Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2017

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By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio alan 5 small

Every year around this time, I sit down to start work on this feature and I marvel at the sheer number of wonderful albums released during the previous 12 months. And then, I’m off and running.

The process of reviewing contenders for this list results in a survey of the absolute top of the pops that came out during the last 12 months. There were a lot of great indie records released in 2017. These are the ones that I came back to the most.

There are 21 entries in this year’s feature–18 albums and three singles, all followed by links you can click on to purchase them. They are presented in no particular order. As in years past, I do not rank them; I have trouble deciding which album should sit at number five versus number six and anyway, if I did rank them, the placements would likely vary depending on the day. So they are presented as a group of highly listenable creations, all of which I recommend without reservation, every day of the week.

And so, without further ado, here is Pure Pop Radio’s Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2017. The choices are mine; the pleasure, listening to them, is all yours.

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Bill DeMain | Transatlantic Romantic
Built around the Nashville, Tennessee artist’s piano and lovely vocals, and co-producer Jim Hoke’s tasteful string and horn arrangements, Transatlantic Romantic is a delicious, wonderfully arranged song cycle stacked high with sweet, beautifully written and performed classic-sounding songs in the style of Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Van Dyke Parks, and Harpers Bizarre. Case in point: “Lemon Yellow,” a lovely waltz blessed by Van Dyke Parks-meets-George Martin strings, Randy Newman-esque piano, and the charming story about the love of a car that came “all the way from Germany.” There is charm to spare in this gem of an album, a warm, beating heart full of joy. Purchase

bill lloyd it's happening now coverBill Lloyd | It’s Happening Now
It’s Happening Now bathes listeners in the warm glow of tremendous acoustic-based songs evoking mid-’60s folk-pop aesthetics. Lovely melodies, nimble acoustic guitar playing, and emotive vocals combine for an affective listening experience from a contemporary music master. A couple of heartfelt numbers are among the best songs that Lloyd has written thus far: the gorgeous, beautifully orchestrated and tenderly sung “Happiness,” about really and truly and completely giving in to love (“Happiness/As much of a choice as a chance/You simply decide that you’ll dance/This time…/Then maybe you’ll finally be blessed with/Happiness”), and “Let Me In Your Life Again,” a gentle upbeat plea for rekindling a romance (“Back inside your grace/Warm in your embrace/Only face to face/Do I feel anything so true”). It’s Happening Now is Bill Lloyd’s finest hour, by far. Purchase

the bye bye blackbirds take out the poison coverThe Bye Bye Blackbirds | Take Out the Poison
Bradley Skaught’s Oakland, California-based outfit’s best offering yet presents 11 finely wrought, emotionally charged songs in an album stocked full of classic tracks. Variety is the key: “Let Your Hair Fall Down,” an out-and-out pop workout, complete with horns and sounding as if it were plucked from the J. Geils playbook, sits comfortably alongside such numbers as the mid-tempo, string-laden country ballad, “Duet,” which features a lovely vocal by Lindsay Paige Garfield, who co-wrote the song with Skaught. A career-defining release. Purchase

karla kane king's daughters home for incurables coverKarla Kane | King’s Daughters Home for Incurables
The Corner Laughers’ Karla Kane steps into the spotlight with this enchanting solo set bringing together modern folk and soft pop sensibilities. Kane’s lovely vocals and melodies power these heartfelt songs, such as the gorgeous ballad “Under the Oak in May” and the amazing, percussive piano marvel “All Aboard,” which sports a traveling, train-inspired beat and builds to a seductive close. A true marvel of an album. Purchase

fun of the pier 1442Fun of the Pier | 14:42
Nottingham, England’s Fun of the Pier paints their debut album in bright, happy folk-pop hues for a pleasing listening experience. Songs such as “Past/Future” and “(In My) Time” are drenched in lovely, clever and catchy melodies.  Beautiful ballads “Lost and Lazy” and “I Live this Life (She Said)” hearken to classic artists such as Claire Hamill and Kate Rusby (and there is a correlation worth noting). 14:42 is a wonderful, delightful collection of songs, expertly performed, with Helen Luker’s alluring vocals particularly noteworthy. Purchase

kelley ryan telescopeKelley Ryan | Telescope
astroPuppees veteran Ryan’s long player is a master class effort of melodic proportions, stocked deep with luscious, carefully crafted compositions. Telescope’s enticing mix of balladry and radio-friendly should-be-top-of-the-pops creations includes the catchy, mid-tempo closer “Real Gone Girl,” with its enticing melody and lovely, memorable and magical harmonies; and the gentle, so pretty “Pulling for Romeo,” from which this album gets its title (“You’re at the end of your rope/Don’t need a telescope…”). How does this album fit into the current melodic pop landscape? It fits like a glove. Purchase

dave caruso buddhaDave Caruso | Buddha Pesto Manifesto
Dave Caruso’s new songs, which form the whole of this career-defining new album, play with the duality of the times in our lives when decisions must be made. Easy or hard to fathom, these decisions are the fabric of our lives, set within this album to glide along atop durable melodies that beat to the heart of the matter. The album’s closer is a particular highlight: “I Get to Make You Laugh,” delivered emotionally by way of Caruso’s tender vocal and keyboard, finds the narrator self-realizing that another man has the woman’s commitment at the same time that the narrator has her soul. Coming three years after the bravura performances captured within Caruso’s breakout album Cardboard Vegas Roundabout, Buddha Pesto Manifesto sets a high bar for future musical endeavors. Purchase

