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album reviews

Kiss

Hotter Than Hell Casablanca

Looking like a bunch of Walt Disney rejects, Kiss is the kind of band you love to hate. Drenched in garish makeup, clothed in outfits Alice Cooper wouldn't touch and generally exuding obnoxiousness, this brash young New Yawk foursome seems determined to visually divert their audience's attention from their special brand of kamikaze rock. A slick brand of music that, as found on their second LP, Hotter Than Hell, does not sound as bad as the band looks. With twin guitars hammering ou... | More »

January 16, 1975

Linda Ronstadt

Heart Like A Wheel

Linda Ronstadt had her first hit, "Different Drum," in 1967, singing with a group called the Stone Poneys. She didn't have one again until "Long Long Time" in 1970. Though long acknowledged to be one of the best woman singers in pop, it wasn't until last year, with the release of her debut album on Asylum, Don't Cry Now, that her years of working toward mass recognition began to pay off. Heart like a Wheel, which concludes her prior commitment to Capitol, should guarantee her s... | More »

January 2, 1975

Jefferson Starship

Dragon Fly

For several years, the nucleus of the Airplane/Starship has been struggling to hold together a concept that didn't seem workable in the first place. The performing personalities of Slick and Kantner have long seemed much too cold-hearted to deal convincingly with humanistic themes. Their icy remoteness has combined with Kantner's pedantry and Slick's sarcasm to turn the pair into unknowing self-parodists. But this is better: Dragon Fly is at worst listenable and at best surpri... | More »

Funkadelic

Standing on the Verge of Getting It On

Certainly no one can accuse Funkadelic of taking themselves too seriously. Here they've come up with a record that seems to be the initial mating of Afro-funk and LSD! The off handed spaciness that was so much a part of the early Hendrix records runs rampant through this disc, with numbers like "Alice in My Fantasies" and the lengthy "Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts" heavily dependent on ethereal guitar lines and tape effects to elicit a latterday Axis: Bold as Love air. Other numbers &mdash... | More »

Jefferson Starship

Dragon Fly Grunt/RCA

For several years, the nucleus of the Airplane/Starship has been struggling to hold together a concept that didn't seem workable in the first place. The performing personalities of Slick and Kantner have long seemed much too cold-hearted to deal convincingly with humanistic themes. Their icy remoteness has combined with Kantner's pedantry and Slick's sarcasm to turn the pair into unknowing self-parodists. But this is better: Dragon Fly is at worst listenable and at best surpri... | More »

Frank Zappa

Roxy & Elsewhere DiscReet Records

This is sort of like jazz in its own peculiar way, Zappa says during a rap in "Be-Bop Tango," and he's right, because Roxy & Elsewhere is about as close to a traditional musical form as the Mothers are ever likely to come. There's bound to be lots of strangeness — long, spoken raps (preambles), Zappa's own weird form of humor, post-acid fairy tale lyrics and a lot of just plain wasted vinyl — on any double album from the Mothers. But in between there is actually... | More »

Van Morrison

Veedon Fleece Warner Bros.

Van Morrison is an enigmatic figure. Although he practices the art of a flamboyant soul trouper, he maintains an oddly detached, awkward stage presence. His vision is hermetic, his energy implosive; yet his vocation is public. These are curious contradictions for a performer to sustain, but they help lend Morrison's art its resonance. His distinction lies in his fusion of a visceral intensity with an introspective lyric style — a potentially powerful amalgam owing as much to Bobby... | More »

December 19, 1974

Jethro Tull

Warchild

Ian Anderson, the guru and master musician behind Jethro Tull, had a good thing going. Ian would play the pied piper with his flute, dance about and dangle a leg while his band ambled through snatches of convoluted but impressive jazz/rock jamming. Jethro Tull, which had begun life modestly as a group specializing in fluted pop with some classical pizazz, became instead a didactic warhorse, the vehicle for Ian's obtuse sermons, a launching pad for ambitious messes of noodling like last ... | More »

Santana

Greatest Hits CBS

As Carlos Santana evolves musically and spiritually — for the time being the two paths seem to be one — he chooses his associates more carefully. The demands of the music he conceives are dictating his personnel and the Santana band has become, for recording purposes, an aegis under which various players perform. Borboletta and Illuminations are noteworthy for their rhythm sections. Bassist David Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette, who sparked Miles Davis's late Sixties band... | More »

December 5, 1974

The Who

Odds And Sods Track/MCA

Odds & Sods, the new Who album, collects 11 outtakes, most of them cut between 1968 and 1972. It is an uneven lot. "Put the Money Down" finds vocalist Roger Daltrey at the nadir of an erratic career, while John Entwistle's "Postcard," like several other tracks, will hold more interest for curiosity seekers than music lovers. But the fumbling is almost as illuminating as the flashes of inspiration dotting this album. Far from exploiting a random set of discards, Odds & Sods gives... | More »

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Song Stories

“Bleeding Love”

Leona Lewis | 2007

In 2008, The X Factor winner Leona Lewis backed up her U.K. singing competition victory with an R&B anthem for the ages: "Bleeding Love," an international hit that became the best-selling song of the year. The track was co-penned by OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder (whose radio dominance would continue with songs such as Beyonce's "Halo" and Adele's "Rumour Has It") and solo artist Jesse McCartney, who was inspired by a former girlfriend, Gossip Girl actress Katie Cassidy. Given the song's success, McCartney didn't regret handing over such a personal track: "No, no," he said. "I'm so happy for Leona. She deserves it. There are really no bad feelings."

More Song Stories entries »
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