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album reviews

Queen

Live Killers

Live, they said. pity the poor consumer who has to spend eight or nine dollars before he or she can read the self-congratulatory liner notes inside Queen's Live Killers and discover that the better part of "Bohemian Rhapsody" isn't live at all. Because Queen is, according to the liner notes, "fiercely opposed to playing with any kind of backing tape" in concert, most of the band's hit operetta — particularly lead singer Freddie Mercury's one-man choral climax — is repr... | More »

Joni Mitchell

Mingus Asylum

Mingus music doesn't sound like anybody else's. Though Charles Mingus may have gone out of his way to acknowledge how much the music of Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington inspired him, even the various tributes he penned ("Reincarnation of a Lovebird" for Parker, "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love," "Jelly Roll" for Jelly Roll Morton, "Goodbye, Porkpie Hat" for Lester Young) boast pure Mingus melodies with no room for obvious imitation. Similarly, few musicians have played "Mingus ... | More »

Merle Haggard

Serving 190 Proof

Remember "Okie from Muskogee" and "Fightin' Side of Me," the two Merle Haggard anthems that served as right-wing rallying cries during the volatile turn of this decade? Sure, you do. Remember Someday We'll Look Back, the follow-up LP? Probably not, because it didn't include anything as easy to get a handle on, born as it was out of the inner turmoil resulting from Haggard's new notoriety. With its troubled love songs and starkly autobiographical numbers about growing up po... | More »

August 23, 1979

Roy Orbison

Laminar Flow

What riles me about Laminar Flow isn't so much that the LP is an embarrassing travesty ill-suited to one of rock's minor masters, but that such a debacle was totally unnecessary. Laminar Flow is a labyrinth of wooden rhythms, lukewarm clichés and hackneyed arrangements. Still, despite a mountain of other people's mistakes, Roy Orbison's miraculously singular voice muddles its way through and hasn't lost much of the edge that gave life to hits like "Only the Lon... | More »

Paul McCartney

Back To The Egg

As you may recall, the last time we came upon Paul McCartney, pilot of Wings, he'd fashioned a thirteen-song offering called London Town, whose mildly tuneful title track was the epitome of the now-familiar, latter-day McCartney style of songwriting. People pass by me on my imaginary streetOrdinary people it's impossible to meetHolding conversations that are always incompleteWell, I don't know.... Gliding along on the wheels of a catchy little melody, we were scarcely into hi... | More »

Kiss

Dynasty Universal Distribution

The Kiss army is going to mutiny when they hear "I Was Made for Lovin' You," the disco-inflected leadoff track on the Masked Marvels' latest album. They'll demand to know why their heroes, after years of rallying the troops into battle against disco and other threatening schlock, have turned tail and joined forces with uptown popsters like producer Vini Poncia (whose soft-rock credentials include LPs by Ringo Starr and Melissa Manchester) and singer/tunesmith Desmond Child (who... | More »

Earth, Wind & Fire

I Am

Maurice White, Earth, Wind and Fire's presiding genius, ranges across popular music like a robber baron, selecting only the tastiest artifacts for his collection. He adapts be-bop horn charts and soul-group harmonies in ways that make the clichés revelatory. He takes simple dance formulas like "Boogie Wonderland" and finds fresh possibilities within them. White even uses big-band allusions that ought to sound fey, but by the time he strips them down, they're absolute muscle a... | More »

The Who

The Kids Are Alright MCA

How could the Who have released an album called The Kids Are Alright without including the original version of the song of the same name? Long unavailable, appearing only on the British pressings of the Who's first album, it featured a broken, disorienting guitar solo (Lindsey Buckingham's work in the middle of Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" is the single analogue in rock) that Pete Townshend has never since matched. No doubt this revelatory moment was omitted from the Ameri... | More »

August 9, 1979

David Bowie

Lodger EMI Music Distribution

David Bowie's albums are non events, though given the aura he insists on, they're halfheartedly presented as such: time and again, ideas are run up the flagpole, but try and find the flagpole. What's Bowie's point of reference. Is it just that he succeeded in replacing Marvin Gaye as rock's Peter O'Toole?. Is he man of mystery, or mystery-man manque? The clue may be in the early years of the decade, when Hunky Dory, Bowie's last LP before he boarded the roc... | More »

July 26, 1979

Brian Eno

Ambient 1: Music For Airports

Brian Eno carefully distinguishes his art music, which is also his pop music, from his gebrauchsmusik, or utilitarian undertakings. Ambient 1 Music for Airports is as utilitarian as they come: it's conceived as background sound for airport lobbies, hopefully to replace the usual piped-in saccharine strings and smooth MOR frosting. As aesthetic white noise, Ambient 1 Music for Airports makes for even more dissipated listening than last year's similarly unfocused Music for Films. Fil... | More »

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Song Stories

“You Oughta Know”

Alanis Morissette | 1995

This blunt, bitter breakup song -- famous for its line "Would she go down on you in a theater?" -- was long rumored to be about Alanis Morissette getting dumped by Full House actor Dave Coulier. But while she never confirmed it was about him (Coulier himself says it is, however), she insisted the song wasn't all about scorn. "By no means is this record just a sexual, angry record," she told Rolling Stone. "The song wasn't written for the sake of revenge. It was written for the sake of release. I'm actually a pretty rational, calm person."

More Song Stories entries »
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