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album reviews

Bonnie Raitt

Streetlights

On her newest album Bonnie Raitt, one of the most gifted contemporary pop interpreters, partially succeeds in coping with uncongenial production by Jerry Ragovoy. The uneven results illustrate an important record industry problem: How are artists to deal with a sophisticated production technology that dictates the creation of flawlessly manufactured commercial "product" and tends to disallow the idiosyncratic, spontaneous and simple? Increasingly, the outcome is a bland MOR slickness that dep... | More »

Jackson Browne

Late For The Sky Asylum

Like Browne's two previous albums, Late for the Sky contains no lyric sheet. The three or four hours required to make a full transcription will, however, be well worth the effort for anyone interested in discovering lyric genius. I can't think of another writer who merges with such natural grace and fluidity his private and public personas in a voice that is morally compelling yet noncoercive. Late for the Sky, Jackson Browne's third Asylum album, is his most mature, conceptua... | More »

October 24, 1974

Barry White

Can't Get Enough

We got it together, didn't we? Barry White asks in that husky bedroom voice of his at the beginning of this newest album. "We've definitely got our thing together, don't we baby? Isn't it nice? I mean, really, when you really sit and think about it, isn't it really, really nice?" Well, no, really. White's lush compositions have become dance and make-out standards — here, he has turned out five more in what is now an overly familiar mold. Another original, "... | More »

Brian Eno

Here Come The Warm Jets

One of the more intriguing developments on today's English rock scene has been the emergence of a cult of marginal musicians bent on doing "weird" things to the traditional pop song format. Be it in the name of being "trendy" (Elton John) or just for the sake of seeming mysterious (Roxy Music), these folks have taken so many liberties with a hackneyed old genre that it frequently ends up sounding quite unlike the early Beatles records which were its foremost representation. Brian Eno, f... | More »

Fleetwood Mac

Heroes Are Hard To Find Reprise

After a brief identity crisis (another band usurping their identities), the real Fleetwood Mac is back on record. They've still got the same smooth soft-rock sound they've had for three years, since Jeremy Spencer found religion (or vice versa). The group's gone a little funkier in places, which turns out both annoying ("Born Enchanter," "Angel") and intriguing ("Heroes Are Hard To Find"). Their smoother numbers alternately mesmerize ("She's Changing Me") or narcotize ("Co... | More »

Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Not Fragile

Imagine Black Sabbath without instrumental dynamism and lyrical vision; imagine Led Zeppelin without pyrotechnics: What you're imagining is the Bachman-Turner Overdrive — a lowest-common-denominator rock band that's found immense commercial success in a stylistic limbo between heavy-metal and MOR rock. They rely heavily on the basics to convey their musical message, but unlike 99% of their competition, BTO give the impression that the basics are about all they have to offer. ... | More »

October 16, 1974

The Rolling Stones

It's Only Rock 'n Roll Rolling Stones Records

It's Only Rock 'n Roll is a decadent album because it invites us to dance in the face of its own despair. It's a desperate album that warns at the end of one side that "... dreams of the nighttime will vanish by dawn," and on the other that a Kafkaesque "someone is listening, good night, sleep tight." It's a rock 'n' roll album because it's so goddamn violent. At its simplest level the album deals with the psychosis of being in a rock 'n' roll ban... | More »

October 10, 1974

Joe Cocker

I Can Stand a Little Rain

Joe Cocker's comeback album is not the disaster his recent debacle in L.A. (during which he was too drunk to perform) was. Whatever his difficulties as a live performer, on record Cocker is far from a lost cause. Admittedly he is not the singer he once was: His voice is ravaged almost beyond belief. But this is what makes I Can Stand a Little Rain so moving. It is a record about pain and decline which, to make its points, cruelly exposes and exploits Cocker's damaged condition. One... | More »

Parliament-Funkadelic

Up For The Down Stroke Casablanca

Parliament affects a studiedly bizarre persona. Graham Central Station on downs, if you will, or the Temptations with a token affection for S&M. "Testify," a remake of the mid-Sixties minor classic the group cut in safer days, flaunts a mélange of several separate, stoned voices in search of a groove but is carried along by characteristically close harmony and rhythm work once the pretense can be dealt with. The professionalism of the band shows through finally on all the cuts, tho... | More »

September 26, 1974

T. Rex

Light Of Love

Unexpectedly, Marc Bolan is back. Under his egotistical leadership, T. Rex had headed straight down with two consecutive albums of trivial, leaden shush. In England he'd been overtaken in the pop idolatry sweepstakes by Sweet, Slade, Mud, Mott and even the Rubettes. His increasingly vainglorious pronouncements failed to mask the decline.   But with Light Of Love Bolan has recharged his vitality, and that raw spirit which galvanized the globe on "Bang a Gong (Get It On)" and Electr... | More »

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

More Song Stories entries »
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