album reviews

The Grateful Dead

Wake of the Flood

The music on Wake of the Flood is ample, full and carefully rendered. The album boasts nearly 25 minutes of it per side, the recorded sound is crisp and the finished product bears the marks of care in craftsmanship. The band, remarkably, has even transcended a certain studio thinness that characterized such prior efforts as American Beauty and Workingman's Dead. The new songs, mostly by Hunter-Garcia, cover an eclectic range of styles, from tripping good-timey tag rhyme ("Mississippi Ha... | More »

December 20, 1973

Frank Sinatra

Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back

New albums by two survivors: One is a face-lift, the other a comeback. Of the two, Andy Williams' face-lift is preferable. Actually, Solitaire isn't an Andy Williams album at all but a Richard Perry album with Andy sitting in as vocalist. Perry is a commercial genius, worth the price for anyone who can afford his cosmetic services. The brilliant formula production he perfected with Carly Simon's No Secrets has been delivered to Williams with only minor and conservative custom a... | More »

Lou Reed

Berlin RCA

Lou Reed's Berlin is a disaster, taking the listener into a distorted and degenerate demimonde of paranoia, schizophrenia, degradation, pill-induced violence and suicide. There are certain records that are so patently offensive that one wishes to take some kind of physical vengeance on the artists that perpetrate them. Reed's only excuse for this kind of performance (which isn't really performed as much as spoken and shouted over Bob Ezrin's limp production) can only be th... | More »

David Bowie

Pin Ups RCA Records

With everyone from the Band to Don McLean doing oldies albums, the Who revisiting the Mod era, and David Bowie's guitarist Mick Ronson's obvious brilliance in the genre (as evidenced by his one-man Yardbirdmania on "Jean Genie"), the idea of an album re-creating mid-Sixties English rock classics seemed perfect. And every song included has been a personal favorite for years. To Bowie they have been more — they are representative of a phase of the London scene he was very much ... | More »

The Who

Quadrophenia Track/MCA

Quadrophenia is the Who at their most symmetrical, their most cinematic, ultimately their most maddening. Captained by Pete Townshend, they have put together a beautifully performed and magnificently recorded essay of a British youth mentality in which they played no little part, lushly endowed with black and white visuals and a heavy sensibility of the wet-suffused air of 1965. Nonetheless, the album fails to generate a total impact because of its own internal paradox: Instead of the four-s... | More »

December 6, 1973

Marvin Gaye

Let's Get It On Tamia

"Let's Get It On" is a classic Motown single, endlessly repeatable and always enjoyable. It begins with three great wah-wah notes that herald the arrival of a vintage Fifties melody. But while the song centers around classically simple chord changes, the arrangement centers around a slightly eccentric rhythm pattern that deepens the song's power while covering it with a contemporary veneer. Above all, it has Marvin Gaye's best singing at its center, fine background voices on th... | More »



Rumor has it that Queen shall soon be crowned "the new Led Zeppelin," which is an event that would certainly suit this observer just fine. There's no doubt that this funky, energetic English quartet has all the tools they'll need to lay claim to the Zep's abdicated heavy-metal throne, and beyond that to become a truly influential force in the rock world. Their debut album is superb. The Zeppelin analogy is not meant to imply that Queen's music is anywhere near as blues-ba... | More »

Bonnie Raitt

Takin' My Time

Early on in her career, Bonnie Raitt decided that live shows were more important to her than records. She wanted to get out and reach people directly, without having to rely on hype, promotion and hustle. In the time since, she's done a lot of traveling, but though she still says she'd never want a hit record, the release of her third album may be the one that makes her a "star." In the few years that Bonnie has been performing, her style has expanded. She began as a blues player i... | More »

November 22, 1973

Jackson Browne

For Everyman Asylum

For inwardly panoramic songwriting of an apocalyptic bent, Jackson Browne's second album is rivaled only by his first (the second one wins), and Jackson himself is rivaled by nobody. His work is a unique fusion of West Coast casualness and East Coast paranoia, easygoing slang and painstaking precision, child's-eye romanticizing and adult's-eye acceptance. He can expand explicit experience until it takes on the added dimension of an overview, or he can philosophize with such int... | More »

Elton John

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Island/Mercury

These boys — singer/piano player Elton John, librettist Bernie Taupin and producer Gus Dudgeon sure do relish their fantasy. One evening last summer I found myself in a screening room in Los Angeles with all of the above, plus the guitarist, the bass player and the rest of the white-suited English retinue that follows Elton around. The occasion was a command performance of American Graffitt, George Lucas' dream-sequence film of a night of teenage life in a California town in 1962. ... | More »

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Song Stories


Lou Reed | 1972

Opening Lou Reed's 1972 solo album, the hard-riffing "Vicious" actually traces its origin back to Reed's days with the Velvet Underground. Picking up bits and pieces of songs from the people and places around him, and filing his notes for later use, Reed said it was Andy Warhol who provided fuel for the song. "He said, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Vicious,'" Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. "And I said, 'What kind of vicious?' 'Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.' And I wrote it down literally."

More Song Stories entries »