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album reviews

Patti Smith

Horses Arista

Patti Smith is the hottest rock poet to emerge from the fecund wastes of New Jersey since Bruce Springsteen. But Smith is not like Springsteen or anybody else at all. Springsteen is a rocker; Smith is a chanting rock & roll poet. Springsteen's followers thought he was a poet too, at first, because of the apparent primacy of his speedy strings of street-life images. But Springsteen himself quickly set matters right by building up his band and revealing his words to have been what wor... | More »

B.B. King

Lucille Talks Back

B.B. King has built a whole career on the art of ellipsis. To his best work he has always brought an unerring sense of grace, elegance and, above all, economy. Beneath the carefully worked out horn arrangements, the clearly enunciated vocals, the eloquently crafted, always brief, single-string guitar lines, lies an internal tension — a quality that he shares with his early Memphis cohort, vocalist Bobby "Blue" Bland. And it is that tension which gives meaning and power to his urbane, se... | More »

January 29, 1976

Supertramp

Crisis? What Crisis?

Supertramp, whose Crime of the Century was a surprise hit of 1975, are back with a neatly timed followup, Crisis? What Crisis? (with suitably heady cover — a man sunbathing amid rubbish while rain falls and smokestacks blow pollution into already ominously gray skies). The biggest crisis is trying to get through both sides of this record.   Supertramp is led by guitarist Roger Hodgson and keyboard player Richard Davies who are responsible (as in guilty) for all the group's w... | More »

The Band

Northern Lights, Southern Cross Capitol/EMI Records

Cahoots and the oldies LP, Moondog Matinee, weren't exactly auspicious developments in a recording career with beginnings as brilliant as the Band's. Their playing behind Bob Dylan on Planet Waves and Before the Flood as well as on the earlier Basement Tapes has been more accomplished and stirring than any of their own music since The Band, and it is against these efforts as sidemen that their first album of new songs in four years must inevitably be judged. The first few seconds of... | More »

January 15, 1976

Quicksilver Messenger Service

Solid Silver

The reunion of the original Quicksilver Messenger Service (plus Dino Valenti, who didn't appear on their earliest efforts) is one contradiction after another. Though much of the arranging is dull and unvaried, when the inimitable John Cipollina lets loose his stinging, tremoloed guitar, the band is at its finest. Quicksilver still revels in crisp rhythm guitar and the avoidance of distortion. Several of Solid Silver's songs, however, are just a few basic chords played beneath obscu... | More »

Joni Mitchell

The Hissing of Summer Lawns Asylum

With The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Joni Mitchell has moved beyond personal confession into the realm of social philosophy. All the characters are American stereotypes who act out socially determined rituals of power and submission in exquisitely described settings. Mitchell's eye for detail is at once so precise and so panoramic that one feels these characters have very little freedom. They belong to the things they own, wear and observe, to the drugs they take and the people they know as... | More »

January 1, 1976

Frank Zappa

Bongo Fury

Zappa, Beefheart and Co. ask the listener to take the ultimate leap of faith: to accept the validity of their every musical move. And a hearty leap it is. Beefheart's meandering musings usually have all the continuity of a random sample. Though technically stellar, the music isn't much better, segueing in and out of conflicting moods with all the subtlety of a brick wall. The net result is a disjointed, jarring package of seemingly off-the-wall musings that I'm afraid most list... | More »

Roxy Music

Siren

There used to be this ad (in the Fifties, I suppose) for a cigarette: You're Never Alone with a Strand! A guy alone in the street; belted raincoat, turned down hat brim; fog, drizzle, blurred neon lighting; three in the morning and he'd just left a party or come to the end of an affair or arrived off a train; down but cool (cigarette cool) and romantic, weary — a private eye at the end of a case. I always thought it was Frank Sinatra. That was one role Bryan Ferry had figured... | More »

Kiss

Alive! Casablanca

Kiss onstage could possibly be mildly entertaining for about ten minutes, but on record, minus the impact of gaudy painted faces and stage theatrics, the band must be judged solely for its music. It's awful. Criminally repetitive, thuddingly monotonous. And like the legions of equally talentless bands across the country, Kiss attempts to get by on volume and tired riffing. Unlike these other bands, however, they came up with the idea of dragging rock further into the pits of theatrical o... | More »

December 18, 1975

Roy Orbison

I'm Still in Love with You

With the current restoration of rockabillys on the C&W airwaves, and with the likes of Bruce Springsteen invoking his name and influence, there seems little reason for Roy Orbison to continue languishing in semiobscurity. Yet, while Orbison's new Mercury LP improves considerably over his dismal output at MGM, he still hasn't quite recovered the form that saw him go through nine Top Ten hits between 1961 and 1964. There are two key problems with the LP, one involving Orbison, th... | 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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