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album reviews

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 »

Elton John

Rock of the Westies Mercury

Already the most commercially successful solo rock act since Elvis, Elton John continues to grow in popularity and there's no end in sight. Like the greatest show-business personalities, John displays phenomenal energy, shrewd professional judgment and a strong instinct for self-preservation — gifts that should ensure him his place as the quintessential Seventies pop star for as long as he desires. But beside the fact that Elton John is a great live entertainer, his records, while... | More »

John Lennon

Shaved Fish

Shaved Fish is a collection of singles, some of them hits, released during John Lennon's post-Beatles career (1969-present). Ordinarily, such Christmas gift ideas aren't worth writing about but, as with almost everything else Lennon has done, Shaved Fish is different. There is nothing spectacularly unfound about the music here, although finally having an LP with "Instant Karma!" — Lennon's best solo track and as full a statement of the rock philosophy as we are likely to ... | More »

December 4, 1975

Art Garfunkel

Breakaway

Breakaway is certainly superior to Angel Clare the first Art Garfunkel solo album. But it's difficult to decide how much the singer had to do with its success, aside from having the good sense to choose Richard Perry to produce it. Releasing the album in conjunction with Paul Simon's may have been commercially advantageous — particularly since "My Little Town." the S&G reunion. is included on both — but artisticall it is an error of incalculable proportions. After he... | More »

Bonnie Raitt

Home Plate

Despite its unevenness, this is a vast improvement over Street Lights and accomplishes much of what that LP set out to do in the first place. On Home Plate, the sound is rich and full, and producer Paul Rothchild has used horns and vocal choirs extensively but not gratuitously. Although the approach is more pop oriented than previous efforts for Bonnie Raitt, her own style isn't cramped in the process. She sings as well as ever and, as her voice continues to mature, maintains more contro... | More »

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Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

More Song Stories entries »
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