pop.

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, Lojinx

The Cherry Drops | Good to the Last Drop (2018)
On-air and mobile deejay Vern Shank’s melange of bubblegum and sunshine pop populates the Cherry Drops’ third welcome, rousing collection of smile-inducing songs that simultaneously evoke memories of favorite old songs and create memories of new numbers written and performed in the manner of the ’60s and ’70s.

Featuring co-writes with fellow Cherry Drop Joshua Cobb and classic popsters such as the Archies’ Ron Dante, the Grass Roots’ Mark Dawson, and the late Gary DeCarlo of Steam, and choice covers of treasured hit classic numbers, Good to the Last Drop is a mighty fun ride.

“One More Try” is a Paul McCartney-esque mid-tempo slice of pure pop topped with Queen-styled electric guitar runs. “Feels Like Summer Love” is a loving nod to ’60s Beach Boys balladry, maybe the truest such tip of the hat in recent memory. The harmonies are gorgeous. The Cherry Drops pay homage to the Lovin’ Spoonful’s classic “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice,” bringing in original Spoonful member Steve Boone on bass and opening with a lovely a cappella-over-keyboard opening.

A fun time will be had by all.

black box Where to Get It: The Cherry Drops’ Website, CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes

mothboxer open sky coverMothboxer | Open Sky (2018)
Dave Ody’s outfit stretches into some of the most creative, expression-filled songs of its long history on an album steeped in clever songcraft. A coming together and pulling apart experience built around surprising chord changes and elastic melodies, set against primarily alternative instrumental backings, Open Sky is aptly named.

Among the many highlights: “Sunshine Sound,” a slow-to-mid tempo song set sound-wise vaguely in the Beach Boys’ Holland era, and “Million Miles Away,” perhaps the most immediate sounding song on the album, a piano-based tune with harmony vocals that shine.

Open Sky is a keeper, maybe Mothboxer’s best.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Mothboxer’s Web Store

Alice Bierhorst | Ready for My Close-Up (2018)
The followup to 2016’s The Beacon is an even more astute collection of piano-based musical wizardry from this New York-based artist. High art meets accessible in these 10 songs that recall the works of early Carly Simon, Claire Hamill and Laura Nyro.

The title song is a pleasing, dramatic collision of Broadway and British folk. “Save It for a Rainy Day” is a slow burn of a ballad that shows off Bierhorst’s dynamic vocal range. “Beginners” is a drawing room waltz that rolls atop Peter Kiesewalter’s lively arrangement.

Call it all classical pop or singer-songwriter musings for the 2010s, but do call it yours by adding Ready for My Close-Up to your collection of smart pop. Bierhorst’s melodies reach the highest heights; Bierhorst is ready for her close-up, and then some.

black box Where to Get It: Alice Bierhorst’s Website, Bandcamp

Danny Wilkerson | Wilkerson (Spyderpop, 2018)
Working together with Bleu, who produced this superlative pure pop platter and co-wrote the songs, Danny Wilkerson, the always-and-forever Pengwin, has whipped up a self-titled opus that is by far this year’s most affecting collection of catchy, melodic earworms.

Wilkerson is a thing of wonder. Any and all, for that matter, of these dazzling songs could, and do, serve as examples of how to do it. Like the dynamic leadoff track, “Everybody Loves to Love,” a masterful piece of writing and statement of melodic purpose that begins drawing breath as if it were arranged by Burt Bacharach and goes on to incorporate a variety of tempos and approaches during its alluring five-and-one-half minutes.

All told, Wilkerson is nothing less than a good thing. It is, in fact, a great thing, and another feather in the cap of the mighty Spyderpop record label.

Where to Get It: The Spyderpop Store, Kool Kat Musik, CD Baby, and iTunes

McPherson Grant | McPherson Grant (2018)
Paying sweet homage to the melodic pop ruling class headed by Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney, Klaatu, Brian Wilson and the like, Scott McPherson and Jamie Grant–their last names fused together in joyous harmony–have crafted almost an hour’s worth of sturdy earworms. Endlessly endearing songs like the lovely and charming “Housekeeper,” about cleaning up a romantic life gone sour and empty and honestly assessing the less-than-attractive situation ensure repeatability.

Cut from the catchy cloth of so many ’70s classics, the perky “Come Around Again,” about learning to realize and revel in the bountiful joy in front of one’s face, is propelled by Zak Nilsson’s drums and a sunny disposition that wouldn’t feel out of place during the summer months. And speaking of summer, “Let’s Drive to Summer” recounts a slow-growing, toe-tapping Beach Boys-by-way-of-Holland road course from cold Canada to warm Florida (“We’ll just follow the coast/Our sandals and shorts in tow/Waiting till the palms wave hello”).

Produced, written, played, arranged and recorded by Scott and Jamie (and don’t ask who did what; it’s a mystery even to both halves of the duo), and featuring guest turns by Zak Nilsson and Klaatu’s Terry Draper and Dee Long, Song travels the path negotiated by so many artists who came before them, but in a way that is significantly and characteristically their own. Song is a marvel.

black box Where to Get It: Tiny Volcano’s Web Shop, Kool Kat Musik

The Davenports | Don’t Be Mad at Me (2018)
Scott Klass and crew’s fourth long player, arriving 18 years after their smashing debut, Speaking Of, is the usual collection of literate, assured, thinking person’s pop songs. Anchored by the masterful title song, a tremendously enriching melodically-charged experience about a family light whose world has slowed to a crawl, who is needing help to maneuver through her days, this album swims in waters populated with one incredibly rich song after another.

