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album reviews

Fleetwood Mac

Rumours Warner Bros.

Rock & roll has this bad habit of being unpredictable. You never can tell when a band will undergo that alchemic transmigration from lead to gold. The medium of transformation is almost always a hit single, but such turnarounds often swamp a band in notoriety it can't live up to. But in Fleetwood Mac's case the departure of guitarist Bob Welch — who'd reduced the band to recutting pointless and pretentious versions of old standards — amounted to the biggest bre... | More »

April 7, 1977

The Ramones

Leave Home WEA International

These bands achieved their initial notoriety while playing in the same place (an esophagus of a bar called CBGB, in lower Manhattan) and have been lumped together with other habitués of this joint as purveyors of "punk rock." In their self-consciousness and liberal open-mindedness, these bands are as punky as Fonzie: that is, not at all. Blondie is a quintet which juggles genres of fast rock, from a thick, Spector-ish vision of street crime called "X Offender" to a thick, Who-like vis... | More »

Television

Marquee Moon Rhino

These bands achieved their initial notoriety while playing in the same place (an esophagus of a bar called CBGB, in lower Manhattan) and have been lumped together with other habitués of this joint as purveyors of "punk rock." In their self-consciousness and liberal open-mindedness, these bands are as punky as Fonzie: that is, not at all. Blondie is a quintet which juggles genres of fast rock, from a thick, Spector-ish vision of street crime called "X Offender" to a thick, Who-like vis... | More »

March 24, 1977

Pink Floyd

Animals EMI Music Distribution

For Pink Floyd, space has always been the ultimate escape. It still is, but now definitions have shifted. The romance of outer space has been replaced by the horror of spacing out. This shift has been coming for a while. There was Dark Side of the Moon and "Brain Damage," Wish You Were Here and the story of founding member Syd Barrett, the "Crazy Diamond." And now there's Animals, a visit to a cacophonous farm where what you have to watch for is pigs on the wing. Animals is a song suite... | More »

Muddy Waters

Hard Again

Blue Sky Grabbed Muddy Waters just as Chess Records virtually put him out to pasture. For the first time in 30 years, Muddy has new blood backing his recording ventures. He sounds happy, energetic and out for business: in short, Muddy Waters is kicking in another mule's stall. Waters has written six new tunes for the album, marking the end of a long dry spell, but his standards and one old Willie Dixon tune rock the hardest. "Mannish Boy" (a close relation to "I'm a Man") sounds al... | More »

February 24, 1977

Queen

A Day At The Races EMI Music Distribution
4

The current consensus is that rock is well into its third generation. But the bands which have pulled the music furthest from its roots remain critically dismissed. There are reasons for such disdain. Lumped together as art-rock, such bands as the three above seem to threaten the artistic stature of anything less complex, or more simple. But it is even harder for hard-rock-oriented listeners to find rock at all in the styles of bands as diverse as Focus, Gentle Giant, Be-Bop Deluxe, Boston an... | More »

Eagles

Hotel California Asylum

Hotel California showcases both the best and worst tendencies of Los Angeles-situated rock, but more strikingly its lyrics present a convincing and unflattering portrait of the milieu itself. Don Henley, handling five of the eight vocal tracks, expresses well the weary disgust of a victim (or observer) of the region's luxurious excess. Yet the record's firm musical bases cannot be overlooked. Bernie Leadon departed and Joe Walsh arrived; the Eagles have abandoned most of their blue... | More »

February 10, 1977

Joni Mitchell

Hejira Elektra

It is the tug of war between the symbolist and the siren that makes Joni Mitchell's albums alternately alluring and forbidding. On the one hand she is the most ruthlessly analytical member of the music-as-therapy songwriting school, and often her songs seem intent only on making private sense of her own experience. On the other hand, as a public performer, Mitchell wants to be heard and even enjoyed. To that end she conducts a cool flirtation with her audience. Like a Victorian gentlewom... | More »

Paul McCartney

Wings Over America [Bonus Tracks]

For such an expensive, three-record concert souvenir, made by an artist as commercially astute as Paul McCartney, a consumer-conscious review seems appropriate. The Wings fan with all the studio albums, for instance, may find Wings over America a legitimate alternative; excepting the single side of acoustic material, these performances are rawer and more driven than the original recordings and, in many cases, much the better for it. "Rock Show" is placed in its natural habitat; "Magneto and T... | More »

January 27, 1977

Al Green

Have a Good Time

If his records are any indication, Al Green is a troubled, no, haunted man. Imagine the spiritual afflictions that prompted the theme of "Keep Me Cryin'," Green's latest single and a song from Have a Good Time: "Well I pleased all the people/But I couldn't please the crowd/So I got down on my knees and said/Father, wouldn't you clear my head/They keep me crying all the time." What makes the thing even stranger is the song's foundation: a sprightly rhythm topped by a s... | More »

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

More Song Stories entries »
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