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album reviews

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

Cream

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

Queen

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 »

Bad Company

Run with the Pack

Run with the Pack, Bad Company's third and best album, reiterates the raw, rowdy style of their debut, Bad Co., solidifies the loose ends that marred Straight Shooter and adds new directions of its own. Maybe most importantly, the record is refreshing proof that rockers don't have to produce literature in their lyrics or cultivate personae to create good art. Bad Company's is a purely musical triumph. Paul Rodgers's voice and Mick Ralphs's guitar continue to be the q... | More »

March 25, 1976

David Bowie

Station to Station Virgin/EMI

Station to Station opens with a synthesized train bumping along the ten-minute title track, and the disembodied voice of a romantic Englishman crooning, ". . . the return of the thin white duke." The form is familiar: monster chording, pointed vocals and racing arrangements. The scenario builds until Bowie cuts away to the second phase of the song, a wrenching piece of power rock peppered with questions: "And who will connect me with love?" and "Does my face show some kind of woe?" He may not... | More »

Carole King

Thoroughbred

As straightforward a singer as she is a lyricist and composer, Carole King projects one of the most integrated personalities in pop. Her musical and intellectual scope is narrow, but her seven albums, with the exception of Fantasy (an overly self-conscious concept work), stand as one of the most consistently listenable collections of the rock era. King's melodies are seldom sophisticated but they're almost always catchy, and her lyrics embrace the pop cliché with economy, hon... | More »

Lou Reed

Coney Island Baby

Are the mid-Seventies the late Sixties in weird disguise? Can Gatorade really be the fountain of youth? Or is there something in the air these days that transforms the tired blood of certain seemingly played out, erstwhile All-Pantheon quarterbacks into something so fresh and vital that new notice must be taken? First Bob Dylan and then Neil Young bounce from the Big Sleep of years of self-imposed benchwarming to launch the Big Comeback, suddenly connecting on a series of breathtaking touchdo... | More »

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Gimme Back My Bullets MCA Records

There was a time when Lynyrd Skynyrd's music was tough. It had drive and force; it was impossible to ignore. But last year's Al Kooper-produced Nuthin' Fancy revealed the band's soft underbelly and Gimme Back My Bullets, produced by Tom Dowd, is an extension of its predecessor. It starts strong but fails to deliver. The title track is powerful — relentless, a little dangerous — with lead guitar wailing urgently behind one of the angriest Ronnie Van Zant vocals... | More »

Parliament-Funkadelic

Mothership Connection

With the "Parliafunkadelicment thang," leader George Clinton has succeeded in creating two distinct identities for one band—the mystical voodoo of the Funkadelics and the stabbing, humorous funk of Parliament. While Funkadelic has no discernible influence, Parliament is more closely attuned to the post-Sly wave. But unlike the Ohio Players or Commodores, the group refuses to play it straight. Instead, Clinton spews his jive, conceived from some cosmic funk vision, under titles like "Sup... | More »

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

More Song Stories entries »
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