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album reviews

Frank Zappa

Apostrophe (')

Having proven his stellar musicianship on a series of instrumental-based solo albums, Frank Zappa is now returning to the musical satire on which his formidable reputation was built. Apostrophe turns out to be so brilliantly successful, though, that it seems as though he's never left this field. Songs like "Stinkfoot" and "St. Alfonzo's Pancake Breakfast" again attest to Zappa's abilities at contorting song forms to serve his distorted purposes: They're a welcome reminder ... | More »

Carly Simon

Hotcakes

Hotcakes holds up well and represents an intelligent approach to commercial record making. Her past albums were serious-sounding with playful overtones; Hotcakes is playful-sounding with some serious overtones — a balance that best suits her for the time being. But lest she is mistakenly stereotyped as a mere light artist, "Think I'm Gonna Have a Baby," "Forever My Love" and especially "Haven't Got Time for the Pain" are substantial songs and performances, superior to almost e... | More »

Aerosmith

Get Your Wings Columbia

Maintaining an agile balance between Yardbirds- and Who-styled rock and Seventies heavy metal, Aerosmith's second album surges with pent-up fury yet avoids the excesses to which many of their peers succumb. The music of the five-member group contains the vital elements of economy and control — no ill-advised solo extravaganzas. The snarling chords of guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford tautly propel each number, jibing neatly with the rawness of singer Steven Tyler, whose discip... | More »

Stevie Wonder

Innervisions Tamla

With his last three albums Stevie Wonder has replaced Sly Stone as the most significant individual black innovator in the twin fields of R&B and rock. He has also replaced him as the most popular black music personality: Wonder's appeal now crosses every boundary. His music always sounds free and, at his best, he does things no one else can. "Living for the City" has the most compelling — pounding, throbbing, unyielding — beat to be heard anywhere at all. And though that ... | More »

May 23, 1974

Cat Stevens

Buddha And The Chocolate Box

The last really good Cat Stevens song, two albums back, was appropriately titled "I Can't Keep It In." Since then he's been pouring out separate streams of interesting melody and dubious verbiage, streams that never converge. That would not necessarily be a problem — Stevens remains a gifted composer no matter what — were it not for the fact that his lyrics become so much more strident and incoherent with each progressively less promising effort. However fresh and idi... | More »

Eagles

On The Border Elektra

Most of the ten songs here are in some way related to escape, or to the failures that necessitate it. But the Eagles' point of view toward their material varies so wildly that it's hard to believe even they take it seriously. "My Man," Bernie Leadon's gentle epitaph for a "very talented guy" (who seems to be Gram Parsons), is completely at odds with the jovial necrophilia of "James Dean," a strong and (I hope) slightly facetious rocker that hands its subject a rather abrupt kis... | More »

Steely Dan

Pretzel Logic

Steely Dan is the most improbable hit-singles band to emerge in ages. On its three albums, the group has developed an impressionistic approach to rock & roll that all but abandons many musical conventions and literal lyrics for an unpredictable, free-roving style. While the group considered the first album, Can't Buy a Thrill, a compromise for the sake of accessibility, and the second, Countdown To Ecstasy, to emphasize extended instrumental work, the new Pretzel Logic is an attempt ... | More »

Roxy Music

Stranded

Two British bands are genuinely stretching the dimensions of pop music. One, 10 c.c., has already found a degree of popularity in the States. Roxy Music has been unable to cross the Atlantic so far, but that should change with this album. Stranded is one of the most exciting and entertaining British LPs of the Seventies. Roxy has constructed the modern English equivalent of the wall-of-sound. One instrument, either the guitar or a keyboard, will sustain or repeat a note, and the other instru... | More »

May 9, 1974

Earth, Wind & Fire

Open Our Eyes

A pleasant miscellany of Africana, Latin rhythms, well-mannered funk, smooth jazz, Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder and the Fifth Dimension, Earth Wind & Fire's Open Our Eyes has both disco and easy-listening appeal, and it's so cheerful one scarcely minds the lack of focus and distinction.Among the distinctively positive elements: Maurice White's ringing kalimba, Andrew Woolfolk's fluent soprano sax, someone's eerie falsetto squeal, and everybody's good humor. But the b... | More »

May 1, 1974

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Deja Vu Atlantic Records

Along with many other people, I had hoped that the addition of Neil Young to Crosby, Stills, and Nash would give their music the guts and substance which the first album lacked. Live performances of the group suggested that this had happened. Young's voice, guitar, compositions and stage presence added elements of darkness and mystery to songs which had previously dripped a kind of saccharine sweetness. Unfortunately, little of this influence carried over into the recording sessions for ... | More »

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Song Stories

“You Oughta Know”

Alanis Morissette | 1995

This blunt, bitter breakup song -- famous for its line "Would she go down on you in a theater?" -- was long rumored to be about Alanis Morissette getting dumped by Full House actor Dave Coulier. But while she never confirmed it was about him (Coulier himself says it is, however), she insisted the song wasn't all about scorn. "By no means is this record just a sexual, angry record," she told Rolling Stone. "The song wasn't written for the sake of revenge. It was written for the sake of release. I'm actually a pretty rational, calm person."

More Song Stories entries »
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