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album reviews

Paul McCartney

Wings Over America [Bonus Tracks]

For such an expensive, three-record concert souvenir, made by an artist as commercially astute as Paul McCartney, a consumer-conscious review seems appropriate. The Wings fan with all the studio albums, for instance, may find Wings over America a legitimate alternative; excepting the single side of acoustic material, these performances are rawer and more driven than the original recordings and, in many cases, much the better for it. "Rock Show" is placed in its natural habitat; "Magneto and T... | More »

January 27, 1977

Al Green

Have a Good Time

If his records are any indication, Al Green is a troubled, no, haunted man. Imagine the spiritual afflictions that prompted the theme of "Keep Me Cryin'," Green's latest single and a song from Have a Good Time: "Well I pleased all the people/But I couldn't please the crowd/So I got down on my knees and said/Father, wouldn't you clear my head/They keep me crying all the time." What makes the thing even stranger is the song's foundation: a sprightly rhythm topped by a s... | More »

Deep Purple

Made In Europe

I just don't understand, as Ann-Margret once sang, why an exciting band like Deep Purple, who consistently hit the top of the charts in Merrie Olde and have taken Europe by storm, remain a comparatively unknown quantity to American audiences. Especially when said audiences have wholeheartedly embraced bands with similar musical aims and not one more ampere of excitement. It's a shame, but Deep Purple themselves are at least partially to blame. Their first two American albums on Tet... | More »

The Jackson 5

The Jacksons

The first two cuts on The Jacksons prepare one for a good, snappy time; "Enjoy Yourself" and "Think Happy" are fast R&B, made distinctive by Michael's classic vocal in the first case and a smart use of rock guitar in the second. After this initial pair, however, producers Gamble and Huff channel the group into drab disco numbers and shabby ballads. The instrumentation, by various Jacksons and MFSB, is perfunctory. Implicit in their modified group-name is a new equality and solidarity... | More »

Jackson Browne

The Pretender Asylum

Like most performers who transcend their genre, Jackson Browne often seems more a symbol than an artist. Singer songwriter fans find in him the fulfillment of the style's promise: Browne's songs really do merge poetic vision and rock. But there are also those (like my friend who suggested that this album's proper title is The Pretentious) who find the genre symptomatic of all of rock's current weaknesses. Browne is the epitome of everything they find disagreeable, both lyr... | More »

January 13, 1977

Patti Smith

Radio Ethiopia BMG

On her second album, Patti Smith lays back, refusing to assert herself as she did on last year's Horses. The key is in the billing: on Radio Ethiopia, her group dominates. But while Smith can be an inventive, sometimes inspired writer and performer, her band is basically just another loud punk-rock gang of primitives, riff-based and redundant. The rhythm is disjointed, the guitar chording trite and elementary. Even at best ("Distant Fingers," for instance), the Patti Smith Group isn'... | More »

Styx

Crystal Ball

Although Crystal Ball doesn't have the immediate impact of its predecessor, Equinox, I still found it to be one of the most dynamic and satisfying rock albums of the year. Although Styx is based in Chicago, the group has its English scam down pat, from the Yes-like vocal harmonies on "Madamoiselle" to the slightly pretentious, somewhat pointless, nonetheless fun use of "Claire de Lune" as an intro to "Ballerina." Styx merges the cocky edge of the finest English outfits with the commercia... | More »

Willie Nelson

The Troublemaker

If anyone is still dubious about the extent of Willie Nelson's success and influence, any of these six albums will serve to convince that he has become a model for country singer/songwriters. The Troublemaker, Nelson's latest release, was actually recorded for Atlantic almost three years ago Sales of his two previous albums for that label apparently weren't enough to warrant the release of this one, a collection of white gospel songs. But the big success of The Outlaws and Red... | More »

December 30, 1976

Elton John

Blue Moves

When another performer might have bared his chest and strutted onstage in trousers tighter than White House security, Elton John capered in clown suits and hid behind his glasses. There was something engagingly sly about the self-mocking caption on Rock of the Westies: "Elton John — a boring little musician ... prone to getting fat at Christmas." So much for the more glamorous forms of self-destruction and the stars who seek them. And a thumb of his nose to those who accept only the lea... | More »

Graham Parker

Heat Treatment

Heat Treatment, Graham Parker's second Mercury album, confirms the promise of his debut, Howlin' Wind, which appeared earlier this year. The rapidity of the followup is not the result of any change of direction; rather it reflects Parker's and the Rumour's abundant energy. The sheer attack on Heat Treatment makes the last album sound suddenly subdued. Parker and his band are firmly anchored in that generation of British musicians who came to artistic age in the mid-Sixtie... | More »

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Song Stories

“You Oughta Know”

Alanis Morissette | 1995

This blunt, bitter breakup song -- famous for its line "Would she go down on you in a theater?" -- was long rumored to be about Alanis Morissette getting dumped by Full House actor Dave Coulier. But while she never confirmed it was about him (Coulier himself says it is, however), she insisted the song wasn't all about scorn. "By no means is this record just a sexual, angry record," she told Rolling Stone. "The song wasn't written for the sake of revenge. It was written for the sake of release. I'm actually a pretty rational, calm person."

More Song Stories entries »
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