Although their U.S. label, Burger Records, collapsed in a heap of sexual abuse allegations, the joyous power pop of this four-piece Southern California band survives on CD, vinyl, cassette (!), and digital download. With their electric guitars leading the way, the Reflectors harmonize on lyrics of attraction, desire, longing, doubt, frustration, loss and heartache; all with the hormonal urgency of teenage years. The rhythm section pounds away as the guitars charge things up with just enough distortion to contrast with the hurt and anxiety of James Carmanâ€™s vocals. All thatâ€™s missing is a tear-stained ballad, as the band doesnâ€™t really drop the tempo between the opening â€œAct a Fool,â€ and the closing â€œCaught Me Off Guard.â€ Perhaps their upbeat ways earned them the label â€œpop punk,â€ but their melodicism lands them squarely in the power pop camp. Fans of the Nerves, Beat, Wonders, 20/20, Shoes, Material Issue, Knack, Undertones, and other pop luminaries will find a lot to sing along with here. Also check out their recent live release! [Â©2020 Hyperbolium]
Although one might connect the pop sounds of KEYS latest album to their earlier incarnation as the indie band Murry the Hump, the bubblegum-styled opener â€œThis Side of Luvâ€ was no doubt transported through a tartan-patterned fissure in the space-time continuum; itâ€™s worthy of segueing between Nick Loweâ€™s â€œBay City Rollers We Love Youâ€ and â€œRollers Show.â€ The psychedelia of the bandâ€™s previous album, Bring Me the Head of Jerry Garcia, can be heard in the moody organ of â€œCargoesâ€ and the Dukes of the Stratosphere-styled â€œLeave Your Mind Behind,â€ but glam is the touchstone for â€œTrick of the Light,â€ and the powerpop of Badfinger and Teenage Fanclub for â€œPhasesâ€ and â€œThe Strain.â€
All of these influences were perfectly compressed into the hissy four-track cassette deck the band used for this home-sheltered recording, giving the album an instant, unfussy feel. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the title track, with its mechanical rhythm and pandemic-inspired childrenâ€™s voices tracking, interrupting, and finally derailing the session. The closing instrumental â€œPressure Cookerâ€ wigs out in the manner of Arthur Brownâ€™s Kingdom Come and early Pink Floyd, offering a capstone to a wonderfully engaging album recorded in involuntary social captivity.Â [Â©2020 Hyperbolium]
Originally released in 1982 amid the MTV/New Wave boom, this San Francisco bandâ€™s only full-length album shared some of the boomâ€™s pop sensibilities, but with a craft that was more musically rich than its video-enhanced counterparts. Hayesâ€™ roots in jazz might have informed some of the chords and harmonies, but her musical training never hindered the albumâ€™s pop joy, finding expression in a depth of songwriting that was often missing from the mainstream. The bandâ€™s indie label (Slash) and its corporate distributor (Warner Brothers) failed to turn any of the albumâ€™s tracks into hit singles (though â€œGirls Like Meâ€ and â€œShellyâ€™s Boyfriendâ€ both appeared on the soundtrack of Valley Girl), and Slash dropped the band after this album. A follow-up EP, Brave New Girl, was self-released in 1984, and marked the end of a surprisingly short run for a group whose debut was so brimming with life, and whose songwriter proved to have a great deal more to say (notably penning â€œHave A Heartâ€ and â€œLove Letterâ€ for Bonnie Raittâ€™s Nick of Time).
The original album was reissued in 2007 by Wounded Bird, but is augmented here by the follow-up EP, the pre-LP single version of â€œShellyâ€™s Boyfriendâ€ (and its flip â€œRochambeau,â€ released as The Punts), and a trio of demos that failed to make the album. The debut opens with the exuberant one-two punch of â€œGirls Like Meâ€ and the cautionary sibling shout-out â€œShellyâ€™s Boyfriend.â€ Hayesâ€™ slow piano intro doesnâ€™t tip off the punchy rhythm of â€œSeparating,â€ and her organ and coy vocal give â€œDum Funâ€ a hint of new wave before her solo and Paul Davisâ€™ scorching guitar give the throwaway-titled song some soulful musical heft. The original â€œCoverageâ€ would find subsequent cover on David Crosbyâ€™s 1993 release Thousand Roads, giving Hayesâ€™ songwriting the exposure its lyrics seemed to beg for.