cindy lee berryhill the adventuristCindy Lee Berryhill | The Adventurist
A deeply felt, melodic, invigorating and emotional song cycle looking back on and celebrating Berryhill’s time with Paul Williams, the creator of Crawdaddy, the first, authoritative rock publication of record, The Adventurist shows the future unfolding for Berryhill one day at a time with each new step forward informed by steps already taken. The album’s heart-filled center is the heartbreakingly honest, emotionally melodic “Somebody’s Angel” (“The first time I kissed somebody new/I cried when I thought about you/And all the good times we had and the living we’d been through,” Berryhill sings. “Now I’m here for you forever or long as I am able/I gotta be somebody’s angel.”) The Adventurist, a remarkable, many-hued cycle of life, will grab hold of your heart as it summons your deepest emotions to the surface and affects you to your core. (Omnivore) Purchase

cait brennab thirdCait Brennan | Third
A miraculous, astounding, and audacious album pairing Brennan, a one-of-a-kind artist, and multi-instrumentalist and ace producer Fernando Perdomo, Third is surely one of those fortified-in-heaven happenings that make life on earth a wonderful thing. Recorded at Memphis, Tennessee’s legendary Ardent Studios, fortified with Big Star heart, Third is a roller coaster ride through all of life’s travails, an emotional wake up call for all humans negotiating the pathways of their existence. The album’s highlight? “Catiebots Don’t Cry,” a gut-wrenching you-love-her-I-love-her-what-are-we-gonna-do-about-it slow-to-mid-tempo burner, a skewed kind of aromatic love song featuring Brennan’s multi-tracked, thing-of-beauty three-dimensional vocal harmony stacks. This Third is astonishing, bold, and seemingly effortless. (Omnivore) Purchase

the blood rush hour who folds firstThe Blood Rush Hour | Who Folds First
The followup to 2014’s astounding And Then… The Unthinkable Happened is just as miraculous and entirely satisfying, encompassing a variety of song styles, all finely wrought melodic microcosms and performed with perfection. Who Folds First brings the hits and a few happy surprises, like the Manhattan Transfer-like, a cappella opening that introduces the Todd Rundgren-esque “No More Excuses,” and “The Space that We Have Made,” about getting to the heart of the matter, a triumphant Steely Dan-ish number sung by Pure Pop Radio favorite Christian Phillips, who devised the three-dimensional vocal arrangements with Hour leader Robert DeStefano. Joyous and quite special. Purchase

chris price stop talking coverChris Price | Stop Talking
Stop talking? Hardly. The aim is for you to listen to these wonderful songs, recorded by Price between 2013 and 2016, and tell your friends about them, thereby creating a groundswell of support for this exceptional artist. From the catchy Paul McCartney-meets-Stephen Bishop-meets-Rupert Holmes “One of Them” to the tender, Nilsson-esque “You and Me (And Everyone Else),” co-written by Price and The New Pornographers’ Joe Seiders, and the toe-tapping, orchestrated charmer “Once Was True,” which puts a lovely chord progression and melodic structure center stage, Stop Talking is a classy keeper. (Omnivore) Purchase

the weeklings live at darryl's house coverThe Weeklings | Live at Daryl’s House Club Vol. 1
Ten Beatles classics, inhabited and driven with red-hot enthusiasm by this ever-passionate New Jersey foursome, blow like missiles out of your speakers for a fun time that, yeah, yeah, yeah, cannot help but be had by all. Top tracks? Take your pick: “I Saw Her Standing There” (energy to spare and take-that drumming), “Nowhere Man” (tight, three-dimensional harmonies), or “Helter Skelter,” (a pulse-pounding showcase for the band and Lefty’s in-your-face vocal). Or, really, any of the other tracks on offer. Short of being transported to an alternate universe where the actual Beatles are playing at a club in your neighborhood, this is as real as this fab thing gets. (See below for more Weeklings fun.) Purchase

coke belda 3gs cover for websiteCoke Belda | Coke Belda 3 (Gs): A Tribute to the Bee Gees
The long-awaited followup to 2013’s Coke Belda I and 2015’s Nummer Zwei breathes new life into the art of musical homage. This alluring celebration of the charms of the Brothers Gibb, a virtual explosion of Bee Gees joy, hits the mark at every turn. Playing all of the instruments and singing all of the vocals, save for a welcome guest appearance from Gretchen’s Wheel’s Lindsay Murray, Coke delivers smile after smile. “Claustrophobia,” arranged and played as a sweet Merseybeat romp, will book you on a virtual time travel trip back to the 1960s. The album closer, a beautiful take on “Our Love (Don’t Throw It All Away),” a top 10 Billboard chart hit for Andy Gibb in 1978, written by Bee Gee Barry and keyboardist Blue Weaver, is a welcome, perhaps unexpected nugget. Follow with glee. (Bonus Belda joy follows below.) Purchase from Kool Kat (CD), Purchase from Futureman (Digital)

