Perhaps Americas greatest unsung hero of power pop, a songwriter of uncommon talent and intelligence and a one-man rock band without peer. That ACTUAL SIGHS is a splendid album which belongs in the collection of anyone who cares about great pop music almost goes without saying surprisingly mature and ambitious work a superb new album from a major talent if Richard X. Heymans music has never crossed your path before, this wouldnt be a bad time and place to treat yourself to something special.
-All Music Guide
Longtime Eastern popmeister rerecords his excellent first release from some two decades ago to fine effect, and adds a ton of new songs, about half of which are even better.
It hasnt come out of my stereo yet. Its FANTASTIC. I was blown away. Gorgeous, lush, smart, funny, TUNEFUL. An album album. I love it, absolutely love it.
-Bill Kates, XM Radio
He's a true heir to [Brian] Wilson's mantle, amid an ocean of pretenders it's that songwriting skill, and not the novel circumstances behind the belated creation of ACTUAL SIGHS, that make this such a noteworthy event. Newcomers should begin with Hoosier, which appears alongside the rest of the EP salvaged from the first album sessions. The song is as perfect a piece of power-pop as this country ever produced, the freshness of its harmonies and the pain of its longing undiminished almost a quarter-century later.
I could've written a breathless track-by-track commentary on these fourteen plus six songs, but their beauty and brilliance speak eloquently for themselves. Had this clutch of material from Heyman's back pages been released back in the early Eighties, it would have filled a double album's worth of vinyl and critics would've likely heralded it as a pop masterwork along the lines of Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything? But the belated issuing of these 20 sterling tunes makes ACTUAL SIGHS no less remarkable - and maybe even more so - given the superlative musicality and commitment it took for Heyman to bring this mammoth project to fruition in 2007. So cue up ACTUAL SIGHS and get ready to be treated to a king's ransom of newly minted buried treasure from America's pre-eminent popmeister.
If there is anything in this world that can be labeled a sure thing its a Richard X. Heyman album. He consistently makes great albums and this new one is no exception. Lots of great guitar are all over this album. The proof of Heymans greatness is that the tracks written in 1986 still sound awesome and not out of date.
So has the long delay and obvious effort been worth waiting for you betcha! Crisply produced and superbly arranged, Heyman also handles by far the majority of instrumentation and all of the vocals himself. From the immediate, in-your-face hooks offered by Stockpile to the more introspective likes of Winter Blue, ACTUAL SIGHS delivers enough pop, rock and melodic thrills to satiate even the most jaded palate. Richard X. Heymans decision to revisit his past has resulted in a fascinating and supremely entertaining aural document from start to finish.
Blissfully beautiful pop music rarely heard on modern-rock radio. Its hard to select favorites, but a few highlights illustrate the coolness of the expanded edition. The opener, Kenyon Walls, has sonic depth that recalls latter-day Beatles coupled with harmonies reminiscent of the Byrds. These elements flower and bloom on the beautifully haunting Winter Blue and the cynical Mr. Murphys Son.
"ACTUAL SIGHS is Heymans finest, most consistent album to date. From the spine-tingling, melancholic musings of A Fine Line and Winter Blue to the raucous rumble of Stockpile (Heymans never sung better than on this one) and RXHs Love in the First Person Blues (a melodic cousin to Im That Kind of Man), theres nary a false step to be found here. So feel free to jump in anywhere on ACTUAL SIGHS and find a favorite: perhaps itll be the breezy power pop of Cant Keep Me From Talkin, the harmonium-laced charmer Mr. Murphys Son, the frenetic Twelve Bars And I Still Have the Blues or the disarmingly catchy, string-fueled pop-rock nugget Kenyon Walls. Great stuff, all. Parke Puterbaughs liner notes trumpet ACTUAL SIGHS as being comparable to Todd Rundgrens Something/Anything? but to these ears, Heymans work may be even better. Dont miss it.
What makes ACTUAL SIGHS especially notable is the atypically forceful rock element that crops up repeatedly. The rampant Stockpile has a real kick that threatens to overwhelm the poppiness and could remind Bryan Adams of a thing or three. The pop glories that abound here: the Association-like Kenyon Walls, the wistful and haunting Winter Blue, the slow and soulful Written All Over My Face and Cant Keep Me From Talkin, which revs up to a dangerous energy level but has such clever hooks and sharp guitar work that it locates Heymans usual magic with ease.
drummer, guitarist, keyboardist and singer, he lays on the layers here, through
some shimmering cuts that appeared on the original disc, like the delightful Hoosier
and lyrically intriguing Masquerader Man,
-Newhouse News Service
Endlessly clever he proves that strong melodies and witty lyrics never go out of style.
[listened] to the CD about six times, because thats how good it is. Its not only a refreshing break in the monotony of grunge-grinding wanna-bees and hip hop rap, its a relief!
If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself, at least if youre blessed with the versatility of Heyman, one of the best-kept secrets of American pop. Besides crafting a 25-year career as a touring sideman (drummer, keyboards) for an eclectic array of artists (Link Wray, Brian Wilson, Ben E. King), Heyman has released albums of his own sophisticated hook-laden pop tunes. Here he revisits his past, recasting the tunes from his first EP, adding 14 new ones. He plays all instruments, does all vocals. Its the perfect starter kit for catching up on this musical wiz.
