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album reviews

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 »

June 17, 1977

Crosby, Stills and Nash

CSN

What's so instantly striking about Crosby, Stills and Nash's CSN, their second group album in eight years, is that it sounds so much like the debut LP even though its makers are so vastly changed. Since CS&N, and later Y, were always at the vanguard of the conspicuous counterculture (always ready to hoist their tie-dyed freak flag at a moment's notice), their current reflection and hesitancy are especially interesting. And, because the music is so eerily familiar, the album... | More »

June 16, 1977

Jeff Beck

Live With The Jan Hammer Group Sony Music Distribution

In 1969, Miles Davis was looking for a way to sell more albums. So the jazz trumpeter delved into rock and R&B on Bitches Brew. When his record sales promptly increased, fusion was born. Eight years later, the genre is having an identity crisis. Once, pegging fusion was easy: it was the rigorously creative effort of Miles Davis, his former sidemen (Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Josef Zawinul and Wayne Shorter) and a San Francisco-based band, the Fourth Way, led by piani... | More »

June 2, 1977

Marvin Gaye

Live! At The London Palladium Motown

Along with Van Morrison, Marvin Gaye must be considered one of the most reticent pop performers. This is his second live album in three years, a period bridged by only one studio effort, the disappointing I Want You. Gaye has been admittedly ill at ease as a live performer. Interviews have revealed his obsessiveness with onstage perfection, as well as his plain old stage fright. The 1974 live record, recorded at his first stage appearance in almost five years, found him awkwardly fronting a ... | More »

Curtis Mayfield

Never Say You Can't Survive

The revelation of Sire Records' recent anthology, The Impressions: The Vintage Years, is the artistic dominance of Curtis Mayfield beginning in the late Fifties. Whether shaping the persona of early Jerry Butler or using the Impressions to extend his own, Mayfield has been a man of sweeping, uniquely personal vision. And while he's never had a moment with the impact of Elvis Presley's Sun sessions or Ray Charles live at Atlanta, his deft juggling of pop and the music and messag... | More »

May 19, 1977

Bad Company

Burnin' Sky

Although Burnin' Sky is firmly slotted into the comfortable menace of Anglo blues-rock growl, some credit is due Bad Company for loosening up sufficiently to nudge the limits of hard-rock convention. While it's less than a break-through in terms of songwriting or musicianship, Burnin' Sky does sport a crisp, streamlined sound and a noticeable softening of the band's synthetic macho posing. The title track lays down all of the comfortable parameters: dramatic major-chord d... | 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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