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album reviews

Art Garfunkel

Watermark

I first heard Art Garfunkel's third and best solo LP in the living room of the man who wrote ten of its twelve songs. Almost apologetically, Jimmy Webb introduced Watermark as "highly esoteric" before shyly venturing that he considered it a "major work." Well, the encouraging sales figures would seem to indicate that the album isn't as limited in appeal as Webb may have feared. And that's good, because Watermark contains some very worthy pop music. Garfunkel, a longtime admire... | More »

May 4, 1978

Jefferson Starship

Earth

What is this? A Buckminster Fuller-influenced statement on humanity? Maybe an opus about the elements? (There's a song called "Fire" and a verse about surfing.) Or maybe there's a clue in the perspective of the title art. Is this the Jefferson Starship coming back down to earth, or simply waving goodbye as the group is propelled into hyperspace for another Flashback Gordon fantasy? How about just another pop record? Earth is a grab bag of everything the Starship does, well or poorl... | More »

Van Halen

Van Halen Warner Bros.

Mark my words: in three years, Van Halen is going to be fat and self-indulgent and disgusting, and they'll follow Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin right into the toilet. In the meantime, they are likely to be a big deal. Their cover of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" does everything right, and they have three or four other cuts capable of jumping out of the radio the same way "Feels like the First Time" and "More than a Feeling" did amid all the candyass singer/songwriters and Shaun Cass... | More »

April 20, 1978

Patti Smith

Easter Arista

The hero represents the gift of love, or again, grace — the latter epitomized, for example, in Arthur's effortless raising of the sword from the rock — or, in Hindu mythology, Rama's similar lifting of the bow. Both deeds indicate how heroic feats of critical importance are enacted at moments when there no longer exists a clear dividing line between will and act, or rather when, beyond all necessity to proceed according to any attitude of "intentional" motivation whateve... | More »

April 6, 1978

Muddy Waters

I'm Ready

Muddy Waters looks like a candidate for the fifth face on Mount Rushmore. There's that much dignity and wisdom in his countenance, and his legend is of sufficient stature to make people take the bid seriously. But the way he's played on his last two albums. Waters deserves a national monument of his own. Both I'm Ready and last year's similar Hard Again seem to have rejuvenated Waters, but rejuvenation may not be the issue. Waters seems never to have lost his incredible s... | More »

Lou Reed

Street Hassle Arista

Near the beginning of this brilliant new album, Lou Reed sings: "It's been a long time since I've spoken to you." The line has a resonance far beyond its literal meaning. In the years following the breakup of the Velvet Underground, Reed's bizarre and half-baked semistardom became a travesty of his art, as one of the most magical raw nerves of our time coarsened into a crude, death-trip clown. Whereas Reed with the Velvets had once broken our hearts with a compelling vision of... | More »

March 23, 1978

Parliament-Funkadelic

Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome

George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and the rest of the Parliament Funkadelic and Rubber Band hydra seem blessed with unlimited inspiration. Clinton, who helps produce and write nearly everything these bands release, taps a — you'll pardon the expression — mother lode of black popular culture, gathering up all genres of music, humor and pulp fiction. Funkentelechy vs, the Placebo Syndrome is the new "funk opera" by Parliament, while Booty? Player of the Year further elucidates and... | More »

March 9, 1978

Joni Mitchell

Don Juan's Reckless Daughter Asylum

In retrospect, Blue turns out to have been the album that displayed Joni Mitchell at her most buoyant and comfortable — with herself, with the nature of her talents, and with the conventions of pop songwriting. From that happy juncture, she has moved on to more graceful and sober self-scrutiny (For the Roses and Court and Spark), to dramatic musical experimentation mixed with failed social commentary (The Hissing of Summer Lawns), to ever-more-seductive singing (Miles of Aisles) and to ... | More »

Aerosmith

Draw the Line Sony Music Distribution

Since Aerosmith's name and logo don't even appear on the outer sleeve of Draw the Line, someone obviously feels rather secure about the band's position in the hard-rock sweepstakes. The group is famous now — that's the message transmitted by Abe Hirschfeld's front-cover drawing. But fame and security don't always mix. Draw the Line is a truly horrendous record, chaotic to the point of malfunction and with an almost impenetrably dense sound adding to the co... | More »

Jackson Browne

Running On Empty Rhino/Elektra

As our finest practicing romantic, Jackson Browne has been stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again for so long that the road probably looks like a realistic way of life to him. Whether or not he knows it, he's been writing about highways and their alternate routes since his beginnings, so the subject matter and thematic concerns of Running on Empty aren't all that different from those of his first four LPs. But the approach is. This time, Browne has consciously created a... | 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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