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album reviews

Jimi Hendrix

War Heroes Reprise

Days after Hendrix's death, Eddie Kramer, head engineer at Electric Ladyland Studios, was quoted as saying that there were two albums worth of studio cuts and a live Albert Hall gig that would be released soon. However, "associates" were quoted as saying that there were lots more Hendrix tapes that nobody would hear – "It wouldn't be fair to his memory to release them" was the way the rap went. Nevertheless, this is the fourth posthumous album to be released by Hendrix's... | More »

James Taylor

One Man Dog

There is a "patrician arrogance" to James Taylor that accounts in part for his popularity while it at the same time explains the critical resistance to his work. Those who see themselves championing mass tastes can't accept the individualized point of view — the supremely autobiographical quality of his work — even while the audience they presume to speak for has made his modest output of albums among the best sellers ever released by his record company. One group loves him b... | More »

January 4, 1973

Joni Mitchell

For The Roses Asylum

Her appeal is in the subtle texture of her toughness, and her readiness to tell secrets and make obscure and difficult feelings lucid and vocal. She breaks your heart and makes you tentatively smile. She is the leading lady in a personal pageant of Heavy Duty, tension-bound romance. The poetry of her love songs sets her almost on some other planet, some separate plane where there are no inhibitions about divine arrogance, no compunctions about laying the inside of her on the line. And then th... | More »

Stevie Wonder

Talking Book Tamla

Stevie Wonder's second album this year is in many ways a reprise with variations of the first, Music of My Mind. Both are ambitious, richly-textured, almost entirely the work of Wonder himself, who produced (with assistance, primarily on the Moog work, from Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff), composed the music and all but a few of the lyrics, plays the bulk of the instrumental tracks (aided here and there on Talking Book by eight musicians including, on one cut, Jeff Beck and Buzzy Fe... | More »

Lou Reed

Transformer RCA Records

A real cockteaser, this album. That great cover: Lou and those burned-out eyes staring out in grim black and white beneath a haze of gold spray paint, and on the back, ace berdache Ernie Thormahlen posing in archetypal butch, complete with cartoon erectile bulge, short hair, motorcycle cap, and pack of Luckies up his T-shirt sleeve, and then again resplendent in high heels, panty hose, rouge, mascara, and long ebony locks; the title with all its connotations of finality and electromagnetic pe... | More »

Elvis Presley

Burning Love

That Elvis sure is a card! Just when you think he's cashed his last chip and sold so low he can't get no crasser, he comes along with something like this and proves that he and Colonel Bogey are still one jump ahead of the rest of us would-be Barnums. You gotta love him for it; it makes him matter, and even if that don't matter, his exploi-expertise is his charm. Since the Big EP had just cut his most gutsy single in a skunk's age, causing some fools to drool on spec ... | More »

The Grateful Dead

Europe '72

I am convinced that God made the Grateful Dead so that they could be heard in concert. Besides the tremendous amount of music which the Dead plays at a date (usually they will play until they are stopped), the band exudes a laid-back, happy confidence that puts a flame in the soul and a smile on the face; yes it does. The group is a living sense of security and contentment for pop music watchers, and it is probably our most important band still functioning. This three-record set is the resul... | More »

Carly Simon

No Secrets

Carly Simon's third album comes handsomely dressed by super-producer Richard Perry and boasts many illustrious helpers. In the degree of its intelligence and forthrightness it is the equal of its predecessors. Regardless of the quality of her songs — they range from fair to excellent — everything Carly does is likable for her radiant vocal personality. She has the whitest of white voices and uses it well, singing full throat with faultless enunciation. Her almost literal note... | More »

December 21, 1972

Carole King

Rhymes & Reasons

"It's a gray, gray gloomy day/A strange and moody blues day/Gotta get through, gotta get through another day." So begins one of the best and most representative songs on Carole King's troubling new album — troubling because its spirit is uncharacteristically depressed and uncertain. In the past, Carole has reached out to us, offering the strength of her musical confidence and humanistic faith. On Rhymes and Reasons, the tables are reversed, and the burden is ours to bear with ... | More »

Captain Beefheart

The Spotlight Kid/Clear Spot

The continuing evolution of Beefheart's music has been one of the most fascinating developments of contemporary rock. The Captain has often seemed an introverted, almost schizophrenic figure, mirroring in his work the apparent dichotomy between the rigorous ensemble playing of the Chicago-out-of-Mississippi bluesmen and the anarchic-sounding sprung rhythms of modernists like Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman. But the unique facet of Beefheart's blues playing has always been his under... | 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 »
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