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album reviews

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 »

The Everly Brothers

Stories We Could Tell

The Everly Brothers brought harmony to rock and roll. They also brought sensitivity, the result of their having been weaned on old-time country music. They were the end of one line and beginning of another. They were also hugely influential, and everything they gave to rock was positive. In the Sixties, the Everly Brothers lost touch with their audience and with their art, recording a dozen listless albums for Warner Bros. They were descending inevitably to the level of self-parody, and they... | More »

June 22, 1972

The Beach Boys

Carl And The Passions: So Tough Brother/Reprise

So Tough is the first and maybe last album by Carl and the Passions, the aptly-named once and future Beach Boys. The myserious, reclusive Brian (having endured another aesthetic triumph with the last album, Surf's Up) seems to have abdicated the leadership of the organization into the capable hands of brother Carl; only two of the album's eight cuts were composed by Brian, with lyrics by Jack Reilly, and he obviously arranged a third and did the heavy orchestration on brother Dennis... | More »

The Beach Boys

Pet Sounds

Recorded and released in 1966, not long after the sunny, textural experiments of California Girls, Pet Sounds, aside from its importance as Brian Wilson's evolutionary compositional masterpiece, was the first rock record that can be considered a "concept album"; from first cut to last we were treated to an intense, linear personal vision of the vagaries of a love affair and the painful, introverted anxieties that are the wrenching precipitates of the unstable chemistry of any love relati... | More »

Eagles

The Eagles WEA

The Eagles' "Take It Easy," is simply the best sounding rock single to come out so far this year. The first time through, you could tell it had everything: danceable rhythm, catchy, winding melody, intelligent, affirmative lyrics, a progressively powerful arrangement mixing electric guitar and banjo, and a crisp vocal, with vibrant four-part harmony at just the right moments for maximum dramatic effect. To top it off, "Take It Easy" was co-written by Jackson Browne and Eagle Glen Frey, w... | 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 »
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