Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2016

favorite records of the year - stars of 2016

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
(Originally posted 01.03.17)

2016 was a terrific year for melodic pop music from both new and heritage artists, perhaps the best in recent memory. My list of 28 Favorite Records of the Year from 27 artists–The Stars of 2016–is presented below in random order.

It has long been my view that ranking entries on best-of-the-year lists is an impossible task, at least for me. If I made such a list on Monday, would the number nine entry still be in that slot on Tuesday? Perhaps not. Sometimes, I fear, agonizing over a particular placement would be akin to splitting hairs and not particularly a worthwhile enterprise. So, I’ll go with I like these a lot instead.

Here are my Favorite Records of the Year–The Stars of 2016–in no specific order. All are more than worthy of your time, and all should be added to your core collection of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe.

And now, on with the show…

The Stars of 2016

bob lind magellanBob Lind | Magellan Was Wrong Pop bard Bob Lind’s latest is a typically heartfelt collection of songs that deliver his always magical one-two punch: emotional lyrics and beautiful melodies, brought to life with stellar arrangements and production, much of it supplied in grand fashion on this album by the Spongetones’ Jamie Hoover. Gorgeous soundscapes abound, such as the romantic, catchy “From the Road,” awash with poppy background harmonies from Hoover and perceptive, picturesque lyrics from Lind (“In moments others call mundane/My soul is warming by your flame/Turning just like a sailor to the harbor/And I will carry back my songs and tales/Of calms and gales/And sing and tell them all/To you”), and Lind’s emotional cover of Tom Paxton’s “Bottle of Wine.”

Where to Get It: Amazon

Legal Matters cover conradThe Legal Matters | Conrad With this album, the Legal Matters have set a new standard for vocal harmonies in melodic pop music. Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Keith Klingensmith are the players, and their human voices are their instruments. The songs are sweetly realized, from the opener “Anything,” not the first track on this album tipping its hat to the much-loved Beach Boys vocal vibe, to the upbeat, single-worthy “Short Term Memory,” which tips its drumsticks to Ringo Starr in a delightful fill and puts forth some top-notch electric guitar playing. To listen to this album is a thrilling experience.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, iTunes, CD Universe

the weeklings studio 2The Weeklings | Studio 2 The beat-betrothed, Beatlesque foursome from New Jersey, steeped in the Fab tradition and nom de plumed in the spirit of all that started off holy in Liverpool’s Cavern Club a fair number of years ago, follows up their self-titled long player, affectionately known as Monophonic, with a sterling 12-song set composed of eight superlative originals and four rare John Lennon and Paul McCartney songs not given away to other artists. Recording in Abbey Road’s hallowed Studio 2, where the Beatles made their astounding magic, Glen Burtnik, Bob Burger, John Merjave and Joe Bellia, aka Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack, respectively, make considerable Merseyside hay with delightfully brisk and catchy songs steeped in the effervescent spirit of the Fab Four. A splendid time, to be sure.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon

caper clowns 2Caper Clowns | The Buca Bus Delicious pure pop from Odense, Denmark delights with a dozen beautifully written and performed pearls. Lovely melodies and vocal harmonies are always present, particularly on instant classics such as the should-be-hit-bound earworm “A Tale of Romance and Magnetic Trains” and the gorgeous ballad “Lizard Heart.” Debut of the year? Most certainly.

Where to Get It: iTunes, imusic, Amazon UK (mp3 download)

kenny herbert forever and beyondKenny Herbert | Forever and Beyond A gorgeous, romantic song cycle inspired by Caroline, the love of his life, Forever and Beyond is Herbert’s melodically-charged survey of the power of true love. The 14 songs on offer, encompassing 1930s, 1950s and modern melodic pop vibes, are tremendously affecting, beautifully drawn snapshots of a happy existence. The pretty “Queensferry Girl” and the catchy, McCartney-esque pop song “It’s All Good” shine among a rich collection of gems.

Where to Get It: Kenny’s website, iTunes

TYIFinal2Nick Piunti | Trust Your Instincts Guitars, bass, drums, powerful vocals, and a whole lot of moxie power the pop on Nick’s latest, high-energy collection. These songs make heads turn and hearts embrace its many charms. “One Hit Wonder” is the big, splashy, pure pop hit here, a clear winner on an album full of winners.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, iTunes and Bandcamp

gleeson curse my lucky starsGleeson | Curse My Lucky Stars Austin, Texas band Gleeson have made their White Album, a sparkling collection of songs varied in approach and tone that makes a case for melodic pop being the genre of the moment. Encompassing beautiful balladry, art-pop, rock and retro charm, Curse My Lucky Stars is a marvel.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

teddy thompson and kelly jonesTeddy Thompson and Kelly Jones | Little Windows A true, modern classic bathed in retro charm, Little Windows’ rewards are many. There is a decidedly romantic notion at play here, one that slips in and out of hand holding echoes of the Everly Brothers at Cadence, Roy Orbison, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, Buck Owens and a thousand other country-pop artists and their golden recordings. These lovely, heartfelt songs, brought to life by two of pop music’s finest vocalists, make up an album that is like a bright lighthouse shining across the sea, drawing you in.