The latest slab of pop & roll from underrated genius Richard X. Heyman marvelous throughout. Heymans mastery of pop classicism is absolute some of the most winsome, tuneful power pop youll ever hear excellent work.
Heyman is one of those rockers with an uncanny knack to spin off hooks and melodies with pop precision. The tunes take hold instantly and then cling to the consciousness and refuse to let go. Impressive too is Heymans authoritative delivery; a master musician, he plays every instrument with aplomb and sings with a wallop that generally finds a happy medium between Paul McCartney and Little Richard. ACTUAL SIGHS is a classic reborn.
-Entertainment News & Views
Its hard to imagine any Heyman fan not being over the moon with this collection or any fan of rock, classic rock and power pop. ..it is a powerful emotional tapestry. Heyman fits together big collections of instruments and tracks all played by him into ever-evolving mind-grabbing, crisp but not cluttered arrangements the rock equivalent of what a great classical or Broadway orchestrator does. Hes an original, a frighteningly good drummer if there was any doubt, the thunderous drum intro of the fist-thumping Stockpile blasts it away. Heyman does more things on the drums in these two and a half minutes than most drummers do in their bands whole set. Smart rock doesnt get much better than this.
-Blogcritics Indie Roundup
A genuine national pop treasure a flexible, powerful singer and an accomplished musician on a staggering assortment of instruments his records have merited close, loving attention. For the many of us who missed out on the original Actual Size, ACTUAL SIGHS re-records that EPs cuts, adding a whopping 14 splendid, uncommonly varied Heyman originals to make one of the most jam-packed sets of shoulda been hits in memory few, if any, one-man band rockers have ever so consistently imbued their studio concoctions with the palpable feel and energy of an actual, interacting band (right down to the glistening, multi-part vocals). Too cool by half.
-Iowa Press Citizen
You cant help but to wonder how Heyman made it through these past 20 years with this material bottled up inside him. The songs are fun, passionate and varied the listener gets to hear the brilliant chemistry that rock music produces in Heymans mind. ACTUAL SIGHS comes off sounding like a long-lost classic.
-Herald News, NJ
Heyman builds his songs around chiming guitars, vintage-sounding keyboards, and beautifully complex harmony vocals. He is also a solid, hard-hitting rock drummer. The songs on ACTUAL SIGHS show an affinity for '60s British pop, especially the Zombies and the Kinks, but Heymans songs stand on their own without reference to his influences. The best songs, such as Kenyon Walls, All in the Way You Found Me, and In a Boxcar are effortlessly melodic and brilliantly arranged. Heyman also rocks with conviction on Twelve Bars and I Still Have the Blues and RXHs Love in the First Person Blues. ACTUAL SIGHS is filled with wonderful sonic moments that make it an enjoyable repeat listen as one pop gem after another poured from my speakers.
Power pop fans will experience Actual Sighs listening to singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Richard X. Heymans tour-de-force.
-Philadelphia Daily News
Tenaciously crafting finely honed, melodic, catchy songs On the cover of ACTUAL SIGHS, Heyman slightly resembles Todd Rundgren appropriate, as it features RXH performing all lead and harmony vocals and playing nearly all instruments a la Todd. SIGHS is a collection of twenty pop/rock mini-symphonies, evoking such past masters as, well, Todd R., pre-operatic Who, Small Faces, and Tom Petty at his most urgent. The rich, heart-on-sleeve harmonies seem to combine Moody Blues and Byrds, the surging guitars crunch (and occasionally twang), and the drums crack like thunder. Try to get opening song Kenyon Walls out of your head after one listen just try.
-Primetime, Philadelphia monthly
He has managed to master a plethora of instruments and become a home-recording genius [which] adds to the immense musical shadow he manages to cast Anyone into melodic pop on a par with Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren and Emitt Rhodes will love this CD. Filled with sing-along melodies and hooks that burrow into your head like worms, this CD will no doubt become the CD you pop in your car stereo over the summer when youre driving around looking cool. In fact, if I were to pick the first CD Ive heard this year that could be classified as a great summer CD, this would be it. Pick it up and see for yourself.
As [Parke] Puterbaugh points out, there's really nothing to compare to it in pop history except for Brian Wilson's revisiting of the Beach Boys' 'Smile,' except that (for me, anyway) ACTUAL SIGHS is more consistently terrific. While Heyman is upfront about his influences, the end results never sound like pastiche astoundingly well-crafted songs and brilliant arrangements Have I mentioned that despite the fact Heyman plays just about every note here the whole thing always sounds organic, as if it was the work of a real band? Or that the drumming is particularly exciting throughout, with lots of riveting Keith Moon flourishes? Or that 'The Gazing Moon' is a goddamn masterpiece? Here's the deal: I waited twenty years to find out how great RXH is, but I'm an idiot. If you're reading this and don't immediately order ACTUAL SIGHS, you need to come up with your own excuse."
--PowerPop Thursday Album Review Blogging