Pins_and_Needles_Cover_Art_Scott_GagnerScott Gagner | Pins and Needles
A way-more-than-worthy followup to 2014’s five-star Rise and Shine, Pins and Needles elevates Scott Gagner’s art to six stars, at least. Boasting 10 literate, affecting pop songs and a lovely, emotional reading of “America the Beautiful,” the album is one of the great pleasures of 2017. Top numbers include the bluesy “Heart Attack” (“It seems I was a victim of love/Not heart disease”), the classic pop sounds of “The Ghost of Me and You,” and the aforementioned “America the Beautiful.” Lovely through and through. Purchase

bob of the pops vol. 2bob of the pops front coverRobyn Gibson | Bob of the Pops Vol. 1 and Vol. 2
Buoyant exercises in the art of homage, Bob of the Pops Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 find The Junipers’ multi-instrumentalist Robyn Gibson having a good old time putting his warm, wide-eyed spin on some of his favorite pop songs from across the decades. All across this lovingly essayed two-volume landscape, Gibson’s softhearted vocals and obvious love for the material cast a warm glow over every melody line and emotional keystone communicated. In Gibson’s hands, these classic constructs breathe new life into familiar musical landscapes. From Vol. 1, The Beatles’ “Nowhere Man” fairly drips with joy; the opening, harmony drenched a cappella couplet is sweetly delivered, and the song reveals itself as a modern-day folk song, every harmonic element glimmering with life and hope. Among the other top spins: The Hollies’ “Listen to Me” and the Who’s “I Can’t Reach You.” Vol. 2’s take on the Monkees’ “Girl that I Knew Somewhere” and Matthew Sweet’s “I’ve Been Waiting” are winners, as is “Bob’s” version of a well-known little group from Liverpool’s “There’s a Place.” Unmissable, and so much fun. Free Downloads

smellicopter twoScott Brookman | Smellicopter Two
Four years and seven months on from the mighty Smellicopter, Richmond, Virginia’s favorite son returns with this top-flight five-song sequel, a sterling collection of pop songs that should not only please fans but also draw in new Brookman connoisseurs. From the opening marriage of ’70s Todd Rundgren and late-’90s June and the Exit Wounds ambiance, “Consideration,” to “Old Bones Found,” a clever, catchy mix of pure pop styles, Smellicopter Two delivers the goods. Purchase

dana countryman the joy of popDana Countryman | The Joy of Pop
The fourth time’s the charm, although it certainly can be said that the previous three times have been equally charming; The Joy of Pop is nothing less than a joy, another in a growing line of wonderful retro-pop albums from a master of melody. With compatriots like Matt Tyson, Dana’s wife Tricia and Klaatu’s Dee Long in tow, you’re bound to have a rousing good time bathing in the glow of such gorgeous songs as “August Dream,” a Broadway-styled creation influenced, no doubt, by the work of Richard Carpenter, Burt Bacharach and Gilbert O’Sullivan; “Tell Me that You Love Me,” an early-1960s mid-tempo ballad dripping with Buddy Holly-isms; and “Can’t Stop Thinking ‘Bout You,” a jangly number graced with Dee Long’s beautiful guitar work. There is even a jolly holiday number, “It’s an Amazon.com Kind of Christmas,” that begs to be played year-round. Joy? There plenty to go around here. Purchase

Richard X. HeymanRichard X. Heyman | Incognito
One-man-band Richard X.’s 12th album, no less than his best work by far, is powered by stellar playing, singing and songwriting that gets better with each passing year. Dazzling songs and equally dazzling performances greet you at every turn. In the pure popper “A Fool’s Errand,” the narrator tells the world that his love for his partner is solid and for the ages. “Her Garden Path” is a muscular track with a grandly attractive riff that chronicles a man’s escape from a woman’s web. And the horn-infused, soulful pop number “So What” finds Richard sounding as though he’s channeling the Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere. All of Richard’s albums are fantastic listens, but if you’re new to Richard’s work and you wonder where you should start, Incognito is a great place to jump in. Purchase

winterpills colorblindWinterpills | “Colorblind”
Upon first hearing this Massachusetts band’s music and, in particular songwriter Philip Price’s top-flight, three-dimensional songs, I could do nothing except flip for joy. This single, not yet represented on an album, is a great example of what Winterpills does best, and that is envelop the listener with lovely melodies and hooks galore. Beyond that, this description from the group’s Bandcamp page sums the process up nicely: “‘Colorblind’ features an infectious wall-of-sound vocal hook, samples recorded into an iPhone in a DC parking lot, out-of-tune pianos colliding over a burned-out city, a fat R&B beat, all poured through the alchemy of producer Justin Pizzoferrato’s overdrive brain.” Add this song, and all of Winterpills’ glorious albums, to your collection today. Purchase

