album reviews

Mott the Hoople

Mott The Hoople

Not so very long ago, some friends of mine circled a block for about five minutes while I tried to figure out which unreleased Dylan side we were listening to. I could have spared us the trouble if I'd been listening to the lyrics, which were those of Sonny Bono's immortal protest classic "Laugh At Me." And it wasn't a Highway 61 outtake at all; it was Mott the Hoople. Mott the Hoople is a synthetic rock band. By that I certainly do not mean that they're phony. Rather, th... | More »

Dr. John


Break out the hash pipe and heat up the gumbo — Dr. John is back again with music from that steamy, swampy place in your mind that only Dr. John can reach. Remedies is not get-it-on rock music; it's too loose and languid for that. The rhythms — by far the best part of Dr. John's music — are lyrical and liquid; they flow and throb, like blood, like fucking. Dr. John's music is not mind-music, not body-music — at its best, it is emotional — beyond wo... | More »

June 8, 1970

Bob Dylan

Self Portrait Columbia

"Self Portrait No. 25" Written and Arranged by Greil Marcus Chorus: Charles Perry, Penny Marcus, Pann Wenner, Erik Bennstein, Ed Ward, John Burks, Ralph Gleason, Langdon Winner, Bruce Miroff, Richard Vaughn and Mike Goodwin   (1)What is this shit? (1) "All the Tired Horses" is a gorgeous piece of music, perhaps the most memorable song on this album. In an older form it was "All the Pretty Ponies in the Yard"; now it could serve as the theme song to any classic western. Can you hear ... | More »

May 28, 1970

Jimi Hendrix

Band of Gypsys Classic Collection

This is the album that Hendrix "owed" Capitol for releasing him over to Reprise Records and significantly, it isn't a studio effort, as his Reprise albums have been. Which is not to imply that it is any better than those Experience albums. The context of the album is vital — Band of Gypsys was one of Hendrix' 1969 amalgamations consisting of Buddy Miles on drums and Billy Cox on bass, among others. They hadn't been together very long when this session was recorded live at... | More »

Marvin Gaye

That's the Way Love Is

I start out with a prejudice against any Motown album containing songs like "Yesterday," "Groovin'," and "Abraham, Martin and John" but Marvin Gaye's superlative vocal stylings almost bring this one off. Though any song gains distinction when sung by Marvin Gaye, and any album of his is a pleasure to listen to, his latest would be better if its more memorable songs were livelier and its livelier songs more memorable. Produced by Norman Whitfield who has given us "Grapevine" and gui... | More »

Miles Davis

Bitches Brew Columbia/Legacy

Miles' music continues to grow in its beauty, subtlety and sheer magnificence. Bitches' Brew is a further extension of the basic idea he investigated in his two previous albums, Filles De Kilimanjaro and In A Silent Way. In a larger sense, however, the record is yet another step in the unceasing process of evolution Miles has undergone since the Forties. The man never stops to rest on his accomplishments. Driven forward by a creative elan unequaled in the history of American music, ... | More »

May 14, 1970

Paul McCartney

McCartney Apple, EMI

McCartney is an album that wants desperately to convince. Its explicit and uniform message is that Paul McCartney, his wife Linda and family have found peace and happiness in a quiet home away from the city and away from the hassle of the music business. This is a beautiful vision and, like most listeners, I wanted very much to believe it was true. On the basis of the music alone I was entirely persuaded. The 14 cuts on McCartney are masterful examples of happiness, relaxation and contentment... | More »


Back In The U.S.A.

Wop-bop-a-lu-bop-a-lop-bam-boom. Thud. "Tutti Frutti," which opens the partly excellent MC5 album, is easily the worst cut on it, and in a way a clue to the rest of the record, which ends, stiffly enough, with "Back in the USA." The MC5 have roots; or their producer Jon Landau does, or somebody does. Over four minutes of totally pointless music is expended in "proving" that fact — and regardless of the possible coy significance of this one-time "Killer Band" singing "Back in the USA" as... | More »

April 30, 1970

James Taylor

Sweet Baby James Warner Bros

Last August James Taylor was quoted in Rolling Stone thusly: "I hope my next album will be simpler. It has to be, because the music is simple and a big production job just buries all my intentions." Well, this first post-Apple album dovetails nicely with that anticipation, even down to the inclusion of Stephen Foster's "Oh, Susannah," buck-wheat cakes in her mouth and all. Peter Asher (formerly at Apple with Taylor) produced this album, as well as Taylor's first, and, one can hear,... | More »

The Doors

Morrison Hotel

Morrison Hotel opens with a powerful blast of raw funk called "Roadhouse Blues." It features jagged barrelhouse piano, fierce guitar, and one of the most convincing raunchy vocals Jim Morrison has ever recorded. This angry hard rock is that at which the Doors have always excelled, and given us so seldom, and this track is one of their very best ever, with brooding lyrics that ring chillingly, true: "I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer/The future's uncertain and the end is alwa... | More »

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

More Song Stories entries »