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album reviews

Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 Vertigo

As the Sabs poured into "Wheels of Confusion" like giant gobs of wet cement gushing from the heavens in the never-ending sameness of a taffy-pull performed by mutants, people began pouring into my house. One by one they instantly began digging the Sabs, nodding, heavy dudes one and all. Everyone picked up that old Sab neck-wobble trip where your head sort of rocks back and forth on your neck python-fash, right? Where the organ comes in over the big slow power chords; no it's not an organ... | More »

Miles Davis

On The Corner Columbia/Legacy

The Street's the same in New York or Frisco. It leads to heaven or hell, maybe both, and what comes down around you depends on how you travel just as much as where you're coming from. In that sense, Miles Davis from St. Louis by way of jazz and Carlos Santana from San Francisco by way of rock have a great deal more in common than either may realize. These are philosophical albums, if one may be permitted to apply that adjective to musical composition and performance. Both albums ex... | More »

Mott the Hoople

All The Young Dudes

Taking what does not belong to you is a crucial part of the process of creating rock & roll: Exploiting proven riffs, phrases and hooks, then adding a few twists of your own — that's how it works and that's how it's always worked. Only nobody made a big thing about it until Mott the Hoople came along. They've never made any attempt to camouflage the sources of their music; on the contrary, they have glorified the practice of musical thievery. Mott's first al... | More »

Michael Jackson

Got to Be There

I had a dream about the Jackson 5. I was addressing the audience at a luncheon of somesort but all I said when I stood up was that I was hungry. The Jackson 5 were at one of thetables and Tito came up to the podium with a sandwich of American cheese and lettuce on whitebread, open-faced on a plate. I told him that rather than eat the sandwich I would preserve itand he asked me if I did that with all my food. Only when it comes from the Jackson 5, Isaid. There's nothing particularly appe... | More »

November 25, 1972

Santana

Santana III Columbia

Santana goes back deep into the roots of today's music, not only just to the time when the Family Dog was at the Avalon, but back further into the heavy dosages of Latin and African rhythms that have been part of American music for a long time. For it's surely true that for all their Fender basses and fuzz tones, Santana is more deeply committed to the music defined and still played by Tito Puente, Machito, Mongo Santamaria, and all the glorious combinations of brass and rhythm tha... | More »

November 23, 1972

Steely Dan

Can't Buy A Thrill

Mary is strapping on a rubber penis. "Steely Dan III from Yokohama," she says, caressing the shaft.   "What happen to Steely Dan I?" "He was torn in two by a bull dyke. She could cave in a lead pipe." "And Steely Dan II?" "Chewed to bits by a famished candiru in the Upper Baboonsasshole. And don't say 'wheeeeeeee!' this time." — William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch I doubt that "wheee!" will be your response to this Steely Dan, an L.A. rock band that is headed by... | More »

Cat Stevens

Catch Bull At Four

Simultaneous with the release of Cat Stevens' new album on A&M, Columbia has released a pleasing first solo effort by Alun Davies, second guitarist on Cat's records from Mona Bone Jakon on. Catch Bull is impeccably produced. Its musical contents are like those of Teaser and the Firecat — simple, short-phrased melodies and spare and vibrant arrangements. There are, however, notable differences between Catch Bull and its predecessor. The instrumental repertoire has been wid... | More »

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 »

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

More Song Stories entries »
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