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album reviews

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 »

James Taylor

Gorilla Warner Bros

James Taylor pretty much wrote the book for the singer/songwriters of the Seventies. That may be a dubious distinction but Taylor's early work, characterized by subdued singing and restrained, clean backings, was also marked by an undercurrent of extreme agitation and angst. It was this sense of powerful emotions barely held in check that gave Taylor's music its dramatic tension. When that undercurrent diminished and disappeared after the definitive Sweet Baby James, Taylor's m... | More »

Bee Gees

Main Course Universal Distribution

Main Course, the best-sounding Bee Gees album ever, represents a last-ditch effort to reestablish the group's mass popularity in front of their upcoming U.S. tour. My guess is that it should succeed, at least to some extent, due to Arif Mardin's spectacular production, which presents the Bee Gees in blackface on the album's four genuinely exciting cuts. "Nights on Broadway" and especially "Fanny (Be Tender with My Love)" boast spacious disco arrangements against which the Bee G... | More »

July 3, 1975

The Kinks

A Soap Opera

It isn't only because I received this album gratis that I won't take the safe way out and coo something glib like, "To hear Ray Davies intone such lines as 'You'd better come to bed, darling' (in tones so urbane as to cause Bryan Ferry to tremble with envy) is alone sufficient justification for the purchase of Soap Opera." Nor on the other hand will I succumb to the enormous temptation to sniff, "On Soap Opera the Kinks sound pretty well washed up." What I will tell... | More »

Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Four Wheel Drive

When it sells its soul to a formula, rock dies. Or so the argument goes: The music went into hibernation when the wild heroes of early rock 'n' roll were replaced by the groomed idols of American Bandstand, the challenging innovators of progressive rock by the hackneyed boogie bands of the modern ballroom circuit. In both instances, the eccentric vitality essential to rock gave way, under commercial pressures, to a predictable mix of familiar ingredients that insured popularity, bu... | 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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