It’s one thing to be prolific, but it’s another thing to be prolific and accomplished. San Francisco Bay Area singer, songwriter and multi-faceted instrumentalist Richard Turgeon boasts both traits. Following the release of his last full-length album, Sea Change, which appeared this past August, Turgeon has been producing digital singles every couple of weeks.
His current single – “Let’s Take A Drive” – is a popping rocker sizzling with a solid sense of dynamics and sound. Ushered by Turgeon’s rural vocals, the simply-structured, yet bold and blunt song, exudes instant appeal. The energy is raw and forthright, and the hooks and chorus are absolutely addictive. As an additional treat, a sweltering guitar solo is squeezed into the showstopper.
An ideal suggestion for the times we are living in, “Let’s Take A Drive” will no doubt encourage those cocooning to step outside, get behind the wheel and go cruising. The song is also designed to play at top volume while tooling about with the windows rolled down.
Visualize Tom Petty fronting Bachman Turner Overdrive, and that pretty much defines the flavor and feel of this great song. In a live setting, “Let’s Take A Drive” would be perfect to perform as the closing number. Excitement abounds, Bics are flicked, and when the crowd-pleaser hits the final note, the audience will scream for an encore. Strapped tight with all the makings of a classic rock anthem, “Let’s Take A Drive” possesses traction and power by the mile.
I should start this by saying that Suburban Urchins will appeal to fans of The Kinks. This rough-and-tumble outfit from Tasmania isn’t about smooth edges, but bringing the goods in the form of an iron-fisted right cross.
4000 Miles Away begins with a wind-up, propelled by big drums and power chords. With literally energy for miles, it leads way to I Don’t Wanna Go, an isolation song that’s a real fist-pumper. Scott Riley’s vocals and guitar are perfectly supplemented by the keys of Ernie Oppenheimer, who deftly sprinkles synth and Farfisa throughout.
My fave of the set is the anthemic No More Black Dogs, which feels right out of The Davies’ Brothers playbook, in all the right ways.
Paul McCartney brings his own namesake trilogy to a close with McCartney III. With most of the world in lockdown mode in 2020, Macca split his time between days at his recording studio, and evenings with his daughter and grandkids.
I’m a big fan of the first two installments of the trilogy, the first producing Every Night and Maybe I’m Amazed, the latter, Coming Up and Waterfalls. Working by oneself can produce results far different that a full band effort, and I think McCartney flourishes in this setting.
The instrumentation, which relies predominantly on acoustic instruments, is the perfect stage for Sir Paul’s now-weathered vocals. Find My Way is a peppy number fuel by harpsichord and guitar riffs that mimmic horn stabs. Lavatory Lil and Slidin’ are a couple of top-notch rockers, and Winter Bird/When Winter Comes is a pretty acoustic musing, and one of McCartney’s best.
All around, this is a really pleasant listen. With vibes to spare and a lot of really strong songs, I can’t recommend McCartney III enough.
The undeniable sign of a great release? Repeat listens. I’ll bet that in the past two days, I’ve listened to this e.p. at least ten times. From the first verse of the opener, the rambling Let’s Pretend, to the fadeout of the pretty Alien Eyes, I was comfortably hooked.
Cliff Hillis sounds remarkably like Bill Lloyd, who you know I’m partial to. These six tracks are nestled somewhere between the feisty Americana of Cracker and the always-reliable Tom Petty, but without any Southern vocal affectation. Hillis’s friendly, warm voice is perfectly accompanied by the contrast of crisp acoustic guitars and rougher electrics. The production is absolutely on-point.
Life Gets Strange was released in 2020, and I sincerely regret not hearing it earlier. It certainly would have made my year-end-best list. Highly Recommended.
Chuck Berry “Run Rudolph Run” (1958) Stamped with the late great fretmaster’s characteristic cycling chord patterns, “Run Rudolph Run” urges the iconic reindeer with the shiny nose to hurry up and get those presents to the good little boys and girls. “All I want for Christmas is a rock and roll electric guitar,” sings Chuck, which sixty-odd years later remains a staple on many a wish list.
