Reviews: 6.6.19: New Releases: The Weeklings, Alex Chilton, Bryan Estepa, and Jacob Panic

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The Weeklings | “I Want You Again” (Jem, 2019)

It is a bushelful of happy that greets me on this day, almost a month since I last posted due to various bits and bobs. Finding a new Weeklings song in my email inbox–an old-fashioned Weeklings song, if truth be known–speaks to my most get-in-there, take-it-apart-and-put-it-back-together-again-for-you instincts. Because what fun it is to wear the happiness that Weeklings recordings bring, like a new suit resplendent in audio jewels that really make me smile.

Started at London’s Abbey Road Studios, written by Lefty and Zeek Weekling, and finished off at home base in New Jersey, “I Want You Again” is perhaps a quintessential example of the Weeklings’ melodic sense that embodies significant Beatles and fellow traveler touchstones as much as the group’s own contemporary identity.

An I-really-shouldn’t-have-pushed-you-away-and-by-the-way-can-I-get-you-back song with a beat and a beating heart, “I Want You Again” is a jangly joy with a McCartney-esque bass line, Merseyside guitar stabs in the bridge, an “A Hard Day’s Night” namecheck (“When I think, of the time, when our love burned bright / When we shared, every word, singin’ ‘A Hard Days’ Night'”), and, most importantly, echoes of the Fabs’ “You Won’t See Me” and a closing melody quote from Badfinger’s “Baby Blue.”

“I Want You Again” is just the latest example of New Jersey’s finest fab foursome’s pursuit of audio excellence that bridges decades of catchy melodic pop. A bushelful of happy, if you will.

Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes. Stream on Spotify

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Alex Chilton | From Memphis to New Orleans (Bar/None, 2019)
Songs from Robin Hood Lane (Bar/None, 2019)

When most people think of Alex Chilton, they likely remember his work with the Box Tops, whose big 1967 hit, “The Letter,” he sang at age 16 with the maturity of a much older and perhaps wiser artist, and Big Star, an influential group blessed with a deep vat of melodicism and rock-influenced pop songs that have stood the test of time, such as “September Gurls,” “The Ballad of El Goodo,” and “Thirteen.”

It is less likely that casual music fans–people who grew up with the Box Tops and Big Star–also embraced Chilton’s music that followed. Two new, comprehensive compilations from Bar/None seek to mend the fences over which Chilton jumped in the 1980s and 1990s to make music that was stripped down, less commerical, and sometimes undersold, yet still viable and enjoyable and quintessentially Chilton.

From Memphis to New Orleans draws from four releases produced in the second half of the 1980s. A mix of original and covered punchy, seductive bluesy rock (David Porter and Isaac Hayes’ “B-A-B-Y”), punchy rockers (Ronny and the Daytonas’ “Little GTO”), Bakersfield country (Chilton’s “Paradise”), gentle pop with a beat (“Let Me Get Close to You,” a Skeeter Davis flip side scribed by Carole King and Gerry Goffin that originally appear on High Priest) and rock and soul grooves, the album chugs happily along as it shows off the wares of Chilton’s post-Box-Tops-and-Big-Star eras.

Probably, the sides compiled on From Memphis to New Orleans are closer cousins to Chilton’s previous work and likely more palatable to fans of the Box Tops and Big Star, but it’s the covers of classic songs in the style of the music that he heard growing up, compiled on Songs from Robin Hood Lane, that might just provide a clearer picture of where Chilton’s heart really found the most peace.

Songs from two Chilton releases–1991’s Medium Cool and 1994’s Cliches–sit comfortably alongside four previously unreleased sides on Songs from Robin Hood Lane. Chilton nestles quite comfortably in the moods and emotions of a dozen jazz, blues and pop numbers, showing quite different sides of his musical persona. They are, in their way, just as emotional and effective as the singer’s work during his rock and pop years.

Highlights include the quietly bouncy “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” cut by Nina Simone in the 1950s and played out here with only Chilton’s masterly acoustic guitar picking and playful, jazzy vocal; “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,” a jazzy, supper club take on the 1940s standard and one of the four previously-unreleased tracks on this collection; and “That Old Feeling,” a half instrumental and half sumptuous vocal workout of Sammy Fain and Lew Brown’s classic written in the 1930s and essayed by many classic vocalists, including Patti Page and Frank Sinatra.

Both From Memphis to New Orleans and Songs from Robin Hood Lane sport beautifully-laid-out packaging that includes immersive and informative liner notes by Glenn Morrow and track personnel and discographical facts. Bar/None is to be congratulated on both releases; listeners will come away from hearing a fuller picture of Chilton the artist.

