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album reviews

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 »

July 12, 1979

Bob Dylan

At Budokan Columbia

However much they may offend purists, these latest live versions of his old songs have the effect of liberating Bob Dylan from the originals. And the originals — however lasting, however beautiful — constitute a terrible burden. The effect of Dylan's revisionist efforts, beginning at the time of the 1974 "comeback" tour with the Band commemorated on Before the Flood and now reaching a giddy crescendo, has been to make one realize how extraordinarily lucky Bob Dylan was as a y... | More »

Van Halen

Van Halen II Warner Bros.

Rock archaeologists have recently unearthed conclusive evidence (some liner notes contained in the ancient Dead Weight Scrolls) that the subspecies of heavy metal known as thud rock was born way back in the paleolithic mists when a certain strain of Heidelberg man (Mondo erectus) began banging on a garbage can with the skull bone of a chimpanzee. Predictably, these findings received scant attention in the world's music press — until the discovery, off the coast of Sumatra last mon... | More »

June 28, 1979

Patti Smith

Wave Sony BMG

Patti Smith possesses some qualities that are fast disappearing from most American rock & roll: passion, flamboyance, a sense of the epic, a belief in the music itself as a revolutionary force. As a moony high priestess of art, forever building altars to herself, she's a bore — as pretentious as a college sophomore who's just discovered decadence, as ingenuously egotistic as a spoiled five-year-old. But as a demagogic purveyor of barbed, gutbucket rock & roll, she rank... | More »

Art Garfunkel

Fate For Breakfast

It would seem as if Art Garfunkel's latest solo album exists for the sole purpose of showing that he has a sense of humor. The evidence isn't in the music but in the packaging. First, there's that mock-despairing title, Fate for Breakfast, and on the back cover, a subtitle, "Doubt for Dessert." Also on the back is Garfunkel in a tux, grinning with a blacked-out front tooth and gripping an extremely unattractive, half-eaten bone or, uh, some sort of...meat? That's about it... | More »

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Song Stories

“Wake Up Everybody”

John Legend and the Roots | 2010

A Number One record by Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes in 1976 (a McFadden- and Whitehead-penned classic sung by Teddy Pendergrass) inspired the title and lead single from Wake Up!, John Legend's tribute album to message music. The more familiar strains of "Wake Up Everybody" also fit his agenda. "It basically sums up, in a very concise way, all the things we were thinking about when we were putting this record together in that it's about justice, doing the right thing and coming together to make the world a better place," he said. Vocalists Common and Melanie Fiona assist Legend on this mission to connect.

More Song Stories entries »
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