“Away From Me,” sporting a typically attractive Klass melody, is a vaguely countryish construct about saying goodbye to one side of one’s personality, supported by strings that bend somewhat ominously around the melody. And “I Don’t Know What to Do,” an insanely catchy kind of left-field number co-written by Klass and David Myhr, is built around a clever, rocky riff and does its business in just over two minutes. It’s quite ingenious.

A great album.

black box Where to Get It: The Davenports’ Online Store, Amazon, Kool Kat Musik, iTunes

Caper Clowns | A Salty Taste to the Lake (2018)
The mighty Caper Clowns are back with their sophomore long player, another well-crafted collection of top-flight melodic pop gems. From the undeniably catchy opening confection “The Way I Dream,” which sports a clever acoustic guitar riff and an enchanting melody, to “Sacre Bleu,” a piano-based, harmony wonder that sounds like the kind of song radio should be embracing and sending up to the top of the charts, A Salty Taste to the Lake is a winner all the way. That makes two in a row. Good job, guys.

black box Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, iTunes, Amazon

Les Bicyclettes de Belsize | The Twelve Days of Christmas (2018)
A late-year surprise and not only a charming, top-flight holiday-themed album but one of the best melodic pop albums of the year, Charlie Darling’s collection of original from-the-heart Christmas songs will warm you like a heaping cup of peppermint candy cane-flavored good cheer.

Bittersweet holiday tales told in pretty swaths of lovingly rendered melody, and sung with an everyman’s sweetness, color this delightful song cycle; sincere, understated orchestration, a literary approach to lyrical conceits, and a pinch of sleigh bells catch the ear time and again in lovely slow- and mid-tempo-ballads.

Darling’s vocals, sort of a contemporary cross between the tones of the Big Dish’s Steven Lindsay and Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant, are key to making  songs like gentle ballads “Every Christmas,” about missing a love gone away grab hold of your heart. And then the artist changes course: “Andy Partridge (From XTC)” is a spirited pop sprint substituting the names of pop and rock bands through the ages for the various creatures evidenced in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (Three Dog Night, the Dave Clark Five, Gang of Four, Nine Inch Nails and Joe Strummer (strumming), among them).

One of the best albums of the year, Christmas-oriented or not? Yes, indeed.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Bill Lloyd | Working the Long Game (Spyderpop, 2018)
Bill Lloyd, one of melodic pop’s most distinguished practitioners of the art, has released one of the very best albums of 2018, with which you will fall in love.

Working the Long Game’s dozen melodic pearls, whether written solo or with top song scribes like 10cc’s Graham Gouldman, Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson, and Wanderlust’s Scot Sax, are gorgeous, instantly classic gems of the Lloydian variety. Like the co-write with Graham Gouldman, “What Time Won’t Heal,” about letting love in again after a relationship withers away (“What time won’t heal/Love will repair/And if you open up your heart/You’ll find it there”).

The closer, “Shining,” is a beautiful ballad of the one-man-band variety that features some lovely sixties-inspired guitar lines and harmonies. The narrator sings about his true love and you will feel the emotion. It’s all fantastic, so get ready to fall in love.

black box Where to Get It: Spyderpop, Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, CD Baby

Fernando Perdomo | Zebra Crossing (2018)
Recorded in famed Abbey Road Studios and in Perdomo’s own Reseda Ranch Studios, the wearer of many musical hats’ fourth album is a rich tapestry of styles centered around the artist’s considerable composing and instrumental prowess. It’s a clear winner.

Highlights are many. The gorgeous ballad, “I’m Here,” is as good and classy an opening track as one could imagine; a strong melody and emotive vocals make the proceedings shine. The poppy “Sometimes I Feel Like Nothing at All,” cowritten by Beach Boys lyricist Stephen Kalinich, is an inviting tune topped by sensitive strings. And popster Ken Sharp guests on guitar on the should-be-a-radio-hit “Find Love,” a spectacular upbeat, McCartneyesque pop song.

Speaking of Fab connections, an all-in, emotionally reverent cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” credited to the Zebra Crossing All Star Band, finds guest vocalists Diane Birch, Shawn Lee, and Jason and Daphna Rowe and lead guitarist Perdomo taking center stage for a thrilling album closer. What better Beatles track to cover for an album named in tribute to the area in front of the studio the Fabs called home?

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Amazon, Kool Kat Musik

Mick Terry | Days Go By (Kool Kat, 2018)
Mick Terry’s Days Go By is 2018’s standout pure melodic pop album. It’s filled with the kind of songs that used to jump out of transistor radios way back in the when.

Every one of these 10 songs is golden. Witness: “Emily Come Back,” an upbeat, poppy tune that’s sure to please and features this album’s title in the lyric. “Everybody’s Talking” is an upbeat, sixties influenced Motown-meets-Billy Joel song (think around the time of Joel’s An Innocent Man album), a toe-tapping classic if ever I heard one. And “Friends Like That” is another upbeat gem with a great melody, handclaps, horns and a crazy, meaty guitar solo.

Working with producer Jim Boggia, Terry has produced a clear, melodic winner.

black box Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Mick Terry on Bandcamp

Astral Drive | Astral Drive (Lojinx, 2018)
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 is nothing less than one of the best albums of 2018.

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,” 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’s go-to, so-much-fun-to-listen-to song “Summer of ’76” practically demands that you sing along, whether you know the words or not. You will love, with all of your heart, the warm ballad “Wishing I Could Change the World,” which honors the classic Todd-meets-Philly-Soul bond, and the glorious, melody-infused, upbeat “Love is Real.”

One of 2018’s biggest and happiest surprises, without a doubt.

black box Where to Get It:  The Lojinx shop, Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, and iTunes

Michael Simmons | First Days of Summer (2018)
Musician and high school educator Michael Simmons, from Yorktown Lads and the much-missed sparkle*jets u.k., has crafted a stylistically diverse collection of songs that expertly lays out the artist’s diverse musical vision and dedication to craft.