Where to Get It: Teddy Thompson store, Amazon, and iTunes

ray paul whimsicalityRay Paul | Whimsicality Thirty-six years after the release of Ray Paul and RPM’s album Go Time, the artist is once again regaling listeners with enticing tales set to everyone’s favorite power pop beat. A delicious mix of originals and well-chosen covers, such as the Grass Roots’ “Temptation Eyes” and Paul McCartney’s “Oh Woman, Oh Why,” meets wonderfully-realized originals like the dynamic “A Fool Without Your Love” and McCartney-esque “Jeannie.” With Ray’s gorgeous melodies and strong vocals out front, this is a treat from first note to last.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, and iTunes

myrtle park's fishing coverMyrtle Park’s Fishing Club | Benches A monumentally towering testament to melodic and harmonic excellence, Benches is a delight from start to finish. There is nothing quite like Kate Stephenson’s take on melodic pop music, just as there is nothing like her soaring imagination, and her ability to express all manner of emotion and make the listener feel. Working in concert with musical partner John Steel, Kate delivers wondrous songs (and three-dimensional vocal harmony stacks) like “Somebody Called Me an Onion,” a smile-inducing, upbeat, energetic pop number with faux-reggae shadings about peeling back the layers to reveal the full, human package of emotion; and the a cappella wonder “Silent Letter,” a tune about inner beauty and the sanctity of thought that doesn’t always have to be laid bare. For those of you keeping score, this is the second Myrtle Park’s Fishing Club album to wear our Favorite Records of the Year mantle. As it should be.

Where to Get It: Myrtle Park’s Fishing Club’s website, Amazon, and iTunes

the nines alejandro's visionsThe Nines | Alejandro’s Visions Rolling and then filtering the influence of the music of writers such as George Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart into a mix peppered with the harmony styles of the Beach Boys, the Four Freshmen and even doo-wop, and then topping the resulting flow with his love of artists such as the Electric Light Orchestra and XTC, Steve Eggers has delivered a harmony- and melody-drenched soundtrack to an imaginary film, somewhat of a sequel to the last Nines album, Night Surfer and the Cassette Kids. Standout tracks include the beautiful, bittersweet, old-fashioned “When Our Love Was in Bloom,” stacked deep with gorgeous harmonies and an irresistible melody; and the early rock and roll/pop hybrid “Operator (Coming Home to You),” which sports a meaty, catchy, percussive piano riff, opens with an aural allusion to the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” and lays out a delectable Jeff Lynne-ish bridge that will make you smile. Alejandro’s Visions is Eggers’ best and most assured work yet, an immensely satisfying collection that belongs in every melodic pop music fan’s collection.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, CD Baby, and Amazon (mp3)

seth swirsky new album coverSeth Swirsky | Circles and Squares Proving that a creative, heartfelt approach to making music will yield magic almost every time, Seth Swirsky has crafted a collection of songs that draws on all of his strengths, and perhaps incorporates a couple of new ones. Moreover, these songs reveal the truth about all of our lives, right from the first track, “Shine,” his statement of purpose, the one that sets the stage for what comes next. And what comes next is winner after winner, such as the lovely confessional and autobiographical “I Don’t Have Anything (If I Don’t Have You),” in which the narrator allows that life means nothing at all without the proverbial “one”: “I’ve got some baseballs/That are pretty rare/Got a swimming pool/And a fast car/But I don’t care/’Cause I don’t have anything if I don’t have you…I’ve got gold records/Hanging on my wall/But without your love/Baby you can have ’em all…” This 16 song collection is the latest expression of craft from one of pop music’s most important artists.

Where to Get It: seth.comKool Kat Musik, Amazon, and iTunes

lucy wainwright roche and suzzy roches mud and applesLucy Wainwright Roche and Suzzy Roche | Mud and Apples A sparkling duo release from Suzzy Roche and her daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche. Warm harmonies, clever songwriting and the inclusion of beautifully-sung covers such as Paul Simon’s “Bleecker Street” and the Cascades’ “Rhythm of the Rain” push this 11 track masterpiece into hall-of-fame territory. Roches fans will be charmed, and so will everyone else. Surely one of this year’s top expressions of musical joy.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

the monkees good timesThe Monkees | Good Times! Good Times! is a classic-sounding Monkees album that happens to have been released 50 years after Monkeemania began. A mix of recordings based on sessions produced during the group’s heyday and new songs written by top-flight, current songwriters of note, this is a fun listen from start to finish. A shining example of how good this album is: The perky, catchy “You Bring the Summer,” written by XTC’s Andy Partridge, fulfilling a childhood dream. A great album.

Where to Get It: Amazon and iTunes

mimi bettinis music soundsmimi betinis basement tapesMimi Betinis | Music Sounds and Basement Tapes Vol. 1 Pezband’s Betinis scores with two sterling releases in 2016 that are really two sides of a rather entertaining coin, so they both rate a spot in this Stars of 2016 feature. Music Sounds is a vivid, quite alive offering of melodic treasures. Its songs are wonderfully realized pop confections that hit the hooky bullseye, like “She Wants You,” which surreptitiously recalls the famed intro to the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” in the intro, and “Summer Love,” a warm love letter and look back to a seasonal romance (that, perhaps unknowingly, taps the sound of 10cc member Eric Stewart’s guitar playing in the solo).

Basement Tapes Vol. 1 collects tracks that Mimi has been working on over the years, like “Ray of Light,” a melodic sweetness that sounds like an Andy Partridge outtake off of XTC’s Nonsuch album, and simply lovely covers (Paul McCartney’s song for Mary Hopkin, “Goodbye,” and the Hudson Brothers’ “So You Are a Star” are glorious). Saying that some heritage artists are only getting better as time passes by can sound like rather an empty assertion, but my, how that phrase does indeed fit snug as a bug, listening to Music Sounds and Basement Tapes Vol. 1.