coke belda photoCoke Belda | “Operator (That’s Not the Way it Feels)”
Coke Belda, who is ably represented above in this year’s Favorite Records of the Year feature, released this past November this heartfelt reinvention of Jim Croce’s top 20 hit. “My lovely wife, Verónica, introduced me to Jim Croce many years ago,” says Coke on his Bandcamp page. “I was captivated by his tunes and voice and I always thought this song was a clear power-pop song disguised as an acoustic piece.” Playing all of the instruments and singing all of the vocals, Coke has introduced Croce’s perennial to new listeners, as well as listeners who grew up with the song when it was first released. Stellar work. Purchase

the weeklings paperback writerThe Weeklings | “Paperback Writer”
New Jersey’s Fab Four reconvened in the studio during the last few months of 2017 to record and release a couple of jolly Christmas singles–“Revolution Wonderland,” a mash-up of the Beatles’ “Revolution” and the perennial Christmas classic “Winter Wonderland,” and a lively take on the original Fabs’ “Christmas Time is Here Again,” with dollops of “Flying” and “Baby You’re a Rich Man” skillfully sewn in. Last September, they released this, and here’s that word again, joyous slice of Weekling-ized fun, reviewed by me thusly: “Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack huddle together and Weekling-ize the number one 1966 Billboard chart Beatles smash with an in-your-face-and-your-ears-too injection of contemporary immediacy, tight-knit harmonies, a surprising and smile-inducing…break, rhythmic whirligigs, Lefty’s spot-on Paul McCartney-esque bass runs, and a daring dose of Monkees derring-do for a rip-roaring, must-play-it-again-and-again two minutes and 47 seconds-long eargasm.” Still sounds about right. Purchase

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Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, playing the latest and greatest melodic pop songs from today and across the decades, and Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere Internet melodic pop talk show, air weekly on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

pop tunes disc smallin conversation new graphic blueListen to the Pop Tunes Deejay Show on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm ET (two different shows every week); In Conversation airs every Wednesday night at 9 pm ET. Don’t miss a minute!

Tune in to Pop that Goes Crunch Radio by clicking on the following snazzy-looking button:

 

Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation Podcasts: Scott Gagner (Airdate: October 4, 2017)

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio alan 5 small

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Pins_and_Needles_Cover_Art_Scott_GagnerSinger-songwriter Scott Gagner, whose 2014 album Rise and Shine was a big Pure Pop Radio favorite, has made a welcome return to the melodic pop landscape with Pins and Needles, another top-flight collection of songs peering into the effects of the human condition, always with a melody in its heart.

Scott returned to Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation on October 4 to speak with me about his new release. Along the way, he related deeply felt stories regarding the creation of his wonderful new songs. We played three during this program–“Heart Attack,” “You Don’t Know,” and “America the Beautiful”; listen to them by clicking here.

pprListen to my interview with Scott Gagner from the October 4 edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation by clicking the play button on the following player, or click on the Pure Pop Radio button to the left to download (then right click and choose “Save audio as” to save the file to your computer). (This interview is presented in scoped format; the songs have been removed due to copyright concerns.)

Purchase Scott Gagner’s Pins and Needles (the album, not Scott’s actual pins and needles!) by clicking on the following link: Bandcamp.

Look out for more current and archived Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation interviews, coming soon.

alanhaberspurepopradiographiclarge1-wp header

Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, playing the latest and greatest melodic pop songs from today and across the decades, and Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere Internet melodic pop talk show, air weekly on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

pop tunes disc smallin conversation new graphic blueListen to the Pop Tunes Deejay Show on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm ET (two different shows every week); In Conversation airs every Wednesday night at 9 pm ET. Don’t miss a minute!

Tune in to Pop that Goes Crunch Radio by clicking on the following snazzy-looking button:

 

Kurt Baker, Terry Draper, Bill DeMain, The Timewhys, The Rubinoos, Bill Lloyd, Fountains of Wayne, Jeff Larson and Scott Gagner Star in this Week’s Pure Pop Shows

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio alan 5 small

Two sparkling brand-new editions of Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, and an all-new, typically in-depth Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation ride the melodic pop airwaves this week.

pop tunes disc smallTonight’s Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show (8 pm ET) is a merry mix of new and new-to-you spins and classic cuts from across the decades. The Searchers, Kurt Baker, The Wilson Hospital, Terry Draper and Bill DeMain sing sweetly alongside Anton Barbeau, Carpenter Caswell, Sagittarius, Donovan and an early, spooky salute to Halloween with The Connection, whose new single is a lively take on Buck Owens’ “(It’s a) Monsters’ Holiday” (The Taters roll with their version of the tune, too).

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Pins_and_Needles_Cover_Art_Scott_GagnerTomorrow night at 9 pm ET, singer-songwriter Scott Gagner sits in with me on an all-new Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation to talk about his new album, Pins and Needles, a way-more-than-worthy followup to 2014’s Rise and Shine. You’ll hear the stories behind the songs, and much more. And all about a certain…deer (yes, you read that right).

pop tunes disc smallThursday night at 8 pm ET, the Pop Tunes Deejay Show returns with another first-run mix of melodic pop songs from across the decades, featuring Bonaroo, The Lilac Time, XTC, Peter and the Penguins, Hep Stars, The Left Banke, Bill Lloyd, Jeff Larson, and Gilbert O’Sullivan. A more fun hour of melodic pop simply can’t be found anywhere.

