album reviews

Willie Nelson

The Sound In Your Mind

It's difficult to get a handle on Willie Nelson's new album. From its title to its celestial cover to the medley which concludes the record, it seems arbitrary, confused and just a little bit spacey. In certain ways it is no great departure from his pathbreaking work of the last few years. It is not a thematically unified album, like Phases and Stages and Red Headed Stranger, but then I am not sure if that approach has ever altogether worked except as a framework for the songs Nelso... | More »

May 26, 1976

Crosby, Nash

Graham Nash / David Crosby

Stephen Stills and David Crosby have been taking it on the chin lately, and the blows hurled against them have not been without justification: the live album of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young may have been an accurate reflection of that group's performance, but it conveyed the feeling of a slipshod half-effort, while the two Stills solo LPs were marked by distressing egocentricity at all levels, and the Crosby solo effort by a stupefying vagueness. It wasn't evaluations of a cool, ... | More »

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Mardi Gras Akarma Records

In the future, Mardi Gras may be known as Fogerty's Revenge. After all the carping about his egotism, and after the published complaints from his co-workers about his hogging the show, he has done what I never thought he would: allowed his cohorts to expose themselves in public. Ceding six of the new album's ten selections to drummer Doug Clifford and bassist Stu Cook may have been an invitation to artistic suicide for them, but it sure proves that John was right all along. Commerci... | More »

May 20, 1976

Led Zeppelin


Led Zeppelin's seventh album confirms this quartet's status as heavy-metal champions of the known universe. Presence takes up where last season's monumentally molten Physical Graffiti left off — few melodies, a preoccupation with hard-rock rhythm, lengthy echoing moans gushing from Robert Plant and a general lyrical slant toward the cosmos. (Give an Englishman 50,000 watts, a chartered jet, a little cocaine and some groupies and he thinks he's a god. It's gettin... | More »

Paul McCartney

Wings at the Speed of Sound

In his post-Beatles albums, Paul McCartney has proven himself a clever miniaturist whose records resemble collages built around simple musical fragments, each of which is painstakingly produced. While some have dismissed McCartney's music as insufferably cute, uninspired trivia, all of his albums contain at least some worthwhile music. The solo John Lennon explored (often brilliantly) the sociopolitical potential of late Sixties rock mythology, cultivating a cult of personality to becom... | More »

May 6, 1976

Brian Eno

Another Green World

Eno's eccentric music doesn't stray beyond rock's accustomed borders so much as it innovates within those parameters. Another Green World's five vocal numbers generally represent his most conservative approaches, but its nine instrumentals are among his most radical reshapings of the genre. Together, they make perhaps the artist's most successful record. The vocal selections could almost be outtakes from the earlier Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), although that ... | More »

Chet Atkins

Chester and Lester

Back when rock supersessions were supposed to be hot shit, this kind of musical jam wouldn't have had a rat's chance of being recorded, much less noticed, by anyone other than guitar fans. Happily, all that has changed and now the uniting on wax of these guitar masters for the first time ever (one would be tempted to call them the Paganinis of the guitar except that history shows that Paganini was the Paganini of guitar before he was the Paganini of violin) is going to attract the ... | More »

April 28, 1976


Live Cream Vol. 2 Universal International

In their glory days of 1967-8, Cream singlehandedly spawned the whole genre of aloof heavy rock egomania, not to mention a whole school of insufferably self-centered lead rock guitarists. Technique oblivious to any content: That's what Cream live were all about. Never mind that their fabled improvisations consisted of playing around one chord (or, often, one note) for 20 minutes — they did better than anyone else. Well, it's here again, just as I remember it. "Deserted Citie... | More »

April 23, 1976

The Rolling Stones

Black and Blue Rolling Stones Records

Although the Rolling Stones now sing about their children and families as often as their stupid girlfriends, we still try to retain our old image of them, under our thumbs and out of our heads. Musically, the Stones aren't the same band anymore, either, although the continued use of the same rudiments — the drumming, the ceaseless riffing, the vocal posturing — might make it seem otherwise at a hasty glance. But the band that made Black and Blue isn't the same one that m... | More »

April 8, 1976


A Night At The Opera DCC Compact Classics

In less than three years, with four albums, Queen has risen from the heavy-metal minor leagues to a position approaching that of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. But the group has some annoying weaknesses, notably a tendency toward lyrical abstraction. In addition, the imagination that inspired the slick ragtime jazz (with vaudeville overtones) of Sheer Heart Attack's "Bring Back That Leroy Brown" becomes obsessive on A Night at the Opera, where the same stylistic idea is reworked, into thr... | More »

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

More Song Stories entries »