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album reviews

Bob Dylan

The Basement Tapes Columbia

There was a desert wind blowing that night, and the hot breeze that sighed through the open window had just enough muscle to swirl the smoke from the ghosts of a hundred cigarettes a single time around the solitary desk lamp before giving it up as a bad job. I knew the feeling. I had been sitting in the office for days, thinking and rethinking the case. It added up all right — hell, it had added up from the very beginning — but I just couldn't figure out why. The more I tri... | More »

Jefferson Starship

Red Octopus

The big news, of course, is that Marty Balin is back. Balin never seemed to be able to get it together outside the Airplane/Starship, although he certainly did try. But nearly everything he started crumbled before it was finished. Bodacious D.F., his last band, showcased his vocals nicely, but somewhere between the decision to record a second album before going on tour and actually doing so, the band vanished. He joined the Starship for one song, Caroline, on their last album, and from all th... | More »

August 28, 1975

Willie Nelson

Red Headed Stranger

When Teddy Roosevelt claimed loneliness a quintessential ingredient of our national character, he hit the psychic bull's-eye, ringing up images of pragmatic pioneers, existential outlaws and a long line of heroes who dreamt of the purity of their youth even as they drew their guns to eliminate it. "There are no second acts in American lives," someone once said, and a cursory glance at our gods — the cowboy/desperado, the gangster/detective, the movie star/rock & roller — ... | More »

Neil Young

Tonight's The Night Warner Bros

"I'm sorry. You don't know these people. This means nothing to you." — Neil Young, in the liner notes. Tonight's the Night finds Neil Young on his knees at the top of the heap, struggling to get back to his feet. The musical difficulties of last year's On the Beach have been resolved as directly as possible by a return to recording with Crazy Horse and Nils Lofgren, with whom Young recorded his 1970 masterpiece, After the Gold Rush. Yet even Crazy Horse isn't ... | More »

August 14, 1975

Eagles

One Of These Nights WEA

The Eagles' fourth album represents the apex of post-Byrds Southern California rock. Their music reflects the Hollywood ethos of glamorous, narcissistic ennui, exhibiting the contradiction between the city's atmosphere of "laid-back" machismo and its desperate rootlessness of spirit. Even the Eagles' more plaintive songs have a surface sweetness that belies the jaded pessimism of so many of their lyrics. This sweetness, combined with superb arrangements, brilliant playing and t... | More »

Lou Reed

Metal Machine Music BMG

Lou Reed's new set, a two-record electronic composition, is an act of provocation, a jab of contempt, but the timing is all wrong. In its droning, shapeless indifference, Metal Machine Music is hopelessly old-fashioned. After a decade of aesthetic outrages, four sides of what sounds like the tubular groaning of a galactic refrigerator just aren't going to inflame the bourgeoisie (whoever they are) or repel his fans (since they'll just shrug and wait for the next collection). Lo... | More »

July 31, 1975

Smokey Robinson

A Quiet Storm

A Quiet Storm begins with the sound of a summer shower, a flute, tremulous congas and vibes and Smokey breathlessly caressing the words, "Soft and warm, a quiet storm." As the title tune progresses, the sensuality of its lyrics and the loose, improvisational feel of the backup suggest that the album is going to be Robinson's What's Going On or Innervisions, a formula-defying statement of both personal and social import. But Robinson is moved neither by Marvin Gaye's macho sensi... | More »

Aerosmith

Toys In The Attic Columbia

Aerosmith, a five-piece Boston hard-rock band with almost unlimited potential, can't seem to hurdle the last boulder separating it from complete success. Like Toys in the Attic, their two previous LPs have had several stellar moments which were weakened by other instances of directionless meandering and downright weak material. That these albums stood the test of time is testimony to the band's raw abilities and some outstanding production on the part of Jack Douglas — Toys in... | More »

July 17, 1975

Elton John

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy MCA

First things first. This is one of Elton John's best albums. He hasn't tried to top past successes, only to continue the good work he's been doing. And he's succeeded, even taking a few chances in the process. The record is devoid of the gimmicky rock numbers from the Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player phase. It isn't weighted down with the overarranging and overproduction that marred so much of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. It sounds freer and more rela... | More »

Kiss

Dressed To Kill Casablanca

Kiss does not play music — it makes very high-volume noise. If rock & roll intrigues you, though, you'd best be advised that for all the simplicity, overstatement and repetition within its records, Kiss does make fantastically successful rock. Driven by Gene Simmons's remarkably inventive bass lines and the cacophonous poundings of drummer Peter Criss, Kiss makes Chuck Berry chords and basic rock progressions come alive with energetic urgency. Simple? Yes. Repetitive? Yess... | More »

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

More Song Stories entries »
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