Essential.

Where to Get It: Bar/None, Amazon (From Memphis to New Orleans; Songs from Robin Hood Lane), and iTunes (From Memphis to New Orleans; Songs from Robin Hood Lane)

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Bryan Estepa | “I’m Not Ready for This” (2019)

The lesson learned in pop-rocker Bryan Estepa’s new digital release, “I’m Not Ready for This,” is that first loves are woven into one’s heart forever (“Forgetting first loves can’t be done”).

What to do with such a realization is another thing entirely, as noted in this mid-paced guitar popper. After all, first loves can be a fleeting thing (“Stay together for a little while / Run its course on this crooked mile”).

This track, with its smooth lead vocal, engaging backgrounds, and lovely, pleasing chords, will stay with you for a long while, even if your first love isn’t showing in your rearview mirror.

(Watch the stylish black-and-white video for “I’m Not Ready for This” below. The use of light fading quietly in and out to suggest the memory of a first love fading in and out over time is quite impressive.)

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

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Jacob Panic | “The Heart/Breaks” (2019)

The banjo’s the thing here, which is the thing that counts most in Jacob Panic’s world. A rock/pop hybrid love song exhibiting immense power and emotion, “The Heart/Breaks” is all about love, and the more of it–the stronger it comes on–the better.

“Put your lovin’ arms around me / And everything’ll be alright,” Panic sings, and when those lovin’ arms lock tight, an explosion of emotion comes due. “Listen to the heart beat go / A mile a minute / Many miles it flows / It gets dark / It gets cold,” and where do you go from there?

Mostly, the choruses are drawn with thunderous drums and instrumentation mixing with powerful vocals; the connecting tissue is softer, limber. The feeling, near as I can tell, is when you truly feel love and it totally encompasses you, you fall hook, line and sinker.

A tremendous track from a tremendous performer, co-written by Panic and Steve Antonelli, and featuring Antonelli on guitar, bass, and drums and Lea B. singing backgrounds. 

Where to Get It: Amazon, 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.

Reviews: 2.15.19: Friday (on My Mind) Special: The Weeklings Rock Out at High Noone

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The Weeklings featuring Peter Noone
“Friday on My Mind” (Jem, 2019)

It’s Friday, it’s special, and it’s time for this important question: What happens when a quartet of old pros meet up with an old pro from the 1960s, get amped-up, plugged in and blast out, in smashing fashion, a 52-year-old classic hit of psych pop like it’s their last ride on the roller coaster?

Fireworks of the musical kind ensue! Better stand back, kids, and buckle in! You’re in for a fun, wild ride!

The Weeklings, New Jersey’s fab foursome, this time eschewing their fab influences, have connected with Herman’s Hermits front man Peter Noone to record a blown-up-and-put-together-again-with-a-rocking-bed-of-dynamite version of the Easybeats’ 1966 worldwide smash, “Friday on My Mind.”

Blowing up expectations, the Weeklings–Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack–provide the daring instrumental and vocal backing and hand the lead vocal reins over to Peter Noone who, more in line with his persona on the Tremblers’ 1980 long player, Twice Nightly, aims for outer space as he takes on Harry Vanda and George Young’s classic number.

It’s a hell of a performance, folks; the mix of Noone’s piercing, take-no-prisoners vocal and the Weeklings’ mastery of the original song’s ultra-catchy melody and instrumentation is one of this melodic pop season’s most powerful moments.

As the beat and oomph ramps up in the last seven seconds of this great waxing to about as above ground as humanly possible, Noone looks his microphone in the eye and gives it all he’s got–a throat-shredding scream that lasts all of two seconds but burns itself into your brain for a lifetime.

And now, before this review bids you a fond adieu, enjoy the Weeklings and Peter Noone–the Fab Five, if you will–and their smoking rendition of the Easybeats’ “Friday on My Mind.” These guys are seriously superheros (Marvel or DC, take your pick).

Whew. Produced by Jem Records’ Marty Scott and recorded by the Grip Weeds’ Kurt Reil (Peter Noone’s vocal was recorded by Fernando Perdomo at Reseda Ranch Studios), this pulsating version of “Friday on My Mind” is a keeper, a classic in its own right–a monumental knock on the door of what we expect to hear…an instant classic, if you will.

And you will.

Where to Get It: Amazon, 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.

Our Holly Jolly Christmas Party is Here in Your Town! Gift Suggestions Below…

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Day three of our Holly Jolly Christmas Party is here to help you with suggestions for holiday tunes you can give as gifts to your family and friends…and maybe even to yourself!