Before I go, I invite you to view Scott Gagner’s wonderfully creative, and quite entertaining, video for Pins and Needles’ lead single, a catchy slice of melodic pop entitled “The Ghost of Me and You.” Directed by Scott and co-starring a lovely, expressive yet inanimate deer head (yes, you read that right…again), it’s a joy.

Two new Pop Tunes Deejay Shows and an all-new Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation with Scott Gagner? Yes, that’s this week’s nighttime listening sorted. Enjoy!

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Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, playing the latest and greatest melodic pop songs from today and across the decades, and Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere Internet melodic pop talk show, air weekly on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

pop tunes disc smallin conversation new graphic blueListen to the Pop Tunes Deejay Show on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm ET (two different shows every week); In Conversation airs every Wednesday night at 9 pm ET. Don’t miss a minute!

Tune in to Pop that Goes Crunch Radio by clicking on the following snazzy-looking button:

 

Are You Ready? Thursday’s Big Blast of New Music Added to the Pure Pop Radio Playlist Is Here!

day-twoWe’re back with another extra special, vitamin-rich group of great new and new-to-you melodic pop music added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist.

Let’s get right to it, then. We’ll begin by taking an extended look at a fantastic new tribute to Elvis Costello.

beyond-beliefVarious Artists | Beyond Belief/A Tribute to Elvis Costello We’ve talked about the compiler’s art before, and make no mistake about it–compiling a tribute album is an art. Practicing the art for this three-disc tribute to Elvis Costello are compilers Olivia Frain and John M. Borack, both longtime Costello fans. Frain, a dedicated music fan, and Borack, a music journalist who has also served as executive producer for 2002’s Right to Chews: Bubblegum Classics Revisited and 2001’s Shoe Fetish: A Tribute to Shoes, set about contacting artists and putting into motion all of the behind-the-scenes nuts-and-bolts tasks necessary to bring the set to market.

This mammoth collection, gathering together covers of Costello numbers from 50 artists, is a delight to listen to from head to toe. As noted in the set’s booklet, “100% of the proceeds…will be donated to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation. The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation keeps music alive in schools by donating musical instruments to under-funded music programs, giving youngsters the many benefits of music education, helping them to be better students and inspiring creativity and expression through playing music.” In an era in which arts programs are often cut from schools, this is a most welcome and vital effort.

Beyond Belief is chock full of choice Costello songs performed by artists who obviously love the source material. And what’s not to love? Costello has been a favorite artist of music fans since he first burst on the scene in 1977 with his debut album My Aim is True. Along the way, he has delivered songs in all manner of genre from rock to pop to R&B to country and back again. Proof of this ability to jump from one style to another at the drop of a tone arm is reflected in the tracks chosen by the artists appearing here.

While some artists stick to the plot of land originally planted by Costello, others reimagine the master’s songs and work with new approaches. David Myhr, late of the Merrymakers and now a favored solo artist, delivers a wonderful version of “Veronica” (co-written with Paul McCartney) that basically sticks to Costello’s blueprint but takes the song at a slightly slower tempo and adds more of a glossy, pop sheen. The Rubinoos trade a blaring horn section for the original’s organ part and temper Costello’s snarl with a bit of a poppier vocal approach in a jazzier, new version of “Pump It Up.” Mike Viola turns in a basically reverent version of a Burt Bacharach co-write, the majestic “God Give Me Strength,” in what amounts to a somewhat more intimate, drawing room-like performance; Viola’s gorgeous vocal is delivered over a bed of acoustic guitar and chamber strings, minus the horn present in Costello’s original version.

Three tracks, in particular, take the art of covering a song to new heights. First and foremost, the award goes to Jamie Hoover and Steve Stoeckel, better known as Jamie and Steve, who pull the rug out from under Costello’s “Blame It On Cain” and shake out the dust like men on a mission, turning in an amped-up, wild a cappella version powered by doo-wop muscle and good, old-fashioned chutzpah. Not only do Jamie and Steve prove how good the song is, they turn it inside out and rebuild it from the ground up. This is a spectacular performance that will have you hitting the repeat button over and over.

To Costello’s original, moody version of “So Like Candy,” a co-write with Paul McCartney, Paul Myers adds some poppy vocals and a ghostly percussion track and approaches Costello’s bridge as if it were coming straight off of a scratchy vinyl copy of the song. It’s a welcome surprise that, along with Myers’ assured vocal, is one of this set’s major delights. Another top shelf approach is that of Lannie Flowers, who takes a basically reverent run through “Radio Sweetheart,” yet surprises listeners by turning the proceedings on their collective head at 1:55 by introducing a decidedly mystical aura for 37 enticing seconds.

What tribute albums such as Beyond Belief offer, aside from giving artists the chance to play in someone else’s sandbox, is proof that good songs will retain their value as each calendar year passes. New coats of paint in the form of new approaches or reverent run-throughs are good for the songwriter’s art, and good, also, for the compiler’s art. With Beyond Belief/A Tribute to Elvis Costello, the compiler’s art has been raised to new heights.

