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album reviews

Ornette Coleman

Dancing In Your Head

These records provide an eloquent case for the universality of music. The Texas blues evolution to free-form expressiveness practiced by alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman makes implicit reference to the music of several of the West Africans represented on the Antilles anthology. At surface level there would seem to be little connection between such a luminary of avant-garde jazz as Coleman and African pop musicians influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Art Blakey and Bob Dylan. But these seemingly diffe... | More »

Cheap Trick

In Color

There's nothing progressive about In Color, Cheap Trick's second album. On the surface, the group is distinguished by its eccentric appearance: the pair of Rod Stewartstyle "punques" are standard enough, but lead guitarist Rick Nielsen, a bug-eyed Bowery Boy, and drummer Bun E. Carlos, who looks and dresses like a mustachioed Panamanian Sydney Greenstreet, are out of some other movie altogether. Musically, the group is less eccentric: this is mainstream rock & roll, utterly with... | More »

August 25, 1977

Kiss

Love Gun Island

After seeing Kiss backstage without their makeup, I have lost all ambition to do anything with my life except see them naked. Gene Simmons knows this and has written a song about the Plaster Casters — a couple of groupies who made molds of rock stars' nonproboscis protuberances in the late Sixties — to titillate me and the millions of other Americans who go to bed every night wondering about Simmons' masculine module. Does he paint it like his face before he performs wit... | More »

August 11, 1977

Neil Young

American Stars 'N' Bars WB

Right now, I think it would be just about impossible to overrate Neil Young. In the last few years he has web the most avant-garde styles to the corniest of archetypes — and deliberately ignored the public's penchant for pasteurized product by rampantly (im)perfecting Bob Dylan's crude but spontaneous recording technique. Seething with psychic dynamite, his raw and passionate electric-guitar playing boasts a tactility and uniqueness unmatched by any guitarist since Jimi Hendri... | More »

James Taylor

JT Sony Music Distribution

JT is James Taylor coming out of his personal closet. In "Looking for Love on Broadway" he sings, "Had my fill of self-pity," and that's epochal stuff for the man who almost single-handedly developed the eyes-affixed-to-the-navel songwriting and performing posture. Yet the album supports Taylor's claim. Only one song on JT, "Another Grey Morning," even skirts depression, and that song illustrates Taylor's evolution rather neatly. The form and content of Taylor's most stri... | More »

July 28, 1977

Cat Stevens

Izitso

Izitso is good proof that behind Cat Stevens' sentimental and somewhat naive persona there exists a musician and composer more far-reaching than the wistful but cloying singer/songwriter who relies largely on soft acoustic instrumentation. Touching several bases, often in apparent opposition to each other, Stevens displays both the diversity and the maturity to match this seeming incongruity. Stevens and Jean Roussel enhance much of the arranging with their keyboards — synthesizer... | More »

July 14, 1977

Bob Marley

Exodus Universal Distribution

There is a contradiction here between the enormous abilities of the Wailers — particularly the magnificent rhythm section of Aston Barrett, bass, and Carlton Barrett, drums, and the spidery lead guitar of Julian "Junior" Marvin — and the flatness of the material Bob Marley has given them to work with. The more I listen to this album, the more I am seduced by the playing of the band; at the same time, the connection I want to make with the music is subverted by overly familiar lyri... | More »

Alice Cooper

Lace And Whiskey

When "School's Out" ripped out of the Dutch top-of-the-pops one vagabond summer, it was like receiving a postcard from home that fairly brimmed with typical American excess, bravado and humor. This was the meat of the Alice Cooper group's appeal: they were a living exaggeration of the heavy-metal band, lampooning the genre's inherent violence with satiric lyrics and a more-sophomoric-than-life visual show that, naturally enough, made them popular for all of the crass reasons th... | More »

June 30, 1977

Nick Drake

Bryter Layter

Nick Drake may be the most ethereal recording artist I've ever heard. His fleeting career — the moody, mysterious music, the remote relationship with his record company — seemed calculated to distance him from reality. Yet his hushed songs touch a rare tranquillity that approaches poetry, and when he died in 1974 at the age of 26, he left behind three albums which are gradually making him a posthumous legend. Bryter Layter is the second of these LPs to be rereleased by Island... | More »

Loretta Lynn

I Remember Patsy

If Dolly Parton is the ideal contemporary female country singer — one who exudes traditional values while at the same time asserting herself in a manner unlike the Total Woman — then Patsy Cline (who died in a plane crash in 1963) was the ideal traditional female country singer, for whom home and hearth and a good man were everything. As Cline's friend in fact as well as in spirit, and more importantly, as her direct musical descendant, Loretta Lynn has fashioned a near-perfe... | More »

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

More Song Stories entries »
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