.

album reviews

Tom Waits

Foreign Affairs Asylum

The admiring audience that Tom Waits built up with his early work now worries about him in a way that does his derelict's persona proud: when is that old boy gonna straighten up? Closing Time was a quiet classic in 1973, but with The Heart of Saturday Night, Small Change and Nighthawks at the Diner, the singer songwriter's beaten raps, overflowing with pathos and Americana, had turned self-indulgent. Foreign Affairs, fortunately, shows a resuscitation of Waits' voice and abili... | More »

November 9, 1977

B.B. King

To Know You Is to Love You

The title tune alone is worth the price of admission. Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright composed it. Stevie plays electric piano, B.B. turns in a powerful vocal performance that is ably supported by his crackling guitar, and the incomparable Sigma Sound rhythm section—the musicians who back Billy Paul, the O'Jays, the Intruders, and the Stylistics—contributes a hefty punch. The tempo and the minor mode have a superficial resemblance to "The Thrill Is Gone," but structurally "T... | More »

November 3, 1977

Talking Heads

Talking Heads '77 Warner Music France

Talking Heads are the last of CBGB's original Big Four to record (following Patti Smith, the Ramones and Television), and their debut is an absolute triumph. Dressing like a quartet of Young Republicans, playing courteously toned-down music and singing lyrics lauding civil servants, parents and college, Talking Heads are not even remotely punks. Rather, they are the great Ivy League hope of pop music. I can't recall when I last heard such a vital, imaginatively tuneful album. David... | More »

Styx

The Grand Illusion

Styx blends the progressive, keyboard-oriented intellectualism of primitive Yes with the gritty CroMagnon sense of guitar mania that used to be equated with such third-generation bands as Grand Funk and Bloodrock. Styx also possesses a strong sense of musical dramatics: on one album, the group actually equaled the foreboding drama of the Doors' "Horse Latitudes" with an ode to lava and fire entitled "Krakatoa."   Grand Illusion sallies forth with cuts that encompass the rage of he... | More »

October 20, 1977

Linda Ronstadt

Simple Dreams

The thing about Linda Ronstadt is that she keeps getting better, and we keep expecting more and more of her. She's always possessed that big, magnanimous voice, but it wasn't until Heart like a Wheel that her interpretive and arranging skills (the latter, and perhaps both, due to the felicitous pairing with producer Peter Asher) fully emerged. With Hasten Down the Wind, Ronstadt shed some long-lived inhibitions. Given Karla Bonoff's red-hot, baldly emotional material ("Someone... | More »

October 6, 1977

Pete Townshend

Rough Mix

It's almost impossible to avoid describing Rough Mix as devotional music, but it's equally difficult to reconcile that description with some of the album's components. Townshend's stinging guitar on "My Baby Gives It Away," the chugging. Faces-like title instrumental and the wailing saxophone coda on Lane's Fifties-style "Catmelody" are hardly typical of spiritual music. But then matters meditative have never before been fully integrated into the ugly, angry sounds we... | More »

September 23, 1977

The Rolling Stones

Love You Live Rolling Stones Records

One of the paradoxes of such a supposedly spontaneous art form as rock & roll is that it has produced no great live albums. And even very few good ones. It doesn't make sense, but it's true. For example, if you accept the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Who, Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart as artists who are at least representative of this music's best, you won't find any of them definitively defined by Got LIVE If You Want It!, Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!, The Beatles at the... | More »

September 22, 1977

Ornette Coleman

Dancing In Your Head

These records provide an eloquent case for the universality of music. The Texas blues evolution to free-form expressiveness practiced by alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman makes implicit reference to the music of several of the West Africans represented on the Antilles anthology. At surface level there would seem to be little connection between such a luminary of avant-garde jazz as Coleman and African pop musicians influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Art Blakey and Bob Dylan. But these seemingly diffe... | More »

Cheap Trick

In Color

There's nothing progressive about In Color, Cheap Trick's second album. On the surface, the group is distinguished by its eccentric appearance: the pair of Rod Stewartstyle "punques" are standard enough, but lead guitarist Rick Nielsen, a bug-eyed Bowery Boy, and drummer Bun E. Carlos, who looks and dresses like a mustachioed Panamanian Sydney Greenstreet, are out of some other movie altogether. Musically, the group is less eccentric: this is mainstream rock & roll, utterly with... | More »

August 25, 1977

Kiss

Love Gun Island

After seeing Kiss backstage without their makeup, I have lost all ambition to do anything with my life except see them naked. Gene Simmons knows this and has written a song about the Plaster Casters — a couple of groupies who made molds of rock stars' nonproboscis protuberances in the late Sixties — to titillate me and the millions of other Americans who go to bed every night wondering about Simmons' masculine module. Does he paint it like his face before he performs wit... | More »

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Song Stories

“Bizness”

Tune-Yards | 2011

The opening track to Merrill Garbus’ second album under the Tune-Yards banner (she also plays in the trio Sister Suvi), “Bizness” is a song about relationships that is as colorful as the face paint favored by Garbus both live and in her videos. Disjointed funk bass, skittering African beats, diced-and-sliced horns and Garbus’ dynamic voice, which ranges from playful coos to throat-shredding howls, make “Bizness” reminiscent of another creative medium. “I'd like for them not to be songs as much as quilts or collages or something,” Garbus said.

More Song Stories entries »
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