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Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

Archive for the tag “Lisa Mychols”

Christmas Without Cancer: Great Tunes, Even Better Cause

Christmas Without Cancer

Dan Pavelich wears many hats. He’s a singer, guitarist, journalist and cartoonist. He runs the indie label, Vandalay Records. He’s previously released three sets of holiday fundraiser CDs under the Hi-Fi Christmas Party banner.

This year, Pavelich has put together a collection of original (and sometimes exclusive) power popping Christmas tunes called Christmas Without Cancer. He explained the rationale behind the collection on an Indiegogo crowdfunding page earlier this year:

Only a few months ago, we lost a cousin to cancer. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time cancer has struck our family. My wife, daughter & I have also seen several friends diagnosed, though, thankfully, they received the miraculous recoveries that so many pray for every day . . .

As I have often done in the past, I have turned to my fellow musicians for help. Surely, I thought, we could raise some money, raise awareness and raise some holiday spirits, too. A holiday CD called ‘Christmas Without Cancer’ is how I hope to do this. Everyone involved has generously donated their music, looking for nothing in return, beyond being a part of the healing, answers and hope that so many families are in need of. 100% of the proceeds from the sales of the CD are going to The American Cancer Society.

I proudly contributed to the funding of the CD, and the results are superb. Several of the artists involved — The Grip Weeds, Michael Carpenter, Lisa Mychols, Brandon Schott — have been discussed many times previously on this blog.

I have yet to hear a “bad” Lisa Mychols song. Her contribution here, “In Love With Love,” is a bittersweet mid-tempo rocker about long-distance yearning during the holidays that sounds anything but maudlin thanks to Mychols’ bright and shiny vocals and the track’s chiming guitars:

Carpenter delivers a previously released track, the joyful “Wake Me Up When Its Christmas Time.” I mention it here, in part, because it features a glockenspiel, which has become almost de riguer to be mentioned on this blog of late. It also has a cool and breezy feel, perfect for listening while wrapping gifts:

The “fun” and the “breezy” is perennial on this collection, anyway. Who can possibly resist bopping to the beat of Frank Royster applying his cool vocals to the Power-Pop-meets-bachleor-pad romp, “Christmas Is Fun”?:

Pavelich, himself, checks in with his own project, The Click Beetles, on the equally joyful “So Glad Its Christmas”:

The disk also delivers a “California Christmas” and a “Kenosha Christmas.” Its penultimate track, Bill Lloyd’s acoustic “Day After Christmas,” about “cleaning up and throwing out the messes you’ve made”– you know, turkey bones, beer bottles, miscreant friends — is, at bottom, all about hope and new beginnings.

And that’s the purpose behind the disk — hope, new beginnings and, of course, healing. So go right here or here, and get fifteen stellar pop songs for a mere $12. They will fill your house with Christmas cheer while you help to fight cancer. You can’t beat that.

In the meantime, check out full versions of some of the other cool tracks in the collection:

Brandon Schott’sWinter In The Sun“.

Mimi Betinis’A Christmas Song“.

Sgt. Popgrass’If I’m Not Home For Christmas“.

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Late Summer “Mini” Reviews

Time does have a tendency to fly away. Here are some short takes on some of the best albums of 2013 that have been recently spinning on my music device:

Eric Barao, Eric Barao: Barao’s lushly produced debut album recalls Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom with its swirling melodies, complex arrangements, occasional instrumental flourishes and tales of broken hearts. The lead track, “On Holiday,” with its tension-release structure and Barao’s strong vocals, is a candidate for song of the year:

 

Nick Piunti, 13 In My Head: Piunti’s debut evokes one of my other all-time favorites, The Replacements. He employs a more basic approach. Bass, guitars and drums propel succinct bursts of timeless powerpop that could have been recorded at any time since 1972. Piunti’s Paul Westerberg-meets-Faces-era-Rod-Stewart vocals, and pitch-perfect backing harmonies, should make this a car stereo favorite for years to come. Selecting a “best” song is difficult — there is not a misfire among the ten tracks — but the mid-tempo “On the Way Out” is a good place to start:

