The subtitle for Dana Countryman’s second solo album, “Pop2!”, is “The Exploding Musical Mind of Dana Countryman.” While that may seem a bit self-serving for an album title, it’s apt: Countryman’s mind is exploding with music from the 1960s and 1970s. He seems to have found a formula for the prototypical 70s soft-rock song, and he applies it to most of the songs on the album.
The album’s opener “Baby, I’ll Be Your Star,” is pure sugary pop in the style of Eric Carmen and the Raspberries with a touch of the Left Banke (hear the harpsichord?). Complete with three-part harmonies, saxophones and innovative chord changes, it hearkens back to the golden age of AM radio pop.
The formula keeps churning them out in perfect condition – “Jealous Heart,” “And Suddenly Love Just Happened,” and “Great Big Goofy Grin” are of the same mold – songs guaranteed to get your foot tapping. “Just Look in My Eyes” features an electric sitar (Beatles!), and “You’re My Heart and Soul” begins with whistling – evidence that there’s a memorable melody being introduced. He ventures out into new territory with “I’ll Get Right Back to You,” which sounds like a lost Beach Boys song; it’s simple and beautiful.
Countryman turns back time even more with “The Summer I Turned Seventeen,” a Doo-Wop tune that should make fans of the 1950s smile. His voice is smooth and expressive, and while the former novelty-song writer (his songs have appeared on Doctor Demento’s show and “South Park”) doesn’t concentrate much on the lyrics, that’s usually typical of pop songs. We focus on chords, melody and arrangement, and Countryman doesn’t leave a stone unturned in unleashing every weapon in his arsenal. His musicianship is solid, using various tempos and instruments and employing the use of silence to create anticipation.
“Pop2! The Exploding Musical Mind of Dana Countryman” is a primer on how to write a perfect pop song. It may be formulaic, but if the formula works, who cares?