Where to Get Them: Pop Music Sounds and CD Baby

winterpills love songsWinterpills | Love Songs The numbers on Winterpills’ seventh album get under your skin; they become you in some celestial kind of way. The vocals of songwriter Philip Price and his wife, guitarist and keyboard player Flora Reed, are the collective glue that holds these proceedings together–the glue that gives them life. Consider “Wanderer White,” a rolling, rhythmic song about a fall from grace, in which Philip takes the lower notes and Flora the higher ones, and “Freeze Your Light,” which starts off as if in a church with a slight, ghostly choral singsong and becomes a folk-into-pop number with a delectable chorus buoyed by the same low-and-high vocals. The poppy bopper and should-be-hit-bound “Celia Johnson” turns the tables with Philip initially taking the high vocal part and Flora following closely. A trumpet and coronet serenade add to the song’s beauty; a lovely, echoed piano part comes in for a beautiful coda. A real treat.

Where to Get It: Winterpills’ web store and iTunes

butch youngButch Young | Mercury Man Butch Young’s miraculous, hall-of-fame-worthy album is a modern classic by way of its dazzling array of 1970s-styled instant classic songs, 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, like the title track, “Persephone,” “One Foot In,” and “The Fools of May.” Awesome.

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

the dowling poole one hyde parkThe Dowling Poole | One Hyde Park One Hyde Park, the sterling follow-up to the Dowling Poole’s Bleak Strategies, is a virtual tour de force and, if that weren’t enough, it’s an album influenced by sounds from across the pop landscape that doesn’t actually sound like its influences. Witness “Vox Pops,” which incorporates a very Partridge Family-sounding keyboard line and a very Brian May-sounding guitar solo; “Hope and Glory,” an upbeat pop song; and “Bring Back the Glow,” a smooth, rolling ’70s number. Joy from across the pond.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Amazon, and iTunes

chris murphy and michael carpenter real love sleeveChris Murphy with Michael Carpenter | “Real Love” This absolutely gorgeous ballad recasting of John Lennon’s song is one of this year’s major triumphs in melodic pop music. For this rendition, the tempo has been slowed, allowing Murphy to lovingly communicate the depth of the emotional lyric. Murphy’s vocal may well be the best vocal performance of the year. His ability to hold a melody line’s final note in such an artful way, to sustain its resonance and maximize its impact on the listener, is something to behold. Recorded with precision and heart by Carpenter on the occasion of singer Kylie Whitney’s wedding (Whitney also sang background vocals), this new version of this wonderful song is proof positive that covers can reveal new layers of emotion not previously brought to the surface.

Where to Get It: iTunes and CD Baby

emitt rhodes rainbows endEmitt Rhodes | Rainbow Ends Forty-three years after his third album, Farewell to Paradise, was released, this new collection surfaces to critical and listener acclaim, and rightly so. Here are songs that feature all of the Rhodes hallmarks: beautiful, catchy melodies; inventive chord changes; and those velvety, smooth, sturdy and emotive vocals. Perhaps this is no more evident than on the emotional ballad “I Can’t Tell My Heart.” Somewhat reminiscent of Mirror‘s “Love Will Stone You,” this is a showcase for Emitt’s committed, vocal delivery; the gorgeous melody and emotional lyrics combine to sketch the breakup of a relationship and a considered plea for the other party to embrace the option to heal. A wonderful surprise and an instant classic. Welcome back to a truly special artist.

Where to Get It: Amazon and iTunes

daisy house western manDaisy House | Western Man Doug Hammond and his daughter Tatiana’s album for the ages features golden harmonies and great songs that will melt your heart all the way through. The heavenly duo channels the Byrds in the uptempo “She Comes Runnin’ Back” and “Twenty-One,” offers up a catchy, playful vibe with the singalong number “Willow,” and delivers a strong, emotive ballad with the orchestrated tune, “Western Man.” Best news of all: a new album is soon to be released. Happy new year, indeed.
Where to Get It: Bandcamp

brain circus use this jpeg instead of the other oneBrain Circus | Brain Circus This smashing collection of impossible-to-resist songs performed in grand style by ace songwriter and keyboard wizard Brian Curtis, late of the much-loved band the Oohs, serves up 13 numbers in all, performed entirely by this transplanted Virginian. The majestic, heartfelt love song “Finally Found the One,” a musical sculpture formed with smiles and tears and a whole lot of heart, is but one highlight. You’ll detect essence of the Beach Boys, Jellyfish and Queen, among other classic touchstones, but this is all Curtis and don’t you forget it.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

the flat fiveThe Flat Five | It’s a World of Love and Hope This Chicago-based band of harmony-hounds deserves supergroup status, thanks to the members’ affiliation with artists such as Neko Case, NRBQ and the New Pornographers. Welcome a deliciously wondrous assortment of luscious pop dressed in a variety of comfortable musical clothing that runs the gamut from the Manhattan Transfer-meets-hep cat vibe of the delightful “Buglight” to the Paul McCartney retro-sway of “I Could Fall in Love with You” and the pretty back porch balladry of the Roches-like “Bottom Buck.” Pretty special all the way through.

Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp

bent van looy pyjama daysBent Van Looy | Pyjama Days Based in Paris, France and a member of the band Das Pop, Bent Van Looy’s 2016 release is a lovely, pure poppy collection of sweet-sounding catchy melodies sung with assured style, like the upbeat pop number “My Escape,” beautifully arranged with little Beach Boys vocal flourishes weaved in; “Mr. Fletcher’s Song,” a melodic mid-tempo ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Randy Newman album, and the sumptuous title track, a three-minute genius construct, nicely orchestrated and adorned with a smile-inducing whistle. Pop on.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

the junipers red bouquet fairThe Junipers | Red Bouquet Fair This charming collection from the Leicester, United Kingdom band recalls the sweet sunshine pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s in such lovely songs as “Summer Queen” and “Like a Merry-Go-Round.” Red Bouquet Fair is no less than the audio equivalent of smiling at your good fortune on a warm day in the park while sipping cool lemonade (the effect is equally transcendent wherever else you may be). The vocals are enchanting and the instrumentation is perfectly played. Lovely.

Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp

tommy and the rocketsTommy and the Rockets | Beer and Fun and Rock ‘n’ Roll This ace project, featuring 10 pop-rockers, co-written, except for one, by super criminal defense attorney Michael Chaney and Thomas “Tommy” Stubgaard, who plays all of the guitars, bass, and provides handclaps, shake the house, as it were. Check out the catchy, Beach Boys-influenced sunshine anthem “Here Comes Summer,” and a couple of  energetic Ramones nods, “Silly Teenage Love” and “You Want Me (But I Don’t Want You)”). Cheery, toe-tapping fun.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, and CD Baby

explorers clubThe Explorers Club | Together This collection of songs imbued with the spirit of the best of the Beach Boys, the Four Freshman, the Association and other time-honored practitioners of the art is one of the sweetest offerings of the year. Here are songs that are beautiful and beautifully sung, lovely and lovelier still, from Jason Brewer, Wyatt Funderburk, Paul Runyon,  Kyle Polk and Mike Williamson. From the southern California harmony- and sun-soaked sound of “California’s Callin’ Ya” to the Four Freshmen-meets-“Graduation Day”-by-way-of-Les Paul ballad “Perfect Day,” Together invites listeners to bathe in the beauty of harmony-filled dreams.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, and iTunes

The Road Ahead

Harmony-filled dreams… Ah, as ever, they feel so right. With 2016 now in our collective rearview mirror, it is time to look ahead into what is just around the corner. Your favorite artists, and those new to the melodic pop scene, are itching to get going…to release their latest creations, crafted with a mix of melody, harmony, and keen performance.

Already, I have heard a few upcoming albums that I predict will knock your socks off. Nick Bertling, who records under the name Bertling Noise Laboratories, has been making a name for himself with a few rather extraordinary platters; the Lab’s latest, releasing later this month, is a covers collection called, in a nod to the great Harry Nilsson, A Little Touch of Bertling in the Night. This is a sweet mélange of favorite songs from yesterday, filtered through today’s singular sensibilities. It is uniquely Bertling, and you’re going to love it.

Dana Countryman, of whom much has been said throughout these pages, all of it sweeping-me-off-my-feet good, is about to release in 10 days, through Australia’s Teensville Records, his passion project, a tribute to the 1960s girl group and Brill Building sounds that continue to bring joy to ears around the world. Dana Countryman’s Girlville!: New Songs in the Style of Yesterday’s Hits will transport you back to a much simpler time, perhaps, when melody and joy were king. Lisa Mychols, Swan Dive’s Molly Felder, and Lisa Jenio are just three of the vocalists that help to bring Dana’s vision to life on an album that you will hug tightly. Look for Dana to appear on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation soon to talk about this landmark release.

Bill DeMain, whose solo music and treasured albums with Molly Felder as Swan Dive will always have a place here on Pure Pop Radio, has a new record that will soon be released. After hearing and playing on the air a bonus track from Beans, a lovely arrangement of the Beach Boys’ “Wendy,” we hope the release date comes very soon.

The Word is Love

“Spread the word,” the Beatles sang back in 1965. They were talking about love, not melodic pop music written and recorded in the 2010s, but they might as well have been looking forward, as should we all.

In 2017, we look forward to bringing you more of the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today. We’re on the job 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. A click of any of the Listen links that follow will connect you with our stream. Spread the word about Pure Pop Radio, if you will and, if you haven’t already, please click the Follow button on the homepage of this very website to ensure that you will be notified by email every time we make a post.

Thanks for reading our list of our Favorite Records of the Year: The Stars of 2016. Add them all to your collection; your ears will thank you, as will I.

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Looking for New Music? You’ve Come to the Right Place!

alan-mic-zWe’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Our most favorite thing in the world is to take receipt of music from both new and heritage melodic pop artists, spin it, and add it to our ever-growing playlist. Every day is akin to unwrapping presents; the treasures contained within these virtual packages are sweet gifts that we’re thrilled to be able to pass on to you.

Here are five of the latest groovy additions to our playlist, now playing in rotation (more new adds posts coming next week):

vanilla on a night like thisVanilla | “On a Night Like This” Jayson Jarmon’s ace outfit is once again releasing one song a month on the way toward completing their next album, this time around mystically titled Mystik Nights of Takoma, a moniker that conjures up images of a bunch of lodge brothers and their bartenders, all decked out in bright red smocks and fezzes, gathered around a glowing, weathered oak table late into the night, imbibing and chewing the fat and bottomless tubs of Turkish Taffy until last call or the inevitable call home that starts with “Um, can I get a ride?”

vanilla mystik nights of tacomaBut first things first. The bouncy “On a Night Like This,” a typically catchy Vanilla number about a guy whose words can’t be trusted when the bubbly is flowing his way, is sung with smooth pop finesse by Tube Top’s Gavin Guss, who is ably supported by Jayson, who wrote the song and slings a sweet acoustic guitar and nifty solos over his shoulder; Sean Gaffney, who plays electric guitars, bass, and sings backing vocals; Dana Sims, who mans the drums; and Eric Robert, who makes the Hammond B3 sing. What a melody! What a song!

Our love for Jayson’s writing and Vanilla-esque execution knows no bounds, so we’re confident that, even if Mystik Knights of Takoma doesn’t contain a sequel to the much-loved “Monkeypox!,” which has been adopted as the Pure Pop Radio clubhouse’s call-to-arms Kumbaya song, it will rank high in esteem whichever way the wind blows.