From the opening and closing near-perfect, soft-pop bookends “Do Your Best to Care,” a keyboard driven toe-tapper featuring a determined, jazzy electric guitar solo, and the sleepy, closing ballad “Center of the Spiral,” which ends as if a turntable’s needle has become comfortably stuck in a loop within a record’s runoff wax, First Days of Summer speaks to melody-hungry melodic pop fans.

What shines brightly and decisively from within these dozen tracks is the passion that Michael Simmons has for making and playing music (he played most of the instruments on this album). He would do well to keep at this music thing and start planning his next collection with due haste.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Linus of Hollywood | Cabin Life (2018)
Nearly 20 years after his debut long player landed on planet Earth, Linus of Hollywood has served up 10 scoops of tasty, melodic treats on Cabin Fever, his delightful fifth effort that really, truly is the kind of thing that puts a spring in your step.

Some heartfelt words of wisdom are imparted in the fast-paced pop song “Won’t Let It Get Me Down,” played and sung with gusto. Cabin Life’s tender closing ballad, “It Was You,” details a love story for the ages. Beautifully sung and dedicated to Linus’s wife Augusta, the emotional arrangement marries delicate orchestration to nimble acoustic guitar playing as Linus sings about his true soul mate. “I finally got out of my own way,” he sings. “Everything just felt so easy/And I left behind my yesterday/You saved me from myself, believe me.”

“Drive up to the hills/Take that winding road/I think I remember where it goes,” the title song sings. And that winding road? It goes to one of 2018’s very best albums–Linus of Hollywood’s lovely Cabin Life.

black box Where to Get It: Linus of Hollywood’s web store, Amazon, iTunes

Dana Countryman | Cabaret of Love (Sterling Swan, 2018)
The year is not complete without a musical missive from melodic pop music’s melody and harmony king. Dana Countryman’s Cabaret of Love is one of 2018’s top long players, a joyous song cycle that surveys the feeling that unites us all: love.

Every number is a winner in this Cabaret of Love. “Just See If I Care” is a happy-sounding, hit-the-road-Jill Merseybeat-styled rocker featuring the Spongetones’ Jamie Hoover singing along and playing lead guitar in quite a Fab way. The heartfelt Four Freshmen homage, “The Night I Fell in Love With You,” is an unforgettable, romantic number with an affecting tea room orchestra arrangement and warm lead vocal sung by Tim Smolens from I.S.S. (Ideal Social Situation).

Cabaret of Love is chock full of guest star turns from such pop favorites as Klaatu’s Terry Draper (who turns in a top-shelf, particularly romantic lead vocal on “I’ll Be Shining Above You”), Klaatu’s Dee Long (electric guitar on “Shout”), and Tiny Volcano’s Scott McPherson (vocals on “You’re Still Number One”).

Cabaret of Love is a glorious gift for music lovers everywhere.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Amazon

Carpenter Smith and Jones | Petty (Big Radio, 2018)
Petty is a sincere and lovely celebration of the music of one of rock’s most magnanimous songwriters and performers, now sadly departed. It is a triumphant achievement, performed with heart by Michael Carpenter and songbirds Abby Smith and Sophie Jones.

The trio’s earthy vocal blend and the perhaps more deliberate pacing of the songs combine to amplify the emotions contained within the lyrics and music for a particularly engaging listen.

“Runnin’ Down a Dream” is recast as a slow, sometimes moody shuffle, a vocal workout bolstered by bracing electric guitars and Carpenter’s forceful drums. “Don’t Come Around Here No More” finds itself swimming atop a dreamy landscape played out with only nimble electric guitar backing beneath the trio’s emotional vocals (the final harmony stack is a joy to behold). And the Traveling Wilburys’ “End of the Line,” which closes this collection, takes on a singalong gospel tone; handclaps and joyous, freeing vocals abound. Prepare for an emotionally uplifting listening experience.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Kool Kat Musik

The Grand Levé | The Grand Levé (2018)
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, is a music making veteran (best known for the equally grand Longplayer).

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.

Dig the Electric Light Orchestra vibe of “All in the City.” “Free” is very melody-rich Tom Petty, and “Yesterday Man” is very pure pop and Göran Hjertstedt by way of Longplayer. The mutli-retro “Two to Tango,” a bluesy drawing room number about love and dancing that namechecks Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, is another slice of joy.

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.

black box Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, CD Baby. Stream on YouTube and Spotify

Louise Goffin | All These Hellos (2018)
An exceptional dialog driven by melody and emotion, All These Hellos is a steamer trunk full of memories placed under a microscope to help us figure our place under the sun.

Anchored by Goffin’s lovely, fragile vocals and superb playing from star musicians such as Fernando Perdomo, these 10 songs are quite an attractive showcase for superlative songwriting. The artist is clearly invested in these slices of reflective pop; such is the strength of communication with the listener.

Goffin embraces her pop side with a number of straight ahead, upbeat charmers. “Good Times Call” is a soulful and very catchy sixties-esque pop number about being in love and feeling it. “Life Lessons,” another upbeat pop tune with piano at its core and punctuated by horns, is about being true to yourself and following your heart. And the title song is an inviting mid-tempo number about needing the memories of a childhood place to fade.

A wonderfully rich collection of songs; a terrific album.

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes

 ∴

Super 8 | Hi Lo (Futureman, 2018)
Paul Ryan, d/b/a Super 8, ended 2018 with another top-flight recording–his third of the year–collecting 11 strong songs about employing hopefulness along one’s path through life.

