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album reviews

The Allman Brothers Band

Enlightened Rogues Capricorn

Gregg Allman may not look like Lazarus, but he sure acts like him. Allman's astonishing resurrection here seems less an act of heroism on his part than a miracle on someone else's. After all, in the space of a few years, this artist went from being an exceptional white blues singer and the leader of one of the best American rock bands to being a laughingstock, a pathetic churl apparently unaware of the humiliation he suffered at the hands of Hollywood and the glitzy Cher. The propos... | More »

The Beach Boys

L.A. (Light Album)

The Beach Boys are easily the most overrated group in rock & roll history — which presents the reviewer with a problem: simply stating the facts invites an overreaction from the band's maundering cult who exaggerate the surf bums' importance. But the truth is that Brian Wilson was never a musical genius, though he executed some of the most crafty reworkings of Phil Spector's production style ever done and, for a few years, tapped into the heart line of teenage lifesty... | More »

The Sex Pistols

The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle Slowburn

"Follow me!" Johnny Rotten screams at the climax of the stunning live version of "Anarchy in the U.K." included on The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle. It's an exalted, spine-chilling challenge that brings back all the awe and terror the Sex Pistols were capable of inspiring during their brief and violent existence. There wasn't anything faked in the rage Rotten hurled at the world, and there wasn't anything cathartic in it either. The apocalyptic instinct he embodied cou... | More »

May 17, 1979

Jerry Lee Lewis

Duets

Nowadays, Jerry Lee Lewis is a respected country and western star, instant success following each release. Actually, he's always been country. But he hasn't always been such a well respected man. These two albums of re-releases return us to the Fifties, when Jerry Lee was the Mick Jagger of his day. If his (for then) outlandishly long blond hair, wild clothing, and frenzied act didn't aggravate the public sufficiently, he made up for it in other ways. He married three times be... | More »

Graham Parker

Squeezing Out Sparks

Graham Parker's first two albums remain among the very finest of the decade: lyrical, intense, emotionally specific; a rough and untrained voice somehow merging perfectly with the Anglicized Blonde on Blonde /Stax-Volt classicism of the band. It was a signal debut; Howlin Wind and Heat Treatment both arriving in 1976 along with a string of Let's-Conquer-the-U.S.A. club dates. Then Parker and the Rumour had to deal with commercial success, or rather the lack of it: to find themselves... | More »

May 3, 1979

Bad Company

Desolation Angels

Mick Ralphs, Bad Company's lead guitarist, has been quoted as saying he left Mott the Hoople because he "wanted to play a ballsier kind of rock & roll." There you have it. Ralphs' description captures the strengths and weaknesses of Bad Company's erstwhile style in a nutshell: balls, but less in the sense of nervy musical expansion than of macho bullishness and the allocation of brutish power to the most simplistic riffs. There's riffing aplenty on Bad Company's ... | More »

Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Rock n' Roll Nights

Death, taxes, another B.T.O. album. These guys just don't know when to toss in the towel, though singer/guitarist C. F. Turner's obviously been doing some serious pondering on the subject. At one point, he reflects (in his best David Clayton-Thomas bellow): "The folks back at home say I'm too old to rock and roll/I shoulda quit while I was ahead." Too true. But like almost everything else on Rock n' Roll Nights, this crucial insight comes secondhand, since the ambivalent ... | More »

Frank Zappa

Sheik Yerbouti

To paraphrase the composer himself, Frank Zappa isn't dead. He just smells funny to a lot of posthippie pundits who claim the master Mother made his point with Freak Out, Absolutely Free and We're Only in It for the Money before descending into the depths of pornographic cheap shots and jazz-rock redundancy for most of his next twenty odd albums. As the first release on Zappa's own label, the four-sided Shcik Yerbouti won't change everybody's mind, but it reaffirms (... | More »

April 19, 1979

Willie Nelson

Sweet Memories

I own Willie Nelson records on the following labels: Columbia, Lone Star, RCA, United Artists, Liberty, Atlantic, Capricorn, Diplomat, Sunset, Double Barrel, Plantation and a couple of others I forget right now. Obviously, the man has been around. It shows in his music. There's a remarkable emotional and thematic unity that runs through his entire body of work. As one of the most talented songwriters and song stylists this country has ever known, Nelson has carved out his own special pla... | More »

Willie Nelson

Willie And Family Live

I own Willie Nelson records on the following labels: Columbia, Lone Star, RCA, United Artists, Liberty, Atlantic, Capricorn, Diplomat, Sunset, Double Barrel, Plantation and a couple of others I forget right now. Obviously, the man has been around. It shows in his music. There's a remarkable emotional and thematic unity that runs through his entire body of work. As one of the most talented songwriters and song stylists this country has ever known, Nelson has carved out his own special pla... | More »

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Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

More Song Stories entries »
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