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album reviews

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 »

Television

Marquee Moon Rhino

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 »

March 24, 1977

Pink Floyd

Animals EMI Music Distribution

For Pink Floyd, space has always been the ultimate escape. It still is, but now definitions have shifted. The romance of outer space has been replaced by the horror of spacing out. This shift has been coming for a while. There was Dark Side of the Moon and "Brain Damage," Wish You Were Here and the story of founding member Syd Barrett, the "Crazy Diamond." And now there's Animals, a visit to a cacophonous farm where what you have to watch for is pigs on the wing. Animals is a song suite... | More »

Muddy Waters

Hard Again

Blue Sky Grabbed Muddy Waters just as Chess Records virtually put him out to pasture. For the first time in 30 years, Muddy has new blood backing his recording ventures. He sounds happy, energetic and out for business: in short, Muddy Waters is kicking in another mule's stall. Waters has written six new tunes for the album, marking the end of a long dry spell, but his standards and one old Willie Dixon tune rock the hardest. "Mannish Boy" (a close relation to "I'm a Man") sounds al... | More »

February 24, 1977

Queen

A Day At The Races EMI Music Distribution
4

The current consensus is that rock is well into its third generation. But the bands which have pulled the music furthest from its roots remain critically dismissed. There are reasons for such disdain. Lumped together as art-rock, such bands as the three above seem to threaten the artistic stature of anything less complex, or more simple. But it is even harder for hard-rock-oriented listeners to find rock at all in the styles of bands as diverse as Focus, Gentle Giant, Be-Bop Deluxe, Boston an... | More »

Eagles

Hotel California Asylum

Hotel California showcases both the best and worst tendencies of Los Angeles-situated rock, but more strikingly its lyrics present a convincing and unflattering portrait of the milieu itself. Don Henley, handling five of the eight vocal tracks, expresses well the weary disgust of a victim (or observer) of the region's luxurious excess. Yet the record's firm musical bases cannot be overlooked. Bernie Leadon departed and Joe Walsh arrived; the Eagles have abandoned most of their blue... | More »

February 10, 1977

Joni Mitchell

Hejira Elektra

It is the tug of war between the symbolist and the siren that makes Joni Mitchell's albums alternately alluring and forbidding. On the one hand she is the most ruthlessly analytical member of the music-as-therapy songwriting school, and often her songs seem intent only on making private sense of her own experience. On the other hand, as a public performer, Mitchell wants to be heard and even enjoyed. To that end she conducts a cool flirtation with her audience. Like a Victorian gentlewom... | More »

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Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

More Song Stories entries »
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