Stay tuned for a special Vanilla contest coming next week to this space. In the meantime, don’t listen to this superb number without your fez on, oh no!

stepford knivesStepford Knives | “I Don’t Want Her (Anymore)” Jamie Hoover’s latest project, with Otis Hughes, is the wonderfully-named Stepford Knives, which may or may not call to mind an image of sharp tools exhibiting zero emotion that still manage to live on the cutting edge. These Stepford Knives, however, are full of emotion and pop goodness, delivering a powerful take on a great song from the late David Enloe, guitarist for the Woods.

This insanely catchy, hook-filled song explodes with fireworks-powered percussion, lots of gutsy guitars, a strong melody, and in-your-face vocals. Mastered to impress (and boy does it!) by Dave Harris, the song’s quite-alive psychedelic light show-powered video, created by Phillip D’Angelo, is an essential component of the complete Stepford Knives package (see it here).

Bravo, Messrs. Hoover and Hughes, and don’t let too many days flutter away before your next wonderful creation hits our ears!

erik voeks 6-1 singleErik Voeks | “Being in Love With You” and “She Was Doomed” Just released and already reaching top-flight status here at Pure Pop Radio, this classic-sounding one-two pop punch continues Erik’s run of great new songs. “Being in Love With You,” about a relationship at odds with itself, starts out as a tender  ballad and quickly becomes a power pop number with teeth, and a great, hooky melody.

“She Was Doomed” is an uptempo raver powered by another great melody; guitars, guitars, guitars; delicious vocal harmonies, and a pounding drum turn.  Co-producer Patrick Hawley played the drums and percussion, and Cameron Hawk sang background vocals on “Being in Love With You.” Credit Erik with everything else. Another terrific release from one of Pure Pop Radio’s favorite artists.

kenny herbert woodstockKenny Herbert | “3 Days of Summer (Woodstock ’69)” Hot on the heels of the release of his wonderful new album, the romantic song cycle Forever and Beyond, Kenny Herbert returns with a rocking, sentimental look at the magic of Woodstock. Cleverly inserting Crosby, Stills and Nash harmony bits that also echo Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With” amidst the lyrical look back at a very different and well-remembered time, Kenny sings about the historic festival and the devoted music fans who endured three days of mud and rain and peace and harmony and came together as one.

“They danced to all their heroes, making rock ‘n’ roll history,” Kenny sings with heartfelt emotion. Guitarist Rab Howat, bassist Roy Martin, and drummer Martin Wykes bash out this terrific tune; Rab and Nobby Clark sing the backgrounds. David Valentine, from the band RAF, produced to great effect. A wonderful song from one of our favorite music men.

the monkees good timesThe Monkees | Good Times! We just reviewed this fantastic release by Micky, Mike, Davy and Peter (read Alan’s take here). We’re now playing all of the tracks on this glorious album in rotation: “Birth of an Accidental Hipster,” “Good Times,” “Gotta Give it Time,” “I Know What I Know,” “I Was There (And I’m Told I Had a Good Time),” “Wasn’t Born to Follow,” “Little Girl,” “Love to Love,” “Me and Magdalena,” “Our Own World,” “She Makes Me Laugh,” “Whatever’s Right,” “You Bring the Summer,” and two bonus songs available as part of the iTunes version of this album: “Terrifying” and “Me and Magdalena (Version 2).” Absolutely wonderful.

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 Monkees, the Posies, McPherson Grant, 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

No Monkeeing Around, These are Good Times! for Monkees Fans

alan-mic-zThe ubiquitous they never look at us and say “Hey, hey, you’re the Monkees,” because the Monkees are and always will be Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith and the late, great Davy Jones. They can and do, however, say “Hey, hey, the Monkees have a big hit album out” because, hey, hey, that’s the fact, Jack (and you too, Jill).

The Monkees’ new album Good Times!, celebrating the group’s 50th anniversary, is the order of (Monkee) business today. And here it comes, walking down the street…

The Monkees | Good Times!
A review by Alan Haber

the monkees good timesI have an image in my mind, indelible really, of sitting on the floor in my pajamas as close to my family’s television set as humanly possible; the set sat in an ornate, maple wood cabinet my father built on four spindly legs. We had to roll the accordion-style cover from left to right to reveal the screen and get to the on-off switch and channel changer. Caveman days, to be sure.

the monkees tv showWeek after week, as the Monkees’ latest adventures spooled out over the NBC television network, I sat transfixed; I imagined myself as the fifth Monkee, traveling alongside Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith, and Davy Jones as their crazy world exploded around and on top of them. All of this televised insanity, which seemed so real to me, told my friends and I that our humdrum existence as young school kids, whose lives were stuffed with after-school chores and allowances that could only be stretched so much, could be so much more exciting if only we could ride around in our own, customized Monkeemobile.

monkeemobileMy weekly television date with the fabulous foursome, combined with the records that were forthcoming and the radio play that quickly seemed ever present, was proof positive that the Monkees were here to stay, here being those halcyon days peeling off the calendar beginning in the fall of 1966. And, later on, thanks to Rhino Records’ extensive reissue program that saw the original Monkees albums paired with voluminous extras, “here to stay” really meant and continues to mean “forever.”

carole kingThese days, nostalgia fuels the marketplace; beloved television series from years gone by, from the X-Files to Full House, are reborn as updated shows, and favorite albums, such as ABC’s The Lexicon of Love, get sequels. In the case of the Monkees, nostalgia is only one element of the public’s ongoing love affair with the group: the music was good and memorable, written by top-flight songwriters such as Carole King and Neil Diamond, and has more than stood the test of time, playing through the years on oldies stations and satellite radio.