The follow-up EP is highlighted by the wondrous impressions of â€œAfter Hoursâ€ and the closing â€œNight Baseball,â€ the latter of which Hayes characterizes as a â€œmulti-meter modal extravaganza about my love affair with San Francisco.â€ The pre-LP Punts single is a treat whose lack of distribution made it a rarity. The earlier version ofÂ â€œShellyâ€™s Boyfriendâ€ is taken at a slower tempo that is less anxious with its advice than the album take. The B-side pairs a lovely vocal with an unusual rhythm and a dash of Hayesâ€™ jazz background in the instrumental passage. The collectionâ€™s demos were recorded by the pre-Wild Combo Punts (including producer Steve Savage on drums), and though a bit more punk rock in attitude than what ended up on the album, itâ€™s not hard to imagine how these songs might have fit. Altogether, this is a terrific upgrade to Wounded Birdâ€™s straight-up album reissue, and the place to start if you missed the album in its previous incarnations. [Â©2020 Hyperbolium]
San Franciscoâ€™s Pop-O-Pies may have been one of punk rockâ€™s most melodic bands. Punk in attitude more than sound, but punk nonetheless. They alienated and then enthralled early audiences by playing a set that consisted entirely of the Grateful Deadâ€™s â€œTruckinâ€™,â€ and wrote original songs that sarcastically appraised Catholics and cast cops as donut eating fascists. A 1983 opening slot for Iggy Pop in Seattle so agitated the crowd that by the time the headliner appeared the mood was incredibly dark; fittingly, Popâ€™s set ended in 30 minutes after some stage-dancing audience members toppled the speaker stack into the crowd.
The bandâ€™s debut, the six-song The White EP, was a college radio staple, with two versions of â€œTruckinâ€™â€ (one pop-punk, the other styled like â€œRapperâ€™s Delightâ€), an ode to Timothy Leary (which the LSD guru apparently took to playing at his public appearances), the hard-driving rhythm guitar monotone â€œFascists Eat Donuts,â€ sing-song reggae â€œThe Catholics Are Attacking,â€ and punk-styled lament â€œAnna Ripped Me Off.â€ The Pop-O-Pies simultaneously take the piss out of both their subjects and their listeners with songs that are funny, ironic, serious, irreverent, pointed and catchy, all at the same time.
The 2020 reissue puts the complete debut EP in digital form for the first time, and adds seven bonuses, including the poison apple â€œI Love New York,â€ a sardonic, Minutemen-styled â€œA Political Songâ€ (and its acoustic reprise), the grungy â€œSlow and Ignorantâ€ and the hallucinogenic collage â€œLenny in Wonderland.â€ The added tracks show off Joe Pop-O-Pieâ€™s range (as did subsequent albums), but having the six songs of the original EP back in print is the real prize here. [Â©2020 Hyperbolium]
Jangly guitars? Check. Catchy melodies? Check. Broken hearts and vocal harmonies? Check and check. Three discs filled to the brim with three hours and forty-five minutes of pop (power and otherwise) recorded in studios and bedrooms all around the world. After a couple of volumes on the Del Fi label, more than a decade on Not Lame, and another seven volumes on Bruce Bordeenâ€™s purpose-built Pop Geek Heaven, IPO bestowed its annual compilation (which became a triple-disc affair with volume five) on Omnivore with volume twenty-one. The latest collection, featuring bands that have played the annual IPO festival, and some that have not, is a solid entry in the series. 69 tracks that include a few luminaries (Bird Streets, Peter Holsapple, Van Duren, Kimberly Rew, and others), and a load of bands you may not have heard of.
There are too many highlights to name them all, but standouts include the joyously wordy verses and harmony choruses of Peckerâ€™s â€œThey Painted With Their Fingers,â€ the Popdudesâ€™ dance floor-filling cover of the Wondersâ€™ â€œDance With Me,â€ Wolf Circusâ€™ compassionate indie pop â€œI Will Answer,â€ the Posersâ€™ Beach Boys-tinged psych â€œThe Time and Place,â€ the magical mix of Rain Paradeâ€™s drone and Simon & Garfunkelâ€™s duet harmony on Harrison Clockâ€™s â€œDivine,â€ the catchy rhythm guitar on the Brothers Steveâ€™s delicious bubblegum â€œShe,â€ the Knack tribute sounds of Japanâ€™s The Sharona on their original â€œOh My Girl,â€ the full-throated harmonies and drippy guitar of Three Hour Tourâ€™s â€œLonely Place,â€ the Pat Benetar power of Slybootsâ€™ â€œThe Fall,â€ the twin lead guitars and emotional rebirth of the Jeremy Bandâ€™s â€œJoy Comes in the Morning,â€ the grungy psych of the Anderson Councilâ€™s â€œLord Cornelius Plum,â€ the aptly named Zombies of The Stratosphereâ€™s groovy cover of Billy Nicholls‘ (and Dana Gillespieâ€™s) â€œLondon Social Degree,â€ and the Last Hurrahâ€™s set-ending â€œSaturday in the Sunshine.â€
