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album reviews

Talking Heads

Fear Of Music Warner Bros.

Time stands still when you're cracking up. At the brink of mental overload, there's a revelatory instant — a freeze frame in which everything fits together in new ways. Logic dissolves, paralogic reigns. And in that precarious moment, the world is fixed in place, skewed and renewed. David Byrne's lyrics on Talking Heads' Fear of Music are paralogical visions stated with almost childlike directness: he thinks that air hits him in the face, that animals want to change... | More »

Eagles

The Long Run Warner Elektra Atlantic Corp.

By day, the stardom-obsessed City of Angels depicted on the Eagles' The Long Run is a dreary land of blank vistas and empty promises, baking slowly under an unsentimental sun. But when the night comes, the landscape is suddenly infested with mad shadows: inky, menacing configurations that provide an ominous depth. Unbridled by reality, this is the time when desperate dreams emerge from their lairs. Such dreams stalk the back streets, bistros, board rooms and bedrooms where the deals for ... | More »

November 1, 1979

Van Morrison

Into The Music polygram

Hope's what they send you for a speedy recovery. Or it's what incumbent presidents warm up like leftovers just before election year. High and plural, it's what parents forever hold for children, and what's forever being confounded, disappointed or dashed. Low and singular, it's the guy next to Crosby in all those Road pictures. If you were happy in high school, maybe hope was your first date for the dance. And if you're Van Morrison, she must be a brown-eyed gir... | More »

Michael Jackson

Off The Wall

Like any an aging child star, Michael Jackson has had to grow up gracefully in public in order to survive. Until now, he's understandably clung to the remnants of his original Peter Pan of Motown image while cautiously considering the role of the young prince. Off the Will marks Jackson's first decisive step toward a mature show-business personality, and except for some so-so material, it's a complete success. A slick, sophisticated R&B-pop showcase with a definite disco ... | More »

October 18, 1979

Led Zeppelin

In Through The Out Door

Hearing John Bonham play the drums is the aural equivalent of watching Clint Eastwood club eight bad guys over the head with a two-by-four while driving a derailed locomotive through their hideout. Either you are horrified by all that blood on the floor, or you wish you could do it yourself. No one's ever going to accuse Bonham of subtlety, but everyone should give him credit for consistency. Even on Led Zeppelin's worst effort (Houses of the Holy), he flails with so much exuberance... | More »

Neil Young

Rust Never Sleeps

For anyone still passionately in love with rock & roll, Neil Young has made a record that defines the territory. Defines it, expands it, explodes it. Burns it to the ground. Rust Never Sleeps tells me more about my life, my country and rock & roll than any music I've heard in years. Like a newfound friend or lover pledging honesty and eager to share whatever might be important, it's both a sampler and a synopsis — of everything: the rocks and the trees, and the shadow... | More »

October 4, 1979

Randy Newman

Born Again

Randy Newman and Stephen Sondheim, two of this decade's finest songwriter-craftsmen, are both misanthropes intent on subverting the optimism generally associated with American popular music. But until their most recent works, each man took care not to overexpose his nihilism. Newman balanced his despair with humor: if his lyrics mocked religion and homeland, his eloquently sentimentalized Americana often ached for those very ties. He's probably the only pop artist in this country wh... | More »

Carly Simon

Spy

It may have seemed surprising, a few years back, for Carly Simon to record a sensual ode to James Bond ("Nobody Does It Better"), but Spy finally makes the connection clear. If Simon's an "international spy in the house of love" (as per the LP's Anaïs Nin epigraph), it's not in the shadowy, self-effacing mode of John Le Carré's George Smiley. Instead, she embraces well-bred, high-toned visibility and an 007-like panache. Each new album sends her out into the wa... | More »

September 20, 1979

Devo

Duty Now for the Future

Devo is sort of the rock equivalent of Kurt Vonnegut, taking off from premises it only half understands. These guys synthesize trenchant experimental trends into a hodgepodge that's compelling only to those without the intellectual vigor to penetrate the band's surface pose to find the real pose underneath. Like the rest of the No Wave to which they're appended as a kind of accessible doppelgänger, Devo's funkless chubs have very few new ideas—most of the concep... | More »

The Kinks

Low Budget JVC Compact Discs

As Kinks records go, Low Budget wins the award for cheesiest packaging hands down, greatest-hits sets included. The cover photo of the group's logo and the album's title stenciled on a grimy sidewalk between a pair of high-heeled feet would do only a bargain bin proud. No pictures of the band, no credits, no song titles — and that shrink-wrap sticker proclaiming three "new Kinks classics" is at best an exercise in the power of positive thinking. For all its obvious faults, th... | More »

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

More Song Stories entries »
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