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album reviews

Curtis Mayfield

Never Say You Can't Survive

The revelation of Sire Records' recent anthology, The Impressions: The Vintage Years, is the artistic dominance of Curtis Mayfield beginning in the late Fifties. Whether shaping the persona of early Jerry Butler or using the Impressions to extend his own, Mayfield has been a man of sweeping, uniquely personal vision. And while he's never had a moment with the impact of Elvis Presley's Sun sessions or Ray Charles live at Atlanta, his deft juggling of pop and the music and messag... | More »

May 19, 1977

Bad Company

Burnin' Sky

Although Burnin' Sky is firmly slotted into the comfortable menace of Anglo blues-rock growl, some credit is due Bad Company for loosening up sufficiently to nudge the limits of hard-rock convention. While it's less than a break-through in terms of songwriting or musicianship, Burnin' Sky does sport a crisp, streamlined sound and a noticeable softening of the band's synthetic macho posing. The title track lays down all of the comfortable parameters: dramatic major-chord d... | More »

The Band

Islands Caroline Distribution

It's been a long haul for both the Band and Van Morrison; they have made their livings as rock & rollers for close to 20 years now. To judge solely by their new albums (Morrison's is his first release since 1974) time is catching up with them, though whether they will again outdistance it remains an open question. Morrison made better music in '64 and '65 with Them, the first (and last?) great Irish rock & roll band; as the Hawks, the Band made better music in ... | More »

Bonnie Raitt

Sweet Forgiveness

Why should Bonnie Raitt merit our "sweet forgiveness" any longer? Her newest album, though pleasant in spots, is in the end deeply frustrating. The promise in work like Give It Up has been squandered through lack of direction and inspiration. The hallmarks of that LP — distinctive instrumental settings and fills, an ear for the great song and, most of all, a delightfully insouciant yet authoritative style — have been turned on their heads in Sweet Forgiveness. Raitt's albums... | More »

Van Morrison

A Period of Transition Polygram

It's been a long haul for both the Band and Van Morrison; they have made their livings as rock & rollers for close to 20 years now. To judge solely by their new albums (Morrison's is his first release since 1974) time is catching up with them, though whether they will again outdistance it remains an open question. Morrison made better music in '64 and '65 with Them, the first (and last?) great Irish rock & roll band; as the Hawks, the Band made better music in ... | More »

May 5, 1977

The Beach Boys

Love You

Brian Wilson's appearance last fall on Saturday Night was just about the last straw in the sequence of events surrounding his public reemergence. For someone who cared, it was revolting to watch him sit at the piano in a sandbox, singing "Good Vibrations" by himself, his voice barely able to carry a melody. Worse, he seemed oblivious to how degrading the scene was. But The Beach Boys Love You is a truly wonderful album, and it is Brian's show from beginning to end. He wrote 11 of t... | More »

Iggy Pop

The Idiot Virgin

Iggy Pop has always been the greatest rock comedian. As leader and frontispiece for that most extreme wing of rock nihilism represented by the Stooges, he at once defined and ridiculed the options left to punk rockers after "My Generation." The nihilist attitude meant plenty when it was a reaction to the pop status quo best exemplified by Dick Clark, but once nihilism itself became the status quo it was trivialized into mere decadence, a fashionable synonym for boredom. Iggy's criticism... | More »

Cheap Trick

Cheap Trick

These guys play rock & roll like Vince Lombardi coached football: heavy emphasis on basics with a strain of demented violence to keep the opposition intimidated. The closest musical analogy is the Who, who have always sounded like the inmates of Bedlam on their best stuff. Cheap Trick not only sounds like their attendant forgot to lock their cages, they look like it, too. Half the fun of the album is staring at the pictures on the back and wondering if lead guitarist Rick Nielson really h... | More »

April 21, 1977

The Kinks

Sleepwalker

Even as a staunch Kinks supporter, I was beginning to have my doubts. Although the band's following has grown steadily since they made it into the Seventies (by the skin of their teeth) with "Lola," they seemed to have peaked with Muswell Hillbillies. Ray Davies seemed hopelessly stuck on a thematic dead-end street (perhaps he had started believing all those notices about personifying the "voice of the little people"). But Sleepwalker — the first Kinks album since Lola that's ... | More »

Miles Davis

Water Babies

Subterfuge, thy name is Columbia. The album cover gives no recording dates, but the constant personnel (Davis, trumpet; Wayne Shorter, tenor sax; Herbie Hancock, piano; Ron Carter, bass; Tony Williams, drums) is that of the 1964-68 Davis quintet. Side one contains three Shorter compositions recorded on Wayne's 1969 Super Nova (Blue Note); comparisons between the performances confirm Hancock's 1969 comment that "Miles ... shapes all the tunes that come into his band." He shaped his ... | More »

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Song Stories

“Promiscuous”

Nelly Furtado with Timbaland | 2006

This club-oriented single featuring Timbaland, who produced Nelly Furtado's third album, Loose, was Furtado’s sexy return after the Canadian singer's exploration of her Portuguese heritage on Folklore. "In the studio, initially I didn’t know if I could do it, 'cause Timbaland wrote that chorus," Furtado said. "I'm like, 'That's cool, but I don't know if I'm ready to do full-out club.'" The flirty lyrics are a dance between a guy and girl, each knowing they will end up in bed together but still playing the game. "Tim and I called it 'The BlackBerry Song,' she said, "because everything we say in the song you could text-message to somebody."

More Song Stories entries »
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