“Angels and Neil Diamond” is a tremendous piece of writing, an easygoing, acoustic look back on childhood’s glory days, reliving one’s youth through good times and bad. It’s a lovely, affecting song that is followed by proof that the title is holly holy. Ryan presents a clever take on Diamond’s wonderful “Cherry, Cherry,” which is pretty life affirming on its own, especially in Ryan’s recasting of the tune as part garage, part coffee house, and all Super 8.

The Rolling Stones nod, “Good Times” (“Had enough of the bad times”), is a happy stroke in the running order, as is the pop-folk hybrid “Bob Dylan Said That,” about getting by in life with your own vision, and, no doubt, following on from what you’ve learned from the bard’s poetry.

The hits just keep on coming; you’ll love every one of them, delivered in Ryan’s emotive style. And for those of you wondering why the man didn’t go for four albums in a single year, just remember…there’s always this year.

Where to Get It: Futureman, Kool Kat Musik

The Grip Weeds | Trip Around the Sun (Jem, 2018)
This dynamic collection, recorded at the Grip Weeds’ home base, House of Vibes in Highland Park, New Jersey, pushes across the finish line a dozen high energy songs. The band has upped the level of urgency normally associated with their work. In other words, business as usual, with a bit more zing.

In the well-appointed, melody-drenched opener, “Vibrations,” the stage is set with a mix of chiming guitars and rich harmony parts. Not for the first time on this album, I felt as though I were listening to Free Design vocalizing decades after that group’s 1960s and 1970s heyday. The effect that the Grip Weeds have achieved with this song alone is hall-of-fame worthy.

So it should hardly come as a surprise that the band’s deft weaving together of yesterday’s musical signposts and today’s contemporary approaches continue throughout these songs. Take the poppy “After the Sunrise,” for example, which slides from tender acoustic to more upbeat electric guitar stances so expertly, with a lovely melody and sweet harmonies in tow.

The whole pop-rocking ball of wax rolls into the exhaustive closer, the six-minute-long title track, which states its introductory case firmly opened in widescreen, Who territory and concludes with all instruments and vocals blazing and coming together in an impassioned burst of emotion. What a welcome shout of energetic joy this album brings!

black box Where to Get It: The Grip Weeds’ Trip Around the Sun Store, Amazon

Vegas With Randolph | Legs & Luggage (2018)
Legs & Luggage is Vegas With Randolph’s best album yet. It is a marvel. This is a new-phase VWR album that thunders across the plains with harder-edged chutzpah than their previous releases. The guitars are louder and the sound is more aggressive. The sound is more purposeful, but just as catchy and fun as always.

For this new album, the band has recorded songs with flashy hooks just as they have done all along, but this time around, there is perhaps a little more oomph spitting out of the engine. This new-phase VWR is a well-oiled and rocking machine.

It’s not just the sound of this thing, it’s the words sung sweetly, confidently, meaningfully and powerfully all the way through, telling stories of a scholarly seductress (“She’s An Intellectual”), completely fulfilling forever love (“I Have You”), and riding the roller coaster of love even though it might tug back (“Jacob”). Then, there’s “Three Red Hooks,” presenting the power of music as a metaphor for confident performance with perhaps this album’s most creative lyrics (“Rock steady/Kick it like Eddie/Didn’t know if he meant Van Halen or Vedder/But whatever/While we’re together/We’d better turn it up loud/And kick it on out”).

This album is titled Legs & Luggage because the songs are largely about transitioning from one thing to another, about taking chances, about moving on from here to there—about transporting emotion packed neatly, or otherwise, in virtual compartments. Legs & Luggage functions as a bridge to the next chapter in Vegas With Randolph’s life; how that reality will manifest itself is unknown at present. But manifest itself it will.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order, with Bandcamp/CD Baby/website links):

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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’s Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2018 Posts Tomorrow, 1-3-19

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Howdy! Your New Year’s celebrations went well, I take it? Very good. Happy New Year to you and yours.

With the 2018 calendar replaced by the 2019 model, full of promise, it’s time to turn our gaze onto our first order of business: Pure Pop Radio’s highly anticipated yearly feature, in which we put the spotlight on 2018’s top melodic pop platters.

Yes, it’s time for Pure Pop Radio’s Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2018. This year, we present 22 melodic wonders–the cream of a particularly rich crop. We hope you will find much to like in our list and add some (or all!) of the entries to your burgeoning melodic pop collection.

So, be here tomorrow, January 3, at approximately 11:45 am ET for Pure Pop Radio’s Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2018. We’d love the pleasure of your company.

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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 closed down this past 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’s Holly Jolly Christmas Party Starts Monday, and You’re Invited!

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Have a holly jolly Christmas with Pure Pop Radio! We’re celebrating the season by continuing with our 2018 Festive Holiday Gift-Giving Guide, offering up reviews of new and new-to-you melodic Christmas pop songs. And we’ll be giving away some fun presents. It all begins this Monday, December 17! (Click here to join our Facebook event page.)

During our week-long Holly Jolly Christmas Party, we’ll be continuing with our 2018 Holiday Gift-Giving Guide, reviewing the latest holiday releases from Ronnie D’Addario, Lannie Flowers, Kai Danzberg, Michael Simmons, Dana Countryman, Brad Marino, and an amazing, top-flight Christmas album from Les Bicyclettes de Belsize, which also happens to be one of 2018’s best melodic pop albums. Plus lots more tuneful tunes from your favorite artists!

Plus, we’ll be spreading some festive holiday cheer by giving away some fun presents, so don’t miss a minute! The fun begins this coming Monday, December 17, right here on the Pure Pop Radio website. Don’t forget to bring your sleigh bells!

