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Pop Sunday

Big Stir Singles : The Sixth Wave

Various Artists

Big Stir Singles: The Sixth Wave” (Big Stir Records 2020)

https://bigstirrecords.com/big-stir-records-compilations#!

Launched in 2018, Big Stir Records  has deservedly gleaned the reputation as one of the finest labels on the planet. Not only is the Burbank, California-based imprint committed to releasing the highest quality of music possible, but such standards apply to their presentation, as eye-pleasing graphics are a staple of their wares.

Comprised of 23 tracks, Big Stir Singles: The Sixth Wave is the latest installment of the banner’s various artists series. As if these hooky songs aren’t enough to score piles of points, the collection proposes a doubly worthy purpose, with 25% of the profits going to the Sweet Relief’s Musician Assistance Fund.

The humorously-christened Librarians With Hickeys introduce the set with the star-spangled ripples of Until There Was You, followed by The Popdudes’ Ridin’ In My Car that posts as the perfect summer song, bolstered by an upbeat tenor that ably crosses a crisp country folk rock pitch with a sunny Beach Boys‘ vibe. The Popdudes further check in with a version of Daytime Nighttime Suffering that is as honestly as terrific – if not better – than the original recording  by Paul McCartney and Wings.

From Jim Basnight, there’s the gritty Rolling Stones swagger of Big Bang and a cracking cover of This Is Where I Belong that would certainly make The Kinks beam with pride. Blooming with emotion and a sleek orchestral feel, the haunting tremors of Home by Joe Normal & The Anytown’rs  dials in as another pick to click on the collection, where Paula Carino’s Door illuminates with a measured moodiness destined to send shivers down the spine.

The Well Wishers step in with the bracing garage pop bite of We Grow Up, Trip Wire’s Katie Says favors a jangling country pop rock pose, assisted by cool breaks and a tugging melody, and Dolph Chaney’s infectious Automatic Caution Door imparts a tasty art rock ambience. The Corner Laughers contribute a pair of super catchy efforts to the program, including the compelling Queen Of The Meadow and The Accepted Time, which chimes to the tune of a smart melody and a gripping arrangement. 

Brimming with volume and might, No, from The Walker Brigade is destined to rattle windows far and wide, while a couple of XTC songs are rendered in splendid fashion by Glowbox with Earn Enough For Us and Tom Curless and the 46%’s I’m The Man Who Murdered Love. Last but by no means least, Spygenius turns in an impressive Ian Hunter/Mott the Hoople impersonation on Heaven Is Blue, which does indeed incorporate shades of heavenly blues into the  glammy mix.

Every song on Big Stir Singles: The Sixth Wave is utterly fantastic; reinforcing the label’s dedication to the best and the brightest indie pop rock musicians of today. 

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Pop Sunday

The Corner Laughers / Temescal Telegraph

The Corner Laughers 

Temescal Telegraph (Big Stir Records 2020)

cornerlaughers.com 

Guided by the fluid and friendly vocals of Karla Kane – who also strums a mean ukulele – The Corner Laughers further feature the talents of KC Bowman and Khoi Huynh – who both play guitar, bass and piano – and drummer Charlie Crabtree

Temescal Telegraph marks the latest album from the Redwood City, California  band, which magnifies their flair for penning and performing literate songs, bursting with panoramic visages, accompanied by row upon row of ripe melodies. 

Numbers such as the robotic bounce of “Sisters Of The Pollen” and the bright and bubbly “The Calculating Boy” retool new wave influences into a contemporary context, while “Wren In The Rain” projects a haunting quality that radiates with a lonesome beauty. A chiming folk fragrance frames the absolutely gorgeous “Goodguy Sun” and “Changeling” swivels and swings to a frisky country-fried beat.

An exploding guitar solo punctures the chant-like tenor of “Lord Richard,” and then there’s “Skylarks Of Britain,” which begins on a twee tone before ballooning into a ball of bleary-eyed psychedelic distortion. Selected as the first single from the album, “The Accepted Time,” with its catchy rhythm and compelling mood, duly punches in as another showstopper.

