album reviews

Marvin Gaye

Trouble Man/M.P.G.

Even when a movie soundtrack isn't so awful you'd just as soon throw it down the stairs, it very rarely achieves anything beyond a sort of banal, predictable mood music: a little suspense, a little drama, an ooze of romance, maybe a brisk driving-in-the-car-to-possible danger track counterpointed with a lighter, romantic-leads-take-a-walk sequence — all compressed, like a week's worth of garbage, for one tight, bright under-the-credits Main Theme. Altogether, it's ab... | More »

February 15, 1973

Rick Nelson

Garden Party

On the front cover, which is stunning, there are several things of note. Rick photographs better here than he ever has in 32 1/2 unnaturally handsome years, resplendent in a jacket of rock & roll (embroidered) velvet. He's gripping his Les Paul Gibson with both hands, and with the same tenacity that's kept him going through the dubious success of his recent career. Right above his elegantly coifed head, in thin but emphatic lettering, is the name of the first bona fide smasheroo... | More »

James Brown

Get On The Good Foot Polydor

There was a time when James Brown really was Soul Brother Number One. Though it was only six, seven, eight years ago, it seems like a lot longer. Back in the early and mid-Sixties, Brown's shows had the same mythical stature for soul audiences that the Stones now have for the rock audiences. His influence on the developing soul artists of the time — Wilson Pickett, Otis, later Aretha — was immeasurable. It was not only the emphasis on hard rhythms over melody, but the concept... | More »

February 1, 1973

Big Star

No. 1 Record/Radio City

#1 Record In the late Sixties, a Memphis teenager named Alex Chilton won moderate fame and fortune as the lead singer for a sometimes inspired, sometimes insipid recording unit known as the Box Tops. The group was a vehicle for the ideas of producer-writer Dan Penn, and Chilton's raspy, young punk voice was the focal point. After several erratic albums and a couple of downright classic singles, "The Letter" and "Cry like a Baby," Alex tired of being just a mouthpiece. The final Box Tops... | More »

January 18, 1973

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 »

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Song Stories


Tune-Yards | 2011

The opening track to Merrill Garbus’ second album under the Tune-Yards banner (she also plays in the trio Sister Suvi), “Bizness” is a song about relationships that is as colorful as the face paint favored by Garbus both live and in her videos. Disjointed funk bass, skittering African beats, diced-and-sliced horns and Garbus’ dynamic voice, which ranges from playful coos to throat-shredding howls, make “Bizness” reminiscent of another creative medium. “I'd like for them not to be songs as much as quilts or collages or something,” Garbus said.

More Song Stories entries »