Most of the tracks are rabbit holes into band websites, Facebook and Bandcamp pages, YouTube videos, digital downloads, CDs, vinyl singles, scene reports and info on related bands. This set is both a sampler of each bandâ€™s wares and a link to their catalogs; itâ€™s a great spin on its own, but even better as a guide to bands youâ€™d like to get to know. IPO founder David Bash and with his wife, Rina Bardfield, distill hundreds of audition tapes to select acts for the festival, and distill the festival lineup even further to fill these three discs (which, incredibly, fit into a standard-sized jewel case). The four page booklet includes band lineups, production credits and website URLs, but no background info – this is left for the listener to discover. But the music is great, and will motivate you to find out more about your favorites, of which there will be many. [Â©2020 Hyperbolium]
Though originally released in Europe as a vinyl EP, this domestic maxi-single CD was out just in time to greet Britainâ€™s exit from the EU. Jah Wobble is joined by his forner PiL bandmates, Richard Dudanski and Keith Levene, fronted by the Pop Groupâ€™s Mark Stewart, augmented by loops from Primal Screamâ€™s Andrew Anderall, and produced by Martin Glover. The single is a hypnotic blend of Wobble and Dudanskiâ€™s rhythm lock, Leveneâ€™s buzzing guitar, and a vocal that rolls warnings, accusations, defenses, and dire prognostication into compact lyrics that echo the fragmentation and chaos of Britainâ€™s near term. The additional tracks on this maxi-single include a radio edit, a spacey dub, and a ska-fueled dub that adds loops and pushes the bass and drums forward. Apparently angst breeds fine art. [Â©2020 Hyperbolium]
San Francisco poet and singer Rod McKuen was as popular with the people as he was reviled by critics. The latter labeled his works schmaltzy and facile, while the former bought his books and records, and attended his readings and concerts in tremendous numbers. The gap between his lack of critical accolades and his surfeit of popular acclaim likely hinges on the resonance his plainspoken words of isolation and spirituality struck with an audience who might otherwise not read poetry. The raspy earnestness of his vocal performances was often parodied, but the loneliness that threaded through his songs struck a deep emotional chord with listeners, and his uplifting messages provided hope.
Despite the sales of his records, McKuenâ€™s chart success as a musical artist was limited; more successful were his songs, which were recorded by Oliver (â€œJeanâ€), Terry Jacks (â€œSeasons in the Sun,â€ an English translation of Jacques Brelâ€™s â€œLe Moribondâ€), Damita Jo (â€œIf You Go Away,â€ a translation of Brelâ€™s â€œNe Me Quitte Pasâ€), Perry Como (â€œI Think of You,â€ co-written with Frances Lai), Frank Sinatra (â€œLoveâ€™s Been Good for Meâ€), Perry Como (â€œI Think of Youâ€), the Kingston Trio (â€œAlly Ally, Oxen Freeâ€), Waylon Jennings (â€œDoesnâ€™t Anybody Know My Nameâ€), and many more. Other writings – notably â€œListen to the Warmâ€ and â€œA Cat Named Sloopyâ€ – remain fan favorites in both their original poetic form, and when subsequently set to song. The former is included here as a bonus track, the latter, unfortunately not.
This 1969 collection was unusual for its time, as rather than anthologizing existing recordings, McKuen re-recorded a hand-picked collection of his most popular songs with new arrangements by Arthur Greenslade. The album was among the most popular of his catalog, selling gold, but eventually falling out of print. A 1996 CD release by Laserlight also fell out of print, after which an anthology by Varese Sarabande filled the gap. But Real Gone has now reissued the 1969 album with original cover art and six added tracks, including McKuenâ€™s bittersweet theme song for the movie The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the late-night jazz love song â€œRock Gently,â€ and a duet with Petula Clark on the oft-covered â€œThe Importance of the Rose.â€ As when originally released in 1969, this collection is an excellent introduction to McKuenâ€™s popular charms as a poet and singer. [Â©2020 Hyperbolium]
The role of vintage Top 40 radio canâ€™t be understated in its influence and impact on the generation of musicians who grew up in the â€˜60s and â€˜70s. In the years before consultants balkanized commercial radio into genre islands, AM radio offered a regionally-influenced mix of pop, rock, folk, country and soul that fueled the taste and imagination of both listeners and artists. Olson grew up in Austin, Texas listening to long-gone (and now surprisingly obscure) KNOW-AM, taking in the wide variety of influences reflected in this eclectic collection of covers. This follow-up to 2013â€™s Have Harmony Will Travel cherrypicks Olsonâ€™s deep musical memories of the Buffalo Springfield, Searchers, Governor Jimmy Davis, David Allan Coe, and adds songs, such as the previously unrecorded â€œHaunting Me,â€ that she picked up in her musical travels.
