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album reviews

Meat Loaf

Bat Out Of Hell

Meat Loaf earned his somewhat eccentric name as a performer in the Rocky Horror Show, the theatrical torture, although he had previously spent several years as a rock singer in Detroit, even recording a single or two for Motown. Bat Out of Hell reflects such diversity, but can't resolve it. Meat Loaf has an outstanding voice, but his phrasing is way too stage-struck to make the album's pretensions to comic-book street life real. He needs a little less West Side Story and a little mo... | More »

Rod Stewart

Foot Loose & Fancy Free

There's something to be said for the New Wave rebellion against (to borrow a phrase from the not-so-young-himself Willy De Ville) "old meat." Even if this reaction is mostly confined to England, it seems very healthy. There are a lot of kids in England who don't care what kind of fashionably gauche trinkets decorate Rod Stewart's high-class, Hollywood home or what the exact terms (if any) of his separation from Britt Ekland will be. They do care that Stewart has lost touch with... | More »

The Ramones

Rocket to Russia Sire/London/Rhino

Rocket to Russia is the best American rock & roll of the year and possibly the funniest rock album ever made. Not that the Ramones are a joke — they're more worthwhile than almost anything that's more self-conscious because they exist in a pure and totally active state. Rocket shows substantial progress in the group's sound — it has opened up so that hints of Beach Boys harmonies float among the power chords, kind of like moving with the Who from My Generation ... | More »

Billy Joel

The Stranger Sony Music Distribution

This is the first Billy Joel album in some time that has significantly expanded his repertoire. While Streetlife Serenade and Turnstiles had occasional moments, the bulk of Joel's most memorable material was on Cold Spring Harbor — despite its severe technical flaws — and Piano Man, which gave him his only major single success. This time, while such songs as "Movin' Out" and "Just the Way You Are" are forced and overly simplistic, the imagery and melodies of The Stranger... | More »

December 1, 1977

Elvis Costello

My Aim Is True

Herewith, two rock & roll singers distinguished by their almost total disregard for the music and marketing strategies of their contemporaries. One is as established as such a performer can be and, it seems, is settling into an acceptance of the refusal of the great audience to accept him; the other is new on the scene and, just possibly, a star for these times. God knows what other times he might be a star for. Little Criminals offers all the minor charms of Randy Newman's music an... | More »

Steely Dan

Aja

Aja Is The Third Steely Dan album since songwriters Walter Becker and Donald Fagen discarded a fixed-band format in late 1974. Since then they have declined to venture beyond the insular comfort of L.A. studios, recording their compositions with a loose network of session musicians. As a result, the conceptual framework of their music has shifted from the pretext of rock & roll toward a smoother, awesomely clean and calculated mutation of various rock, pop and jazz idioms. Their lyrics re... | More »

Graham Parker

Stick To Me

Graham Parker is unquestionably the most exciting new rock performer since Bruce Springsteen. He is a ferocious singer and an obsessively lyrical writer with a sense of rock bounded by (sort of) Presley and Dylan plus a deft touch for R&B and reggae. His band, the Rumour, is as tough and inspired as he is. Parker has pounded out two previous LPs and an EP since he emerged a year and a half ago, and there is a feeling of utter necessity to every minute of that music. "Pourin' It All O... | More »

November 23, 1977

Chuck Berry

Bio

At his best Chuck Berry was a hip short-story teller, with insightful, affecting and entertaining pictures to show, set to a strong jumping boogie beat. But he never had much of a way with albums, and the problem with being chief chronicler and day-to-day historian of the ways of an era is that it fades away — and people grow older. Times and audiences change — but Berry hasn't much. One of the best things about this current LP is the package with photos of Berry over the ye... | More »

November 17, 1977

Tom Waits

Foreign Affairs Asylum

The admiring audience that Tom Waits built up with his early work now worries about him in a way that does his derelict's persona proud: when is that old boy gonna straighten up? Closing Time was a quiet classic in 1973, but with The Heart of Saturday Night, Small Change and Nighthawks at the Diner, the singer songwriter's beaten raps, overflowing with pathos and Americana, had turned self-indulgent. Foreign Affairs, fortunately, shows a resuscitation of Waits' voice and abili... | More »

November 9, 1977

B.B. King

To Know You Is to Love You

The title tune alone is worth the price of admission. Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright composed it. Stevie plays electric piano, B.B. turns in a powerful vocal performance that is ably supported by his crackling guitar, and the incomparable Sigma Sound rhythm section—the musicians who back Billy Paul, the O'Jays, the Intruders, and the Stylistics—contributes a hefty punch. The tempo and the minor mode have a superficial resemblance to "The Thrill Is Gone," but structurally "T... | More »

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Song Stories

“Hungry Like the Wolf”

Duran Duran | 1982

This indulgent New Romantic group generated their first U.S. hit with the help of what was at the time new technology. "Simon [Le Bon] and I, I think, had been out the night before and had this terrible hangover," said keyboardist Nick Rhodes. "For some reason we were feeling guilty about it and decided to go and do some work." Rhodes started playing with his Jupiter-8 synth, and then "Simon had an idea for a lyric, and by lunchtime when everyone else turned up, we pretty much had the song." The Simmons drumbeat was equally important to the sound of "Hungry Like the Wolf," as Duran Duran drummer Roger Taylor stated it "kind of defined the drum sound for the Eighties."

More Song Stories entries »
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