album reviews

Jefferson Airplane

Long John Silver Grunt

Well, here's another Jefferson Airplane album, and if you thought the last one had them baked into the mold of an absolutely stereotypic Airplane Sound, you may not even care to hear Long John Silver. It's not that they aren't capable of exciting music — the fires that fused albums like Baxter's and Crown of Creation will burn here, though the years have taken their toll. You can still get your rocks off on the Airplane, and those who thought Bark a bit too low-key a... | More »

August 31, 1972

Van Morrison

Saint Dominic's Preview Warner Bros.

The best-produced, most ambitious Van Morrison record yet released, Saint Dominic's Preview presents an impressive assemblage of musical ideas that can be enjoyed on many levels. Though the album does not have quite the surface accessibility of Tupelo Honey, being melodically less predictable and lyrically more esoteric, its overall content is musically much richer and more adventurous. Five of the album's seven cuts pick up where Tupelo Honey left off, as Van and many of the same ... | More »

August 17, 1972

Elton John

Honky Château Uni

Elton John's Honky Château is a rich, warm, satisfying album that stands head and shoulders above the morass of current releases and has now succeeded in toppling the Stones from the top spot on the charts in only three weeks. Musically more varied, emotionally less contrived, lyrically more lucid than Tumbleweed Connection, Château rivals Elton John as his best work to date and evidences growth at every possible level. The core of Tumbleweed was lyricist Bernie Taupin'... | More »

Ornette Coleman

Skies Of America

The history of attempts to fuse jazz and classical music has been long and ignominious. From the plasticizing efforts of George Gershwin and Paul Whiteman, through the rarefied preciousness of much of the "Third Stream," right on up to today's proliferating concertos for "jazz band and chamber orchestra," the tendency has been to abandon the strengths of both species for the weakness of a mutant. The first thing that needs to be said about Skies of America is that it transcends these pre... | More »

August 3, 1972

Aretha Franklin

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace is more a great Aretha Franklin album than a great gospel album. She plays havoc with the traditional styles but she sings like never before on record. The liberation and abandon she has always implied in her greatest moments are now fully and consistently achieved. Actually, as Miss Franklin's career continues to take shape, its breadth and range become increasingly impressive. Starting with the pop singing of her early Columbia days — much of it amazingly good &mda... | More »

Simon & Garfunkel

Greatest Hits Columbia

Here is a greatest hits album that lives up to its name — a generous collection of 14 Simon and Garfunkel classics, from "The Sounds of Silence" to "Bridge Over Troubled Water." The only single hits not included are "A Hazy Shade of Winter," "At the Zoo," and "Fakin' It." In their place are a couple of earlier album cuts, plus excellent live versions of "For Emily, wherever I May find Her," "Kathy's Song," "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)," and "Homeward Boun... | More »

The Velvet Underground

Live At Max's Kansas City Cotillion

Though New York City eventually serves as a showcase for every big-time rock group, it spawns very few — and the Velvet Underground was about the only group that denizens of the ultimate terminal city could call their own. Andy Warhol found them and put them on tour as part of a show called The Exploding Plastic Inevitable, and the Velvet Underground skulked through flower - powered American days like shadows from the dark-side of psychopath fantasy. Many thought their first album down... | More »

July 21, 1972

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence Clearwater Revival Fantasy

On the liner notes to their album, Ralph Gleason states: "Creedence Clearwater Revival is an excellent example of the Third Generation of San Francisco bands." Really more like Third Level — behind the Airplane, Dead, Quicksilver, Grape and all the others. The only bright spot in the group is John Fogerty, who plays lead guitar and does the vocals. He's a better-than-average singer (really believable in Wilson Pickett's "Ninety-Nine and a Half"), and an interesting guitarist.... | More »

July 20, 1972

David Bowie

The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars RCA Records

Upon the release of David Bowie's most thematically ambitious, musically coherent album to date, the record in which he unites the major strengths of his previous work and comfortably reconciles himself to some apparently inevitable problems, we should all say a brief prayer that his fortunes are not made to rise and fall with the fate of the "drag-rock" syndrome — that thing that's manifesting itself in the self-conscious quest for decadence which is all the rage at the momen... | More »

July 6, 1972

Randy Newman

Sail Away

Randy Newman's third studio album, Sail Away (Reprise 2064), produced by Lenny Waronker and Russ Titelman, is further confirmation — as if any more were needed — of the fact that Newman is our most sophisticated art-song composer and also the most self-consciously American. His first album, co-produced by Waronker and Van Dyke Parks, was almost too much of a good thing. Newman the songwriter, the bitter ironist, was caricatured by Newman the arranger displaying his bravura vi... | 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 »