As Temescal Telegraph affirms, The Corner Laughers bend towards the arty pop-rock side of the hill. Cushioned with cleverly-conceived material, heavy on hooks and harmonious light, the album carries a quirky enigma that gives the band a distinctive flavor. A superb collection of sonic snapshots, Temescal Telegraph is guaranteed to appear on many “Best Album Of The Year” lists. 

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Pop Sunday

British Invasion Top Ten

1) “I Want To Hold Your Hand” The Beatles – Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is an obvious number one choice for this list. But aside from being a fantastic song, it was responsible for kicking off the British Invasion that dominated airwaves and record players everywhere from 1964 to 1965. Hooray for The Beatles for sparking the movement and opening the door for flurries of other fine bands from Jolly Old England.

2) “Needles And Pins” The Searchers – Glistening to a stunning synthesis of twinkling twelve-string guitars and choir boy harmonies, “Needles And Pins” proved to be as influential as “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Folk rock before the term even existed, the song seized the ears of future Beau Brummels and Byrds members, who popularized the style and gave it its name.

3)  “Heart Full Of Soul” The Yardbirds – Also inspiring and inventive, “Heart Full Of Soul” is underlined by Jeff Beck’s distorted fuzztone guitar work, giving the song an eerie edge that predates psychedelia. A left-field offering from a left-field band, but accessible enough to become a hit single.

4) “Glad All Over” The Dave Clark Five – Bursting forth with stomping rhythms and a monster-sized call and response chorus, “Glad All Over” represents the Dave Clark Five’s style through and through, which was dubbed “The Tottenham Sound.” The timelessly catchy song further captures the youthful exuberance of the British Invasion in all its giddy glory.

5) “House Of The Rising Sun” The Animals – Navigated by lead singer Eric Burdon’s bluesy growl and Alan Price’s menacing keyboard passages, “House Of The Rising Sun” exposed a “darker angle” of the British Invasion that additionally included the rebel cries of bands like The Rolling Stones and The Pretty Things, who not only sneered and snarled, but looked mighty sinister with their exceedingly long locks and scruffy threads.

6) “You Really Got Me” The Kinks – Quaking and shaking with a wild and frantic guitar solo, “You Really Got Me” sounds as revolutionary today as it did in 1964. Often considered the first genuine heavy metal song, “You Really Got Me” is further intensified by jolting hooks and a screaming chorus.

7) “She’s Not There” The Zombies – Possessing a breathtaking repertoire of ethereal vocals, gripping keyboard exercises and melting melodies, the jazzy “She’s Not There” teems with class and sophistication. The British Invasion produced a variety of musical hues, and here’s a song – not to mention a band – that certainly sported its own individual identity. 

8) “Look Through Any Window” The Hollies –  Praised for their poised and polished harmony prowess, The Hollies deliver the goods to maximum effects on “Look Through Any Window,” which subsequently entails enterprising arrangements and a sturdy backbeat. A high energy and high quality slice of pop rock magic, “Look Through Any Window” soars with color and light.

9) “A World Without Love” Peter and Gordon – Composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “A World Without Love” steps in as a mid-paced ballad, pronounced by the yearning Everly Brothers-fashioned lilt of Peter Asher and Gordon Waller. Lushly textured and containing a spinning keyboard break, “A World Without Love” ripples with beauty and finesse.


10) “Concrete And Clay” Unit 4 Plus 2 – Fueled by a finger-snapping bossa nova cadence, the perpetually perky “Concrete And Clay” was quite a unique entry in the British Invasion sweepstakes. Crisp and crackling acoustic guitar licks, supported by folk-framed choruses and needling hooks furnish the tasty tune with a rather exotic touch. 

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Pop Sunday

Garden Of Earthly Delights / An XTC Celebration

Various Artists

Garden Of Earthly Delights – An XTC Celebration (Futureman)

https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/

Arriving on the scene in the late seventies, XTC proved to be a bit too quirky and clever for the general public. Yet the British band gained favor with the critics, developed a loyal fan base and have been cited as a prime influence by many musicians. 

For those not acquainted with the genius of XTC, the band really can’t be categorized. Mainly inspired by the holy trinity of sixties pop, psychedelia and art rock, the band also regularly dipped dashes of punk and new wave into the bin for modernized measures. Courageously experimental, XTC still managed to flaunt a distinctive sound that allowed instant recognition. Novel songwriting and arranging skills, compounded by a natural and nervous energy, granted the band’s material with an equal balance of sophistication and primal instincts. 