Olson pairs herself with compatriots and idols that include Gene Clark, Percy Sledge, Peter Noone, Terry Reid, Mick Taylor and Mare Winningham. The album opens with the Long Rydersâ€™ Stephen McCarthy joining Olsen for a superb cover of Patty Lovelessâ€™ 1989 country hit â€œTimber, Iâ€™m Falling in Love.â€ Slowed to a deliberate tempo, the duet parlays the originalâ€™s ecstatic declaration into a mature, deep-gazing conversation of magnetic mutual attraction. For much of the album, Olson acts more as ringmaster than singing partner, drafting participants (including former Bee Geesâ€™ guitarist Vince Melouney for a gallop through Governor Jimmy Davisâ€™ â€œShackles & Chainsâ€), selecting song with the ears and heart of a music fan, singing harmonies and producing tracks.
As a producer, Olson fits the guests with songs, complimenting the pairings with nostalgia-tinged, guitar-based arrangements. Peter Noone rekindles the emotional throb of his early days with a cover of the Searchersâ€™ â€œGoodbye My Love,â€ and Olson provokes appealing contrast in pairing the gravel of Terry Reidâ€™s voice with the gentility of â€œScarlet Ribbons.â€ She joins Eagle Timothy B. Schmit and steel player Rusty Young for the Buffalo Springfield B-sideÂ â€œA Childâ€™s Claim to Fame,â€ and adds harmony to actress Mare Winninghamâ€™s fetching cover of Gene Clarkâ€™s â€œAfter the Storm.â€ The latter track, along with Percy Sledgeâ€™s â€œHonest as Daylight,â€ I See Hawks in L.A.â€™s â€œBossier City,â€ and Gene Clarkâ€™s â€œDel Gato,â€ were all previously released, but fit seamlessly among the newly recorded performances.
Olson pulled songwriter Jim Muske into the vocal booth to sing â€œHaunting Me,â€ a song he co-wrote with Pat Robinson for Phil Seymour, but left unrecorded with Seymourâ€™s passing in 1993. This collection has been percolating in Olsonâ€™s musical soul for years, as she made mental notes of songs and colleagues sheâ€™d like to pair. The result is a roadmap of Olsonâ€™s journey from listener to diehard fan to working musician, fusing her childhood memories and influences with the professional experience and colleagues she gained over the decades. Her ear for combining songs, singers and arrangements pays remarkable dividends in the joy of these vocal and instrumental blends, and provides a fine complement to the earlier volume. [Â©2020 Hyperbolium]
Relocated to Nashville, and with a band of friends and studio musicians behind him, sunshine pop mastermind Jason Brewer has released this album of covers songs in parallel to an eponymous album of original material. The titles are drawn from 1966-1968, and mix well-known hit singles with a few lesser known gems. Among the latter are Danny Huttonâ€™s pre-Three Dog Night â€œRoses and Rainbows,â€ the Zombiesâ€™ album track â€œMaybe After Heâ€™s Gone,â€ and Orpheusâ€™ 1968 single â€œCanâ€™t Find the Time.â€ Perhaps unsurprisingly, by picking material thatâ€™s so firmly in his musical wheelhouse, Brewer has left himself little room to stamp these covers as his own. Theyâ€™re not carbon copies, and Brewerâ€™s vocals (both lead and backing) provide a fresh alternative to the originals, but these songs are so deeply ingrained in his musical ethos that the covers canâ€™t help but trace the original templates. Brewerâ€™s taste in cover material is superb, and his craftsmanship is exquisite, but as interesting as it is to hear him essay some of his favorites, it doesnâ€™t hold the surprise of hearing his musical sensibility applied to original material. [Â©2020 Hyperbolium]
Jason Brewerâ€™s fourth album as the Explorers Club finds him relocated to Nashville and fronting friends and studio musicians, rather than a set band. The results show the strength of Brewerâ€™s musical vision as he expands well beyond the Pet Sounds / Smiley Smile stylings of earlier albums with 60s-tinged pop that flows with the airy feel of Boettcher, Bacharach, Usher and others. And he does so without landing hard on any one; there are echoes, such as the piano of â€œRubyâ€ drawing upon Three Dog Nightâ€™s â€œOneâ€ and vocals suggesting the Turtles; but, winningly, the songs never linger on any one influence long enough to be branded imitative. Brewer has so deeply internalized â€˜60s and â€˜70s pop that his creations are inevitably shaped by the eraâ€™s melodic, instrumental, vocal and production style, without overtly copying.
The album deftly combines guitar, bass and drums with rich vocal harmonies, strings and horns, the latter suggesting the Buckinghams on â€œOne Drop of Rain,â€ cooing coyly on â€œDonâ€™t Cry,â€ and turning boozy for â€œDreaminâ€™.â€ The album stretches into burning neo-psych for â€œSomewhere Else,â€ adding an extra touch of surreality with its oddly time-signatured breaks. The closing â€œLook to the Horizonâ€ has a timely, optimistic message of better days ahead, though with this album in hand (along with the companion volume of covers, To Sing and Be Born Again), listeners will find their mood improved today. [Â©2020 Hyperbolium]