 

The Dead Girls, Fade In/Fade Out: Think Big Star, but about a dozen pounds heavier. Fade In/Fade Out has all of the requisite melodic rock elements discussed throughout this site, but amped up with big riffs and occasionally even bigger percussion. “Find Your Way To Me (Oh My Soul)” is the best six-minute plus song Big Star never recorded. For good measure, the band closes the collection with a perfect, harmony-filled cover of Chris Bell’s enduringly beautiful “You And Your Sister”:

 

Scott Brookman, Smellicopter: Brookman has been quietly self-releasing sunny pop gems for quite some time. His 2000 release, For Those Who Like POP, has gotten quite a few spins on iPhone. Smellicopter, though, is his best excursion to date into Beach Boys/Bacharach territory. The second track, “Summer’s Two Weeks Notice” might be the best exemplar of Brookman’s basic style with its decidedly Pet Sounds vibe, but I’m kind of partial to more jaunty “Very Anne”:

 

Lisa Mychols, Above Beyond & In Between: I’ve written previously about Mychols as a member of the Masticators and Nushu. Her third solo album is a perfect distillation of everything that was once great about AM radio, transported to 2013. Its twelve tracks of non-stop hooks and melodies that would sound great on a long, sunny day at the beach. It proudly flashes its influences, but is no mere nostalgia project. A proper, well-produced video for the terrific ballad “Ferris Wheel” can be found here, but Mychols’ own homemade, low-fi clip for the upbeat “Foolin’ The World” is far more endearing:

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So, there’s five of my favorite albums of 2013. Each are worthy of extended play. Tell me what you think.

The Masticators Doing That 60s AM Rock Radio Thing

My profile on a now-defunct site said that one of my earliest memories of music involved sitting in the backseat of my parents’ avocado green late-60s Chevy Malibu listening endlessly to 93KHJ while stuck in traffic in Los Angeles. The Chevy Malibu, with its black top and black vinyl seats, looked like this:

Chevrolet Malibu, Late-1960s

KHJ ruled the roost in Los Angeles for many years. Its Boss Radio format was copied all over the country:

On May 3, 1965, KHJ was the site chosen for the birth of the new format designed by Bill Drake and Gene Chenault. Ron Jacobs was selected as the first Program Director. BOSS RADIO utilized a tight rotation, top drawer talent, and the elimination of almost all non-essential talk. The Johnny Mann Singers’ jingles didn’t hurt either. Within months, the format spread from coast to coast, and Boss Radio was the king in most markets.

The blogsite 93 KHJ/Boss Radio collects an abundant amount of old Boss Radio material, including images of the station’s weekly Top 30 “Records In Southern California.” These weekly Top 30 lists were available for years “wherever records are sold.” Back then, that included department stores. I remember picking them up at the May Company on Pico Boulevard.

The top songs were, of course, played several times a day. Spending a lot of time in the car, or listening to KHJ at home with the flu, would sear those songs forever into your memory.

It wasn’t just repetition that glued those songs to your mind. It was also the nature of the two-and-a-half minute pop song of the-late 60s and early-70s. They were hooks and melody, hooks and melody, hooks and melody. They were intended to stay in your mind for hours, days and weeks.

Here is the Top 30 from February 22, 1967, as it appears on the Boss Radio siteKHJ Top 30.

“Happy Together” by The Turtles was No. 1.

“Ruby Tuesday” by The Rolling Stones was No. 3.

“There’s A Kind Of Hush/No Milk Today” by Herman’s Hermits was No. 7 (although “No Milk Today” is the vastly superior track).

“I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” by The Electric Prunes was No. 10.

“Gimme Some Lovin'” by The Spencer Davis Group was No. 17.

“(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet” by The Blues Magoos was No. 23.

The greatest double-sided single of all-time, “Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever,” debuted on the chart that week at No. 13.

The following week saw the debut on the chart of “Live” by The Merry-Go-Round, one of the greatest pieces of Southern California “sunshine pop” ever put to wax.

Just reading that list, and looking at other late-60s, early-70s lists on the Boss Radio site, will cause an endless number of songs to run through your mind for a very long time.

This all changed by the mid-70s. Melodic rock on the AM dial was replaced by Bloat Rock (Boston, Kansas, Supertramp), Cock Rock (Foreigner) and Plain Old Boring Rock (Bad Company). Kiss and Queen are certifiable geniuses in comparison. Punk and New Wave were cultural imperatives. They just had to happen.

Fast-forward to today. A company called Zikera has created a wonderful application for iOS and Windows 8 devices called “Groove.” Among other things, it sans your devices to create “Groovy Mixes” of songs that work well together based, in part, on data supplied by Last.fm users. It has become my most used “app” since it automatically creates an endless array of playlists.

I was driving to work the other day and a particular “Groovy Mix” played three consecutive songs that, combined, perfectly capture the essence of the melodic rock that comprised the Boss Radio of the late-60s and early-70s.

The aptly named “Pop Sound” by The Masticators came up first. The Masticators were a late-90s Los Angelers-based Power Pop band made up, in part, by Lisa Mychols, about whom I wrote recently. Futureman Records has issued a 33-track compendium of the band’s entire recorded output. Its worth checking out in its entirety for some of the tightest, most head-bopping-est Power Pop around. “Pop Sound” is just that — a joyous, three-chord celebration of rhythm and melody anchored by Mychols’ confident, sexy vocals and a driving, basic beat:

Next up was “Pete Ham” by Crash Into June, a tribute to the late Badfinger singer/songwriter/guitarist. It begins with this bit of resonance: “What’s that song it sounds like heaven/I heard it once when I was seven/You could say it reminds me of summer days/Summer days.” True that, true that. It continues shortly later: “It’s got the 60’s British feeling/Hooks that keep me on the ceiling/I hear it now, its got that pure infectious sound/It keeps my head all spinning around/Spinning around.”

“Pete Ham” is three-and-a-half minutes of pure jangle pop perfection:

The final song in my commuting trilogy was “She Dreams,” from Michael Carpenter’s 1999 debut Baby. “She Dreams” is perfect, joyful “sunshine pop” that gives “Live” a run for its money:

So, there you have it. The old AM rock radio groove hasn’t disappeared in these days of overly processed, mechanical dance pop. You just have to know where to find it. When you do, you will be transported to another place

Nushu’s “Precious To Me” Improves On A Classic

NushuIn its broadest sense, Power Pop is well-suited to the radio. The songs are short. They’re concise. They’re usually uncluttered. They favor harmony, melody and hooks over everything else. They eschew guitar noodling, drum solos and banshee-like singing. They don’t take themselves too seriously. Their goal is to bash around in your brain for hours and days on end.

Power Pop once was played on the radio, particularly in the early days of the “New Wave” of the late-70s and early-80s. The Knack, The Romantics, Cheap Trick and The Cars had several big hits back in the day.

In early-1981, the late Phil Seymour had his only American Top 40 hit with a brilliant two-minute, fifty-one second pop confection called “Precious To Me.” Its a fairly typical tale of love, hurt and longing. You know, a theme that has been done a gazillion times in pop music. But that, of course, is part of its charm. The other part of its charm is its wonderful, endlessly singable “call-and response” chorus, amid head-swaying drums and rhythm guitar:

That your precious to me (I love you so)
And I can’t let you go (Can’t let you go)
Baby one day you will see (Girl can’t you see)
That you’ll always be (You’ll always be)
So precious to me

The folks in the Southern California band Nushu — Lisa Mychols and Hilary Burton (more on Mychols in a piece to come) — had the extremely good sense and taste to cover “Precious To Me” in 2011, and contribute their version of the song to the 14th installment of the International Pop Overthrow series.

Nushu actually improves on Seymour’s original, which is quite an achievement, by widening the sound and adding a smooth, even-more-sunny-sunshine sheen to the proceedings. Their version will keep you popping and bopping as you drive around town with the top down. You should go get it, but you can listen to it right here:

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