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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 ended this past August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today. Happy holidays!

Our Holiday Gift Suggestions Keep On Coming. Here’s Another One, Full of Love

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Dana Countryman | Cabaret of Love
(Sterling Swan, 2018)
The year is not complete without a musical missive from melodic pop music’s melody and harmony king. Dana Countryman lights December bright with one of 2018’s top long players, a joyous song cycle that surveys the feeling that unites us all.

And that feeling, in case you were unaware, is love. Every number is a winner in this Cabaret of Love. “I Never Knew” sings a sweet song about discovering true love atop an upbeat, seventies track sporting a gorgeous melody and a lively guitar solo from Chad Quist. “Just See If I Care” is a happy-sounding, hit-the-road-Jill Merseybeat-styled rocker featuring the Spongetones’ Jamie Hoover singing along and playing lead guitar in quite a Fab way.

My favorite song here is, without question, the Four Freshmen homage, “The Night I Fell in Love With You” (I also hear allusions to the Lettermen and the Manhattan Transfer). This unforgettable, romantic number with an affecting tea room orchestra arrangement and warm lead vocal sung by Tim Smolens from I.S.S. (Ideal Social Situation) should become every couple-in-love’s theme song for years to come.

Dana Countryman, your host in the Cabaret of Love

Cabaret of Love is chock full of guest star turns from such pop favorites as Klaatu’s Terry Draper (who turns in a top-shelf, particularly romantic lead vocal on “I’ll Be Shining Above You”), Klaatu’s Dee Long (electric guitar on “Shout”), and Tiny Volcano’s Scott McPherson (vocals on “You’re Still Number One”). A holiday song with a ’50s-meets-Phil Spector heart, “Gonna Be Home for Christmas” is a particularly welcome bonus track which features Dana’s wife, Tricia, singing along. But perhaps the biggest and best guest star is not actually a guest star at all: this is Dana’s show all the way, and a great and lovely show it is.

The Cabaret of Love

In addition to peerless songcraft and performance, you get a wonderfully impressive package design which extends to the disc label, on which what looks like a coaster from the Cabaret of Love (Dining*Dancing*Drinks) is depicted. The address shown is actually that of the Cabaret in Pioneer Square, an early place at which Dana played with his comedic music group, The Amazing Pink Things (but don’t dial the phone number; it’s made up!).

Cabaret of Love is a glorious gift for music lovers everywhere.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Amazon

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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 ended this past August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today. Happy holidays!


Our Gift-Giving Guide Continues With More Great Releases for You and Your Pop-Loving Family and Friends

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The new and new-to-you melodic pop releases keep coming, and so shall we. In the coming weeks, we will continue to bring you suggestions for gifts for yourself, and for your melodic pop-loving friends and family.

Today’s collection of suggestions kicks off with the latest from…

Pat Buchanan | “Sandbox” b/w “Hello from the Moon”
(Spyderpop, 2018)
My love of Nashville session cat and recording artist Pat Buchanan goes back nearly 20 years to Idle Jets’ Atomic Fireball album, which was played frequently on the old, weekly Pure Pop Radio show. Now, Pat’s back with a new single, and it is, you will not be surprised to know, fantastic. (Find out everything, and then some, about the single’s two songs by listening to the audio interview below.)

“Sandbox,” written with Pure Pop Radio favorite Bill DeMain, is a lovely slice of melodic pop in which a songwriter looks back at his great songs but cautions that, although everything looks rosy on the outside, inside it’s another story…possibly a sad one. “Hello from the Moon,” written by Terry Simpson, who sings all of the background vocals, is a beautiful mid-tempo ballad about losing a love and trying to navigate the waters.

I spoke to Pat about “Sandbox” and “Hello from the Moon”, about how the songs were written and how they progressed toward the final versions; you can hear that interview below (Fun Fact: “Sandbox” is 20 years old and was originally titled “Continental Breakfast,” and “Hello from the Moon” is even older. This song features a decidedly Andy Partridge/XTC-inspired bridge).

black box Where to Get It: Spyderpop

pprListen to my interview with Pat Buchanan, talking about his new single (“Sandbox” b/w “Hello from the Moon”) 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).

The PondHawks | “River Grove” (2018)
Chicago’s PondHawks return with a wistful, nostalgic piece of melodic pop about staying connected with the past while moving on into the future. This beautiful, orchestrated ballad bodes well for future releases from Mario Novelli and Jorie Gracen. Very pretty.

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes

Thunderegg | Cosmos (2018)
Will Georgantas and crew, a four-piece working out of San Francisco and simultaneously, it appears, in some quadrant of outer space, marry fairly traditional pop and rock songwriting to spacey effects and ambient sound for an 11-song meeting of the melodic minds.

In other words, each song is wrapped in some kind of otherworldly spice to deliver that something extra that expands the soundfield and tickles the senses. There’s a fair amount of catchy R.E.M.-isms floating around these songs, particularly in “Lucky So-and-So,” an upbeat, poppy song that becomes louder as it reaches its end, and “Stupid Town,” another uptempo number.

You’ll also find a nod to Pink Floyd in the final moments of the title song; machinery sound effects echo those heard in Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine.” Also evident: elements of prog, and lots of pleasing melodies. And the odd song out: the faux-country “Math Song,” topped with a light dollop of pedal steel guitar, about a guy who takes a math class just to meet the girl. The upshot: “One plus one is me and you.”

