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album reviews

The Sex Pistols

Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols Warner Bros.

When the father-house burns — Young men find blisters on their hearts. -Old Ukrainian Proverb If it's not clear to you now, it's going to be: the rock wars of the Seventies have begun, and the Sex Pistols, the most incendiary rock & roll band since the Rolling Stones and the Who, have just dropped the Big One on both the sociopolitical aridity of their native England and most of the music from which they and we were artistically and philosophically formed. While a majori... | More »

Al Green

The Belle Album

In rock & roll, nothing seems easier or more obvious than a good beat, but nothing is more elusive. We may someday look back on The Belle Album as Al Green's best — it's too soon to know; the man has a lifetime ahead of him — and if we do, the beat will be the reason. Whether or not the seemingly effortless religious conviction of the songs Green has written for this record lasts as long as he does, the beat will never wear out. "All n All" is the number that not ev... | More »

February 9, 1978

Queen

News Of The World Toshiba
5

Queen makes elaborate music from shards of nostalgia for the British Empire. They push boys' public-school chorales and English martial music through the funnel of hard rock, aiming carefully at romantic crescendos embellished with heavy echo. Apparently, the intention is that the long-tarnished glories of "tradition" will be repolished on the band's hard pumice. Most of the songs on News of the World either challenge Queen's artistic enemies or endeavor to establish a vision ... | More »

Leonard Cohen

Death Of A Ladies Man Columbia

When I first met Leonard Cohen, he was telling a good friend of mine that his mother was seriously ill. My friend, whose father had recently died, was so moved by Cohen's mesmerizing familial compassion that she quietly began to cry. Seeing this, Cohen jumped up, left the room and quickly returned with his famous blue raincoat. "Please cry on this," he said. "It soaks up the tears." And you wonder why I like Leonard Cohen. Unfortunately, the tales surrounding Cohen's seventh album,... | More »

February 1, 1978

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Live In Europe

This poorly recorded double-record set shows John Fogerty's musical personality in a somewhat different light from his studio recordings. Although he runs through the songs with characteristic discipline, he seems looser and occasionally more energetic than usual. Playing in front of enthusiastic crowds in 1971, he was less inhibited and the resulting sense of freedom elevates the performances of most of the uptempo material — although he and the band then prove unable to calm them... | More »

January 26, 1978

Earth, Wind & Fire

All 'N All

At their worst, Earth, Wind and Fire indulge in some of the most pretentious excesses in current black music. As on past Earth, Wind and Fire records, All 'n All is filled with leaded brotherhood platitudes, Star Trek sci-fi and stiffly poetic love songs. This sounds overwrought and depressing (and maybe it is). But there's a catch: I like the record, for like much current black music, All 'n All elicits a schizophrenic response. If the album represents some of the worst in bla... | More »

January 12, 1978

Kiss

Alive II Casablanca

One of the perennial saving graces of rock & roll is its accessibility to the true believer. In a sort of Horatio Alger formula, if you need it badly enough and have the right attitude, eventually you'll become an adequate rocker. Kiss, a band built almost entirely around an image, offers the latest proof of this maxim. Kiss has improved dramatically during its recording career, first to the high point of raw efficiency achieved on "I Wanna Rock & Roll All Night," more recently ... | More »

Iggy Pop

Lust For Life Toshiba EMI

Iggy Pop's second comeback album leaves one with ambivalent feelings: glad that Iggy is alive, apparently well, writing, singing and performing again, but upset because his new stance is so utterly unchallenging and cautious. Taken purely on its own terms, Lust for Life is a successful album. Side one is quite good, starting with the title cut, which rocks with a Sandy Nelson-like drum style while Iggy delivers his survivor message to the masses, and continuing to the closing track, "Ton... | More »

David Bowie

Heroes EMI Music Distribution

Heroes is the second album in what we can now hope will be a series of David Bowie-Brian Eno collaborations, because this album answers the question of whether Bowie can be a real collaborator. Like his work with Lou Reed, Mott the Hoople and Iggy Pop, Low, Bowie's first album with Eno, seemed to be just another auteurist exploitation, this time of the Eno-Kraftwerk avant-garde. Heroes, though, prompts a much more enthusiastic reading of the collaboration, which here takes the form of a ... | More »

December 29, 1977

Eric Clapton

Slowhand

Eric Clapton's solo albums have tended to be so evenhanded and laconic that they often seem interchangeable. His pain was always so apparent that every move he made seemed frozen for eternity. At first glance, Slow Hand does nothing to alter that pattern — a few good tracks interspersed between the usual filler — but there's a lot more going on here beneath the surface. Clapton is showing signs of psychic rehabilitation. His love songs are pointedly realistic. In a chill... | 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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