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album reviews

The Grateful Dead

Blues For Allah

Blues for Allah contains quite a few surprises, some pleasant (Mickey Hart's reappearance; most of side one) and some embarrassing (most of side two), but at least the Grateful Dead have begun to awaken from the artistic coma they've been in since 1971. With their self-owned and -operated record company fantasies biting the dust due to financially trying times and some decidedly uninteresting releases, the Dead have handed their distribution over to United Artists. They've also... | More »

Eric Clapton

E.C. Was Here

E.C. Was Here, recorded live at various concerts on his most recent world tour, marks Eric Clapton's return to the role of lead guitarist. Not only has Clapton reassumed primary responsibility for the lion's share of the instrumental work, but his fiery guitar playing harkens back to the days when he spearheaded the British blues movement with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Concentrating once more on a blues repertoire, Clapton has come back to the full dense sound of the Gibson ... | More »

Bruce Springsteen

Born To Run Sony BMG

As a determinedly permanent resident of the West Coast, the furor Bruce Springsteen's live performances have kicked up in the East over the last couple of years left me feeling somewhat culturally deprived, not to mention a little suspicious. The legendary three-hour sets Springsteen and his E Street Band apparently rip out night after night in New York, Province-town, Boston and even Austin have generated a great tumult and shouting; but, short of flying 3000 miles to catch a show, ther... | More »

October 1, 1975

Big Brother & the Holding Company

How Hard It Is

It has righteously ranked my ass to see the shabby treatment accorded Big Brother and the Holding Company over the course of the past four years. In the days when the name of Janis Joplin was fastened to every lip, Big Brother were referred to as "the boys in the band" (that is, if they were referred to at all). And when they returned from the dead with a splendid album last year (Be A Brother), everyone tripped over their tongues crediting the triumph to Nick Gravenites. Well, friends, the d... | More »

September 30, 1975

Linda Ronstadt

Prisoner in Disguise

Prisoner in Disguise is an attempt to re-create the enormous critical and commercial success of Ronstadt's 1974 album, Heart like a Wheel. Unfortunately, while every choice on the previous album seemed inspired, these are largely pedestrian. As a parallel work, Prisoner operates at a distinct disadvantage to Heart; track by track, it is thoroughly and transparently inferior. Part of the problem is Ronstadt's voice, a truly remarkable instrument which she has never learned to contro... | More »

September 25, 1975

Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac Reprise

Not only is Fleetwood Mac no longer blues oriented, it isn't even really British: The two newest members, Lindsey Buckingham (guitar and vocals) and Stevie Nicks (vocals, acoustic guitar) are American, and all five members are now based in Los Angeles. The band began its spiritual journey to L.A. a half-dozen albums ago – on Future Games – when it was led by the often dazzling guitarist/singer Danny Kirwan. Kirwan is long gone but his inspiration lingers in the songs and sing... | More »

Rod Stewart

Atlantic Crossing

To a lot of people, Rod Stewart onstage in midstrut — hair flying, handy with brandy and partial to the broad smile and easy wink — offers as good a definition of the full flash of rock & roll as one is likely to get. He's a wizard at the spotlight game, his long legs quickly laying claim to the private turf of a public master. Behind him, the Faces careen like well-oiled parts of a perpetual-motion machine gone somewhat daft of purpose, while their leader lines out antic... | More »

Black Sabbath

Sabotage Universal Distribution

Sabotage is not only Black Sabbath's best record since Paranoid, it might be their best ever. Even with the usual themes of death, destruction and mental illness running throughout this album, the unleashed frenzy and raw energy they've returned to here comes like a breath of fresh air. "Symptom of the Universe" rambles on, an atonal riff-based crusher, then shifts for a coda of lightly paced acoustic jamming. "Megalomania" is an inversion of that, erupting into a hard rocker with ... | More »

September 11, 1975

Bob Dylan

The Basement Tapes Columbia

There was a desert wind blowing that night, and the hot breeze that sighed through the open window had just enough muscle to swirl the smoke from the ghosts of a hundred cigarettes a single time around the solitary desk lamp before giving it up as a bad job. I knew the feeling. I had been sitting in the office for days, thinking and rethinking the case. It added up all right — hell, it had added up from the very beginning — but I just couldn't figure out why. The more I tri... | More »

Jefferson Starship

Red Octopus

The big news, of course, is that Marty Balin is back. Balin never seemed to be able to get it together outside the Airplane/Starship, although he certainly did try. But nearly everything he started crumbled before it was finished. Bodacious D.F., his last band, showcased his vocals nicely, but somewhere between the decision to record a second album before going on tour and actually doing so, the band vanished. He joined the Starship for one song, Caroline, on their last album, and from all th... | More »

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Song Stories

“Stillness Is the Move”

Dirty Projectors | 2009

A Wim Wenders film and a rapper inspired the Dirty Projectors duo David Longstreth and Amber Coffmanto write "sort of a love song." "We rented the movie Wings of Desire from Dave's brother's recommendation, and he had me go through it and just write down some things that I found interesting, and they made it into the song," Coffman said. As for the hip-hop connection, Longstreth explained, "The beat is based on T-Pain. We commissioned a radio mix of the song by the guy who mixes all of Timbaland's records, but the mix we made sounded way better, so we didn't use it."

More Song Stories entries »
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