Reviews: 7.2.19: A Double Dose of Heyman: Richard X. and Richie Deliver Superb Garage Rock and Pop and Roll in Two New Releases

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Richard X. Heyman | Pop Circles (Turn-Up, 2019)
The Doughboys | Running for Covers (Ram, 2019)

Perhaps the greatest gift that June brings us northern hemisphere dwellers is the first day of summer, a cue for couch potatoes and homebodies to welcome the sun, and globs of sunscreen, into our daily lives.

This year, June brought us another great gift, one that can be enjoyed either indoors or outdoors, depending on your mode of music delivery, allowing all of us to benefit from warm summer days and nights and some truly terrific music.

Just last month, a double dose of Heyman descended upon us in the form of Richard X. Heyman’s tremendous 13th solo album, Pop Circles, and Running for Covers, a fun, new long player from the Doughboys, the New Jersey garage rockers that count drummer Richie Heyman among their members. Whether billed as Richard X. or Richie, multi-instrumentalist Heyman always delivers first-rate pop and rock ‘n’ roll.

Richard X. Heyman’s Pop Circles
A double dose of Heyman allows fans to experience many sides of the artist at once. Pop Circles favors Richard’s pop side, where melody, harmony and instrumental brilliance are king; Running for Covers puts Richie on the drum stool, where he helps his Doughboy brothers kick out the hot and powerful garage rock jams.

On Pop Circles, Heyman continues to favor the one-man-band approach to his recordings, but with one important, and most welcome, change: wife Nancy takes on bass duties throughout most of the album, playing innovative and melodically-charged parts on her Hofner Empress.

Pop Circles is sort-of a two-part affair, the first 12 tracks being the album proper and the final five being solo versions of songs previously appearing on albums by the Doughboys. Each of the 17 tracks earn their place in the running order (an 18th, hidden track is an extended version of the song, “Guess You Had to be There”).

Richard X. Heyman, surrounded by pop circles

As you would expect from a Heyman album, always a treat and a shining light in any pop release cycle, the highlights are plenty. Throughout Pop Circles, Richard’s instrumental and vocal prowess prove their mettle (no surprise there); his singular, one-of-a-kind drum parts and thickly defined harmony stacks are particularly inviting. And, as I said up above, wife Nancy’s bass parts are innovative and melodically-charged, and essential to the overall sound.

One of Richard’s best songs and best-ever arrangements is the powerful, rocking “Marlena,” which posits that a relationship is now gone, regardless of which road the narrator travels on or the New Jersey towns he blows through as he works his issues out in his mind. Richard’s lyrics are vividly stated and metaphorical, such as in this descriptive couplet (“Trusted a lamb so gentle and wise (Marlena) / Now here I am with wool over my eyes”). The song’s melody is ingeniously seductive; the chord structure inventive and compelling.

The narrator of the breezy “In a Sunlit Room” is tasked with coming up with a way to salvage a relationship. He hopes to come up smelling roses, but he’s on a steep, uphill climb and seemingly has the most to prove. He is nothing if not poetically realistic (“You must know that love has its peaks and valleys / Mount Everest to the Grand Canyon and back”). It’s a deep crevice to climb out of, for sure. Richard’s guitars really shine here, and Nancy’s bass provides a creative bottom end.

“Land,” originally the opening, Rolling Stones-styled rocker on 2012’s Doughboys release, Shakin’ Our Souls, is my favorite of Pop Circles’ “Richie’s Three-Chord Garage” set, recast here as a less manic, no-Stones-turned rocker. Richard’s vocal is particularly strong here, and his piano playing is superlative.

Pop Circles was recorded at the Kit Factory and at Eastside Sound, both in New York City. It’s a dynamic collection of songs, just waiting for you to listen.

The Doughboys’ Running for Covers
Speaking of superlative, the 13 well-chosen covers that constitute the Doughboys’ new release make a case for pleading with the band to fashion an all-fave-classic-songs-we-didn’t-write show for fans. For now, though, this knowing selection of covers will do quite nicely. The group gives each classic nugget their all and then some, infusing them with garage-rock fury or pure pop finesse, depending on the song.