The spirit of the Monkees’ television show, powered by the engaging personalities of its musician-stars and the memories of the catchy music the group recorded, has shown no signs of abating. Proof positive of that has just been released in the form of an album called Good Times!, which you probably have heard of, unless you’ve been talking to the Chief inside the Cone of Silence.

michael nesmithReams of speculation on the Internet, the hub of accuracy in this electronic age, sent Monkees fans into a huge, forceful tizzy during the months preceding the release of Good Times!. Was Mike fully involved? Would Mike be joining Micky and Peter on their concert tour? Would Mike be wearing his trademark wooly hat? (Okay, I made that last one up.) Come to think of it, there was a lot of speculation about Mike. The answers, as it turned out, were a) just about, b) when possible, and c) not likely (that was my guess about the wooly hat).

Moreover, whispering voices across the Interwebs wondered if Good Times! would be any good. The fact, I’m here to pronounce, is that the album is very, very good, sometimes even great; not only is it a classic-sounding pop music album, it’s a classic-sounding Monkees album that happens to have been released 50 years after Monkeemania began.

A mix of recordings based on sessions produced during the Monkees’ heyday and new songs written by top-flight, current songwriters of note, Good Times! is a fun listen from start to finish. The songs, for the most part, sound like they could have appeared on just about any of the original group albums. There’s a reason this album is proving to be so popular–it’s really good.

harry nilssonThe title song, which opens the album, is a track built on a 1968 demo; Harry Nilsson’s song, on which he shares vocal duties with Micky Dolenz through a sweet feat of electronic legerdemain, sets the stage for Good Times! with a very Nilsson-esque, infectious go-go beat. It’s a kick and a half to hear Micky trade verses and harmonize with Harry. The spirit is infectious and amounts to what is no less than a glorious musical trip.

andy partridge 5XTC’s Andy Partridge is the first of the famous scribes to be represented in Good Times!’ running order with a new song. His perky, catchy “You Bring the Summer” is prime Partridge; you don’t have to stretch your ears to imagine hearing the author singing along with Micky and Mike. The message? Summer means happy (“Summer for a sad old Jack Frost/Trying to warm his toes/Summer from your golden smile/Will paint the snowdrops pinky rose”). An instant classic, as are River Cuomo’s “She Makes Me Laugh” and producer Adam “Fountains of Wayne” Schlesinger’s “Our Own World,” both blessed with wonderful melodies and deep hooks.

Neil Diamond’s “Love to Love,” initially crafted in 1967 and 1969 and finished in February of this year, is a very Diamond-esque number sung by the late Davy Jones, thanks to the miracle of studio magic. (This song also appeared on Rhino’s Missing Links Volume Three.) Similarly, Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s classic “Wasn’t Born to Follow” was started in March of 1968 and finished this year with a terrific Peter Tork vocal.

As to Mike’s participation, the news is, well, good (times). The wooly-hatted one appears on eight of the album’s 13 songs, including the one he wrote, a terrific, piano-based number with the writer’s lovely vocal, “I Know What I Know.” Mike, along with Micky, is at the vocal helm of the slightly-psychedelic and monumental “Birth of an Accidental Hipster,” written by the perhaps unlikely combo of Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller. The song, which didn’t have a home until it wound up in the hands of the Monkees, is a tremendous, multi-part, multi-mood extravaganza, a real barnstormer of a track.

micky dolenz 15The album’s closer, “I Was There (And I’m Told I Had a Good Time),” somewhat reminiscent musically of Paul McCartney’s “Flaming Pie,” is a pumping, fun co-write from Micky and Schlesinger. It is most certainly a highlight of this album. There are many others, of course, but it would be a disservice to you to talk about all of them when part of the fun of this album is discovery.

There are several bonus tracks that appear on various incarnations of Good Times!, such as “Terrifying,” a catchy, mid-tempo, should-be-hit-bound pop song written by Rogue Wave’s Zach Rogue, and an alternate, uptempo version of Ben Gibbard’s “Me and Magdalena,” which appears on the album in slow-to-mid-tempo form; both come with the iTunes version of this album. (I’ll leave it up to you as to which version of the latter is better; I would have opted for the faster one, but both are really good.) There are other bonuses, such as Andy Partridge’s “Love’s What I Want,” which appears on the Japanese CD and on Barnes and Noble’s upcoming vinyl release. Although this kind of marketplace maneuvering is commonplace, it would have been better to have made all of the tracks available everywhere at the same time.

monkees good times stickersJoined by such familiar pop musicians as Mike Viola and Fountains of Wayne’s Jody Porter and Brian Young, Schlesinger has helped the Monkees to create a phenomenal album that will not only please fans, but will likely gain them new fans and spur the surviving members of the band on to record more albums in the future. That’s the hope, at least, and by virtue of the overwhelming groundswell of support for Good Times!, this doesn’t seem at all outside of the realm of possibility. (And let’s give a big round of applause for Rory Wilson’s lively and retro art direction and design work, and Jonathan Lane’s equally wonderful cover art. Plus, there are stickers!)

Honestly, listening to Good Times! again and again and again, I am realizing that I’m still that kid sitting in front of the television set ensconced in the latest adventures of the fun foursome known as Micky, Peter, Mike and Davy. With this fantastic album, it’s Monkeemania, and really good times, again and forevermore.

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 Monkees, the Posies, McPherson Grant, 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.

Listen to Pure Pop Radio on the go using your Android and iOS devices! Download Our Mobile App.

