If you were to compare the pop of today versus the pop of the 80's , the flaring difference would be the emphasis on song writing and the uniformity of production due to the reliance on technology such as auto-tune. Not that the 80's didn't have producers slapping effects on singers voice to tried to compensate for lack of talent, but there was less homogenization. "Radio Sister" takes you back to the golden days of pop music, where even the adult contemporary had a depth to it. Dave Plaehn follows a path not unlike that of the 70's rock stars who found themselves uprooted in the 80's and forced t to contend with the post- disco world. During this time established artists scrambled to reinvent themselves. Dave released his first solo album in 1981, so he lived through that period already and those lessons stuck and stayed. This is not a bad thing as , he embraces that same courage to redefine himself with each song. He sets gospel backing singers against reggae grooves, and then on the next song "mix fusion jazz with the type of pop Paul Simon dabbled in on his"One Trick Pony" album.
The host of new wave haunts the title track with Polices like guitar holding a taunt folk like chord progressions, before the Culture Club like harmonica chimes in. Plaehn is an excellent singer, throwing his voice around while retaining a James Taylor like smoothness. Other influences bubble to the surface like the Elton John belting out on "Is Any Body Listening". This is hidden by the fact its not a piano driven song. Despite the 80's thumbprint there are songs that would sit well on the radio next to today's pop market.The Jimmy Buffet island feel to 'Hello, Melinda" could be something Jack Johnson or Zac Brown would do.The Tom Petty meets Fleetwood Mac swing of 'Better Things to Do" might not transcend arrested development, but it is fun.
The frenetic jangle of the guitar to "Soda Fountain" mixes the Proclaimers and Talking Heads, before it launches in a more ska section.I suppose Paul Simon's "Graceland" period also had these elements.
Despite his blues background which doesn't show it's face until the finally song , Plaehn comes across more like a pop crooner. His voice often resembles Lyle Lovett's plaintive mid range, without dropping into Lyle's moodier lower register.He does have a much more adventurous upper register than Lovett. When does reach down into a baritone,it's boisterous and more Elvis fashioned. He really showcases on a A Capella Leadbelly Medley. The blues that he comes from is really only fully embraced on the closing track. Overall this album takes you back to a time when songwriting had more soul and was about the songs not product. This album is honest and endearing.