A double CD set, consisting of 32 tracks, Garden Of Earthly Delights features a smartly-selected cast of musicians from the indie community who are not only avid admirers of XTC, but render the band’s compositions with knowledge and respect. Not your average tribute album, Garden Of Earthly Delights avoids simply going through the motions as the artists telegraph their own personalities into the songs. 

Considering the volume of songs, there is obviously a lot to digest here. But because each entry is so catchy and the sequencing is astutely-organized, Garden Of Earthly Delights reins in as an easy and enjoyable listen.

Attempting to pick the best of the bunch is impossible, but for starters, there’s Coke Belda and El Inquito Rogue’s take on the bippity boppity “Standing In For Joe,” and the comparably sunny spunk of “Everything’ll Be Alright” from The Corner Laughters. Chris Price lends a gentle acoustic touch to “The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead” and Bebopolula’s “Vanishing Girl” retains the same Monkees-meets-Turtles flower power pop flourishes of the original recording, which XTC actually released under the pseudonym of Dukes of Stratospheare

Gretchen Wheel’s emotive version of “The Last Balloon” is positively dazzling, while Randy Sky’s “Books Are Burning” carries a haunting feel, and Chris Church’s “Stupidily Happy” rings and rocks to a cool beat. Pete Donnelly turns in a terrific treatment of the robotic romp of “This Is Pop,” where The Kickstand Band’s “Life Begins At The Hop” wiggles with nifty squiggles. 

Bottled tight with harmony and color, Garden Of Earthly Delights – An XTC Celebration stresses the inventive spirit of the band in full force. Wall-to-wall with credible covers, created with love and reverence, this collection effectively salutes XTC’s flair for mixing ambition with a fun factor. An exciting audio adventure is guaranteed! 

By Beverly Paterson

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Pop Sunday

Richard Turgeon, Jim Basnight, Reviewed

Richard Turgeon 

Still Not Ready To Die (2020)

As the world turns on an unsettling axis, Richard Turgeon keeps churning out one brilliant song after another. Music certainly provides great comfort and joy at a grim time like this, so how wonderful it is Turgeon shares his gift with us and relays words of hope and encouragement.

The San Francisco-based singer, songwriter and multiple-instrumentalist has been putting a new album together, and posting choice cuts as download singles, with “Still Not Ready To Die” tapped as the latest release.

Buzzing with energy, the song resonates to a terminally uplifting vibe. Accentuated by a “call to arms” chorus evocative of The Clash and Eddie and the Hot Rods, “Still Not Ready To Die” additionally soars forth with tightly-woven rhythms and powerhouse melodies. Also of excellence is the clean but killer guitar work penetrating the production. 

Rocking with purpose and determination, “Still Not Ready To Die” invites listeners to join (virtual) hands, sing along and most importantly, remain strong and optimistic. 


Jim Basnight 

Recovery Room (Precedent Records 2004)

Since the late seventies, singer, songwriter and guitarist Jim Basnight has been active both in the studio and on the live circuit. The Seattle native’s resume includes leader of bands such as The Moberlys and The Rockinghams, as well as a solo career. A loyal fan base, heightened by continual praise from the press has awarded Basnight satisfying artistic rewards.

A blast from the not so distant past, “Recovery Room” examines Basnight traveling beyond his signature roots-flavored power pop parameters and embracing a mercurial selection of styles. String and horn arrangements, along with female back-up vocals, duly play an integral part is allowing the album to cast a different demeanor than Basnight’s previous efforts.

Adopting a jazzy soul pose, “Comfort Me” simmers with cool and breezy textures, and “Something Peculiar” plugs in as a glistening orchestrated ballad. Recalling one of those quirky little kind of tunes the Small Faces produced during their psychedelic phase, “Riding Rainbows” skips and flips to a happy carefree beat, punctuated with a run of wiggy sound effects and instrumentation. A cover of “Brother Louie” – which was a huge hit for The Stories in 1973 –  favors an improvisational approach, marked by jammy jazz rock doodlings.

