Pop Circles is the 13th solo outing from New York City-based power-pop master/legend Richard X. Heyman. He produced the set at Eastside Sound in New York and the Kit Factory, his home studio. Special guests include cellist Julia Kent (Rasputina) and Chris Jenkins on viola.
Richard was one of the first “one man band” recording artists to emerge along with Paul McCartney, Emitt Rhodes and Todd Rundgren. Critical praise began with the release of his first album Living Room!!
The lifelong passion for music has driven Heyman since his days growing up in Plainfield, New Jersey. He began playing drums at the age of seven and was proficient on guitar and piano by his teens. By then, he had already begun writing songs. He has developed a versatile singing voice, which can range from sweet crooning on ballads to balls-to-the-wall rock’n’roll wailing. Heyman was still in junior high school when he achieved his first taste of rock ’n’ roll notoriety as drummer with fabled garage band The Doughboys, whose raucous live sets won them a rabid following in the New York/New Jersey area during the second half of the 1960’s. The Doughboys recorded a pair of singles for the Bell label, made multiple appearances on the local TV show “Disc-O-Teen” (presented by legendary horror-show host Zacherle), shared stages with the likes of The Beach Boys, The Buckinghams, Neil Diamond and The Syndicate of Sound, and served as the house band at the Café Wha? in Greenwich Village, during the summer of 1968.
By the time Heyman re-emerged as a solo artist in the 1980’s, he’d matured into a singularly distinctive songwriter with an uncanny ability to channel his vintage rock ’n’ roll influences into tunes that are both infectiously catchy and emotionally resonant. Those qualities were prominent on his self-released, home-recorded efforts Actual Size and Living Room!! Both generated considerable critical positive press and music-industry word of mouth, leading to a major-label deal with Sire/Warner Bros., which released the widely acclaimed Hey Man! in 1991.
In recent years, Heyman has juggled his own work with his activities as a member of the reactivated Doughboys, who first reunited in 2000 to play at his surprise birthday party, and have remained productive ever since, delivering a quintet of well-received albums – Is It Now?, Act Your Rage, Shakin’ Our Souls, Hot Beat Stew and Front Street Rebels. Their song “Why Can’t She See Me?” (written by Heyman) was chosen #3 “Coolest Song in the World” on Little Steven’s Underground Garage Sirius XM channel at the time of its release. Five of the songs on Pop Circles are his versions of tunes originally recorded by the band.
“Guess You Had To Be There” is a fine way to begin this album – big, wide, deep and lush – pop with elegant touches of strings, harmonies and instantly memorable; “If You’re So Inclined” is that chiming 12-string Ric “classic” structure that Mr. Heyman is so well-known for; “Action Screams Louder Than Words” is a soulful rocker with great multi-layered harmonies and “In A Sunlit Room” is one of those simple, pretty pop ballads that have interesting/not standard chord progressions.
On first listen, “About Time” feels like an homage to The Left Banke, but with a much more modern production – harpsichord-like keyboards, harmonies galore and constructed in a very late ’60’s baroque-pop manner make this a standout; “Where Circles End” is a wistful moment, again, rich with harmonies; “Until Now” has that Springsteen-esque “bigness” about it and is another standout – anthemic and rocking and “Long Way Down” just leaps out and grabs you and shakes you.
Richard X. Heyman has always delivered consistent, powerful, thoughtful albums that balance all the sensibilities – pop, rock, etc. And Pop Circles is no exception in his tradition of excellence.
Pop Circles is currently available