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

Pure Pop Radio’s Four-Day New Music Songfest Is On!

alan-mic-zWe’ve rolled up our collective sleeves and we’re digging the sounds. All you need to do to join in on the excitement of our Four-Day New Music Songfest is tune into Pure Pop Radio by clicking on one of the listen links below, and, of course, see what we’ve just added to the playlist by reading the reviews that follow below.

As in the past, we’ve added hundreds of new songs and artists to our playlist. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get going. Here comes day one! We lead off with a song that’s making a lot of music fans sit up and take notice…

the monkees she makes me laughThe Monkees | “She Makes Me Laugh” You’d have to be living well under a rock–somewhere so deep that even Pizza Hut won’t deliver there–to have missed the biggest news of the century: The Monkees are back with a new album in mere weeks from now with songs written by such talents as XTC’s Andy Partridge and Paul Weller. Produced by Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger. Did we say the Monkees are back? Good Times is the album, and the first single is “She Makes Me Laugh,” written by Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo. That it’s inordinately catchy and very Monkees-ish goes without saying. That we’re playing this song in heavy rotation…well, that goes without saying, too. Welcome back, boys.

the posiesThe Posies | Solid States We continue with this week’s festivities with this new, long-awaited album from power pop heroes the Posies–an album that is poised to be a massive hit with fans, and for very good reason. Solid States finds Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, in large part, in pure, melodic pop mode throughout. Lovers of gorgeous, catchy melodies will swoon to such terrific songs as the should-be-hit-bound “Unlikely Places,” with its seductive verse melody and knockout chorus; the dramatic, powerful “Squirrel vs Snake” (the album’s title is part of the lyric); and “Rollercoaster Zen,” sounding like it could have been on a late-period Steely Dan album (a good thing). Do Auer and Stringfellow hit the ubiquitous “it” out of the park? You know we like a good baseball metaphor, so…yes they do. Essential listening. We’re playing six songs in rotation: “Unlikely Places,” “Scattered,” “Titanic,” “Squirrel vs Snake,” “The Definition,” and “Rollercoaster Zen.”

lindsay cowsillLindsay Cowsill | Love is Strange A shot of joy like you haven’t felt in seemingly forever will hit you squarely in the melodic pleasure zone upon listening to the bright and lovely sounds on this mighty terrific EP from Mark Lindsay and Susan Cowsill.

You will so dig the five covers of classic songs from the ’50s and ’60s and one incredibly great original from Mark (that wouldn’t be out of place on a Prefab Sprout album); all of these recordings will have you jumping for…well, you know. Mark and Susan sound as good as they ever have–even better, if that’s possible (and it is). The duo delivers top-flight performances throughout. Susan’s vocal on the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’,” in particular, is a complete, yes, joy.

This is not only one of the best melodic pop releases of the year, it’s one of the best in many years. We’re playing, in rotation, the aforementioned Righteous Brothers hit, plus Mickey and Sylvia’s “Love is Strange,” Sonny and Cher’s “Baby Don’t Go,” the Dave Clark Five’s “Because,” the Mark Lindsay original “Love Will Make You Smile,” and Bobby Darin’s “Dream Lover.”

Love is Strange, which was produced by Mark Lindsay, was recorded, mixed and mastered in slambang fashion by Kurt Reil at the House Of Vibes. The Grip Weeds do a smashing job backing Mark and Susan on “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin'”; other guest musicians include the Doughboys’ Mike Caruso, and Mike Fornatale from the Left Banke reunion. Another essential release. You’ll love it.

mcpherson grant cheeseMcPherson Grant | “Cheese” and “My Favorite Thing” Pop 4’s Scott McPherson and his partner-in-musical mayhem, Jamie Grant, return to Pure Pop Radio with another two massively entertaining tunes–a double a-sided single, no less–that will have you desiring so much more.

“Cheese” is a lively, jumpy, tasty, funky hunk of, well, musical cheese that bemoans the state of, well, just about everything from TV network news to the quality of current music and contains this rather choice bit of verbiage: “I need a mighty mouse to get all this cheese outta my house.” Mighty Mouse costume not included. “My Favorite Thing,” a lovely, lyrical tip of the hat to Harry Nilsson that features one Zak Nilsson on drums and percussion, is a waltzy bemoaning of the loss of the narrator’s favorite part of a treasured relationship. McPherson Grant: Your new melodic pop obsession, now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio!

joe giddingsJoe Giddings | Better from Here Joe Giddings, forever a Pure Pop Radio star for his work with Star Collector and the JTG Implosion, returns with a knockout collection of one-man-band tracks that sparkle and explode out of your speakers. Joe serves up everything from pure, melodic pop nuggets (“If I Don’t Have Love,” with just a hint of the Partridge Family sound in the background vocals, “Gone So Far” and “Always Raining Somewhere”) to power poppers (“Brand New Day,” with a slight country-campfire element, and “Irrelevant”) and even a heartfelt ballad, inexplicably titled “Final Track.” It’s a veritable feast of Joe, and we’re popping and rocking with seven tracks, including those just mentioned, and “Better from Here.”

sundownSundown | Sundown From Paris, France (not Texas) comes this pop trio with varying degrees of power in its sound. Sundown’s self-titled EP announces itself with catchy songs performed with gusto. We’re playing all four songs: “Solutions and Remedies,””All Woman Like,” “After Some Time,” and the amazing, saxophone-charged “It’s Very Strange.” Good stuff.

hector and the leavesHector and the Leaves | Little Bee London, England’s pure pop explosion Hector and the Leaves, aka Tom Hector, delights with a four-song EP that covers all the catchy, melodic bases we love. Two songs strike a Beach Boys chord: “Loved by You” is a love letter to harmony singing and, in particular, Beach Boys vocal arrangements, and “I Ride My Bicycle” charms with the kind of instrumental flight of fancy the Boys of Summer might have indulged in circa Smiley Smile. “Good Times” is a gorgeous ballad with a lovely melody, and “Little Bee” is a concise, mid-tempo melodic wonder. A home run (there goes another baseball metaphor).

matt duncanMatt Duncan | Free Music This little wonder from up New York way (well, up from where we are) is a fine melodic pop specimen ground in a soulful ’70s, sorta-Bee Gees pop groove (and you can dance to it). “Chutes and Ladders” is a catchy mid-tempo number; “Waking Up” sports beautiful harmonies; and “Night Job” is a pretty ballad, soulful and swinging, with more delicious harmonies. We’re playing these songs, and “Somewhere in Between,” “Tell You What I Know” and “Light Bright.” Lovely.