This is also day three of our bountiful Christmas presents giveaway. Today, we’ve got the Monkees’ new Christmas Party and the Grip Weeds’ Under the Influence of Christmas up for grabs. Enter below.

Our 2018 Festive Holiday Gift-Giving Guide has the day off tomorrow, due to a change in schedule here at Pure Pop Radio headquarters. We’ll be back on Friday to continue suggesting some of the great Christmas releases out there, all perfect for gift giving.

And now, here’s a lovely Christmas collection from the hardest working man on today’s music scene…

Fernando Perdomo | Present (2018)
Multi-instrumentalist and supreme multitasker Fernando Perdomo (his new album, a smash, is Zebra Crossing) has put together a lovely, quite entertaining Christmas release called Present. It may not be wrapped in festive paper and topped with a bright red bow, but it’s a gift that will keep on giving and putting a holiday kind of smile on your face.

Perdomo’s facility with melody-rich holiday ballads (“It’s Christmas All Over the World,” “Darling It’s Christmas,” “The Meaning of Christmas,” and especially “December .. The Month of Love”) is just one of the most prominent calling cards presented here, but that’s not all you’ll find: “The Funky Little Drummer Boy” features Eddie Zyne on hard-hitting drums; there’s a slow, dreamy surf version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”; a sleepy take on “Silent Night,” with just electric guitars in the mix, really satisfies, and a punky, in your face version of “Deck the Halls” helps to make your season bright.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Thrift Store Halo | “I Still Love Christmas” (2018)
Written by band members Frank Gradishar and Lance Tawzer, this perky, melody-rich celebration of the holiday finds Chicago’s Thrift Store Halo in a fun, spirit-of-the-season-esque mood and espousing a welcome sense of humor.

Everything is on the table at Christmas–greeting cards, holly wreaths, kid-made ornaments, snowmen, egg nog shakes, and “presents wrapped in gold and plaid (like granddad’s pants).” “It’s the one time each year the whole world is filled with joy and cheer,” Frank sings.

You’ll love this one.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

The Weeklings | “Christmas Time is Here Again” and “Revolution Wonderland” (2017)
New Jersey’s Fab Four–Lefty, Zeke, Rocky and Smokestack–convened in the waning months of 2017 to record a pair of holiday classics chock full of the usual Weeklings Easter eggs and brimming with a whole lot of fun.

In case you missed them the first time around, the Beatles’ “Christmas Time is Here Again” got Weeklingsized by incorporating elements from the Fabs’ “Flying,” “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,” and “Baby, You’re a Rich Man.” And of “Revolution Wonderland”? Well, in this seasonal mashup, “Revolution” meets “Winter Wonderland” meets “Jingle Bell Rock” meets the coolest shoo-be-doo-wah vibe you’ll encounter this or any other year.

Follow Santa on his sleigh, with all of his reindeer and his custom North Pole GPS to add these full-of-good-cheer tunes to your Christmas gifting lists.

black box Where to Get It: “Christmas Time is Here Again”: Amazon, iTunes
“Revolution Wonderland”: Amazon, iTunes

Big Stir Double-A-Side Christmas Single (2018):
Kai Danzberg | “If Santa”
Blake Jones and the Trike Shop | “String Lights and Hold On”

The eighth in the continuing series of digital singles being released by Big Stir Records strikes a decidedly festive Christmasy chord (or two or more!) with holiday tunes from Kai Danzberg and Blake Jones and the Trike Shop.

Danzberg and Jones travel different-sounding paths on their way to stirring up their pots of Christmas magic. Danzberg’s “If Santa” is an upbeat, joyous Phil Spectory exercise with Paul McCartney bass lines, horns and, of course, bells. Jones presents his Christmas tune as art-rock-meets-quirky for a wholly different holiday experience. Both are more-than-worthy, Christmasy choices for gift-giving this holiday season.

black box Where to Get It: Big Stir Digital Singles

Lannie Flowers “Christmas Without You” (2018)
While his fans wait patiently for his new album Home to land, Lannie Flowers has been releasing new songs each month, independent of that release. “Christmas Without You,” newly remixed and remastered from its 2011 appearance, is the 10th in the series. It’s a typically catchy, jangly, melodic slice of melodic pop about wanting and needing the people we love to be with us at Christmas. “Christmas Without You” is a free download at the Spyderpop Records website.

black box Where to Get It: Spyderpop Records

Win a Pair of Presents!

Enter below to win a pair of melodic presents for the holiday season from Pure Pop Radio (the Monkees’ Christmas Party and the Grip Weeds’ Under the Influence of Christmas). Be sure to fill in all fields (type “Monkees Grip” in the Comment field), and send the completed form to us by tomorrow, Thursday, December 20, at noon ET. US residents only. Good luck!