Wizzard “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” (1973) Fronted by Roy Wood – whose previous claims to fame included posts with The Move and Electric Light Orchestra – Wizzard were key players on the British glam rock scene of the early seventies. Triggered by the ding of a cash register and clanking coins, “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” is bundled tight in a glossy package, booming with glistening melodies and the elated pitch of a children’s choir.
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers “Christmas All Over Again” (1992) Gleaming and streaming with Tom’s signature southern drawl and jangling guitar motifs, “Christmas All Over Again” is so giddy that even Scrooge would enjoy the song. Perky piano passages and a quickie drum solo are icing on the sugar cookie.
George Thorogood and The Destroyers “Rock And Roll Christmas” (1983) So festive is “Rock And Roll Christmas” that you can almost taste the eggnog and kisses under the mistletoe dripping from the grooves. Accented by the duel drive of George’s rehashed Chuck Berry riffs and the bellowing bray of a saxophone, here’s a song geared for cutting the rug with a goofy grin on your face.
The Kinks “Father Christmas” (1977) From the witty pen and fertile imagination of Kinks lead singer Ray Davies, “Father Christmas” is a darkly humorous narrative of a department store Santa Claus who is mugged by a gang of juvenile thugs. The kids don’t want “silly toys,” they want money. Contagiously hooky, “Father Christmas” is set to a lively cadence that belies the tragic storyline.
The Waitresses “Christmas Wrapping” (1981) The holidays are stressing her out and she is spending Christmas alone, yet that only skims the surface of “Christmas Wrapping,” which additionally shares the tale of meeting a fellow earlier in the year. Phone numbers were exchanged, but schedules didn’t match so they were unable to get together. She coincidentally bumps into the guy while grocery shopping for cranberry sauce, and you can guess what happens from there. A fusion of funk, disco and rap, compounded by a new wave quirkness stand as the exciting elements behind “Christmas Wrapping” that entail red hot horn arrangements, nimble six-string strumming and cool vocals tending to border on talking rather than singing.
Stevie Wonder “Someday At Christmas” (1967) A teenage Stevie Wonder executes “Someday At Christmas” in an easygoing manner, rich with warmth and maturity that confutes his youth. Shaped of a spiritual nature, the gorgeous song contains prose visualizing a Utopian existence on earth, where peace, love, social and racial unity, and the absence of war are a reality. Illuminated by vibrant vocals, catchy harmonica fills and a spot of elegant orchestration, “Someday At Christmas” dispatches a positive message with honesty and integrity.
Bob Seger and The Last Heard “Sock It To Me Santa” (1966) Prior to obtaining worldwide recognition with the Silver Bullet Band, Bob Seger experienced an impressive amount of regional acclaim in and around the Michigan area, where he hailed from. Stealing the core lick of James Brown’s funk classic, “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” – not to mention its title but changing the lyrics to “Santa’s got a brand new bag” – Bob Seger and The Last Heard created a rousing ruckus of garage rocking blue-eyed soul in the mold of Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels. Name checking reindeer, a reference to Santa’s tubby tummy and wanting a baseball bat and bike for Christmas are some of the things covered in the fast-paced sonic stocking stuffer. Ho ho ho!
The Blues Magoos “Jingle Bells”/”Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (1967) The psychedelic lollipopsters deliver a double whammy on this smashing single featuring unusual versions of traditional Christmas songs. Thudding with power, “Jingle Bells” echoes the hard and heavy rock of Vanilla Fudge, where “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” swings and swaggers to a jazzy bent.
I was thinking the other day about the first albums I owned by a number of acts that would become Fave Raves, one album purchase leading to another, and another, and another. Not counting records that belonged to my siblings (but which I played anyway), I can’t remember my first Beatles album; I suspect it was a second-hand acquisition of Rubber Soul, though it may have been a tie between Introducing The Beatles and Let It Be, both of which I received as gifts one Christmas morning in the ’70s. I inherited my brother’s copies of the first two Monkees LPs, and eventually supplemented them with a flea market purchase of Headquarters and The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees.