This seems like a good place to take a rest. We’re coming back tomorrow for day two of our Four-Day New Music Songfest. We’ve got a ton of top releases to chronicle and play on the air for you. Don’t miss a second!

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 Monkees, the Posies, McPherson Grant, 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.

Listen to Pure Pop Radio on the go using your Android or iOS devices! Download Our Mobile App.

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

It’s Mega Happy Day on Pure Pop Radio! 12 Artists…81 Tracks Now Added and in Rotation!

It's New!

It’s New!

Yes, that noise you heard was the lot of our playlist rotation genies adding 81 tracks from 12 super pop artists to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. Pat them on the back for a job very well done! Here’s the rundown:

* Various Artists – It Was 50 Years Ago Today: A Tribute to the Beatles, Vol. 3. Another installment of Bullseye Records’ great series paying tribute to the one and only Fab Four means more tracks for the Pure Pop Radio playlist. This time around, we’re glad to be able to add the following: Anger Brothers – “And Your Bird Can Sing,” Bentwood Rocker – “It Won’t be Long,” The Spongetones – “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” Terry Draper – “Til there Was You,” The Oohs – “You’re Gonna Lose that Girl,” Wendie Colter and Rob Laufer – “Here Comes the Sun,” and Yeah Yeah Yeah – “There’s a Place.”

* Mike Dees. We’ve chosen two songs from Mike’s Something Like Glitter album to add to the playlist: “AM Radio” and “Something Like Glitter.” Cool stuff.

* Matt Kabus. We added some songs from Matt the last time around. Now, we’ve added four more from this most talented singer-songwriter: “Roller Coaster,” “Crossroads,” “Fly Away,” and “Picture Frame” (from Matt Kabus EP #1).

We’ve also beefed up our stock of songs from the 1960’s and 1970’s, with a host of tunes from The Association, Harpers Bizarre and The Monkees. Here are the particulars:

* The Association. “Look at Me, Look at You,” “What Were the Words,” “Under Branches,” “Six Man Band,” and “Dubuque Blues” (from The Association); “Come On In,” “Everything that Touches You,” “Time for Livin’,” “Hear in Here,” and “Birthday Morning” (from Birthday); “Enter the Young,” “Don’t Blame It on Me,” “I’ll be Your Man,” “Along Comes Mary,” “Cherish,” and “Better Times” (from and then…along comes The Association); “No Fair at All” and “You Hear Me Call Your Name” (from Renaissance); “Wasn’t it a Bit Like Now (Parallel ’23),” “When Love Comes to Me,” “Windy,” “Wantin’ ain’t Gettin'” (from Insight Out); “Bring Yourself Home,” “P.F. Sloan,” “Travelers Guide (Spanish Flyer),” and “Seven Virgins” (from Stop Your Motor); “Names, Tags, Number and Labels,” “One Sunday Morning,” and “Dreamer” (from Just the Right Sounds – The Association Anthology); “Darling Be Home Soon,” “Indian Wells Woman,” and “Little Road and a Stone to Roll” (from Waterbeds in Trinidad).

* Harpers Bizarre. This much-loved ’60’s groups’ soft, melodic sounds get much love from Pure Pop Radio. We’ve added some of Harpers’ greatest hits and album tracks: “Come to the Sunshine,” and “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” (from Feelin’ Groovy). Also, from the Now Sounds reissue of this album, three songs by the group from which Harpers Bizarre grew, The Tikis: “Pay Attention to Me,” “If I’ve Been Dreaming,” and “I’ll Never Forget About You.” Plus: “Anything Goes,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Hey, You in the Crowd,” “Louisiana Man,” “You Need a Change,” “High Coin,” and “Malibu U” (from Anything Goes); “Soft Soundin’ Music,” “Witchi Tai To,” “When the Band Begins to Play,” “Blackbird,” “All Through the Night,” and “Poly High” (from 4); “Mad,” “Both Sides Now,” and “The Drifter” (from The Secret Life of Harpers Bizarre).

* The Monkees. It’s pre-Fab Four time! We’ve added a whole host of numbers from Mike, Micky, Peter and Davy, including: “She,” “When Love Comes Knockin’ (At Your Door),” “Mary, Mary,” “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow),” and “I’m a Believer” (from More of the Monkees); “(Theme From) The Monkees,” “Saturday’s Child,” “Take a Giant Step,” and “Last Train to Clarksville” (from The Monkees); “Salesman,” “She Hangs Out,” “Cuddly Toy,” “What am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round?,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.); “You Told Me,” “I’ll Spend My Life with You,” “Forget that Girl,” “For Pete’s Sake,” “Sunny Girlfriend,” “No Time,” “Randy Scouse Git” (from Headquarters); “Listen to the Band” (from The Monkees Present).

Pretty cool, huh? That’s it for today. Tune in to Pure Pop Radio and enjoy the newly-added sounds! And, as always, thanks for listening!

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