Running for Covers stands out of the ever-growing pack of covers albums by not simply choosing from the well of usual suspects; mixed in with the familiar (Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man” and David Essex’s “Rock On,” for example) are more obscure tracks from the Kinks, Mose Allison, and the Four Seasons, among others, that might not come to mind, even in a pinch.

The Four Seasons’ “Everybody Knows My Name,” from the group’s 1966 album, Working My Way Back to You and More Great New Hits, is an inspired choice, a lovely, catchy pop song that is very different from the other fare on Running for Covers (and holds special significance for the Doughboys–see below). Another track, Herman’s Hermits’ “My Reservation’s Been Confirmed,” from 1966’s Both Sides of Herman’s Hermits, is another straight-ahead, catchy pop song, also of the I-probably-wouldn’t-have-thought-of-that variety.

Two of the songs included on Running for Covers hold special significance for the Doughboys–they are the re-recorded a-sides of the group’s two Bell Records singles from the 1960s (“Rhoda Mendelbaum” and the aforementioned Four Seasons track, “Everybody Knows My Name”). They are jewels contained within this album of interpretation that shine from start to finish.

Other tasty highlights include a searing, four-on-the-floor take on Question Mark and the Mysterians’ “96 Tears,” and a powerful, rocking, crunchy guitar-ized version of the Band’s “The Shape I’m In,” which turns the original recording on its collective ears.

The Grip Weeds’ Kurt Reil produced, recorded, mixed and mastered Running for Covers at his House of Vibes studio in Highland Park, New Jersey (Kurt also helped out with vocals and percussion). It’s another fine job for all concerned.

The Doughboys

A Double Dose
The Doughboys’ Gar Francis, Mike Caruso, Myke Scavone, and Richie Heyman play up a storm on Running for Covers, a tremendously entertaining garage- and pop-rock testament to the classic songs of yesteryear; Richard X. Heyman does the same for his catchy pop songs contained on Pop Circles, that feature the singer-songwriter’s incredible, vital instrumental skills and intense harmony stacks.

This double dose of Heyman, where Richard X. meets Richie and garage-rock meets pop and roll, is a present for music fans all over the world. Obviously, you should be all in for some of the best music being made today.

Where to Get It:
Richard X. Heyman’s Pop Circles: Kool Kat Musik. Listen to sound samples and purchase: richardxheyman.com CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes
The Doughboys’ Running for Covers:
thedoughboysnj.com. Listen to sound samples and purchase: Amazon, CD Baby, iTunes

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Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August.

Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

You’ll Be Saying, “That’s My New Favorite Song!” Say Hello to Pure Pop Radio’s New Music Tuesday!

alan-mic-zeeOnce again, we’ve got a pile of new music to add to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. Said pile reaches from the floor to the ceiling, which means it’s time to add said new music to our hard-working rotation.

Here are just some of the new sounds you’ll hear by tuning into Pure Pop Radio–simply click on one of the listen links below to get poppin’! And now, here we go…

butch youngButch Young | Mercury Man Never, never, never tell us that the album is a goner–Butch Young’s miraculous, hall-of-fame-worthy Mercury Man instantly announces itself as one of the best albums of 2016 with its dazzling array of  1970s-styled instant classics, peppered with a mix of Paul McCartney and Harry Nilsson-esque magic. Every one of these Los Angeles-based artist’s songs is a clear winner. We’re playing all of them in rotation: the title track, “Persephone,” “One Foot In,” “Dime Store Jesus,” “The Fools of May,” “Child of Nature,” “Sunday Driver,” “Mohammed on Top of the Mountain,” “Algernon,” “Asteroid,” “Wonderful Life,” and “Starlit Lullaby.” Astounding and really terrific.

