album reviews

Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert

In a form in which individual instrumental feats are often self-indulgent and superfluous, Eric Clapton's music remains an anomaly. His greatest guitar playing has been as passionate as Otis Redding's best singing and as articulate as Bob Dylan's best songs. Clapton at his peak is as good as it gets. His music has always been autobiographical, even when he was working off older approaches rather than creating new ones. His frequent modifications of styles and roles, alternatel... | More »

October 19, 1973

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Green River Fantasy

Because Creedence Clearwater Revival first rose to prominence with hits like "Suzy Q," and achieved such immense popularity with a teenybopper audience, many people (myself among them) have until now refused to take them very seriously. But "Proud Mary" should have clued us in. It was more than simply a fine song by Top-40 standards; it was a superb song by any standards. Creedence's new album, Green River, demonstrates convincingly that "Proud Mary" was no fluke. Make no mistake about i... | More »

September 27, 1973

The Grateful Dead

History of the Grateful Dead, Vol. 1 (Bear's Choice)

I can't say too much for old Bear's taste, considering the wealth that must exist in the library of Dead concert tapes. But Volume One of The History of the Grateful Dead consists of selections from a pair of late 1970 dates in which the band was still making the transition from acidic filmstrip music to Merle Haggard style countrified truckinisms. Workingman's Dead had just come out and the band's live performances included tunes from every corner of the American pop song... | More »

Van Morrison

Hard Nose The Highway Warner Bros.

Hard Nose the Highway is psychologically complex, musically somewhat uneven and lyrically excellent. Its surface pleasures are a little less than those of St. Dominic's Preview and a great deal less than those of Tupelo Honey, while its lyric depths are richer and more accessible than those of either predecessor. The major theme of Hard Nose is nostalgia, briefly but firmly counter-pointed by disillusion. The latter sentiment Van spews out in the album's one ugly, self-indulgent son... | More »

September 13, 1973

Mott the Hoople


What an array of weapons this band has: awesome firepower, an ever-increasing depth of expression, timely themes and an artistic way of mixing these qualities on record. In terms of my own bias, Mott the Hoople has been the most productive band of the last three years, with only the Rolling Stones — a significant source of inspiration for Mott — in the same category. In six attempts, Mott has made four excellent albums, and the latest may be the best. The band has long had a near... | More »

New York Dolls

New York Dolls

The album cover hits with a stark black and white photo, title scrawled in lipstick red aross the top. The boys appear on a white satin couch with a strange combination of high pop-star drag and ruthless street arrogance. There's lipstick, eyeshadow and platform boots, but there's also some sinister slipstream flowing here. Remember the earliest Stones's publicity photos? What was scruffy and outrageous then looks so commonplace now — in ten years will this photo seem as ... | More »

August 31, 1973

The Rolling Stones

Goats Head Soup Rolling Stones Records

History has proven it unwise to jump to conclusions about Rolling Stones albums. At first Sticky Fingers seemed merely a statement of doper hipness on which the Stones (in Greil Marcus' elegant phrase) "rattled drugs as if they were maracas." But drugs wound up serving a figurative as well as a literal purpose and the album became broader and more ambiguous with each repeated listening. At first, Exile on Main Street seemed a terrible disappointment, with its murky, mindless mixes and c... | More »

August 30, 1973

Jethro Tull

A Passion Play

A Passion Play is the artsiest artifact yet to issue from the maddeningly eccentric mind of Ian Anderson. Conceived for live performance as much as for disk, its ultimate presentation incorporates a short film, written, directed and edited by Anderson, in addition to the madcap hysteria of the stage show. Having not seen the play, I can only comment on the disk, which is a pop potpourri of Paradise Lost and Winnie The Pooh, among many other literary resources, not to mention a vast array of m... | More »

Donny Hathaway

Extensions Of A Man

Like Stevie Wonder's Music of My Mind, Donny Hathaway's Extensions of a Man, produced by Arif Mardin, is an ambitious breakthrough album that significantly broadens the musical palette of a major black artist, fulfilling in large measure promises long-offered. But whereas Wonder has lately concentrated on expanding the textural definitions of R&B as it has evolved out of Motown, Hathaway shows himself to be a sophisticated traditionalist of great versatility, able to weave alrea... | More »

Cat Stevens


Cat Stevens' first self-produced album, much of it recorded in Jamaica, fails in virtually all of its fuzzy ambitions, the most conspicuous of which seems to have been an attempt to add some meaningfully avant-garde soul sauce to Cat's basically bland Anglo stew. The almost complete lack of integration between these elements is aggravated by Cat's singing, which has become increasingly ragged since Tea for the Tillerman. Cat seems determined to sacrifice the pleasantly hypnotic... | 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 »