Something different for these ears? Nah, not really. The pop meeting the rock hugging the spacey and ambient sounds really drew me in. Good job, Thunderegg.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Amazon, iTunes

Tommy and the Rockets & Bikini Wipeouts | Split the Waves (KOTJ, Spain/Roctopus Tea Party, Spain, 2018)
Denmark’s Tommy and the Rockets may be splitting the waves, but they’re also splitting the single…this single, or EP, as it were, with Bikini Wipeouts. Both bands bring two tracks to the communal surfboard and take on the early Beach Boys sound, although they arrive in Surf City with somewhat different approaches.

Tommy and the Rockets hit the waves with the fun, fun, fun “We’re Going Surfin'”, rolling up with great harmonies and a contemporary edge. Their other track is a cover of the Fantastic Baggys’ “Summer Means Fun,” driven uptempo-style to the water’s edge with sweet rock ‘n’ roll guitar.

Bikini Wipeouts’ two tracks, “Pretty Surfer Girl” and “Hawaii,” the latter a cover of the Beach Boys song from 1963’s Surfer Girl album, share a grungy, garage-y approach that suggests their grasp of the Boys of Summer’s sound is a bit closer to the outer reaches of the curl than Tommy and his Rockets, but that’s cool, dudes.

So fun, fun, fun, and far out!

black box Where to Get It: KOTJ, Roctopus Tea Party, Tommy and the Rockets on 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 ended this past August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today. Happy holidays!

Unwrap Our Festive 2018 Holiday Gift Giving Guide Beginning November 26

alan headshot from schoolBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Melodic pop fans are in that mode, alright: Next week brings turkey and all the trimmings as we celebrate Thanksgiving, which means the holiday season is upon us. And you know what that means, right?

holiday music wrapped gift

Our 2018 Festive Holiday Gift Giving Guide will help you choose which melodic platters, silver or otherwise, to give as gifts this holiday season

It means it’s the start of the gift giving season, which makes it the perfect time to serve up our 2018 Festive Holiday Gift Giving Guide (be part of the fun by zipping on over to our festive Facebook event page). Whichever holiday you celebrate, you’ll want to put smiles on the faces of your family and friends by wrapping some choice hook-laden platters they’ll be thrilled to receive. We’re going to make it easy for you to identify just the right releases to make the season bright for one and all (even yourself)!

bill lloyd working the long game coverJoin us each day during the week of November 26 for our 2018 Festive Holiday Gift Giving Guide, offering up daily reviews of some of the choice platters that are perfect for gifting to lovers of great melodic pop music (and, as always, we’ll identify the retailers at which you can purchase them). With great new releases from the likes of Bill Lloyd, Caper Clowns, Dana Countryman, Fernando Perdomo, Pat Buchanan, Vegas With Randolph, Louise Goffin, and many more, there’s a whole lot to choose from. But don’t fret: our gift giving guide will make it easy for you.

holiday gifts wrappedDuring our 2018 Festive Holiday Gift Giving Guide week, we may slip in a few surprises, so don’t miss a beat! Join us every day during the week of November 26 for our 2018 Festive Holiday Gift Giving Guide, offering up reviews of the latest melodic pop releases perfect for gift giving. We’ll be quiet until then, working into the wee hours to make this an exciting and informative event. See you back here in 11 days!

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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. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream, which ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018, succeeded the weekly Pure Pop Radio show, which began in 1995. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews| 11.1.18: Exclusive Preview: White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams

review with graphic and by alan haber final sharpened smallestalan headshot from school

Various Artists | White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams
(Curry Cuts, 2018)
white lace and promises the songs of paul williams - curry cuts - cover 2018Singer, songwriter, actor and, really truly, bon vivant Paul Williams has been plying his trade or, more accurately trades, for five decades, making his mark in the wide world of entertainment with Muppets, hit records, and Burt Reynolds in tow (which is really just scratching the surface of his storied career; click here to immerse yourself in Williams’s many and varied greatest hits).

Curry Cuts’ upcoming tribute to Williams (slated for release before year’s end), White Lace and Promises, focuses in on the artist’s considerable artistry as evidenced in the world of song. There are treasures to be found in nearly every nook and cranny of Williams’s recorded output, which touches on a wide variety of song types. (White Lace and Promises is slated for release this year; one song has been released as a single (see below)).

Of all the classic songs he has written, Williams may well be most known by listeners for “Evergreen (Love Theme from “A Star is Born”) and “Rainbow Connection,” the lovely opening number from 1979’s The Muppet Movie (three of the eight songs I’ve heard from White Lace and Promises are from this endearing film).

the davenports evergreen paul williams tribute curry cuts cover

“Evergreen,” written by Williams and Barbra Streisand, plays out in its original form as a slow, emotional ballad; on Curry Cuts’ release, the Davenports up the tempo a bit and season their melodic pop take with pedal steel guitar and Scott Klass’s typically lovely vocal (this track is available as a single, ahead of the album release; see below).

andy reed

Andy Reed

“Rainbow Connection,” written by Williams and Kenny Ascher and essayed on White Lace and Promises by the Legal Matters’ Andy Reed, manifests itself as a waltz punctuated by deep snare hits and widescreen harmonies; a short a cappella section is a nice touch. Reed makes this much-loved song his own in a version overflowing with heart.

andrea perry 5

Andrea Perry

May I wax poetic about some of the other Williams covers I’ve heard from Curry Cuts’ upcoming tribute? “Fill Your Heart,” a showbizzy number written by Williams and singer-songwriter Biff Rose, originally appeared on Rose’s 1968 Tetragrammaton album, The Thorn in Mrs. Rose’s Side, and was covered by both David Bowie on his 1971 album, Hunky Dory, and by Tiny Tim on the flip side of his “Tiptoe through the Tulips” single in 1968. Longtime Pure Pop Radio favorite Andrea Perry’s alluring, poppy version on Curry Cuts’ tribute comes off as something that a cross between Spanky and Our Gang, Margo Guryan and Aimee Mann might come up with.