doughboys rock onThe Doughboys | “Rock On” And here they come, barreling in from outer space or some wild and untamed structure being held together by bailing wire and chewing gum somewhere in the outer reaches, wherever that might be. It’s the Doughboys, and they’re rough and tumbling with garage-rock fever inside and around David Essex’s ’70s classic with Richie Heyman’s pounding drums, Myke Scavone’s wailing blues harp, Gar Francis’s rocking guitars and Mike Caruso’s bopping bass. Recorded by the Grip Weed’s Kurt Reil at his House of Vibes studio with widescreen, in-your-face fervor, this is another classic track from New Jersey’s in-the-pocket foursome. Rock on, indeed.

herb eimerman - soft landingHerb Eimerman | “Soft Landing” This beautiful, heartfelt song, Herb’s first new recording of 2016, was written in remembrance of his father. Supported by Stefan Johansson and Joe Algeri, who also mixed and produced, and featuring some of the sweetest background harmonies you’ve heard in a very long time, “Soft Landing” will stay with you always.

cotton mather pledgeCotton Mather | “The Cotton Mather Pledge” The latest in a series of new songs from this venerable Austin, Texas band roars right in with a sneaky cymbal wash straight out of Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy” and quickly settles into an energetic pop and roll number starring Robert Harrisons’ slightly-scratchy, fuzzed-out, attention-getting vocal. Dig the Beatle-esque, Rubber Soul-ish guitar harmony at about 1:40. Playing as we speak in rotation, it’s burning up our airwaves.

the lunar laugh - nighthawks and mona lisas - smallThe Lunar Laugh | “Nighthawks and Mona Lisa” Jared Lekites and Connor Anderson are in a light country mood for this breezy, melodic, mid-tempo number slated to be included on the Lunar Laugh’s upcoming second album. It’s another keeper from the stars of Oklahoma City pop.

erik voeks 2016Erik Voeks – “She Loved Her Jangle Pop” and “Blue Water” Erik Voeks’ “My Dentist” is one of the stone-cold classics from Pure Pop Radio’s early days; these new songs are even better. “She Loved Her Jangle Pop” is a joyous, upbeat hookasaurus, as catchy as anything out there. “Blue Water” trades a slow and studied opening for a more upbeat pace, complete with a beautiful melody and more than a hint of Prefab Sprout in its DNA. New Erik Voeks is always a good thing. A great thing, actually.

the del zorros go ahead and ask meThe Del Zorros | “Go Ahead and Ask Me” Monty and Stede continue on in the time-honored Zorros-riffic tradition with another lovely, easygoing and typically tuneful song with another catchy melody that comes from, well, we don’t know where, but keep going there boys, will you? Now playing in rotation, as if there were any doubt.

the lost boys china in the sink'The Lost Boys | “China in the Sink” This rollicking pop-rocker, all dressed up in catchy clothes, screams radio airplay, which is just what we’re giving it. Instantly memorable, with one of those indelible hooks and a short-and-sweet running time–1:49–this is a clear winner. A hit waxing if ever we heard one. Dynamic and quite wonderful.

the big believe april 2016The Big Believe | “You Already Are” We’ve been playing Amanda Thompson’s lovely songs for awhile and loving each one like the gorgeous creatures they are. This one is arguably Amanda’s best yet, a big, atmospheric and emotional ballad with hints of Kate Bush peeking out from its floorboards. Keep ’em coming, please.

sons of morning coverSons of Morning | Sons of Morning Here’s a nice surprise that made us smile. We like this band’s sound, which dips into many catchy musical nooks and crannies. How did they get their sound? Here’s how the band’s website puts it: “Painstaking efforts were made to achieve the desired feel for this album. All tube amps, a choice selection of just the right stringed instruments… drums that sound like drums, recording methods, and production were all key elements in presenting an album with the warmth of the analog days…” We’d say that about sums it up. We’re playing four songs: “He Wore Black,” a tribute to Johnny Cash; “Not a Sound,” “Hard Livin’,” and “Outta My Head,” a tune that could have been on the Association’s first album (no foolin’).

