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album reviews

The Band

Islands Caroline Distribution

It's been a long haul for both the Band and Van Morrison; they have made their livings as rock & rollers for close to 20 years now. To judge solely by their new albums (Morrison's is his first release since 1974) time is catching up with them, though whether they will again outdistance it remains an open question. Morrison made better music in '64 and '65 with Them, the first (and last?) great Irish rock & roll band; as the Hawks, the Band made better music in ... | More »

Bonnie Raitt

Sweet Forgiveness

Why should Bonnie Raitt merit our "sweet forgiveness" any longer? Her newest album, though pleasant in spots, is in the end deeply frustrating. The promise in work like Give It Up has been squandered through lack of direction and inspiration. The hallmarks of that LP — distinctive instrumental settings and fills, an ear for the great song and, most of all, a delightfully insouciant yet authoritative style — have been turned on their heads in Sweet Forgiveness. Raitt's albums... | More »

Van Morrison

A Period of Transition Polygram

It's been a long haul for both the Band and Van Morrison; they have made their livings as rock & rollers for close to 20 years now. To judge solely by their new albums (Morrison's is his first release since 1974) time is catching up with them, though whether they will again outdistance it remains an open question. Morrison made better music in '64 and '65 with Them, the first (and last?) great Irish rock & roll band; as the Hawks, the Band made better music in ... | More »

May 5, 1977

The Beach Boys

Love You

Brian Wilson's appearance last fall on Saturday Night was just about the last straw in the sequence of events surrounding his public reemergence. For someone who cared, it was revolting to watch him sit at the piano in a sandbox, singing "Good Vibrations" by himself, his voice barely able to carry a melody. Worse, he seemed oblivious to how degrading the scene was. But The Beach Boys Love You is a truly wonderful album, and it is Brian's show from beginning to end. He wrote 11 of t... | More »

Iggy Pop

The Idiot Virgin

Iggy Pop has always been the greatest rock comedian. As leader and frontispiece for that most extreme wing of rock nihilism represented by the Stooges, he at once defined and ridiculed the options left to punk rockers after "My Generation." The nihilist attitude meant plenty when it was a reaction to the pop status quo best exemplified by Dick Clark, but once nihilism itself became the status quo it was trivialized into mere decadence, a fashionable synonym for boredom. Iggy's criticism... | More »

Cheap Trick

Cheap Trick

These guys play rock & roll like Vince Lombardi coached football: heavy emphasis on basics with a strain of demented violence to keep the opposition intimidated. The closest musical analogy is the Who, who have always sounded like the inmates of Bedlam on their best stuff. Cheap Trick not only sounds like their attendant forgot to lock their cages, they look like it, too. Half the fun of the album is staring at the pictures on the back and wondering if lead guitarist Rick Nielson really h... | More »

April 21, 1977

The Kinks

Sleepwalker

Even as a staunch Kinks supporter, I was beginning to have my doubts. Although the band's following has grown steadily since they made it into the Seventies (by the skin of their teeth) with "Lola," they seemed to have peaked with Muswell Hillbillies. Ray Davies seemed hopelessly stuck on a thematic dead-end street (perhaps he had started believing all those notices about personifying the "voice of the little people"). But Sleepwalker — the first Kinks album since Lola that's ... | More »

Miles Davis

Water Babies

Subterfuge, thy name is Columbia. The album cover gives no recording dates, but the constant personnel (Davis, trumpet; Wayne Shorter, tenor sax; Herbie Hancock, piano; Ron Carter, bass; Tony Williams, drums) is that of the 1964-68 Davis quintet. Side one contains three Shorter compositions recorded on Wayne's 1969 Super Nova (Blue Note); comparisons between the performances confirm Hancock's 1969 comment that "Miles ... shapes all the tunes that come into his band." He shaped his ... | More »

Fleetwood Mac

Rumours Warner Bros.

Rock & roll has this bad habit of being unpredictable. You never can tell when a band will undergo that alchemic transmigration from lead to gold. The medium of transformation is almost always a hit single, but such turnarounds often swamp a band in notoriety it can't live up to. But in Fleetwood Mac's case the departure of guitarist Bob Welch — who'd reduced the band to recutting pointless and pretentious versions of old standards — amounted to the biggest bre... | More »

April 7, 1977

The Ramones

Leave Home WEA International

These bands achieved their initial notoriety while playing in the same place (an esophagus of a bar called CBGB, in lower Manhattan) and have been lumped together with other habitués of this joint as purveyors of "punk rock." In their self-consciousness and liberal open-mindedness, these bands are as punky as Fonzie: that is, not at all. Blondie is a quintet which juggles genres of fast rock, from a thick, Spector-ish vision of street crime called "X Offender" to a thick, Who-like vis... | More »

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Song Stories

“Wake Up Everybody”

John Legend and the Roots | 2010

A Number One record by Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes in 1976 (a McFadden- and Whitehead-penned classic sung by Teddy Pendergrass) inspired the title and lead single from Wake Up!, John Legend's tribute album to message music. The more familiar strains of "Wake Up Everybody" also fit his agenda. "It basically sums up, in a very concise way, all the things we were thinking about when we were putting this record together in that it's about justice, doing the right thing and coming together to make the world a better place," he said. Vocalists Common and Melanie Fiona assist Legend on this mission to connect.

More Song Stories entries »
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