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Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995 and ended this past August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today. Happy holidays!

New on Pure Pop Radio 3.14.18: Linus of Hollywood and The Weeklings

new on pp banner hybrid 2-use this one, it's fixed

alan headshot from schoolBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Spins and Reviews | 3.14.18

Linus of Hollywood | Cabin Life | Magic Beach, 2018
LOH - Cabin Life Cover V2-3
You’ve got to be carrying around on your shoulders a teeming bushelful of confidence to name your album Your Favorite Record, but that’s what the regally-named Linus of Hollywood called his very first long player in 1999, an instant soft-pop classic boasting liner notes from none other than soft-pop queen Margo Guryan, who perhaps prophetically asked in those notes, “Can you recall the first time you tasted ice cream?”

I remember very well getting Your Favorite Record and playing songs from it on my weekly Pure Pop Radio show. I remember that very first taste of ice cream, the flavors of which have only grown stronger over the years. And now, nearly 20 years later, Linus of Hollywood has served up another 10 scoops of tasty treats on Cabin Fever, his delightful fifth effort that really, truly is the kind of thing that puts a spring in your step.

The album kicks off with the sprightly title song that functions as a rallying cry for the rest of the album. Playful musically and emotionally warm, the lyrics talk about leaving the fast paced world for a spell, trading daily annoyances like ringing telephones for mountain air and singing birds. A blissful getaway is yours for the driving to the hills: “Throw all your troubles in the fire,” Linus sings, “Don’t it feel so right to live this cabin life?”

Some heartfelt words of wisdom are imparted in the fast-paced pop song “Won’t Let It Get Me Down,” played and sung with gusto. In pure when-life-gives-you-lemons-make-lemonade mode, Linus implores listeners to keep going when something comes along and tries to stop you in your tracks. Singers, especially, take note: “So tell me that I can’t sing/And tell me that I won’t amount to anything/But I won’t let it get me down…No I’ll never let it get me down tonight.” Or ever.

Cabin Life’s tender closing ballad, “It Was You,” details a love story for the ages. Beautifully sung and dedicated to Linus’s wife Augusta, the emotional arrangement marries delicate orchestration to nimble acoustic guitar playing as Linus sings about his true soul mate. “I finally got out of my own way,” he sings. “Everything just felt so easy/And I left behind my yesterday/You saved me from myself, believe me.”

Looking at the vibrant, colorful illustrations on the lovingly detailed front and back covers that make up the beautiful package design by Brad Bond, you can just feel the inspiration that fueled the writing of these songs (they were all written in cabins in the Lake Arrowhead, California area).

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

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

The Weeklings | “In the Moment” | Single, 2018
New Jersey’s Fab Four let loose some powerful beat-driven sounds recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios during the making of the quartet’s most recent album, Studio 2. “Anything you want, I’ll be there to give you,” they sing with melodic and harmonic force. “Cause every time I see you, I love you more.” Life, in the moment! Guitars! Sounds-like-Paul-McCartney-is-playing-the-bass bass lines! Keith Moon-y drums! (Really!) And a whole lot of “And Your Bird Can Sing” spirit! (Really!) Another can’t-miss missive most welcome, you can be sure!

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes

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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:

 

This Week: Graham Gouldman Stars in an Exclusive Interview on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, and the Romance of Trains and New, Hit-bound Tunes (Plus a World Internet Radio Premiere) Power Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Shows

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio alan 5 small

ppr logo breaking out of paperIt’s another big week for Pure Pop Radio’s specialty shows, all broadcast on the powerhouse Internet radio station Pop that Goes Crunch. Veteran singer-songwriter and performer Graham Gouldman stars in an exclusive wide-ranging interview on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, and the romance of trains–and terrific, hit-bound new releases, including a World Internet Radio Premiere of a brand-new track from The Weeklings–power two all-new episodes of Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show.

Graham Gouldman guests on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation
tomorrow night–Wednesday, February 21 at 9 pm ET. Gouldman, whose history writing and performing wonderful melodic pop songs is long and prosperous, will be my guest on an exclusive, hour-long edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, airing on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

graham gouldman play nicely and share

Graham Gouldman’s Play Nicely and Share EP (Wienerworld)

Graham Gouldman’s work is peerless, from the songs he wrote for other artists in the 1960s, such as  “Bus Stop,” “No Milk Today,” and “For Your Love,” to the songs he wrote and sang while a member of 10cc and Wax and the songs he writes and performs today for his top-shelf solo releases. His delectable current EP, Play Nicely and Share, continues his ongoing tradition of producing only the best melodic pop music for waiting ears around the world.