That’s it for today. More tomorrow. In the meantime, why not click on one of the handy listen links below to bathe in the more than 8,600 handpicked songs streaming in rotation on Pure Pop Radio? You’ll love what you hear!

alan-mic-zeeAlan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the original 24-hour Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today. From the Beatles to the Spongetones, the Nines, Kurt Baker, the Connection and the New Trocaderos, we play the hits and a whole lot more. Tune in by clicking on one of the listen links below.

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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

Tune In to Pure Pop Radio’s New Music Explosion. Pull Up a Chair: Day One is Here!

Wow! The countdown is complete… Pure Pop Radio’s New Music Explosion is here! We’re ready, willing and able to bring you hundreds of songs and artists that are new to our playlist. We’ll be rolling them out over the next five days. Click on one of the listen links below to sample these shiny, happy wares!

So what’s new on Pure Pop Radio? We’ve got a huge list to share with you, so let’s get things cookin’, shall we?

the-doughboys-hot-beat-stewThe Doughboys | Hot Beat Stew It’s business as usual when New Jersey’s hot rockin’, beat driven brand of supersonic jet propulsion-fueled pop and roll blasts its way to and through your heart. The latest platter from the Doughboys makes its debut on Pure Pop Radio with nearly all of the tracks on offer. From the get-out-of-our-way rumble of the slamming “Be My Baby,” which recalls Wings’ “Spirits of Ancient Egypt” (ramped up with Doughboys DNA), to the straight-ahead rock and roll of the hot and sweaty “Heartache,” and the early Rolling Stones, mid-tempo love song “SoHo Girl” (with more than a hint of Brian Jones muscle), Hot Beat Stew is a clear winner. Take a well-deserved, rocking bow, Mike Caruso, Gar Francis, Myke Scavone and the man behind the drum kit, Richie Heyman. Now playing in rotation: the aforementioned Doughboys classics, plus “Shake It Loose,” “You Can’t Catch Me,” “Crave,” “For Your Love,” “Travelin’ Salesman,” “Biding My Time,” “Until Now,” and “Kamikaze.” (The band’s cool cover of the Motown classic “The Tears of a Clown” was previously added.) Hot stuff.

the-universal-thumpThe Universal Thump | Walking the Cat: The Abbey Road EP Adam and Greta Gertler Gold, also known as the Brooklyn, New York-based duo the Universal Thump, released a wonderful, self-titled album in 2012, tracks from which are still playing in rotation here at Pure Pop Radio (we’re also spinning some of Greta’s solo tracks). This new EP, recorded at the famed Abbey Road Studios, is a fantastic collection of songs that showcases, in particular, Greta’s soulful piano playing, songcraft and lovely vocal turns. The grand opener, “Sunset Park,” sets the stage: A “Be My Baby” drum beat ushers in Greta’s fragile vocal, which leads to a classically-constructed number that is part art-pop and an affectionate nod to the singer-songwriters of the late sixties and early seventies. The title song is a leisurely ballad that slowly becomes something more upbeat as the cat, so to speak, takes hold of the rhythm. We’re spinning both of these numbers, and “Cockatoos,” “Watch the Sunrise,” and “Treehouse.” The whole enchilada, in fact. We’re proud to bring you these wonderful sounds.

peter-lacey-singlePeter Lacey | “Wayward Song” and “Many Moons Ago” We’re always happy to play just about anything Peter Lacey releases. We’ve been big fans of Peter’s music for a long time; we included his last album, Last Leaf, in our list of Favorite Records of the Year in 2014. Peter’s new single, available as a download and/or a seven-inch vinyl spinner, rates very highly in these parts. “Wayward Song” is a tender, piano-based ballad with pretty chord changes and slight echoes of Brian Wilson, with a lovely melody and a ghostly, atmospheric middle section (that propels the song into new, more upbeat territory). “Many Moons Ago” is a nostalgic charmer, beautifully arranged and sung. Simply wonderful.