[Twenty-one tracks from Beyond Belief/A Tribute to Elvis Costello have been added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist and are now playing in rotation: “Girls Talk,” Rob Smith; “Brilliant Mistake,” Dennis Schocket and Cliff Hillis; “The Other End of the Telescope,” Butch Walker; “Veronica,” David Myhr; “Kinder Murder,” Popdudes; “No Hiding Place,” Michael Carpenter; “Blame It on Cain,” Jamie and Steve; “Monkey to Man,” Kelley Ryan; “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” Severo; “Pump It Up,” The Rubinoos; “Radio Sweetheart,” Paul Myers; “Tear Off Your Own Head (It’s a Doll Revolution),” Hans Rotenberry; “Possession,” Barry Holdship; “This Year’s Girl,” honeychain; “Green Shirt,” Scott Bennett; “God Give Me Strength,” Mike Viola; “Radio Sweetheart,” Lannie Flowers; “Man Out of Time,” Bill Lloyd; “Almost Blue,” Nick Heyward and the 13 Satellites; “Crimes of Paris,” An American Underdog; and “Mystery Dance,” sparkle*jets UK]   – Alan Haber

(Order at CD Baby or Amazon)

Also new today on Pure Pop Radio:

hidden-picturesHidden Pictures | Ottomans The latest release from Hidden Pictures is a typically entertaining musical knockout punch. Delicious melodic pop pictures are painted with an apparent Deacon Blue-meets-Prefab Sprout vibe. Highlights include the wonderfully catchy “Firm Way to Say Goodbye”; the punchy, tuneful “Girl on Girlfriend”; and “Riffraff,” a rock number with a guitar part sounding like it came from a David Bowie track. These and three more songs are now playing in rotation: “You’re an Adult,” “Hannah, I’m Scared of Your Boyfriend,” and “Firm Way to Say Goodbye.” Another great album from this California group.

tearaways-vol.-4tearaways-vol.-7The Tearaways | The Earle Mankey Sessions, Vol. 4 and The Earle Mankey Sessions, Vol.7 Formed more than 30 years ago, the Tearaways worked with veteran producer Earle Mankey and waxed 50 songs. The results were released in 2014 on these two albums, both necessary purchases for every pop music fan. Great, catchy songs with terrific melodies and harmonies are the order of the day. We’ve added seven songs from Vol. 4 and nine songs from Vol. 7. From Vol. 4, we chose the melodic anthem “Girls Who Love Cars,” the toe-tapper “Stuck On Stupid,” about a guy who can’t quite figure out how to tell a girl he likes how he feels; and the timely “We Don’t Talk, We Text,” about the laziness and lack of proper communication in this world. Also added from Vol. 4: “I Will Wait,” “Jefferson Still Survives,” “Valerie,” and “The Last Goodbye.” From Vol. 7: the self-explanatory “I Pray Guitar”; a rhythmic tribute to “John Wayne”; and “All She Wants Is the Ring,” about a woman who’s in a relationship for its material worth. Plus: “Friends and Enemies,” “I Don’t Know and I Don’t Care,” “More Dollars than Sense,” “I Can Tell You Now,” “I’ll See You Again,” and “I’m All In.” Repeat after us: “Must have. Must have. Must have!”

dave-raveDave Rave and the Governors | Sweet American Music The great Dave Rave returns and hooks up with the Governors for a splendid collection of pop songs, all sporting big melodies and, of course, big hooks. From the driving “Lindsay” and pure pop sixties pleasures of “You Take What’s Yours” to “Pullman Washington” and the Lou Reed vocal vibe of “Night School,” this is an album that will never be far from your ears. We’re happily spinning these four songs, along with the rocking “Trapped.” A big record with big guitars and a whole lot of spirit. And the cover’s really cool.

andy-boppAndy Bopp | Time to Rock! Andy Bopp, late of groups such as Love Nut and Myracle Brah, and currently waxing tunes with Ken Schopf as The Modern Ruins (see next entry), lets loose in his living room armed with only his electric guitar and echoed vocals for a quartet of Sun-era sounding rock ‘n’ roll ‘n’ rockabilly numbers. The tracks: the title track, “Anna Lee,” “Black Heath,” and Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk.” Dig these thrilling and powerful performances, all playing now in rotation.

moderm-ruins-threethe-modern-ruins-bleeding-partyThe Modern Ruins | Bleeding Party and Three Tracks from the Four Track Can’t get enough Bopp? Andy’s got you covered with two new 2015 releases from his duo with Ken Schopf, the Modern Ruins. These songs follow nicely from the vibe of Andy’s solo EP, Time to Rock!, only on these records Andy and his guitars are supported by Ken’s Cocktail Drum kit, percussion and backing vocals. It’s rock ‘n’ roll all the way, from the souped-up Sun-era sound of “All Fall Down (Black Heath),” which also appears on Time to Rock!, to the slow blues of the title track and a spirited, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band-esque version of David Essex’s 1973 top five hit, “Rock On.” These songs, plus three more–“Longtime,” “Rope Walker,” and “There”–are now playing in rotation. From Three Tracks from the Four Track, we’re spinning “Anytime Anyway” and “When It Rains.” Great stuff.