the corner laughers

The Corner Laughers

In the hands of the Corner Laughers, the easy-going toe-tapper “Movin’ Right Along,” also from The Muppet Movie, moves along at a bit of a faster and busier pace, and sports an electric guitar solo. And do I hear the Laughers’ Karla Kane playfully name-checked near the end?

sitcom neighbor logoOne more White Lace and Promises nugget to preview: Sitcom Neighbor channels Three Dog Night in their tasty, organ-filled version of “Out in the Country,” penned by Williams and Roger Nichols and heard on Williams’s 1972 album, Life Goes On (Three Dog Night’s version was a top 15 hit in 1970).

curry cuts logo 2018So far, so really good. Curry Cuts’ White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams looks to be another hit for the label, the fourth release for the Portland, Oregon start-up, after the entertaining Drink a Toast to Innocence: A Tribute to Lite Rock, Here Comes the Reign Again: The Second British Invasion, and Songs. Bond Songs: The Music of 007.

black box Where to Get It: Coming soon; keep up with the latest announcements concerning White Lace and Promises by following Curry Cuts’ Facebook page. The Davenports’ version of “Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star is Born)” has been released as a single, and is available at Amazon

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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. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream, which ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018, succeeded the weekly Pure Pop Radio show, which began in 1995. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews | 10.31.18: Vegas With Randolph’s Fourth Full-Length Serving, Legs & Luggage

review with graphic and by alan haber final sharpened smallestalan headshot from school

Vegas With Randolph | Legs & Luggage (2018)

On the Occasion of a Fourth Helping of Vegas With Randolph

vegas with randolph legs and luggage coverFive years ago, a whoop-de-do was set into motion at Northern Virginia’s Jammin’ Java to celebrate the release of Vegas With Randolph’s third album, Rings Around the Sun. The musicians approached, instruments in hand, songs in mind and set up straight across the bandstand; only the drummer, tucked away a bit behind the conga line, was in his own space. He lorded over his high-hat and snare with his toms leering from front to right. And then, he set the beat and the band was set into motion, calling patrons to the stage.

Now, mind you, this scenario doesn’t occur very often, because the lads of Vegas With Randolph, anchored outside of Washington, D.C. by songwriters John Ratts and Eric Kern, who were childhood pals and still are joined at the hip and their guitars and writing songs, as they always have, when they’re not tending to their own families and day jobs, don’t play out or release new albums very often, although their fans, many and plenty, wish that they would.

The lads of Vegas With Randolph, known sometimes by the swinging three-letter calling card VWR, choose to concentrate on recording albums, the fourth of which, Legs & Luggage, has been released. VWR released its first album in 2008, and this is 2018, which means that they have been assembling tuneage for 10 years. You might say their output does not constitute an avalanche, and you’d be right, but the weight of that output is strong and sure, so you’d probably be best not concerning yourself with geology.

Legs & Luggage is VWR’s best album yet. It is a marvel. This is a new-phase Vegas With Randolph album that thunders across the plains with harder-edged chutzpah than their previous releases. The guitars are louder and the sound is more aggressive. The sound is more purposeful, but just as catchy and fun as always.

vegas with randolph legs and luggage blue image“We wanted to kind of rock a little bit on this album,” says John. This is clearly an understatement of some kind, but make no mistake—Vegas With Randolph is a band that has recorded, for this new album, songs with flashy hooks just as they have done all along. This time around, though, there is perhaps a little more oomph spitting out of the band’s engine. This new-phase VWR is a well-oiled and rocking machine.

That the aforementioned oomph, in part, powers the songwriting team of John and Eric is a given, but so does the assembled co-conspirator contingent that plays along with them, skillfully and dutifully, helping the co-pilots steer the ship (a mixed metaphor, I know). Brock Harris’s lyrical guitars and Andy Hamburger’s thundering drums and percussion are essential ingredients in VWR’s new songs—indeed, the songs would not be as alive without them—but the heart and soul of it all may well belong to their bass player, the late and very much missed Dan Aylestock.

vegas with randolph dan ayelstock

Dan Aylestock

Passionate and warm and committed to the music always, Dan passed away last year from liver cancer. A founding member of VWR, he played bass on nearly every one of the songs on each of the band’s releases. These songs on these albums beat with the heart of a player who knew instinctively how to ring emotion out of every note as he traversed up and down the fretboard.

“He would take his time to craft unique parts for every song,” says Eric. “He was always prepared. He was always ready to go.” Just listen to Dan’s work on this album. You will feel his intensity, which manifests itself in any number of ways—with driving force, as on the pounding “She’s an Intellectual,” punching bass notes as one-half of the redoubtable VWR rhythm section, or with sensitivity, in the intro to “I Have You,” and during that ballad’s stronger, more forceful sections.

Dan is right there on this album, which is dedicated to him. Dan is there, and so are the other players, so powerful and electric that their intensity could keep the lights on in a big city for weeks on end. Set the breathless “You Could Say Yes” into motion, propulsive and beat-driven, with fierce drumming, Dan’s pumping bass, and all those guitars keeping the catchy melody afloat, and you’ll see—no, you’ll hear what I mean.

It’s not just the sound of this thing, it’s the words sung sweetly, confidently, meaningfully and powerfully all the way through, telling stories of a scholarly seductress (“She’s An Intellectual”), completely fulfilling forever love (“I Have You”), and riding the roller coaster of love even though it might tug back (“Jacob”). Then, there’s “Three Red Hooks,” presenting the power of music as a metaphor for confident performance with perhaps this album’s most creative lyrics (“Rock steady/Kick it like Eddie/Didn’t know if he meant Van Halen or Vedder/But whatever/While we’re together/We’d better turn it up loud/And kick it on out”).

