album reviews

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


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 »

September 14, 1972

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 »

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Song Stories

“Road to Nowhere”

Talking Heads | 1985

A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

More Song Stories entries »