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album reviews

Barry White

Stone Gon'

Even if Barry White is imitation Isaac Hayes (and who would have thought anyone could match Ike pretension for pretension?) in this case, I prefer Brand X. White's productions are too excessive to be called "songs." They are dreamy, shimmering symphonies whipped up to a light chop for the dance crowd. Perhaps because the five cuts (the shortest, 5:05) always seem on the verge of choking on their violin tracks or being talked to death, their ultimate survival is unexpectedly exhilarating.... | More »

February 13, 1974

Black Sabbath

Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath Warner Bros.

Though they are best known as the planet's premier heavy-metal band, Black Sabbath's major contribution has been to successfully capture the gist of specifically Seventies culture through their music. They relate to this impersonal, mechanical decade much as Delta bluesmen and their Chicago spin-offs related to their eras — by synthesizing collective feelings and giving their contemporaries hope by revealing the disaffection that units all of them. In that remote but real sens... | More »

January 31, 1974

John Prine

Sweet Revenge

Sweet Revenge is another side of John Prine, a departure from the nearly unrelenting somberness of his earlier work, and an engaging picture of the social being beneath the social conscience. It's a more human work, more mature, and a step forward artistically and toward a wider audience. Its folk humor ("Please Don't Bury Me") rivals any anonymous classic, while it is at the same time too distinctive to have been written by anyone but Prine. A pluggedin band provides a big-beat fe... | More »

The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys In Concert

This is simply everything a live album should be, and then some. Most of the performances hold their own beside the quality of the originals (even in those stubborn, hard-to-get-at places — "Marcella," "Heroes And Villains," "Funky Pretty") and yet they're never static. They remain faithful without becoming plodding or repetitive. The production is Carl Wilson's idea of pretty good with a few messy spots, which means it's unflaggingly superb but you can hear him whisperi... | More »

Bruce Springsteen

The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle Columbia

Greetings From Asbury Park, Bruce Springsteen's uproarious debut album, sounded like "Subterranean Homesick Blues" played at 78, a typical five-minute track bursting with more words than this review. Most of it didn't make much sense, but that was the point. Springsteen was rhyming and wailing for the sheer fun of it, and his manic exuberance more than canceled out his debts to Dylan, Van Morrison and the Band. The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle takes itself more seriou... | More »

January 22, 1974

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Willy And The Poor Boys Fantasy

It was a benefit at the Fillmore West for KPFA, the Conscience and Culture radio station of Berkeley, and the place was filled much beyond the legal capacity. The bill was mixed; several eminent bores and some bands as talented as Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, a rising group that has succeeded in capturing the essence of country music. But the crowd had come, virtually to a man, to see Creedence Clearwater. It was an overwhelmingly suburban audience, and from the remarks hoverin... | More »

January 17, 1974

Alice Cooper

Muscle Of Love

The Alice Cooper phenomenon, which began with the chart entry of "I'm Eighteen," rose to diabolical heights with Killer and School's Out and extravaganzaed in the show surrounding Billion Dollar Babies, has now cooled itself down with Muscle Of Love. While the album contains several highlights and wild-card experiments, its mood reveals that both the group and Alice are uncertain of what new directions they might turn to their own uses. This isn't necessarily bad; it was only a... | More »

January 3, 1974

John Lennon

Mind Games Apple/EMI

Mind Games is, to my knowledge, the first release from the conceptual country Nutopia, whose existence John and Yoko proclaim in a Declaration on the lyric sheet. Oddly enough, it isn't all that different from the records he has been making in America these last few years. Those have revealed a steady decline from the high points of his post-Beatle work, Plastic Ono Band and "Instant Karma." There, he distilled his simplistic humanism into a single moving statement of belief — at o... | More »

The Band

Moondog Matinee Capitol

Under normal circumstances this would be a fairly disappointing album for the Band, coming as it does on the year-old heels of a live set and a good 30 months since the last appearance of any original material. But with the upcoming Bob Dylan tour probably occupying a large share of their attention and the possibility of a label change in the offing, they probably figured to conserve the group's not-too-prolific energies by playing around with the past. Moondog Matinee, the Band's o... | More »

Neil Young

Time Fades Away Reprise

This album may do for Neil Young's declining image what Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid did for Dylan's. But like Dylan's much-maligned movie soundtrack LP, Time Fades Away has its virtues when taken on its own terms and not as the latest major work of a major artist. Here, Young seems to have consciously avoided the sober sense of importance that accompanied After the Gold Rush and Harvest by recording his new material live and rough. Mistakes and fluffs dot these performances... | More »

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

More Song Stories entries »
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