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album reviews

Stevie Wonder

Innervisions Tamla

With his last three albums Stevie Wonder has replaced Sly Stone as the most significant individual black innovator in the twin fields of R&B and rock. He has also replaced him as the most popular black music personality: Wonder's appeal now crosses every boundary. His music always sounds free and, at his best, he does things no one else can. "Living for the City" has the most compelling — pounding, throbbing, unyielding — beat to be heard anywhere at all. And though that ... | More »

May 23, 1974

Cat Stevens

Buddha And The Chocolate Box

The last really good Cat Stevens song, two albums back, was appropriately titled "I Can't Keep It In." Since then he's been pouring out separate streams of interesting melody and dubious verbiage, streams that never converge. That would not necessarily be a problem — Stevens remains a gifted composer no matter what — were it not for the fact that his lyrics become so much more strident and incoherent with each progressively less promising effort. However fresh and idi... | More »

Eagles

On The Border Elektra

Most of the ten songs here are in some way related to escape, or to the failures that necessitate it. But the Eagles' point of view toward their material varies so wildly that it's hard to believe even they take it seriously. "My Man," Bernie Leadon's gentle epitaph for a "very talented guy" (who seems to be Gram Parsons), is completely at odds with the jovial necrophilia of "James Dean," a strong and (I hope) slightly facetious rocker that hands its subject a rather abrupt kis... | More »

Steely Dan

Pretzel Logic

Steely Dan is the most improbable hit-singles band to emerge in ages. On its three albums, the group has developed an impressionistic approach to rock & roll that all but abandons many musical conventions and literal lyrics for an unpredictable, free-roving style. While the group considered the first album, Can't Buy a Thrill, a compromise for the sake of accessibility, and the second, Countdown To Ecstasy, to emphasize extended instrumental work, the new Pretzel Logic is an attempt ... | More »

Roxy Music

Stranded

Two British bands are genuinely stretching the dimensions of pop music. One, 10 c.c., has already found a degree of popularity in the States. Roxy Music has been unable to cross the Atlantic so far, but that should change with this album. Stranded is one of the most exciting and entertaining British LPs of the Seventies. Roxy has constructed the modern English equivalent of the wall-of-sound. One instrument, either the guitar or a keyboard, will sustain or repeat a note, and the other instru... | More »

May 9, 1974

Earth, Wind & Fire

Open Our Eyes

A pleasant miscellany of Africana, Latin rhythms, well-mannered funk, smooth jazz, Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder and the Fifth Dimension, Earth Wind & Fire's Open Our Eyes has both disco and easy-listening appeal, and it's so cheerful one scarcely minds the lack of focus and distinction.Among the distinctively positive elements: Maurice White's ringing kalimba, Andrew Woolfolk's fluent soprano sax, someone's eerie falsetto squeal, and everybody's good humor. But the b... | More »

May 1, 1974

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Deja Vu Atlantic Records

Along with many other people, I had hoped that the addition of Neil Young to Crosby, Stills, and Nash would give their music the guts and substance which the first album lacked. Live performances of the group suggested that this had happened. Young's voice, guitar, compositions and stage presence added elements of darkness and mystery to songs which had previously dripped a kind of saccharine sweetness. Unfortunately, little of this influence carried over into the recording sessions for ... | More »

April 25, 1974

Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Bachman-Turner Overdrive II

This four-man band from Vancouver may be short on flamboyance, but producer-guitarist Randy Bachman (formerly a mainstay of the Guess Who) has a sure sense of dynamics and tone. He brought B.T.O. from nowhere nine months ago with a pair of singles ("Blue Collar" and "Let It Ride") and two good-selling albums, while everyone followed flashier stars. Guitar sounds dominate their albums, as they reverberate meanly and crash through the group's uncomplicated material. Bachman plays lead wit... | More »

Deep Purple

Burn

Deep Purple's first album since last year's departure of vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist/composer Roger Glover is a passable but disappointing effort. On Burn, new lead singer David Coverdale sounds suitably histrionic, like Free's brilliant Paul Rodgers (rumored to have been Purple's first replacement choice). But the new material is largely drab and ordinary, without the runaway locomotive power of the group's best work.   The title track is a notable excepti... | More »

The Grateful Dead

Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of Grateful Dead

The Dead pretend they're a singles band in this collection of their best-known shorter tracks. The cumulative results are distinguished, not by profundity or virtuosity, but by a characteristic pleasantness. The album boasts attractive melodies and supple rhythmic patterns. But the anthology also exposes some ongoing weaknesses: dull recorded sound, thin instrumental arrangements, frail vocals (except for Bob Weir's occasional leads) and, more generally, music consistently without s... | 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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