town-and-countrycartographerCartographer | Cartographer, and Town and Country | My Blue Heaven One of our favorite singer-songwriters, Scott Gagner, whose last album, Rise and Shine, was a big hit here at Pure Pop Radio, is the common denominator between these two releases, both from 2008. Both albums find Gagner and friends following a similar musical path to Gagner’s current vibe. In other words, the songs are melodic and inventive and instantly memorable. Great stuff through and through. From Cartographer, we’re playing, in rotation, “The Trouble With You,” “I’m Not Following You,” “Love Triangle for Two,” “Sound Rebounds,” “Waiting,” and “Suburban Girl.” From My Blue Heaven, we’re spinning “Daytime Emmy,” “Bella Vista,” “Better than That,” and “The Rest of the Night.” Scott is currently working on ideas for his next album. We can only hope we don’t have to wait too long.

sitcom-neighborSitcom Neighbor | Charm This wonderful pop music album from 2012 hits the melodic bullseye, sounding like a splinter off the main body of the Sugarplastic. From the beautiful “Amphetamine” to the rocking nod “The Satisfaction of Love” and the bluesy pop of “Vaseline Water Balloon,” this album is full of harmonies and top notch melodies, bursting with tasty nuggets. We’re playing eight songs in rotation: those previously mentioned, and “Let It Go,” “True Love and Medication,” “This Time Tomorrow,” the Beatlesque “Buy Your Farm,” and “Darlene.”

ticketsThe Tickets | The Tickets Musician Walter Clevenger loved the Tickets so much that he gathered together the band’s 1990 cassette-only album, The Tickets Make a Record, and their 1986 single, “She Got Away”/”Yesterday’s Girl” and released both together in 2006 as The Tickets on his own Brewery Records label. The album is an important collection of songs performed by musicians with an obvious love for pop music. We’re playing six: “Dream About Me,” “Everything,” “I Don’t Belong,” “Heartland,” “The One that I Loved,” and “She Got Away.” Great melodies, harmonies and playing abound.

the-general-storeThe General Store | Mountain Rescue It is a pleasure to have the music of the General Store spinning in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. Tam Johnstone, the musician behind the group name, is the son of Elton John guitarist Davey Johnstone; he obviously picked up a musical thing or two from his dad. A mix of country-tinged and pop/rock numbers, Mountain Rescue is represented on Pure Pop Radio by seven songs: the ringing rocker “Early Morning Fuzz,” the Beach Boys homages “Girls from the Mall” and “Nothing Can Come Between Us,” and “Desert Weathered Hiway.” The Neil Young nod “Come Around,” “Great Big World,” and “Over Here” complete the pack.

ian-gommIan Gomm | Demonstrates Ian Gomm, who co-wrote (with Nick Lowe) one of the great pop singles of all time, “Cruel to Be Kind,” and played guitar for the band Brinsley Schwarz, added this terrific EP to his catalog in 2013. The platter is represented on Pure Pop Radio with four choice cuts, pop classics all: the upbeat, catchy “Let’s Stick Together” and “Only You (Knowing Me),” the hit-worthy “Magic Spell,” and the beautiful ballad “Lonely Avenue.” A terrific disc from one of the greats, released by Jerker Emanuelson’s Sound Asleep Records.

souvenirsVarious Artists | Souvenirs: Little Gems of Pop, Volume II The second in a series of collections gathering together various classic pop recordings, Souvenirs: Little Gems of Pop, Volume II kicks off with Richard X. Heyman’s crackerjack 1980 single a-side, “Vacation,” an energetic pop rocker with a typically catchy melody. From there you get, amongst the treasures on hand, Bill Lloyd’s jangly, highly melodic side “Lisa Anne,” from Bill’s 1987 Feeling the Elephant album; Tube Top’s glorious, upbeat power pop song “Oceans Cracked,” from the band’s 1997 album Three Minute Hercules; and Scott Sutherland’s straight-ahead pop song “Book of Seasons” from 1999. These songs are now playing in rotation as part of our playlist; others spinning as we speak are Enemies in the Grass’ “Best Behaviour,” Post Office’s “The Whole Thing’s a Bust,” Jr. Gone Wild’s “It Never Changes,” and Nick Rudd’s Blown’s “One in a Million.” A wonderful collection, released in 2014 by Jerker Emanuelson’s Sound Asleep Records.

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Whew! That does it for our two-day new adds extravaganza. We hope you enjoyed the ride through the latest additions to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. All of the songs and artists we talked about today and yesterday are now playing in rotation. Tune in to Pure Pop Radio by clicking on one of the handy listen links below. And make a date to come back often to hear more of the greatest pop music in the universe!

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Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Scott Gagner Interview from In Conversation Now Posted on Our Podcast Page

Scott Gagner's marvelous Rise and Shine

Scott Gagner’s marvelous Rise and Shine

Now added to the most comprehensive body of interviews with melodic pop music’s biggest stars is our exclusive talk with the great Scott Gagner, whose new album Rise and Shine is a hall-of-fame-worthy collection of sweetly-realized balladry and one of the best records of 2014. If the stars are properly aligned at the end of the year, this album will wind up on many best-of lists. Yes, it’s that good.

