Promise and The Bloodhounds

Promise

Promise “Promise” 2015 Remastered Edition

It’s rare that a lost power pop treasure like this gets dusted off and given an opportunity to shine. Promise was a little known band, originally issued in 1980 on the Boulder, Colorado, area band’s own Cumulus label, their eponymous debut is filled with melodic, beatific blasts of pure Beatlesque pop, replete with ringing, jangly guitars, and rollicking crunch. Co-led by singer-songwriter’s/guitarists Curt Mangan and Danny Mey—with bassist Randy Jones and drummer Gary York—the group was out of step with the new wave trends at the time, opting instead for a timeless rock sound.

Without a doubt Promise is a classic that deserves to be re-discovered. “Say Alright” is eerily like Badfinger with its boogie baseline and jangling rhythm. “Back in My Heart” has a great acoustic strum and Mangan sounds like Emmit Rhodes here. The vaguely Genesis-like prog ballad of “Guitar” is a sweet curve, and “Later On Tonight” brings more Badfinger comparisons. “Hands of Luck” is probably the catchiest single, with its thrilling chorus. The remaining tracks don’t reach these heights, but are consistently very good. The remastering is done from the original master tapes, and it sounds great. For the power pop fan this is manna from heaven.

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Got Kinda Lost Records

The Bloodhounds

The Bloodhounds “Let Loose”

A big thanks to Dave “The Boogieman” for turning me on to this classic retro band. Starting with “Indian Highway” its a mix of rockabilly, blues and catchy rhythm that sets the stage for this LP. Then the tempo speeds up on “Wild Little Rider” with its blues harmonica, you’ll hear a mix of Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Bo Diddley all wrapped up in a neat package. Equally powerful is the echoing reverb on the bass guitar riff for “Saint Dee.”

Next the band gets inventive on “Dusty Bibles and Silver Spoons” with a simple lo-fi production, using kitchen pots and spoons as percussion instruments. They even use an old player piano for the dancehall ditty “Hey Lonnie,” but bar room R&B is what this band delivers more than anything else. I couldn’t find a really bad track, so if you want a little honky tonk mixed in your rock, this one is highly recommended.

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Terry Manning and The Soulphonics

Terry Manning

Terry Manning “Heaven Knows”

If Terry Manning’s name sounds familiar it may be that he’s been one of the the most respected engineers and producers in music history — Led Zeppelin III, the first two Big Star records, Al Green, ZZ Top, the Staple Singers, Albert King, Shakira, Lenny Kravitz, and hundreds more have had Manning involved in their work. After a quirky, trippy solo LP in 1970 Manning dedicated his life to the engineers sound board until his 2013 tribute to Bobby Fuller “West Texas Skyline” which was mostly covers. With “Heaven Knows” we get to hear more originals, and Manning has amazing talent as both a songwriter and instrumentalist.

The Beatlesque opener “It’s You (Beacon)” has a great catchy bridge with some wonderful Harrison-like guitar fuzz in the solo. The title track,“Heaven Knows” makes use of an smooth orchestral opening, and the vocal overdubbing emulates the harmonies of the late-era Beach Boys. The next several tracks gravitate to this style, the slow pacing and layered production make this a sweet single, and “Look at Me (Everything About You)” keeps thing moving along with its light joyful melody. “Things are Gonna Be Fine” is another romantic pop ballad with a bright sax solo. Appropriately, Terry gives us a reverent cover of Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows,” and another winner here is the fifties ballad “Oh My Love” which would easily fit on a Grease-themed soundtrack. A few more covers (Al Green, Otis Redding, and Jerry Lieber) till we get to the tropical “Life Is Good (‘Cause URU)” with its laid back calypso rhythm. Highly Recommended.

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Heart Full of Soulphonics

The Soulphonics “Heart Full of Soulphonics”

Led by  guitarist-vocalist Glen Worley its straightforward pop-rock songs driven by jangling guitars set in the mid 1960’s style. Worley and his drummer Kevin “The Skindriver” Connolly are veteran musicians who’ve been playing together for over 25 years in a variety of musical styles and both played last years IPO in Austin.

