album reviews

Johnny Cash


Good news from the Cash-Carter camp: Johnny Cash, after years of phonographic complacency, has shaken the dust off his career and given us a splendid LP, Silver, which marks his twenty-fifth year as a recording artist. Surprisingly, he's turned from Nashville to Los Angeles for help — to Emmylou Harris' producer, Brian Ahern, and to such young studio hot rods as Rodney Crowell, late of Harris' Hot Band. Meanwhile, Cash's daughter, Rosanne, a firebrand who up and wed ... | More »

Iggy Pop


On the front of his second studio album, A.B. (After Bowie, who managed quite a rescue), Iggy Pop ironically looks less like a soldier than a used-up suicide commando. In "Take Care of Me," he admits he's paid "a heavy price for a heavy pose," and the photo of an Ig hanging corpselike on Soldier's cover suggests that ten years of trying to out-gross, outrage and outrock the competition have exacted every physical and emotional penny that Pop ever had. But the eleven tirades on the ... | More »

Pink Floyd

The Wall Capitol Records

Though it in no way endangers the meisterwerk musical status of Dark Side of the Moon (still on the charts nearly seven years after its release), Pink Floyd's twelfth album, The Wall, is the most startling rhetorical achievement in the group's singular, thirteen-year career. Stretching his talents over four sides, Floyd bassist Roger Waters, who wrote all the words and a majority of the music here, projects a dark, multilayered vision of post-World War II Western (and especially Bri... | More »

January 24, 1980

Sly & the Family Stone

Back on the Right Track

It goes almost without saying that Sly Stone's early songs (from "Dance to the Music" through "Hot Fun in the Summertime") were inspired and prophetic, a mixture of rock and soul that united white and black audiences as effectively as anything since Elvis Presley's first recordings. What happened later might be tragedy, or it might be farce. Though some of it (1971's There's a Riot Goin' On, a more chilling and perceptive parable of stardom than anything that punk id... | More »

Stevie Wonder

Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants (Soundtrack) Motown

Begin at the end. Stevie Wonder's Journey through the Secret Life of Plants is so uneven, so full of tiny pleasures and bloated tedium, that for some assurance that Wonder hasn't lost his touch, you ought to start by listening to the LP's last cut. "Finale" commences with a quick, slapstick keyboard fill and then expands into an undulating instrumental whose billowing bass and synthesizers evoke a quivering field of flowers in bloom. Not only that, but the song works on an addi... | More »


Singles Going Steady

Three albums and nearly a dozen singles after turning London on its jaded ear in 1976, the Summer of Punk, the Buzzcocks continue to wrestle with the problem of reconciling leader Pete Shelley's incurable romanticism with the cathartic attack of staccato guitars and Gatling-gun drums that marks the best New Wave records, the Buzzcocks' included. Singles Going Steady, the band's first American release, crystallizes Shelley's dilemma by pitting the A sides of the first eigh... | More »

December 13, 1979

The Police

Reggatta De Blanc Universal Distribution

Those people who indicted the Police's debut album — citing the trio's arch exploitation of the New Wave — will find plenty on Reggatta de Blanc to justify charges of recidivism. The group once again exhibits the same high-handed, crafty superciliousness that marred Out-landos d'Amour. "The other ones are complete bullshit," announces drummer Stewart Copeland, introducing the new record's "On Any Other Day," his mocking chronicle of suburban miseries. "You want... | More »

Elton John

Victim of Love

Elton John's entry into the rock-disco sweepstakes comes a year too late to make much of an impact. Moreover, Victim of Love doesn't contain any John songs: producer Pete Bellotte, best known for his work with Donna Summer, did most of the writing here, except for a mummified version of "Johnny B. Goode" that's too slow for dancing. Only two of the new numbers, the title tune and "Thunder in the Night," have catchy melodies. Otherwise, the album is empty of ideas. The style he... | More »



If you take away the 2001: A Space Odyssey pretensions of Cornerstone's cover art, the social observations of "Why Me" and "Borrowed Time," and the orchestral deployment of Dennis DeYoung's synthesizers, Styx can be appreciated for what they are: an overambitious but impeccably professional pop group.   Styx has always understood the value of a good hook and the guitar riff or vocal harmony to carry it: on their early LPs for Wooden Nickel, they recorded cover versions of Tod... | More »

Tom Petty

Damn The Torpedoes

Damn the Torpedoes is the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album we've all been waiting for — that is, if we were all Tom Petty fans, which we would be if there were any justice in the world, live shows for all, free records everywhere and rockin' radio. Mostly justice. Songs like "I Need to Know" and "Listen to Her Heart" from 1978's You're Gonna Get It and "Refugee," "Here Comes My Girl" and others from this year's model are bedrock — they will endure. Pe... | 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 »