During this exclusive program, Graham speaks with me about Play Nicely and Share, and we play three of the EP’s six songs. We talk about his approach to songwriting and the delightful art direction, by StormStudios, that graces the panels of his latest release. StormStudios, whose lineage is directly connected with that of the classic design firm Hipgnosis, created so many rich cover designs for 10cc and Pink Floyd and many other recording artists. And there’s more on our docket, including a Beatles nugget and news about Graham’s place in Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band in Europe this summer. It’s a rich hour you won’t want to miss.

enter-to-winTo celebrate this very special edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, we’re giving away a copy of Graham Gouldman’s Play Nicely and Share; to enter, simply click here. Featuring five new songs and a very different cover of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” it will be your instant favorite new release.

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The romance of trains and new release magic, including a World Internet Radio Premiere of the new single by the Weeklings, power this week’s two all-new editions of Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, airing tonight–Tuesday, February 20–and this Thursday, February 22 at 8 pm ET on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

pop tunes disc smallAfter hearing the O’Jays’ classic “Love Train” on a favored Internet radio station, I got the idea to explore the romance of trains for a special themed edition of the Pop Tunes Deejay Show. So, I put on my engineer’s hat and placed the pop train on our tracks to deliver an hour’s worth of songs about all kinds of trains and songs with the word “train” in the title. You’ll hear Albert Hammond’s “I’m a Train,” Johnny Cash’s “Train of Love,” P.F. Sloan’s “Lollipop Train (You Never Had It So Good),” the Monkees’ “Last Train to Clarksville,” songs from West Coast Consortium, the Marthas and Arthurs, the Hardy Boys, the Kinks, and a whole lot more. All aboard tonight at 8 pm ET!

In The Moment Coming March 2nd larger
This Thursday night, February 22 at 8 pm ET on the week’s second edition of the Pop Tunes Deejay Show on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio, we broadcast the World Internet Radio Premiere of the Weeklings’ punchy new single, “In the Moment.” Is it Beatlesque? Is it Fab? Is it in keeping with the rich pop traditions that fuel the Weeklings’ substantial efforts? All will be revealed here on the Pure Pop Radio website this Thursday. (By the way, the song, recorded at famed Abbey Road Studios, goes on sale March 2.)

In addition to the World Internet Radio Premiere of the new Weeklings track, we’ve got two new songs from Linus of Hollywood’s upcoming Cabin Life, and two archival tunes from Winterpills’ Philip B. Price, whose two-CD collection, Without Your Love I’d Be Nowhere at All: Best of the Solo Archives 1988-2004, is a clear winner.

But that’s not all: Thursday night’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show offers up new songs from Juliana Hatfield, who is channeling the majesty of the records of Olivia Newton-John on her forthcoming release; Christopher Cash and the Brilliant Deductions; Chris Price; Dragsterbarbie; Brady Harris Band; Daisy House, and the aforementioned Graham Gouldman. It’s another can’t-miss hour.

ppr radio green backgroundDon’t miss a minute of this week’s Pure Pop Radio specialty shows, featuring an exclusive, hour-long interview with Graham Gouldman, and two all-new editions of the Pop Tunes Deejay Show, with the World Internet Radio Premiere of the Weekling’s “In the Moment” in the spotlight on Thursday night. See you on the radio!

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:

 

Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2017

favorite records of the year - stars of 2017- a

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

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:

 

Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation Podcasts: Zeek Weekling (The Weeklings) (Airdate: September 6, 2017)

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio alan 5 small

the weeklings paperback writerThe Weeklings are legendary here at Pure Pop Radio. They’re also legendary there and everywhere. The foursome’s new single, a top-of-the-pops take on the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer,” is being featured tonight, in fact, on our Pop Tunes Deejay Show at 8 pm ET (click on the Listen link below at the appointed hour).

Zeek Weekling appeared on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation on September 6 to speak to me about the Weeklings’ take on “Paperback Writer” and the band’s future release plans. It was a typically spirited conversation, fortified with extra-added Weeklings vibes–the kind of in-depth talk you can only hear on the Internet’s premiere melodic pop talk show.

pprListen to my interview with Zeek Weekling from September 6 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.)

And now, dear Sir or Madam: Check out the video for The Weeklings’ version of “Paperback Writer,” and then, if you haven’t already, click on one of the links to add the track to your ever-growing Weeklings collection.

Purchase The Weeklings’ fab version of “Paperback Writer” by clicking on one of the following links (you’ll be so very glad you did!): Amazon, iTunes

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: