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album reviews

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Gimme Back My Bullets MCA Records

There was a time when Lynyrd Skynyrd's music was tough. It had drive and force; it was impossible to ignore. But last year's Al Kooper-produced Nuthin' Fancy revealed the band's soft underbelly and Gimme Back My Bullets, produced by Tom Dowd, is an extension of its predecessor. It starts strong but fails to deliver. The title track is powerful — relentless, a little dangerous — with lead guitar wailing urgently behind one of the angriest Ronnie Van Zant vocals... | More »

Parliament-Funkadelic

Mothership Connection

With the "Parliafunkadelicment thang," leader George Clinton has succeeded in creating two distinct identities for one band—the mystical voodoo of the Funkadelics and the stabbing, humorous funk of Parliament. While Funkadelic has no discernible influence, Parliament is more closely attuned to the post-Sly wave. But unlike the Ohio Players or Commodores, the group refuses to play it straight. Instead, Clinton spews his jive, conceived from some cosmic funk vision, under titles like "Sup... | More »

March 11, 1976

Bob Dylan

Desire Columbia

Desire is a very special album, although Bob Dylan's adamantly antimusical approach keeps it from greatness. Somehow, though, Dylan's antimusic winds up being very seductive. The real problems with this record lie in other areas. What's most striking about the record is that it is such a collaborative effort. Dylan works as closely with these musicians and singers — among them, violinist Scarlet Rivera, bassist Rob Stoner and drummer Howard Wyeth of the Rolling Thunder c... | More »

Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Head On

Head On focuses on no less than three apologies by leader Randy Bachman for his group's very existence. Even more oddly, Bachman's defense rests on moralistic rather than artistic grounds. According to "Average Man," "Stay Alive" and "Lookin' Out for #1," it's the work ethic that has propelled BTO to the top of the heap. "Average Man" delineates Bachman's somewhat paranoid outlook: They stop and stare at our houses and carsThey settle for less, we reach for the star... | More »

The Kinks

Schoolboys In Disgrace

If one were to simplify the old guard of British rock & roll by drawing a straight line, left to right, between the angelic Beatles and the demonic Rolling Stones, one would probably place the Who slightly to the left of the Stones and the Kinks a couple of notches to the right of the Beatles but well to the left of Townshend and Company. Ray Davies may display a full share of Dionysian darkness and disorder at times, but his craziness is usually admirable and engaging, and the Kinks, if ... | More »

February 26, 1976

Cat Stevens

Numbers

Things aren't going well for Cat Stevens on the planet, ah, polyethylene. Critics keep asking: would you buy a used I Ching from this man? Since Tea for the Tillerman, affirmation has been doubtful. Never a deep thinker and rarely a master of words, Stevens has now turned to the "majik" of numerology, only to have the melodies disappear down the decimal point. In fact, "Call Me Zero" would have been a perfect title for Numbers, an album so breathtakingly stupid that even the most loyal f... | More »

February 12, 1976

Deep Purple

Come Taste The Band

Ritchie Blackmore, Deep Purple's central force since their creation, left the group after Stormbringer to form his own group; this is Deep Purple's first record with new guitarist Tommy Bolin.   The album takes off in the chunky funk-rock style of Purple's last two albums. Distinctions don't develop until the material becomes familiar. Like Blackmore, Bolin establishes tension between Purple's solid rhythm foundation and his own sustained clarity and agitated u... | More »

Kraftwerk

Radio-Aktivitat

Instead of maintaining an icy detachment from its popularity, which might have been the best attitude to assume, Kraftwerk has attempted to duplicate Autobahn's success with a concept album. Like most concept albums, it's loaded with dead spots. Cuts like "Geiger Counter," "Intermission" and "News" are plain stupid, and no cut on the album comes near the melodic/harmonic sense that pervaded Autobahn or the creative use of electronics on the much earlier album Ralf and Florian, which... | More »

Patti Smith

Horses Arista

Patti Smith is the hottest rock poet to emerge from the fecund wastes of New Jersey since Bruce Springsteen. But Smith is not like Springsteen or anybody else at all. Springsteen is a rocker; Smith is a chanting rock & roll poet. Springsteen's followers thought he was a poet too, at first, because of the apparent primacy of his speedy strings of street-life images. But Springsteen himself quickly set matters right by building up his band and revealing his words to have been what wor... | More »

B.B. King

Lucille Talks Back

B.B. King has built a whole career on the art of ellipsis. To his best work he has always brought an unerring sense of grace, elegance and, above all, economy. Beneath the carefully worked out horn arrangements, the clearly enunciated vocals, the eloquently crafted, always brief, single-string guitar lines, lies an internal tension — a quality that he shares with his early Memphis cohort, vocalist Bobby "Blue" Bland. And it is that tension which gives meaning and power to his urbane, se... | More »

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Song Stories

“Stillness Is the Move”

Dirty Projectors | 2009

A Wim Wenders film and a rapper inspired the Dirty Projectors duo David Longstreth and Amber Coffmanto write "sort of a love song." "We rented the movie Wings of Desire from Dave's brother's recommendation, and he had me go through it and just write down some things that I found interesting, and they made it into the song," Coffman said. As for the hip-hop connection, Longstreth explained, "The beat is based on T-Pain. We commissioned a radio mix of the song by the guy who mixes all of Timbaland's records, but the mix we made sounded way better, so we didn't use it."

More Song Stories entries »
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