The songs that make up this fourth Vegas With Randolph album, that present the case for this band being the band of the moment, a band that has come into its own because the songwriters and the players believe in the value of their work more than ever before, are only part of the VWR equation; the way that the songs are written, and how the band performs them, is the rest of it.

“You want a song to be meaningful,” says John. “You want the music to be so catchy that you want to hear it again. You want the lyrics to touch you enough that you want to hear the song again. We’re trying to make people happy. We’re trying to be memorable.”

Employing the talents of Fountains of Wayne’s Jody Porter (on “Chick Fighter”) and Texas popster Lannie Flowers, who cowrote and plays on the lively rocker “The Weekend’s Coming,” certainly helps to make this album memorable. And rocking.

vegas with randolph cd artwork legs and luggage

There will be more Vegas With Randolph recordings after Legs & Luggage; there are more songs, around a dozen of them, in various states of dress, all of which are sparked with the magic of Dan Aylestock’s bass (“The notes he played will have a long sustain,” the band says in Legs & Luggage’s CD booklet). And perhaps, in addition to at least a festive release show for this album, there will be more live performances to come, designed to show people what this band can do in person.

I’ve been there; I’ve seen what this band can do on stage, and I’ve seen how the band members relate to their audience, and each other. I’ve felt the presence of these individual talents, coming together for a common purpose; I’ve seen their faces light up as the music plays and draws people close to them. I’ve felt the warmth and humanity in their songs.

This album is titled Legs & Luggage because the songs are largely about transitioning from one thing to another, about taking chances, about moving on from here to there—about transporting emotion packed neatly, or otherwise, in virtual compartments. Legs & Luggage functions as a bridge to the next chapter in Vegas With Randolph’s life; how that reality will manifest itself is unknown at present. But manifest itself it will.

(The preceding review appears, in a slightly different form, as the liner notes to Vegas With Randolph’s Legs & Luggage)

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon

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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. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream, which ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018, succeeded the weekly Pure Pop Radio show, which began in 1995. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews | 10.30.18: Everet Almond’s Triple Pop Play on CD

review with graphic and by alan haber final sharpened smallestalan headshot from school

Everet Almond | An Introduction to Everet Almond (Kool Kat Musik, 2018)

Everet Almond | Windsor Field (Kool Kat Musik, 2018)
Everet Almond | Everet Almond (Kool Kat Musik, 2018)

everet almond drums from fb pageWhat I know about Everet Almond I could fit literally on the head of a pin and still have room left for a whole lot more; he’s played drums and percussion with Bryan Scary in Evil Arrows and self-released a number of download-only EPs under the Almond name and as Windsor Field.

What I also know is that this tuneful body of work, very much in the melodic pop style, is now receiving a welcome release on a series of three first time CDs from Ray Gianchetti’s Kool Kat Musik. And now I know even more about this superlative one-man-band, which will certainly leave a little less room on the aforementioned pin. (I also know that it would hardly be out of line to dub the do-it-all Almond the Emitt Rhodes of the 2010s.)

The three releases in Kool Kat’s series shine with weighty slices of melodic pop that more than deserve a place in music collections defined by memorable melody. Let’s take a look at them.

An Introduction to Everet Almond
everet almond - an introduction to coverThe first Kool Kat collection, titled An Introduction to Everet Almond, collects the artist’s first three EPs, originally recorded and released digitally from January 2015 to February 2018: Four Track(s), Left of Center, and Everet Almond Three.

The 14 songs on An Introduction to Everet Almond chart the start of Almond’s musical path, which begins perhaps tentatively as the artist tests the waters before him and ends with more assuredness and a tighter lock on his creative tools. From the early, lo-fi, poppy “Are You a Man” to the uptempo, soulful belter “NYC,” replete with punctuating horns and background vocals, this is the sound of Almond moving quickly ahead, sounding in gear and on target.

Windsor Field
everet almond - windsor field coverBefore adopting the Everet Almond moniker, Almond recorded as Windsor Field; these tracks, now released on Kool Kat as being by Almond in a collection called Windsor Field, catapult the artist’s sound into the pop stratosphere. They are full-fidelity recordings of assured compositions performed with a boatload of gusto.

A trio of Windsor Field’s numbers pretty much define the state of Almond as Field: the upbeat, piano-based, perky “Cry” is an infectious, catchy gem with attractive harmonies; the lovely, folk-pop “Come Home” jumps along atop a plunky bass line and a sweet melody; and the Cars-like “To Your Head” hits with clever background vocal bursts and another enticing melody.

Everet Almond
everet almond - everet almond coverAlmond’s full-length, self-titled collection, the third in Kool Kat’s series and the first release recorded as a full-length, is a joyous listen from start to finish; ears will perk up to the catchy pure popper “I Love You,” courting a delicious melody and joyous harmonies, and, by contrast, the upbeat, guitar-based, harmony-laden pop-rocker “Don’t You Need Me?”. The ultra-poppy “Beautiful Neighbor” boasts all of Almond’s strengths, not the least of which is the song’s rich harmony component and a particularly clever, pumping piano part.

So now I, and you, know a whole lot about Everet Almond. You, and I, are witness to a wealth of wonderful, melodic pop music crafted by a most talented artist. Get listening and singing along, won’t you?

black box Where to Get It: All at Kool Kat Musik’s Online Pop Catalog Store: An Introduction to Everet Almond, Windsor Field, and Everet Almond (self-titled latest release)

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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. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream, which ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018, succeeded the weekly Pure Pop Radio show, which began in 1995. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.