caddy-the-better-endCaddy | The Better End Hailing from Norway, Tom Dahl, aka Caddy, makes great melodic pop music influenced by all the right names we could easily drop, but why spoil your fun? Okay, we’ll spoil it a little: the sensitive title track benefits from a thin coat of Beach Boys paint, and “Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer” is quite reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub-styled balladry (as is the delightful, mid-tempo ballad “One Year Off” (oh, those glorious harmonies!)). Meanwhile, the rest of the album swims in equally delightful waters. “Miss Radio” is an uptempo gem, a love song with powerful guitars and Dahl’s sweet vocal harmonies, and “Into the Sun” swims through power pop waters for a catchy number perfectly poised. We’ve added all of the songs we just mentioned, and these classics: “Here It Comes Again,” “Fangblenny,” “Chasing Clouds,” “No Sudden Moves,” and “Autumn Leaves” (we previously added “Something About Carina,” “Wherever You Go,” and “Bring It Back.”) Here is another candidate for best-of-the-year honors. A great album, through and through.

phyllis-johnsonPhyllis Johnson | “Looking Up (From Down Below)” From her magical, musical shack in Minnesota, which is always shaking with great songs from the popping past, comes a most welcome new number, a jangly mid-tempo tune with vocal echoes of Chrissie Hynde and the songcraft of the Bangles. A classically-styled chord structure and a strong melody take this song to the top of the poppermost. We’re asking Santa for a full album by Christmas. How about it, Phyllis?

hidden-pictures-california-platesHidden Pictures | California Plates The uber-talented Richard Gintowt and his crew return less than six months after releasing the superb album, Ottomans, with a short and super-sweet EP that satisfies, as all Hidden Pictures releases do. We’re now playing “I’m So Bored With San Francisco” and the title track. Great pop music, done up in classic style. Groovy.

Jet-ElectroJet Electro | Tall, Dark and Lonesome: The Story of Slim Grinder Four years on from Jet Electro’s debut album, the band (aka Craig Daniel) returns with a somewhat different approach, although, in the end, it’s really just a great mix of rock and pop styles that tell a series of commanding stories. A decidedly Marc Bolan-esque groove kicks off the leisurely, rock ‘n’ roll swagger of “Gamble” (we love the punctuating sax stabs). Beatles balladry and a tasty dash of Emitt Rhodes tenderness informs the beautiful ballad, “Rancho Preso,” an album highlight. The melodic “The One that Got Away” opens with a lovely harmony stack atop a slight acoustic guitar strum and plays beautifully from there. This is a fine album stacked deep with terrific songs; we’re honored to be able to share the previously mentioned tunes with you, plus “I Blame You,” “Love Rides Alone,” “I’m Not Easy,” “If I Live Again,” and “Haunted Heart.”

Drifting SandDrifting Sand | Pure Pop Radio ID We love the very cool, spirited ID that the members of Drifting Sand sent our way. Ending with a resounding cry of “Surf’s Up!”, the ID is an instant favorite and will now play in rotation with the hundreds of other such audio missives we’ve collected over the years. Hey, if you’re in a band or do your own pop thing, why not send us an ID or a snappy jingle? We’d love it! (Contact us at purepopradio@yahoo.com.)

wilson-sleeveWilson | “Pretty Girl in a Small Town” and “Little Friend” Thanks to Simon Felton from Pink Hedgehog records for sending us this glorious single, an advance slice of melodic pop heaven from the forthcoming album, Old School, New Rules. “Pretty Girl in a Small Town” is a wonderfully melodic, catchy mix of pop and Americana–very West Coast, USA, even though it hails from the UK. “Little Friend” is a 1930s-styled number with inviting harmonies and Robbie McIntosh on guitar. Brightly lit harmonies abound. To say we can’t wait for the album would be an understatement.

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That should whet your appetite! We’ll be back tomorrow with another round of new songs and artists added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. Click on one of the listen links below to hear these new sounds, and a total of 6,800 great melodic pop songs in rotation. We’re your 24-hour-a-day home for the greatest melodic pop music in the universe! Dig in!

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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