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album reviews

Graham Parker

The Up Escalator

There's a big gap between being a rock & roll classicist and actually turning out classics. Specifically, it's the difference between reaffirming traditional rock truisms and reinvigorating them — between, say. Tom Petty, whose rich and ringing minianthems meld half-a-dozen heartfelt homages, and Graham Parker, who aims higher without thinking about it.   Parker's early records — like the Band's — didn't sound like anybody so much as every... | More »

Elton John

21 at 33

We're now into the fifth year of the Elton John crisis, and frankly some of us here on the Elton watch are getting worried. Ever since 1975, when the anti-John backlash set in and the piano pumper's finest album, Rock of the Westies, only went umpteen-platinum instead of his usual quadribillion, Elton has sounded confused, bitter, exhausted. Efforts to reenter John into the mainstream of things failed: Blue Moves (1976) seemed like a smart idea at the time — a double-LP sulk ... | More »

July 10, 1980

Lou Reed

Growing Up In Public BMG Ariola

Some people wait for things that never come." sang Lou Reed in "All through the Night" on last year's The Bells. "And some people dream of things that never been done... /Why can't anybody shed just one tear for things that don't happen?" In another number from that fine LP. "Families" (about a way ward son speaking to his parents across a gulf of reciprocal heartbreak). Reed had to pay twofold for some of those "things that don't happen" — once for his family'... | More »

June 26, 1980

Pete Townshend

Empty Glass

As a fundamentally religious artist, Pete Townshend fashions his music from sermons and confessions. Though it's not an easy thing for intellectuals to admit, this is well within the limits of rock & roll tradition. From the beginning, rock has been a music that's attracted evangelical Protestants, lapsed Catholics, cabalistically inclined Jews and yearning acidheads. What makes Townshend singular is his insistence on not separating his most transcendent spiritual convictions f... | More »

Def Leppard

On Through The Night

Fans insist that it never went away. Critics wish it would. But heavy metal, that belligerent bastard son of American blues and macho English rock-star attitudes, is back. It's also bigger, louder and — hard as this may be to believe — better than ever, rising to punk-rock's challenge by adding some new risks to the old riffs. With an average age of eighteen, the five members of Def Leppard are barely old enough to remember the first Neanderthal rumblings of Black Sabba... | More »

John Cale

Sabotage: Live

Ironically, John Cale's first album in nearly five years turns out to be one of the season's timeliest entries: a graphic, deadly narrative of terrorist scrimmages and doomed maneuvers that could pass for an on-the-spot report from the clandestine alleys of Kabul or the invincible deserts of Iran. In fact, Sabotage/Live — without apology and, more important, without ideology — is something of a rough-and-ready homage to the business of war itself: "I did some work in Za... | More »

Van Halen

Women And Children First WEA/Warner

Fans insist that it never went away. Critics wish it would. But heavy metal, that belligerent bastard son of American blues and macho English rock-star attitudes, is back. It's also bigger, louder and — hard as this may be to believe — better than ever, rising to punk-rock's challenge by adding some new risks to the old riffs. With an average age of eighteen, the five members of Def Leppard are barely old enough to remember the first Neanderthal rumblings of Black Sabba... | More »

June 20, 1980

The Rolling Stones

Emotional Rescue Virgin

Like the thermographic photos of the Rolling Stones on the album cover, Emotional Rescue is a portfolio of burned-out cases and fire trails. High-contrast patterns of familiar outlines and blackened patches where the heat has burned and gone, these photographs — like pictures of corpses from some holocaust — are practically unrecognizable. As far as the music goes, familiar is an understatement. There's hardly a melody here you haven't heard from the Stones before. but t... | More »

June 18, 1980

Santana

Amigos

Amigos is the first Santana album that doesn't attempt to break new ground. The several styles Carlos Santana has delved into over the past decade have been consolidated into a varied, multidimensional album. The early days of happy Latin rhythms, congas and catchy vocal hooks and choruses are represented not only by the not-quite-hidden picture of the band's first album on the cover, but also by the very first strains of "Dance Sister Dance (Baila Mi Hermana)," which opens the albu... | More »

June 12, 1980

Journey

Departure

Departure offers ample proof that the Seventies hard-rock genre so many people have been trying to bury for the last few years just doesn't want to die. Journey may well be the best American band in this idiom, which is ironic, because, stylistically, they've always seemed to struggle with it, as if hard rock were a new shirt they had trouble fitting into. For an Aerosmith or a Ted Nugent, no such difficulties existed — hard rock was their only option. But Journey could have g... | More »

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Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

More Song Stories entries »
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