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album reviews

Al Green

I'm Still in Love with You

So is there any question that when the music trades rack up their year-end charts for 1972 (and you discover that some group you never even heard of mysteriously became Top New R&B Vocal Group), the number one Male Vocalist will be Al Green? I mean is there any doubt in your mind? 1972 is Al Green's year and he seemed to snatch it up almost effortlessly. With one hit single after another, all of them turning into a neat stack of gold if not platinum records, Green hardly lost his pla... | More »

November 9, 1972

B.B. King

Guess Who

B.B. King is a deservedly well-respected man. Anybody playing blues (or rock) guitar who doesn't name him as an influence is either dumb or a liar. He's been a tireless performer, spending god-knows-how-many years doing one night stands and crusading for wider acceptance of the music he loves. Besides being a widely copied instrumentalist, his vocals have also been influential — and rarer yet, he's a true gentleman performer; he gives all he's got to his audience. I... | More »

Curtis Mayfield

Super Fly

This soundtrack to the flash and clever Super Fly is as pleasing and pretty in your living room as it is mingled with the images that it aurally represents. In fact the anti-drug message on the record is far stronger and more definite than in the film, which was diluted by schizoid cross purposes. Super Fly, the film, glamorizes machismo-cocaine consciousness while making a political moralization about the process that keeps drugs illegal yet sees that they are supplied in quantity to the ghe... | More »

October 26, 1972

Bonnie Raitt

Give It Up

The best thing about Bonnie Raitt is her singing, and the best thing about Give It Up is that she sings great from beginning to end; in doing so, she successfully handles a far greater range of styles and material than on her first album and has produced a more interesting and satisfying record in the process. On Bonnie Raitt, she was aiming for a more self-conscious, old-fashioned, technically limited approach to recording. The album had its moments, most notably her reworking of "Bluebird,... | More »

Merle Haggard

A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (Or My Salute to Bob Wills)

Merle Haggard recorded this record not as a moneymaker that would follow Okie, but, as he says, a tribute to one of his favorite old-timers in Country-Western. What Bob Wills did back there before the war was to take his Texas-bred taste in music and graft it with a jazz (swing, if you will) feel; sort of white country blues with a syncopated beat. It was dance music, for that was most of their gigs, traveling by their own bus to make that next dance hall. But Bob Wills made that hillbilly s... | More »

The Kinks

Everybody's In Showbiz

Ray Davies continues to wear his English citizenship like a badge. The Kinks have often used American musical idioms — especially variations on Richard Berry's "Louie Louie," as revived by the Kingsmen and by the Kinks themselves — but Ray has regularly used his considerable songwriting talents to anatomize situations of class and culture that are peculiarly English. Years of touring, boozing, and occasionally brawling onstage with his lead guitarist brother Dave haven't... | More »

October 12, 1972

The Band

Rock of Ages Phantom Import Distribution

There is, if my addition and the record company's listed times are correct, precisely one hour, 11 minutes and 11 seconds of music on this album and it is the bargain of the decade at your favorite discount house. Recorded during the Band's four-night gig at the end of 1971 at New York's Academy of Music (you can hear a "Happy New Year" from the audience) it is a live-in-person double LP concert album. Live albums (what's a dead one?) do not always work in electric music ... | More »

Frank Zappa

Waka/Jawaka

Although it doesn't happen often, whenever Frank Zappa goes about the task of purging himself of his normal ration of acrimony, contempt, bile and phlegm, he sometimes comes forth with an album that is every bit the musical experience that he always claimed he could produce. With the exception of the astonishing work he and his musicians did on Hot Rats a couple of years ago, much of Zappa's musical output has been too malnourished to support his artistic pretensions. His excursions... | More »

September 28, 1972

Alice Cooper

School's Out

The question before us is whether Alice Cooper is a threat to civilization itself or merely to our beloved rock & roll. Both parents and kids commonly see Alice as eroding the former, which they respectively deplore and celebrate. Alice is variously an actor, rocker, comic, madman and exorcist, the culmination of rock's subversive tendencies. This is the reputation he carefully nurtures. What School's Out confirms is what I have long suspected; that Alice's profusion of rol... | More »

September 15, 1972

Big Brother and the Holding Company

Cheap Thrills Columbia

Well, it's a real disappointment. After all the hoopla of signing with Columbia, using one of the best producers in the business and the well-spread reviews of dozens of limp-limbed and sweaty-brow reviewers who have seen Big Brother and Holding Company in performance, one would expect slightly more than what we have gotten. The title, Cheap Thrills, (shortened from Dope, Sex and Cheap Thrills) is an appropriate one, for that is to a great extent what this record has to offer. What this... | More »

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

More Song Stories entries »
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