Showing posts with label Pop Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pop Reviews. Show all posts


Rock-Pop Review: Bob Jones, Louis Jones, Stephen Peppos-50/80 50 Years in 80 Minutes

Release Date: December 23, 2019
Label: Sonic Bear Music

Interview With Band Is Included Below!

How does a group of musicians put 50 years of music into a single CD that lasts for 80 minutes? Just ask Bob Jones, Louis Jones, and Stephen Peppos. The title 50/80 50 Years in 80 Minutes lets you know straight away what you are in for.

On a separate note, I have covered several of Stephen’s New Age keyboard instrumental projects over the years and consider him to be one of the finest performers of instrumental music that I have heard.

This all started in the 60s when three boys in High School put a band together and then started writing and recording. One of the configurations was Stephen Peppos & Jones Straightjacket Band (tracks 1, 3, 8, 9, 12, 14, 19, 22, 24). There are extensive liner notes included with the CD so you get the whole story.

The 25 tracks cover a range of pop and rock that are indeed retro and if you listen intently you can identify which decade that they fit into. For instance, “High School Years #2” sounds very 60s and “Too Much To Bear” has some good guitar licks that reminded me of the late 70s to early 80s period. Then “Lalena” has a psychedelic trippy 60s Top 40 sensibility. These songs sound good enough to have been spinning regularly on radio stations and in fact, some did on a local level with station WKLX out of Virginia. “I Gotta Sing My Song” was one song that radio DJ Mike Deeson liked. To me, it felt like something that would have gone well with 70s TV shows like Love Boat or the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Only those old enough to remember will understand where I coming from once, they hear the tracks.

One of the tracks on solid ground that is good for any era is ”A Christmas Carol.” It features great vocals and some jangly acoustic guitar lines. Seasonal music does not define a period so when you first hear it, it fits no matter what.

As you make your way through this ambitious compilation, you realize why it took 2 years to get it all together. The variety is quite interesting. Form a Christmas song to the lyrics “Hell no we will not fade away” on “Boomers Anthem,” which is a recent recording from 2019, is accompanied by appropriate guitar lines and inspirational lyrics for all the rockers out there. For me that was one of the standout tracks and my favorite on the entire recording.

Influences from the Byrds To Paul Simon to Cream pepper all of these recordings. You get the feeling of originality bursting through with authority to more obscure live recording snippets on “Look Through Any Window.” “Kicks” is all 60s and one of the best tracks on the CD. It was a hit in 1966 for Paul Revere and the Raiders. The fact that they covered it so well was an indication of their all-around talent.

At first glance when you see 25 tracks you may think “Wow this is a lot of music” and it is a double album. The truth is they go by very quickly because some are short snippets of recordings to go along with other full-length tracks that cover some ground musically.

When I heard the first few tracks, I was thinking that I was not too crazy about them, just my opinion, and it does not mean someone else would not like them. But it just keeps getting better and you realize the entire point of this compilation. That thought was fleeting and forgotten in a matter of minutes.

50/80 50 Years in 80 Minutes is jam-packed with musical diversity and a snapshot of history over a long period. This group of young men had the talent to record all this music and although they did not become stars on a national level, they certainly showed that their talent could have taken them places most bands dream of. It is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. All of that aside, this is a valid musical statement showcasing the talents of the three main men involved.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
February 28, 2020

Review Provided By


Pop Review: Selena Gomez-Rare

Release Date: January 10, 2020
Label: Interscope Records
The new year means brand new music. However, January is typically light on the full-length masterpieces that grace our speakers and vinyl needles. While there still were not many big releases so far, Selena Gomez bursts into 2020 in defining herself during the upcoming next decade. The album maintains a positive tone inside Rare. The title track ushers in an old touch of ‘50s style music, getting the listener pumped up at the same time.

After a 3-year long hiatus from the music scene, her confidence exudes deep in the lyrics of tracks like “Vulnerable.” “Lose You to Love Me,” and “Dance Again.” You might as well dance all the way to track four, “Lose You to Love Me,” because it shifts into a self-reflection in still keeping with a positive, flowing attitude. From acoustic to mainstream Pop, “Ring” and “Vulnerable” respectively, give the listener a dose of two sides of the same coin with Gomez. We get some clever wordplay on “Ring” and, “Vulnerable” lets in traditional Top 40 elements.

“People You Know” keeps up with the mystical sound of the record as it’s not something many are used to hearing in a typical pop record. Feeling like I’ve entered a club all of the sudden, “Let Me Get Me” hits your eardrums with a ‘get on the floor and shake’ sensation. There are few tracks on Rare that give off an emotional or sensual tone, as it seems Selena seems to capture a more upbeat outlook for her mind and music going forward. “Crowded Room,” featuring rapper 6LACK exhibits how some people go from strangers to lovers overnight. “Kinda Crazy” tells of a lover’s suddenly odd behavior and putting an end to it before things escalate to a point of no return. At the same time, there’s just something about this person that is hard to overlook.

Rounding out the album, are three tracks that have their own unique pattern. “Fun” is exactly that, the clap-along-beat stays along the same lines as its acoustic partner “Ring.” It is a cool, up-tempo song that can lift any mood. “Cut You Off,” briefly aligns Gomez with imagery of Alanis Morissette. For those who like an Alternative/Indie style of Pop, this track is a no-mercy, changeup that makes you think twice about how someone might be treating you. Lastly, joined by renowned rapper, Kid Cudi, Gomez celebrates getting to the final destination she’s been searching for over the past 3 years.

Clearly, Selena Gomez is making all the right moves to set herself apart from her childhood and many of her youth co-stars in the way she is developing herself as an artist. While she certainly stays within the realm of Pop, she has no trouble diving into Indie flavors, especially on this new record. And that might just be what fits her best. But, like all young and developing artistry, it is always incomplete; for it always leaves room for experimentation and new creation.

Gregg Keniston – Staff
January 10, 2020

Reviews Provided By:
Rate The Tracks

01. Rare
02. Dance Again
03. Look At Her Now
04. Lose You to Love Me
05. Ring
06. Vulnerable
07. People You Know
08. Let Me Get Me
09. Crowded Room (feat. 6LACK)
10. Kinda Crazy
11. Fun
12. Cut You Off
13. A Sweeter Place (feat. Kid Cudi) 



Pop Review: Maisie Peters-It’s Your Bed Babe, It’s Your Funeral

Release Date: October 4, 2019
Labels: Atlantic Records

A little bit of background before we jump in. Maisie Peters is an English singer/songwriter who currently has 20 released songs at 19 years young. She is well known for her angelic voice and relatable lyrics. It’s Your Bed Babe, It’s Your Funeral is her second EP. It has a long title for anything music-related, but it’s pretty common to see things like this with an indie artist. They have the freedom to get away with more than mainstream artists do. Now, Peters is technically not an indie artist since she is signed to a label, but her label probably gives her more creative freedom because it sells well for her. The cover art is a picture from the music video of “This Is On You.” It has strong retro vibes, from the glam metallic backdrop to the old computer monitor on the desk.  

“This Is On You” is the leading single that the EP is named after. It starts with an electronic loop and an interesting set of rhythmic piano chords. It seems like the song will be another one of her emotional ballads, but it flips at the chorus. This is a reoccurring thing with most of the songs on this EP. The chorus has that early 80’s pop sound due to the layered vocals and catchy rhythm. If you’re a writer, you’ll notice that Peters uses a lot of internal rhyme, which draws the ear to the catchy chorus. “Adore You” starts with some synthetic guitar strumming. This song is upbeat and something that you can dance to. It still has some sort of retro-ness to it, but the message isn’t as strong the one in the first song.

“Take Care Of Yourself” is a softer song. The plucked guitar and piano don’t really give it the 80s feel. The rest of the songs are also missing the 80s element. This song feels rushed with all the different components. The verses, pre-chorus, and chorus are polarizing and don’t mesh well together. By the time that the brain gets used to one of the sections, it suddenly changes to another section. The vocal sampling catches my attention in “April Showers.” The verses are more spoken than sung, and Peter’s English accent gets to shine through. The lyrics are a new way of saying “I’m gonna wash you out of my hair.” There is a hip hop beat behind the chorus, which brings more of the dance element back to the song. Peters also uses clever wordplay here, talking about a girl named April, when she showers. My favorite part of the song is how she references how she is going “Jack Nicholson” crazy.

“Look At Me Now” is most like Peter’s other songs. The verses are her classic first-person imagery but then turn into a beautiful chorus. It evokes the feeling of dancing in the dark, surrounded by string lights. This is a perfect longingly-staring-out-the-window type of song. I am eagerly waiting to see what Peters will dream up for the song’s music video. The most unique song on the EP is “Personal Best.” Her breathy vocals shine in the verses on this track. The different musical sections work really well together in this song, each building on the last. She stretches out the title at the end of her chorus, effortlessly tying the notes together with her voice.

It’s Your Bed Babe, It’s Your Funeral is a work of art for most of the new generation. It’s no wonder that Peters is loved by thousands of adoring fans. I think the cover mostly applies to the first song. The EP isn’t cohesive with the retro theme, but it does tell a story of Peter’s Experiences. I would have liked to see a full-on 1980’s themed EP, something similar to 1989 by Taylor Swift, but Peters has expressed before that she releases songs after she writes them. This means that though we don’t get to see a fully cohesive album, we do get to hear her songs fresh from being edited. This is the beauty of being an independent musician, and clearly, she has found a way to keep true to herself, while still being a signed artist.
Lily Clark – Berklee College of Music Intern
December 31, 2019

Reviews Provided By:
1. This Is On You
2. Adore You
3. Take Care Of Yourself
4. April Showers
5. Look At Me Now
6. Personal Best


Rock-Pop Review: Dennis Wilson-Bambu-The Caribou Sessions (RSD 2 Green 180gm LPs)

Label: Sony
Release Date: April 22, 2017
Record Store Day 2017 had some significant releases. One of the more interesting and thought provoking releases was Sony’s 2 LP set of Dennis Wilson’s unfinished second solo album.

The title is Bambu-The Caribou Sessions. As I recall I was not too impressed with Pacific Ocean Blue the first time I heard it but now I must go back and give it another try after hearing this release. 

Wilson’s vocals reminded of the late Joe Cocker at times. His deep throaty style would have been perfect for a blues band. As it turns out the recording is one of the most eclectic I have ever heard coming from any Beach Boy, including brother Brian. 

Sony did a great job of filling in the gaps and making this a final complete release. I heard rock, pop, blues and a few ballads. Wilson covered it all and I cannot help but think what a wonderful career he would have had if he stayed with us. He lost his battle to the bottle unfortunately and ended up being another rock “n” roll casualty like so many others. Music lives forever and I am certain this release will shed more light on the brilliance of one of the more underrated Beach Boys and all around talents in music. And that includes when he was alive and by today’s standards as far as this listener is concerned. 

These sessions while being overshadowed by Wilson’s tragic death and the fact he never finished them is now a thing of the past. What we have is the finished product and the realization the he was an extremely talented musician and writer. Every Beach Boy deserves credit for their talents however as solo artist Brian was the one everyone has focused on for obvious reasons. Now it is time to turn our attention to the one member that was never in the spotlight.

Bambu-The Caribou Sessions is a superb set in a beautiful double gate fold sleeve jacket with beautifully colored green vinyl to match what you see on the outside of the package. This was a bit of a revelation for this listener as I never considered Dennis one of the more important cogs in the wheels of the Beach Boy hit machine. This has made me reevaluate the entire history of that band and the contributions he made overall. One listen may have you thinking the same way!

4.5/5 Stars

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
May 24, 2017
Founder of:

Review Provided By Write A Music Review


Side A:
1. Under The Moonlight
2. It's Not Too Late
3. School Girl
4. Love Remember Me

Side B:
5. Love Surrounds Me
6. Wild Situation
7. Common
8. Are You Real

Side C:
9. He's A Bum
10. Cocktails
11. I Love You
12. Constant Companion

Side D:
13. Time For Bed
14. Album Tag Song
15. All Alone
16. Piano Variations On Thoughts Of Yo


Pop Review: Roxanna-Exotica

Release Date: July 8, 2014
Label: Roxart
What do you get when you combine the power of healing with a pop singer? Roxanna. Bursting into the music scene after only two years in the business, her debut album Exotica is a breath of fresh air, reminiscent of Gloria Estefan, Christina Aguilera and Selena. Soulful velvet vocals blend with eloquent flamenco, Spanish and Middle Eastern flavors. Born in Iran, Roxanna learned at an early age to use music as a soothing influence. As she pursued her career in nursing, she felt there was something missing. That something was music. Mark Portmann, known for his work with greats like Annie Lennox and Christina Aguilera discovered her voice and a dream was made into a reality.

“Unforgotten” is based on the true story of Roxanna being left at the altar six days before she was to be wed. Wind and chimes blow, joined by piano and soaring vocals. Heart broken, staring at her wedding dress and never to look at a florist shop the same way again, Roxanna laments what could have been. Written with Portmann, this piece is heartfelt and about a real person that audiences can connect with. Life is messy. Heartbreak is real and it lingers on but like every song on the album, there is hope.

“Close Your Eyes” is the dark night of the soul brought to life. We have all been there. Utterly alone in a crisis wondering what the hell just happened. This song brings a source of light to souls in despair. Soaring vocals take you from sorrow to sunrise, ready to search for the silver lining. The song was developed from Roxanna’s time as an RN and was co-written by Lindy Robbins and Portmann. People want hope in difficult times and as a nurse, it gave Roxanna joy to do just that. 

“El Amor” was a cover made popular by Roxanna’s muse and inspiration Julio Iglesias. It is high on the flamenco and Spanish flavor, a twisting, sparkling gypsy song that makes you want to move your hips and pretend, just for a moment that you are on a stage somewhere with castanets in hand, a swirling dress swinging around your ankles. (At least for me anyway. Girl.) The vocals are entirely in Spanish, a beautifully fluid language that shares the essence of love. 

Roxanna is indeed following in the grand footsteps of music greats like Gloria Estefan and Annie Lennox. Her voice covers all ranges and is an inspiration for people with dreams the world over. Yes, it is possible to be your heart’s desire. Using her music to heal stems from her childhood and her work as an RN. Exotica is a splendid first album with many cultural elements combining to give us a look at what this young and talented woman has to offer the music industry. I for one will be watching and listening.

4.5/5 Stars

01. Only You   
02. Close Your Eyes   
03. Unforgotten   
04. Exotica   
05. Hello   
06. El Amor   
07. Here with Me   
08. Fresh   
09. My Best Friend (Miko)   
10. The Air That I Breathe
11. Today   
12. Loved   
13. Beautiful Rose

Key Tracks: El Amor, Unforgotten, Close Your Eyes

Dana Wright

July 7, 2014

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews


Pop Review: Roxanna-Hello, Close Your Eyes

Release Date: March 11, 2014, (Hello) and February 25, 2014 (Close Your Eyes)
Label: Roxart, Inc.

An artist reminiscent of Gloria Estefan and Celine Dion, Roxanna brings her own brand of soulful song to the table with her two new singles Close Your Eyes and Hello. These solo releases are paving the way for her first full length album, Exotica. Due out after two years of work, the artist has much to be proud of. Her work with industry leaders is a testament to her devotion to her craft. 

After becoming an RN in Toronto, Roxanna saw firsthand how music can make a difference as she encountered a man with cancer. Each day she sang to him. With every lilting turn of phrase and soaring vocalization, she healed him and he was released from the hospital, much to the joy of his family. That was all Roxanna needed as proof and she has since worked to share her love of song with those in need. 

“Close Your Eyes” is a song that captures the dark night of the soul. The world closes in and the days begin to run from one to the next. Luscious vocals roll over you as the piano sequences float by, followed by percussion elements and a myriad of multi-instrumentation. Roxanna evokes emotion and dredges up the gray skies and shows the breakthrough of light and the silver lining revealed within the storm. She sings of hope, walking by the side of God and the inner strength of the human heart. The vocals and instruments meld effortlessly into a blissful audible experience that makes me want to hear what else this artist has up her sleeve. Co-written by Mark Portmann and Lindy Robbins (Celine Dion, Backstreet Boys, Nick Lachey) this song reaches for the sky and holds its own. 
“Hello” is a cover song we have heard before. In this version, a jazzy beginning is followed by the sultry smoke of Roxanna’s voice. The eternal longing of the soul moves against elements of saxophone and a bevy of percussive textures hammering out a beat to tap your foot to. This song although familiar, crafts its own presence. 

Roxanna uses her skill as a singer to heal and bring grace to those around her. Whether as a nurse healing the body or a vocal goddess healing the mind and spirit, I am definitely waiting with baited breath for the full length album to hit the shelves. The earthy music captured in the two songs alone is captivating. The new album is produced by Mark Portmann (Celine Dion, Josh Groban, Barbra Streisand, Annie Lennox and Christina Aguilera). With Middle Eastern, Spanish and flamenco influences, Exotica is going to be amazing.

4/5 Stars

Dana Wright

March 29, 2014

Review Provided By Write a Music Review