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album reviews

Etta James

Deep In The Night

Once, when I was fourteen, I bought a copy of "My Dearest Darling" by Etta James, a record I'd heard as an oldie on a local station. The song haunted me, and I played it obsessively, day in and day out. "My Dearest Darling" had a special sort of emotional pull; it was demanding and soulful, yet somehow gentler and more vulnerable than even teenage stuff by the Vandellas or the Marvelettes. I played the 45 so much it drove my mother crazy. Finally, in exasperation, she threw the record aw... | More »

Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Street Action

Hey all you gobblers with quadruple platinum albumsProfits goin' right up your noseI know what you're gettin', gobblersNasal pharyngeal carcinoma(Chorus) Nasal, oh nasal, pharyngeal carcinomaDoctors cut off your noseAnd pull tumors right outta your sinusesBut I don't need a KleenexTo know which way my nostrils blowHey all you gobblers with needles in your armsDidn't think you'd need the big HBut now you got a bole in your faceYou just don't wanna think about... | More »

The Band

The Last Waltz WEA International

Almost two years ago, the Band called it quits. They also called in a cast of friends and movie director Martin Scorsese to film a farewell concert. On hand were Ronnie Hawkins, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Paul Butterfield, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Bobby Charles, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan, among others. The Band went out the same way they had come in: with ambition and style. And now, anyone who missed the concert on Thanksgiving Day 1976 can not only see the movie ... | More »

May 18, 1978

Brian Eno

Before and After Science

Before and After Science is being touted as Brian Eno's most commercial album, and with some reason: it's a graceful, seductively melodic work, and side one even kicks off with a neat little disco riff. But this view also confuses the issue. People who think of Eno solely in terms of the static, artsy instrumentals on David Bowie's Heroes and Low forget, or never knew, that on Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), the master of dadaist cybernetics als... | More »

Kraftwerk

The Man-Machine

Less than three minutes into The Man Machine, an album that faithfully extends Kraftwerk's unmistakable brand of exquisite torture, this group has successfully drained the blood from the listener's body and pumped in the liquid Lysol. With its efficient modern-world toys — synthesizers, speech synthesizers, synthesized percussion — Kraftwerk strikingly creates a sound so antiseptic that germs would die there. What's more, the band has never been this conceptually st... | More »

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 »

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

More Song Stories entries »
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