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album reviews

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 »

Santana

Welcome Columbia

The choice of "Welcome," a John Coltrane composition from Kulu Se Mama, as the title tune of the new Santana album is a natural follow-up to Carlos' album with Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. Coltrane pioneered the direct rendering of spirituality through music in performances like "A Love Supreme" and "Welcome," and the recent resurgence of interest in his work by spiritually inclined rock musicians is scarcely surprising. But Welcome covers more territory than Love Devotion Surrender, whi... | More »

Fleetwood Mac

Mystery To Me Reprise

Though they're all probably excellent musicians with talent coming out of their ears, the fact still remains that ever since Fleetwood Mac lost its three guitarists extraordinaire they've become increasingly less interesting. Things that are better felt than expressed have brought Fleetwood Mac to a point where the band just doesn't seem to matter much anymore. Though performed with great proficiency and occasionally enlightening subtlety, the first side of Mystery To Me turne... | More »

The Grateful Dead

Wake of the Flood

The music on Wake of the Flood is ample, full and carefully rendered. The album boasts nearly 25 minutes of it per side, the recorded sound is crisp and the finished product bears the marks of care in craftsmanship. The band, remarkably, has even transcended a certain studio thinness that characterized such prior efforts as American Beauty and Workingman's Dead. The new songs, mostly by Hunter-Garcia, cover an eclectic range of styles, from tripping good-timey tag rhyme ("Mississippi Ha... | More »

December 20, 1973

Frank Sinatra

Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back

New albums by two survivors: One is a face-lift, the other a comeback. Of the two, Andy Williams' face-lift is preferable. Actually, Solitaire isn't an Andy Williams album at all but a Richard Perry album with Andy sitting in as vocalist. Perry is a commercial genius, worth the price for anyone who can afford his cosmetic services. The brilliant formula production he perfected with Carly Simon's No Secrets has been delivered to Williams with only minor and conservative custom a... | More »

Lou Reed

Berlin RCA

Lou Reed's Berlin is a disaster, taking the listener into a distorted and degenerate demimonde of paranoia, schizophrenia, degradation, pill-induced violence and suicide. There are certain records that are so patently offensive that one wishes to take some kind of physical vengeance on the artists that perpetrate them. Reed's only excuse for this kind of performance (which isn't really performed as much as spoken and shouted over Bob Ezrin's limp production) can only be th... | More »

David Bowie

Pin Ups RCA Records

With everyone from the Band to Don McLean doing oldies albums, the Who revisiting the Mod era, and David Bowie's guitarist Mick Ronson's obvious brilliance in the genre (as evidenced by his one-man Yardbirdmania on "Jean Genie"), the idea of an album re-creating mid-Sixties English rock classics seemed perfect. And every song included has been a personal favorite for years. To Bowie they have been more — they are representative of a phase of the London scene he was very much ... | More »

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

More Song Stories entries »
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