While a good deal of “Recovery Room” catches Basnight experimenting and channeling his inner soul and jazz impulses, the album offers no shortage of Tom Petty meets The Kinks type of rockers he is primarily known for. Fired by striking riffs and arresting hooks, “Ripple In The Bay” and “Python Boogaloo” ably blend Basnight’s top-notch tunesmith skills with sneering garage punk energy, while “Miss America” and “Microwave” also perch high on the totem pole as other electryfing endeavors not to be ignored.

Although “Recovery Room” contains a mix of genres, the presentation is balanced and cohesive. The performances are totally natural and stem straight from the heart. It’s rare to come across an album where each song has its own personality and leaves a permanent imprint, but “Recovery Room” succeeds at doing so. Rife with creativity and originality, the album brings out the best in Basnight. 

Beverly Paterson

 

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Pop Sunday

10 Feel-Good Pop Songs!

It has been scientifically proven that music is a great healer. That said – especially now, when the world as we know it has literally collapsed – we need music more than ever to maintain a positive outlook. Here are ten pop songs that never fail to put a smile on my face, and are bound to  brighten your day as well. 

“And Your Bird Can Sing” (1966) The Beatles. Although the lyrics are cut of a cryptic nature, explosive harmonies, combined with chiming guitars spinning and tumbling with velocity, furnish “And Your Bird Can Sing” with a joyous tenor that grips the both the mind and the body.



“Precious To Me” (1980) Phil Seymour. From the sweet and shiny Buddy Holly influenced vocals to the clutching hooks to the neat and tidy instrumentation, “Precious To Me” not only serves as the quintessential pop song, but a superbly-articulated sonic sentiment. Precious indeed.

“Let’s Go To San Francisco” (1967) The Flower Pot Men. Lushly textured and bursting at the seams with dazzling Beach Boys styled vocal exercises, “Let’s Go To San Francisco”  checks in as a charming ode to the beautiful city by the Bay. Subtle drug references led the song to be banned from many American playlists, but topped the charts in England. 

“I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” (1988) The Moody Blues. Shimmering with spirituality, “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” sends a telepathic SOS to a long lost love with the certanity they will meet again. Ethereal vocals, accompanied by sweeping synthesizer slopes and a nice mix of acoustic and electic guitars, supply the gorgeously-groomed song with equal amounts of yearning and hope.

“She Don’t Care About Time” (1965) The Byrds. Authored by Byrds founder, vocalist and tambourine man Gene Clark, “She Don’t Care About Time”  sparkles and swirls to the legendary band’s signature stance of jangling riffs and heavenly choruses. As the cherry on the sundae, the song adds a classical touch to the proceedings in the form of a Bach inspired passage.

“Not Alone Anymore” (1988) The Traveling Wilburys. Guided by Roy Orbison’s soaring lung power that invariably produces goosepimples from head to toe, “Not Alone Anymore” is a booming ballad, promising love, comfort and security. Fellow Traveling Wilburys George Harrison and Jeff Lynne also lend their assistance to the heart-swelling presentation.

“I Hear A Symphony” (1966) The Supremes. Stepping in as yet another solid gold hit from the Motown factory, “I Hear A Symphony” begins on a rather soft note before gradually ballooning into a super-sized symphony of bellowing brass arrangements, glossy melodies and supremely Supreme harmonies.

“Summerlove Sensation” (1974) The Bay City Rollers. Reflecting a cross between The Beach Boys and Raspberries, “Summerlove Sensation” smacks of carefree happiness. Sprinkled with twinkling sleigh bells, the invigorating song pours a premium on sunny singing and a bubbly beat all in the name of teen romance.  

“I Can Hear The Grass Grow” (1967) The Move. Designed of psychedelic impressions, “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” favors a quick and effective pace, humming with stirring licks, galloping rhythms, skyscraper choruses, pulsating percussion and bracing breaks. Hammering hard rock currents to pop sensibilities, the technicolor tune allows the imagination to run wild. The line – “My head’s attracted to a magnetic wave of sound” –  drives the point home.

“Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” (1971) The Fortunes. Despite the sad prose involving a guy who apparently only sees his girlfriend on Sunday, and therefore, dreads Monday, “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” possesses a pretty and punchy tone that immediately energizes the soul. Smartly structured and  polished with precision, the tasty tune is doubly highlighted by the exceptional harmony prowess The Fortunes are recognized for.

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Pop Sunday

New Column By Beverly Paterson!

The Clock Watchers / The Clock Watchers (Gear Fab Records 2020)

Those not familiar with the background of The Clock Watchers will be forgiven thinking they were one of those obscure sixties bands heard on compilation albums like “Pebbles”, “Green Crystal Ties” or “Teenage Shutdown.” But the truth is, these guys existed a few decades after the musical era they mined. 1992 and 1993 saw the Northwest Pacific band cutting a cache of songs, which appeared on a self-titled album in 1999 distributed by the Gear Fab label. The Colorado based imprint  has not only recently revived the collection on compact disc, but attached a slew of previously unreleased material to the package.

Ron Kleim – who has played with notable bands such as The Surf Trio and Marble Orchard – held the role of songwriter, singer and organist of The Clock Watchers. The other members of the band were bassist Don Beckner and Jayson Breeton on drums, vocals, bass and guitar. 

Dining on a diet of jingly jangly chords, squealing Farfisa figures, choppy drum beats and gnawing breaks, The Clock Watchers mainly operated under the dual influences of West Coast folk pop and reedy garage rock. Moody vocals, coupled with aching melodies ringing with expression, add a sense of longing and loneliness to the catchy tunes that call to mind certain aspects of The Rising Storm, The Beau Brummels, The E-Types and The Gestures. 

Providing just the right measure of raw energy and snappy hook lines, “Drop In The Bucket,” “The Girl With Tears In Her Eyes,” “You Can Run,” “This Could Be Love,” “Mad Girl,” “Dirty Shame,” “When I Dream” and “Hey Little Girl” recreate the sound, style and spirit of 1965 to utter perfection. 

A taunting edge marks the aggressive thrust of “I’d Rather Laugh” and the comparably tough and toxic “No Tears For You” is spiked with the crying pitch of a bluesy harp. “Free Soul,” “Gone For Good” and “Shadows” further appropriate a rough and rugged finish, while “Goodbye” crackles with twanging country aspirations.

Powered by a bouncy kick, “Kiss Of Death” races and rolls with surf inspired rhythms before concluding to a round of trippy sitar riffs, and “It’s Your Life” is threaded with zoomy space age guitars reminiscent of the kind of stuff The Byrds were doing during their psychedelic phase. 

Comprised of twenty-two songs, The Clock Watchers makes for a consistently enjoyable listen. Period- piece lyrics, a swinging vibe and vintage equipment are the winning ingredients behind the amazing authenticity of The Clock Watchers. Here’s a band that really knew how to compose and perform the music they adored, and how nice it is their efforts have been rescued from the vaults. Perhaps now that The Clock Watchers has been reissued, the band will be motivated to reunite and record more groovy nuggets.

http://gearfab.swiftsite.com/

https://www.discogs.com/artist/691127-Ron-Kleim

*****

Richard Turgeon / The Journey (2020)

Shortly after his third and most recent album, Go Deep, was released last August, Richard Turgeon wasted nary a second working on new material. Since then, the San Francisco based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has unfolded a series of singles, which are available in digital download mode, and are scheduled to appear on his forthcoming album.

Turgeon’s latest single, “The Journey,” addresses the sensitive subject of supporting and encouraging a loved one grappling with challenging changes and situations in their life. 

Ebbing and flowing with captivating curves, the track is firmly grounded in folk rock soil. Drafts of stinging guitars, fizzing with sweeping melodies, lend “The Journey” a tone modeled on the likes of Neil Young, Tom Petty and Teenage Fanclub. But Turgeon’s smart tunesmith tactics, partnered with his robust vocals that have the ability and inflection to communicate clearly, rise  above the copycat category.

Turgeon is truly one of the finest contemporary artists composing and playing roots styled pop rock. The quality of his output remains amazingly high, with “The Journey” clocking in as yet another stone cold clarification of his worth.

https://richardturgeon.bandcamp.com/track/the-journey

https://www.facebook.com/rturgeonfans/

https://www.richardturgeon.com/