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album reviews

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 »

November 3, 1977

Talking Heads

Talking Heads '77 Warner Music France

Talking Heads are the last of CBGB's original Big Four to record (following Patti Smith, the Ramones and Television), and their debut is an absolute triumph. Dressing like a quartet of Young Republicans, playing courteously toned-down music and singing lyrics lauding civil servants, parents and college, Talking Heads are not even remotely punks. Rather, they are the great Ivy League hope of pop music. I can't recall when I last heard such a vital, imaginatively tuneful album. David... | More »

Styx

The Grand Illusion

Styx blends the progressive, keyboard-oriented intellectualism of primitive Yes with the gritty CroMagnon sense of guitar mania that used to be equated with such third-generation bands as Grand Funk and Bloodrock. Styx also possesses a strong sense of musical dramatics: on one album, the group actually equaled the foreboding drama of the Doors' "Horse Latitudes" with an ode to lava and fire entitled "Krakatoa."   Grand Illusion sallies forth with cuts that encompass the rage of he... | More »

October 20, 1977

Linda Ronstadt

Simple Dreams

The thing about Linda Ronstadt is that she keeps getting better, and we keep expecting more and more of her. She's always possessed that big, magnanimous voice, but it wasn't until Heart like a Wheel that her interpretive and arranging skills (the latter, and perhaps both, due to the felicitous pairing with producer Peter Asher) fully emerged. With Hasten Down the Wind, Ronstadt shed some long-lived inhibitions. Given Karla Bonoff's red-hot, baldly emotional material ("Someone... | More »

October 6, 1977

Pete Townshend

Rough Mix

It's almost impossible to avoid describing Rough Mix as devotional music, but it's equally difficult to reconcile that description with some of the album's components. Townshend's stinging guitar on "My Baby Gives It Away," the chugging. Faces-like title instrumental and the wailing saxophone coda on Lane's Fifties-style "Catmelody" are hardly typical of spiritual music. But then matters meditative have never before been fully integrated into the ugly, angry sounds we... | More »

September 23, 1977

The Rolling Stones

Love You Live Rolling Stones Records

One of the paradoxes of such a supposedly spontaneous art form as rock & roll is that it has produced no great live albums. And even very few good ones. It doesn't make sense, but it's true. For example, if you accept the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Who, Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart as artists who are at least representative of this music's best, you won't find any of them definitively defined by Got LIVE If You Want It!, Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!, The Beatles at the... | More »

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Song Stories

“Whoomp! (There It Is)”

Tag Team | 1993

Cecil Glenn — a.k.a., "D.C." — was a cook at Magic City, a nude dance club in Atlanta, when he first heard women shout "Whoomp — there it is!" Inspired by the party chant, he and partner Steve "Roll'n" Gibson wrote a song around it. Undaunted by label rejections, they borrowed $2,500 from Glenn's parents and pressed 800 singles, which quickly sold out in the Atlanta area. A record deal came soon after. Glenn said the song was meant for positive partying. "If you're going to say 'Whoomp there it is,' and you're doing something negative, we'd rather it not have come out of your mouth."

More Song Stories entries »
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