Every love story begins with that very first kiss. I remember my first Velvet Underground (The Velvet Underground & Nico, used), my first Ramones (Ramones), Otis Redding (Live In Europe), KISS (Rock And Roll Over), Kinks (Kinks-Sized), Suzi Quatro (Suzi Quatro), Elvis Costello (My Aim Is True), Prince (1999), and best-of sets as introductions to The Troggs, The Turtles, The Raspberries, The Jackson 5, The Ventures, and Little Richard. Here are some others I remember:
THE ANIMALS: Best Of The Animals Well, talk about an ignominious start to my Animals collection. In the mid ’70s, my growing obsession with the music of the ’60s (especially of the British Invasion) retroactively made The Animals one of my favorite groups, albeit a decade after the fact. I borrowed my cousin Maryann’s copy of The Best Of The Animals, but I needed to officially add Eric Burdon and his comrades to my library. For Christmas of 1976, my parents directed me to pick out some LPs I’d want to receive as gifts. I spied this budget-priced Animals set on the racks at a department store in downtown Syracuse; even though I didn’t recognize any of the song titles, the cover photo grabbed me, so I figured it must be a collection of Animal tracks I didn’t know, but which might be on a par with my familiar favorites “It’s My Life” and “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.” Wrong! The perfunctory blues covers were not my cuppa, and this LP did not remain in my collection for long. (As a happy ending here, let me add that the other albums Mom and Dad gave me that Christmas included a real Animals best-of–a two-record set on Abkco–as well as The Beatles Featuring Tony Sheridan and The History Of British Rock Volume 2. Christmas was saved!)
THE BEACH BOYS: Endless Summer As a teenager, I had no real affinity for the music of The Beach Boys. Even speaking as an avid fan of The Monkees (an act the hipsters hated), I just thought The Beach Boys were square, uncool. Establishment. “Be True To Your School?” Come on…! But within that haze of smug dunderheadedness, I still had to concede that some of The Beach Boys’ hits transcended the four corners of what I perceived as their image. “Good Vibrations.” “Fun, Fun, Fun.” “Help Me, Rhonda.” “I Get Around.” My grudging awareness of the sheer quality of these tracks was sufficient motivation for me to add a record-club purchase of the 2-LP Endless Summer to my fledgling pop-rock stash, even though it didn’t incluse “Good Vibrations.” It didn’t immediately open my mind to the wonder of The Beach Boys, but I played it occasionally, and took it with me to college in the fall of ’77. My second Beach Boys album was Pet Sounds, which I purchased during the Spring ’78 semester because I’d become enthralled with “Sloop John B.” Even with an introduction to that true classic album, my acceptance and revelation would be deferred, and deferred by another freakin’ decade, fercryinoutloud. But it would come eventually. My teenage self would have been appalled to learn that his middle-aged incarnation loves The Beach Boys, but what did the younger me know anyway? He liked Kansas!
DAVID BOWIE: Pinups Man, what an odd place to start with Bowie. I had the “Changes” 45, but my first long-player by the former Mr. Jones was this collection of covers, purchased at a used record sale set up on campus, probably in 1978. My interest in Bowie was (at best) borderline at the time. Looking back, I’m sure I was drawn to Pinups by the presence of a cover of The Easybeats‘ “Friday On My Mind;” I’d been unable to score a copy of The Easybeats’ version, so I settled for Bowie as a substitute. Bowie’s rendition of “See Emily Play” was my second-hand introduction to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, and I appreciated that Bowie seemed to share my burgeoning affection for early Kinks and Who. Within another year or so, I would be listening intently to The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, and expand from there. Hadda start somewhere.
JOAN JETT: Joan Jett One could argue that this shouldn’t count; I was already a fan of Joan Jett when she was in The Runaways, and I owned most of that group’s albums prior to their split and Jett’s subsequent solo career. But as much as I loved the best of The Runaways, I was really stoked by Jett’s first solo album, and snagged it at my first opportunity. Issued as an eponymous album in 1980 and reissued as Bad Reputation in 1981, this record was an immediate Top Ten album for me, an irresistible biff-bang-POP of bubbleglam. A Bo Gentry–Joey Levine song called “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got” remains an undiscovered gem, and even the Gary Glitter covers are great. Opening track “Bad Reputation” sets the appropriate chip-on-the-shoulder/single-finger-in-the-air mise-en-scéne, and my daughter and I have an informal agreement to use that song as our father-daughter dance when she gets married. Because we don’t give a damn about our bad reputation.
TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS: You’re Gonna Get It Although I’d read about Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers in Phonograph Record Magazine, and adored hearing first-album track “American Girl” on the radio (all in 1977), it wasn’t until the summer of ’78 and the group’s second album that I felt compelled to participate in Pettymania. And I succumbed because Wolfman Jack told me to. Home from college for summer break, working part-time as a morning janitor at Sears, I had sufficient pocket change to buy records and see bands and buy more records. Win-win! Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers appeared on Midnight Special, the Friday night pop music TV showcase hosted by our gravel-voiced Wolfman Jack, and my jaw dropped at the sound of two new songs the group performed: “Listen To Her Heart” (which reminded me of The Searchers) and “I Need To Know” (which sounded like everything I ever wanted a rock ‘n’ roll song to sound like). I didn’t have my drivers license yet, so at the first opportunity, I asked my sister Denise to bring me to Penn Can Mall so I could buy the new Petty album, You’re Gonna Get It. Saying the album’s title out loud confused Denise, since she now thought I was hitting her up for a ride and demanding that she buy me a record. No, no–I’ve got pocket change, Denise! And I traded some of that pocket change for my first Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers album. There would be more to come. Get it? Got it. Good.
TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar! You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! Fans of pop music will want to check out Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, a new pop compilation benefiting SPARK! Syracuse, the home of This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl. TIR’N’RR Allstars–Steve Stoeckel, Bruce Gordon, Joel Tinnel, Stacy Carson, Eytan Mirsky, Teresa Cowles, Dan Pavelich, Irene Peña, Keith Klingensmith, and Rich Firestone–offer a fantastic new version of The Kinks’ classic “Waterloo Sunset.” That’s supplemented by eleven more tracks (plus a hidden bonus track), including previously-unreleased gems from The Click Beetles, Eytan Mirsky, Pop Co-Op, Irene Peña, Michael Slawter (covering The Posies), and The Anderson Council (covering XTC), a new remix of “Infinite Soul” by The Grip Weeds, and familiar TIRnRR Fave Raves by Vegas With Randolph, Gretchen’s Wheel, The Armoires, and Pacific Soul Ltd. Oh, and that mystery bonus track? It’s exquisite. You need this. You’re buying it from Futureman.
Gretchen’s Wheel is a well-established favorite here at Pop-A-Looza HQ. On You Should Know, a preview track from the upcoming Lp, Such Open Sky, we get a crunchy bit of pop that would feel at home on a Fountains Of Wayne long-player. While we await the official release, we’re content to spin this track over and over. And over. And over.
Marshall Holland/When The Rain Comes
From one of the best Lp’s of 2020 (Paper Airplane), When The Rain Comes, by Marshall Holland. It’s a nifty, buoyant little number that feels like a dream collab between Tom Petty and Beck. Holland’s always-earnest vocals lushly surround the chorus hook that your ears have been searching for. The rest of Paper Airplane is just as wonderful.
Yes, THAT Katrina! She’s still walking on sunshine, with her swell new single, Drive. Her voice is in great shape, and this rockin’ single is a must-have for your summer (what’s left of it) soundtrack. Our staff loves this tune, and you will, too!
The American South has no greater ambassador of guitar-driven pop than Bill Lloyd, Tom Petty’s origins notwithstanding. Don’t Kill The Messenger, the title track from Lloyd’s latest long-player, is an anthem for truth tellers everyone, scorned for stating the obvious. Wrapped in layers of guitars that have both power and jangle, it’s irresistible to our ears, here at Pop-A-Looza HQ.
Columnist Beverly Paterson introduced most of us to Marshall Holland, and, boy, has his track Paper Airplane become our office’s ear- worm of the moment. Holland’s vocals have a floating feel to them, giving this a song a warmth that is equal parts James Taylor and Beck. We will be digging into the rest of his catalog shortly!
Honeychain’s Spaceman reminds us a whole lot of the indie scene in Chicago in the early 1990’s. If you would’ve told us that it was a great lost Veruca Salt single from ’92, we’d believe you. Powerhouse guitars and drums propel this top-notch rocker, buoyed by Hillary Burton’s nonchalant vocal. Aces.
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.
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.
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.
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.