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album reviews

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 »

August 11, 1977

Neil Young

American Stars 'N' Bars WB

Right now, I think it would be just about impossible to overrate Neil Young. In the last few years he has web the most avant-garde styles to the corniest of archetypes — and deliberately ignored the public's penchant for pasteurized product by rampantly (im)perfecting Bob Dylan's crude but spontaneous recording technique. Seething with psychic dynamite, his raw and passionate electric-guitar playing boasts a tactility and uniqueness unmatched by any guitarist since Jimi Hendri... | More »

James Taylor

JT Sony Music Distribution

JT is James Taylor coming out of his personal closet. In "Looking for Love on Broadway" he sings, "Had my fill of self-pity," and that's epochal stuff for the man who almost single-handedly developed the eyes-affixed-to-the-navel songwriting and performing posture. Yet the album supports Taylor's claim. Only one song on JT, "Another Grey Morning," even skirts depression, and that song illustrates Taylor's evolution rather neatly. The form and content of Taylor's most stri... | More »

July 28, 1977

Cat Stevens

Izitso

Izitso is good proof that behind Cat Stevens' sentimental and somewhat naive persona there exists a musician and composer more far-reaching than the wistful but cloying singer/songwriter who relies largely on soft acoustic instrumentation. Touching several bases, often in apparent opposition to each other, Stevens displays both the diversity and the maturity to match this seeming incongruity. Stevens and Jean Roussel enhance much of the arranging with their keyboards — synthesizer... | More »

July 14, 1977

Bob Marley

Exodus Universal Distribution

There is a contradiction here between the enormous abilities of the Wailers — particularly the magnificent rhythm section of Aston Barrett, bass, and Carlton Barrett, drums, and the spidery lead guitar of Julian "Junior" Marvin — and the flatness of the material Bob Marley has given them to work with. The more I listen to this album, the more I am seduced by the playing of the band; at the same time, the connection I want to make with the music is subverted by overly familiar lyri... | More »

Alice Cooper

Lace And Whiskey

When "School's Out" ripped out of the Dutch top-of-the-pops one vagabond summer, it was like receiving a postcard from home that fairly brimmed with typical American excess, bravado and humor. This was the meat of the Alice Cooper group's appeal: they were a living exaggeration of the heavy-metal band, lampooning the genre's inherent violence with satiric lyrics and a more-sophomoric-than-life visual show that, naturally enough, made them popular for all of the crass reasons th... | More »

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Song Stories

“Money For Nothing”

Dire Straits | 1984

Mark Knopfler wrote this song with Sting, and it wasn’t without controversy. The Dire Straits frontman's original lyric used the word “faggot” to describe a singer who got their “money for nothing and their chicks for free.” Even though the slur was edited out in many versions, the band, and Knopfler, still took plenty of criticism for the term. “I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London--he actually said it was below the belt,” Knopfler told Rolling Stone. Still, "Money For Nothing," undoubtedly augmented by its innovative early computer-animated video, stayed at Number One for three weeks.

More Song Stories entries »
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