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Fresh Listen: KOKY Little Rock

102.1 KOKY Little RockIn my effort to cover as much turf as possible, there are radio stations that I don’t find the time or remember to listen to enough.

They’re the stations that I always enjoy when I hear them. There’s usually a strategic amount of “oh wow” gold involved. There’s usually sense of place. Sometimes they’re the big-name stations that I ought to always be conversant about, but often it’s just the stations that are reliably fun when I hear them.

Yesterday-and-today Country outlet CFCW Edmonton, which was profiled last week, is one of those stations.

So is Hot AC KRXY (94.5 Roxy) Olympia, Wash., currently celebrating twenty years with its formula unchanged—uptempo pop/rock gold you don’t always hear on the radio anymore; viable uptempo pop/rock currents, sometimes months before they go to the pop world. (Early on, they recognized 3 Doors Down “Kryptonite” as a pop single months before anybody else.) I could find you stretches where they play the hits, but they just segued to “Stages” by ZZ Top from “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” by Panic! At the Disco, and I’d rather tell you about that. (Later, they went from “Dancing With A Stranger” to the original “Layla.”)

Classic Rock CIXL (Giant 91.7) St. Catherine’s, Ontario, which built to double-digit success over 15 years and was sold to Newcap last Friday during Canadian Music Week. With many Canadian classic rock stations segueing back to WMMR Philadelphia-style heritage rock, they remain reliably good (again, with judiciously deployed variety).

There’s no intent to provide a definitive list here. On a productive day, I stream a half dozen different stations, leaving numerous others I mean to get to, and others I just don’t think of. But something brought me back to Urban AC KOKY Little Rock, Ark., and I’m glad it did.

Most Urban ACs are working from a relatively small list of titles that morphs and develops through the years. Deeper songs from the ‘70s have mostly disappeared. The late ‘80s/early ‘90s are now the center of the format. KOKY is in syndication in mornings (Tom Joyner) and afternoons (D.L. Hugely) but in middays, you can hear anything from the early ‘70s on. And at a time when Urban AC is following pop’s lead and playing mostly recurrents as their newer titles, KOKY PD Mark Dylan still plays true currents.

I’ve also noticed over the years that KOKY still plays reverse crossovers—the songs that went from the pop chart to R&B radio. Those songs tend not to endure at Urban AC because if you’re not old enough to remember that R&B radio played, say, Pablo Cruise, “Love Will Find A Way” in 1978, you have no memory of it as an R&B hit. (For that matter, even pop listeners didn’t hear it as gold for very long.) But there it was on KOKY today preceded by a sweeper about “no color lines.” Then they also introduced me to a Johnnie Taylor southern soul song I didn’t know as a current.

Among successful Urban ACs, only KMJQ (Majic 102) Houston and WHQT (Hot 105) Miami rival KOKY for a steady flow of surprise and delight. Website comments from the last few weeks include the listener introduced to the station by a co-worker from Arkansas; another check-in from Chicago; a thank-you for “All-Blues Saturday”; a thank-you for playing “Housequake” by Prince.

With some help from Mediabase, here’s KOKY from its throwbacks hour at Noon today, May 15:

  • Spinners, “He’ll Never Love You Like I Do”
  • Angela Bofill, “Too Tough”
  • Phyllis Hyman, “You Know How To Love Me”
  • Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose, “Treat Her Like A Lady”
  • Stevie Wonder, “As”
  • David Ruffin, “Walk Away From Love”
  • O’Jays, “Use Ta Be My Girl”
  • Pablo Cruise, “Love Will Find A Way”
  • Steely Dan, “Peg”
  • Donna Summer, “Bad Girls”
  • Marvin Gaye, “Got To Give It Up”
  • Luther Vandross, “Creepin’”
  • Brand New Heavies, “Never Stop”

And here’s the station during the following hour, when the currents return, but the gold remains tasty.

  • Melanie Fiona, “It Kills Me”
  • Johnnie Taylor, “It’s September”
  • J. Brown, “Sunrise Sunset”
  • Aurra, “Are You Single”
  • Brothers Johnson, “Stomp”
  • One Way, “Mr. Groove”
  • Bar-Kays, “Sho Nuf”—this was the veteran ‘70s/’80s funk band in a 2006 comeback produced by leader James Alexander’s son Jazzy Pha. That type of song rarely makes it to recurrent or gold at Urban AC, so it was great to hear it again.
  • 112, “Tonight”—a current from the “Peaches & Cream” hitmakers
  • Kashif, “I Just Gotta Have You (Lover Turn Me On)”
  • Freda Payne, “Band Of Gold”
  • JamesDavis, “Something To Talk About”

So what are the stations you don’t listen to enough?

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