The clean jangle of “A Million Times” makes a great start, with its crisp chorus and Byrdisan riffs. Glen’s vocals sound alot like Sal Valentino (The Beau Brummels,) on the mid tempo “The Letter Home.” Then we meet “Gwendolyn,” another early standout about a girl with “eyes of blue neon” and “Slipped” picks up the tempo. If there is a fault here, its that many songs tend to blend into each other and the hooks don’t always stick. Thankfully, the band goes off script with the rockabilly gem “Heartbreak In the First Degree,” and Worley really gets to show off his guitar licks. “Those Are The Breaks” is another driving Texas rhythm that encourages repeat listens. Fans of great jangle-pop shouldn’t miss this one.

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CD Baby

Yorktown Lads and Watts

Songs About Girls and Other Disasters

Yorktown Lads “Songs About Girls and Other Disasters”

The buzz for this release was so long in coming, that many added it to their 2014 best-of list. It started as a Kickstarter campaign, endorsed by author & drummer John Borack, it was quickly funded and finally released to the public this year.

Yorktown Lads are Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts grads Cameron Lew, Addison Love, and their teacher Michael Simmons (SparkleJets*u.k.). They start off with a note perfect Beatles-Beach Boys hybrid “Something To Write About,” that will knock your socks off. The album doesn’t stay retro but it stays melodic; “Before You Leave” is a laid back Belle and Sebastian styled pop that sticks in your head nicely. “La La” is the textbook template of a great power pop song; an upbeat and catchy melody about giving up on love until you meet that perfect girl. This is one example amongst many. The styles vary from the sullen pep talk “Dear Ethan” to louder Cheap Trick riffs of “He Got It Down” and “Cool Shoes, Bro.”

While not everything here works (“Make Her Smile” is eerily like The Spin Doctors,) most of this album hits the mark and earns its 2015 “best of ” nomination. Don’t miss it!

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Watts

Watts “Flash of White Light”

When we last heard Watts, it was an impressive collection Stones-y rockers similar to The Doughboys or The Satisfactors.  Glad to hear things haven’t changed much, its still straight-up rock n’ roll full of hot licks and high-powered riffs, with more of a modern nod to bands like Aerosmith and AC/DC. While the opening title track is traditional, “The Mess is The Makeup” has a heavier rock vibe. “Sidewinder” has a touch of Allman Brothers or Bob Segar in its DNA with some awesome guitar work here.

The tendency of heavy rock is to get ponderous, but Watts avoids this with catchy riffs like on “Wasted Angels” and also smartly trying different lead vocalists for many of the songs. Between John Blout, Dan Kopko, and drummer Johnny “Rock” Lynch you never fall into predictability. More highlights include “Better (For A Girl Like You)” and the very Guns ‘N Roses inspired “Flying Over With Bombs.” Check’em out now!

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The Power Popaholic Interview: Jonathan Rundman

JRwhiteT2014

We reviewed Jonathan’s album “Look Up” earlier this year, but I wanted to get the inside scoop on a man who’s gone from Finnish folk to rock and roll. Rundman’s been a musician for a long time, so this was a very insightful interview. Read about the Jonathan Rundman interview here.

Colman “Play To Lose”

Colman play to lose

Colman is the solo project from former member of Insanity Wave, Colman Gota. Recorded with the help of Mitch Easter (REM). It’s got a solid Tom Petty vibe (his vocals are similar in style too), Colman does a great job on the opener “Bad Rerun” with hooks all over the place. “Hospital Bed” is equally impressive with a swirling guitar and organ during the chorus. The title track starts with a “twilight zone” intro that leads to the thick guitar riffs.

Most of the album goes through a narrative of facing the adversities of life, on “Straight Face” it suggests you run and hide from it all. About mid-way through it talks about watching life pass you by on “No Other Way” with steel petal guitar. “Just Around The Corner” is another good guitar tune about waiting for your luck to change, but the structure of many songs are similar. A little more variety would’ve helped, but this is still a really good album that deserves multiple spins.

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