album reviews

Rod Stewart

Sing It Again Rod

Sing It Again Rod touches all the solo bases since Stewart's departure from the Jeff Beck Band, wherein he cut his teeth on American audiences for $75 a week plus expenses, and wisely ignores his generally inferior work with the Faces. With only four solo albums to his credit, the retrospective is premature, even though it is pulled off with taste and imagination. Stewart's music has passed through blues, rock 'n' roll, pop, rock, Dylan and British folk music. He did some... | More »

August 16, 1973

Steely Dan

Countdown To Ecstasy

Steely Dan 1972. Five jaded guys from Gotham City going west to find the American Dream, only to find Los Angeles, where, as they say, you can't buy a thrill. Lo and behold, what do they find there in the promised land but two smash singles, a gold album and (drum roll) success. Steely Dan 1973. Countdown To Ecstasy is upon us with another dose of mainstream rock & roll, restating the basic themes of Can't Buy a Thrill, but this time concentrating a bit more on the rocking side... | More »

August 2, 1973

Jimi Hendrix

Soundtrack Recordings from the Film 'Jimi Hendrix' Warner Bros.

Necrophiliacs of the rock world unite! It's not one, but two records of posthumously issued Jimi Hendrix material, culled from the forthcoming documentary film Jimi Hendrix, featuring five hitherto unreleased cuts. Three are from Hendrix' final performance, held at the Isle of Wight, and reveal the dishearteningly desultory level to which his playing had by then descended. These two records document in words and music (each side concludes with brief interviews with Jimi's famil... | More »

Carole King


In the opening and title cut of Carole King's first, and I hope last, "conceptual" album, the format is made crystal clear: "I may step outside myself/And speak as if I were someone else/ ... In fantasy I can be black or white/A woman or a man." Subsequently we are treated alternately to a series of dramatic monologues, in some of which Carole King appears as herself, voicing personal hope and aspiration, but the majority featuring her as someone else, black, Latin American or otherwise,... | More »

Aretha Franklin

Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky)

Aretha Franklin has been straying beyond the conventional boundaries of soul for some time (most successfully on last year's awkward but powerful Young, Gifted and Black) but the new album is her biggest stylistic departure from R&B to date. The ominous spectre of Roberta Flack hovers over the enterprise, first in the use of the soul-jazz-pop fusion and narcoleptic tempo popularized in "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and "Killing Me Softly"; secondly, in the use of Quincy Jones... | More »

Sly & the Family Stone

Fresh Epic

In conversation Miles Davis says the name real slow — "Sslaaa" — with the same intonation of awe and macho respect that a young kid on a street corner in North Philadelphia would use to describe Mister Bad Ass. Miles, for 25 years the leader of voodoo musical changes, makes no secret of his admiration for Sly Stone, who is half his age and half a world away in audience if not in temperament. In fact two years ago Miles grabbed Stevie Wonder's bass player and changed his entir... | More »

July 19, 1973

Curtis Mayfield

Back To The World

An engaging and paradoxic (at least in uptight Western terms), intensely masculine falsetto; a canny feeling of the confluence of handsome R&B melody with the realities and myths of black life in the Seventies; the 'fly and jivey street-wise sense of pop poesy and prophesy, plus the considerable arranging skills of Johnny Pate — all these conspired to make Curt Mayfield's soundtrack of the film Super Fly one of the major pop albums of 1972. And all of these abilities, minu... | More »

George Harrison

Living In The Material World

At last it's here, beautifully-packaged with symbolic hand-print covers and the dedication, "All Glories to Sri Krsna." Even if Living in the Material World were as trivial and regressive as McCartney's Red Rose Speedway, there would be many who would dub it a pop classic. Happily, the album is not just a commercial event, it is the most concise, universally conceived work by a former Beatle since John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Given everything George Harrison represents, it would b... | More »

David Bowie

Aladdin Sane RCA

A lightning bolt streaks across David's face; on the inside cover the lad is air-brushed into androgyny, a no less imposing figure for it. Though he has been anointed to go out among us and spread the word, we find stuffed into the sleeve, like dirty underwear, a form requesting our name, address, "favorite film and TV stars," etc., plus $3.50 for membership in the David Bowie Fan Club (materials by return mail unspecified). Such discrepancies have made David Bowie the most recently con... | More »

July 5, 1973

Bruce Springsteen

Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ Columbia

Remember P.F. Sloan? Sure you do. It was back when every folk rocker worth his harmonica holder was flushed with Dylan fever and seeing how many syllables he could cram into every involuted couplet. There was Tandyn Almer, of "Along Comes Mary" fame ("The psychodramas and the traumas hung on the scars of the stars in the bars and cars — something like that), and David Blue had his own Highway 61 too, but absolutely none of 'em could beat ol' P.F. He started out writing surf so... | More »

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Song Stories

“Road to Nowhere”

Talking Heads | 1985

A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

More Song Stories entries »