Scott spoke to us about his travels along his musical path, writing songs, and having master drumsmith Prairie Prince (The Tubes) lay down the beat on his album Rhapsody in Blonde.  And what of Rise and Shine? There, you’ll find Posie Ken Stringfellow multi-instrumentalizing and singing. Oh yeah, that Prairie Prince. That Ken Stringfellow. Pretty cool, huh?

Listen to Scott’s interview from last week’s Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation by surfing on over to our PodOMatic podcast page. And while you’re there, why not listen to some of the other classic chats we’ve had with some very cool musical customers? Have fun!

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Listen to Scott Gagner on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation on PodOMatic!

Listen to Scott Gagner on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation on PodOMatic!

Kurt Reil Interview Podcast Fever, Every Little Thing is Fab, Scott Gagner Wednesday Night on In Conversation. It’s the Week Ahead on Pure Pop Radio!

Get down, get funky pop fans! The week ahead on Pure Pop Radio is nothing less than a sweat-induced, feverish pinata full of melodic pop excitement!

Ken Michaels' Every Little Thing...For the Beatles Fan Who Craves All Things Fab! Airs Every Monday at 9 pm ET on Pure Pop Radio!

Ken Michaels’ Every Little Thing…For the Beatles Fan Who Craves All Things Fab! Airs Every Monday at 9 pm ET on Pure Pop Radio!

First, the fab and gear vibes go crazy tonight at 9 pm ET, March 31, with the latest installment of Ken Michaels’ Every Little Thing. Ken delivers the Fab Four vibes as he presents an interview with George Harrison in which George speaks about perhaps his biggest Beatles number, selections from the McCartney II remaster, and a salute to the great Larry Williams, featuring his songs as recorded by the Fabs, John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, Paul McCartney, and John Lennon. Don’t be a “Bad Boy” or a “Dizzy Miss Lizzie”–join Ken for another hour-long slice of Beatles fun!

Win a signed copy of the Grip Weeds' Inner Grooves!

Win a signed copy of the Grip Weeds’ Inner Grooves!

Second, the interview with the Grip Weeds’ Kurt Reil that ran last week on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation is now up and at ’em on our PodOMatic podcast page. Find out all about the Grip Weeds’ latest album, a great collection of “Rare and Under-Released” tunes that will amaze and delight your ears. It’s another one of our patented in-depth talks that practically blows your mind! Don’t miss it!

And, finally, third and not least, the terrific Scott Gagner, whose new album, Rise and Shine, is a hall-of-fame-worthy collection of all manner of lovely ballads that I predict will wind up on many of this year’s best-of lists, is this week’s guest on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation. Yes, Rise and Shine is that good–great, even. You’ll hear Scott talk about his musical life leading up the release of Rise and Shine and hear about songs included in that album. It’s a spirited talk that will fascinate you and draw your attention to another of the great melodic pop albums that practically call out to you. Air dates are this Wednesday, April 2 and Thursday, April 3 at 8 pm ET.

 

Scott Gagner's marvelous Rise and Shine

Scott Gagner’s marvelous Rise and Shine

So, set your alarm clocks for all of these very cool, melodic events and make your week one to remember! Enjoy!

 

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Listen to Kurt Reil on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation on PodOMatic!

Listen to Kurt Reil on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation on PodOMatic!

Scott Gagner Guests on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation on April 2 and 3; Exclusive Acoustic Session Included

Scott Gagner. His new album, Rise and Shine, is spectacular.

Scott Gagner. His new album, Rise and Shine, is spectacular.

On Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, we love to talk to artists who may be new to listeners. Next week, we’re thrilled to be chatting with a singer-songwriter who’s been releasing great records for a number of years and has recently released one that will surely wind up on this year’s best-of lists–a record that is about as perfect as the greatest gifts in life can be.

This record, Rise and Shine, is a lovely document–a melodic creation with a warm, beating heart worn on its sleeve. Every once in a while, an album like this comes at you at a hundred miles an hour and demands that you pay close attention. In these still early days of 2014, Scott Gagner’s song cycle is that wonderfully-realized album. This collection of lovely melodies stands tall from the gorgeous opening ballad, “I’ve Taken a Shine to You” to the closing, achingly beautiful number, “Sentimental Lullaby.” Gagner’s soulful vocals are alive, resonating from the emotional foundation that grounds these dozen gems. Rise and Shine is nothing short of a masterpiece, as affecting a collection of songs as you’re likely to hear all year.

During this typically in-depth interview, you will hear songs from Rise and Shine performed acoustically, exclusively by Scott for Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation. You will also hear about Scott’s musical life, from his early days and his first writing efforts to the masterful designs he creates for his albums and a whole lot more.

Scott Gagner's marvelous Rise and Shine

Scott Gagner’s marvelous Rise and Shine

Air dates for this program are Wednesday and Thursday, April 2 and 3, at 8 pm ET. If this is your first exposure to Scott Gagner and his music, you won’t want to miss this chance to familiarize yourself with this great artist. If you’re a longtime fan, you already know where we’re coming from. This is a can’t miss show. See you there.

 

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes