"Pop Matters" review: There was a time when my Mom’s fluorescent green plastic Magnavox played all day in the kitchen. I remember songs like “Hot Child in the City” by Nick Gilder, “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart, “Ride Captain Ride” by the Blues Image, “Hello, It’s Me” by Todd Rundgren, “Magic” by Pilot, “Precious and Few” by Climax and “Sky High” by Jigsaw. Ken Sharp knows all about these great songs.
As a respected music writer, he has context when it comes to his own material. This release has all the freshness and verve that the above songs do and did. It’s a shame that I can’t hear this record like I did the other songs: there was something magical about the one-speaker splendor of open format AM radio. Sharp would have fit right in back then.
“Beautiful” opens with Nick Gilder-like pop. “See Through My Eyes” reminds me a bit of certain AM psychedelia. “Hurdy Gurdy Man” by Donovan comes to mind. “Mr. Sun” is textbook late ‘60s era Beatles. “Wrecking Ball” is the best mellotron-fueled, “Strawberry Fields” sounding song since many of the tracks on the classic Kon Tiki by Cotton Mather. As the sound of pastoral strings massaged my ears on “Wrecking…”, the line “...pulling the strings of love” was skillfully highlighted. “Brand New Day” reminds me of Andy Kim AM pop. “Unconditionally” has a feel similar to an artist that I mention often, the great Emitt Rhodes.
The next track, “Tea and Sympathy”, gives the CD its open format radio feel. Think of hearing “Every Picture Tells a Story” followed by “A Day in the Life”. When “Floating Like a Cornflake” follows “Tea…”, Sharp brings me back to the day of the AM dial and the creative freedom that so many DJs of that era had.
In closing, I still have my Mom’s modular lime green Magnavox clock radio. If I could only rewire that radio so that I could play my Walkman through it. There it is. Turn that up: “Ride Captain Ride upon your mystery ship…” Excellent. I can’t wait to hear Ken Sharp’s Happy Accidents through this new setup.
For maximum impact, I suggest the above. For those with less patience, your stereo will do just fine.
"All Music" review:
Ken Sharp's debut 1301 Highland Avenue may have been a very good latter-day pop album, but it was released with considerably limited distribution, barely appearing outside of Japan. His second effort, 2000's Happy Accidents, benefited from that album, Sharp's profile, and, most importantly, the emergence of the pop underground in the U.S. during the time since the 1994 release of 1301 -- an event that resulted in Happy Accidents appearing on the well-loved pop indie Not Lame. Anybody who sought out Sharp's first album will not be surprised by Happy Accidents, since it's very much in the same vein as that record -- a loving, tasteful, accomplished set of classicist pop created by one of the genre's preservationists who happens not only to have good taste, but a knack for creating charming, melodic pop of his own.
True, Sharp's high voice may be a little of an acquired taste, and there's a little bit too much modernism here -- check the trip-hop-meets-Oasis flavor of "See Through My Eyes," a catchy song, but not as effortless as other tunes here -- but Sharp remains a consummate pop fan. Better than that, he is a classy pop record-maker, clearly indebted to the tradition of the '60s (see the "Strawberry Fields" Mellotron of "Wrecking Ball," which nevertheless still sounds like it wants to break into ELO's "Strange Magic"), but not being fetishistic, instead turning his love into a record that will appeal to the kind of fan he is: people raised on classic pop, from the Beatles to new wave (and not much further than that), looking for a tuneful, classy collection of songs that evoke the sounds, if not the spirit, of their favorite pop records. That may not make it a record of seismic importance, but it certainly is something that is worth tracking down by pop fans with similar tastes.
released May 2, 2000
"Brand New Day," "Wrecking Ball," "Floating Like A Cornflake," and."Girl Don't Tell Me" produced by Ken Sharp.
"Beautiful," "Unconditionally," Tea & Sympathy," "You Said You'd Love Me," "Room For Two" and ""You Ain't Foolin'," produced by Ken Sharp and Ralph Deal.
"Mr. Sun" produced by Scot Sax and Ken Sharp. "See Through My Eyes" produced by Scot Sax, Michael Musmanno and Ken Sharp.
All songs by Ken Sharp except "Girl Don't Tell Me," which is written by Brian Wilson.
All tracks engineered by Ted Greenberg except track # 2 by Shelly Yakus and Michael Musmanno and # 12 by Bill Fitch.
All tracks recorded at Big Zone Studios, Conshocken, Pa except track # 2 (Tongue & Groove, Philadelphia, Pa) and # 12 (Sound Design, Warminster, Pa)
Mastering by Ted Greenberg.
Dedicated to the memory of Carl Wilson and Pete Ham.