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album reviews

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 »

Deep Purple

Made In Europe

I just don't understand, as Ann-Margret once sang, why an exciting band like Deep Purple, who consistently hit the top of the charts in Merrie Olde and have taken Europe by storm, remain a comparatively unknown quantity to American audiences. Especially when said audiences have wholeheartedly embraced bands with similar musical aims and not one more ampere of excitement. It's a shame, but Deep Purple themselves are at least partially to blame. Their first two American albums on Tet... | More »

The Jackson 5

The Jacksons

The first two cuts on The Jacksons prepare one for a good, snappy time; "Enjoy Yourself" and "Think Happy" are fast R&B, made distinctive by Michael's classic vocal in the first case and a smart use of rock guitar in the second. After this initial pair, however, producers Gamble and Huff channel the group into drab disco numbers and shabby ballads. The instrumentation, by various Jacksons and MFSB, is perfunctory. Implicit in their modified group-name is a new equality and solidarity... | More »

Jackson Browne

The Pretender Asylum

Like most performers who transcend their genre, Jackson Browne often seems more a symbol than an artist. Singer songwriter fans find in him the fulfillment of the style's promise: Browne's songs really do merge poetic vision and rock. But there are also those (like my friend who suggested that this album's proper title is The Pretentious) who find the genre symptomatic of all of rock's current weaknesses. Browne is the epitome of everything they find disagreeable, both lyr... | More »

January 13, 1977

Patti Smith

Radio Ethiopia BMG

On her second album, Patti Smith lays back, refusing to assert herself as she did on last year's Horses. The key is in the billing: on Radio Ethiopia, her group dominates. But while Smith can be an inventive, sometimes inspired writer and performer, her band is basically just another loud punk-rock gang of primitives, riff-based and redundant. The rhythm is disjointed, the guitar chording trite and elementary. Even at best ("Distant Fingers," for instance), the Patti Smith Group isn'... | 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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