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album reviews

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 »

January 29, 1976

Supertramp

Crisis? What Crisis?

Supertramp, whose Crime of the Century was a surprise hit of 1975, are back with a neatly timed followup, Crisis? What Crisis? (with suitably heady cover — a man sunbathing amid rubbish while rain falls and smokestacks blow pollution into already ominously gray skies). The biggest crisis is trying to get through both sides of this record.   Supertramp is led by guitarist Roger Hodgson and keyboard player Richard Davies who are responsible (as in guilty) for all the group's w... | More »

The Band

Northern Lights, Southern Cross Capitol/EMI Records

Cahoots and the oldies LP, Moondog Matinee, weren't exactly auspicious developments in a recording career with beginnings as brilliant as the Band's. Their playing behind Bob Dylan on Planet Waves and Before the Flood as well as on the earlier Basement Tapes has been more accomplished and stirring than any of their own music since The Band, and it is against these efforts as sidemen that their first album of new songs in four years must inevitably be judged. The first few seconds of... | More »

January 15, 1976

Quicksilver Messenger Service

Solid Silver

The reunion of the original Quicksilver Messenger Service (plus Dino Valenti, who didn't appear on their earliest efforts) is one contradiction after another. Though much of the arranging is dull and unvaried, when the inimitable John Cipollina lets loose his stinging, tremoloed guitar, the band is at its finest. Quicksilver still revels in crisp rhythm guitar and the avoidance of distortion. Several of Solid Silver's songs, however, are just a few basic chords played beneath obscu... | More »

Joni Mitchell

The Hissing of Summer Lawns Asylum

With The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Joni Mitchell has moved beyond personal confession into the realm of social philosophy. All the characters are American stereotypes who act out socially determined rituals of power and submission in exquisitely described settings. Mitchell's eye for detail is at once so precise and so panoramic that one feels these characters have very little freedom. They belong to the things they own, wear and observe, to the drugs they take and the people they know as... | More »

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Song Stories

“Road to Nowhere”

Talking Heads | 1985

A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

More Song Stories entries »
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