album reviews

Martha and the Vandellas

Black Magic

Don't ask me what's happened to Martha & the Vandellas. I can't figure it out either. Here's their latest album — a more respectable package than their last, Natural Resources, but another collection of odds and ends carelessly wrapped, the tissue paper fillers spilling out at the seams and packed so thick you almost chuck the whole thing out before you find the good parts. Perhaps it is the inevitable result of the way Black Magic was organized, or disorganized... | More »

April 27, 1972

Nick Drake

Nick Drake Island

British singer-songwriter Nick Drake's American debut album is a beautiful and decadent record. A triumph of eclecticism, it successfully brings together varied elements characteristic of the evolution of urban folk rock music during the past five years. An incredibly slick sound that is highly dependent on production values (credit Joe Boyd) to achieve its effects, its dreamlike quality calls up the very best of the spirit of early Sixties' jazz-pop ballad. It combines this with th... | More »

Stevie Wonder

Music of My Mind Motown

It's only when I stop dancing and singing all around the room and sit down to think critically about it, that it occurs to me Stevie Wonder's new album may not be the great album of the year. It's certainly the best thing to come out of Motown since Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On and perhaps even more impressive as a personal achievement considering Wonder not only wrote, arranged and produced the entire album but (with the exception of a solo run by ex-Butterfiel... | More »

April 13, 1972

The Allman Brothers Band

Eat A Peach Universal Distribution

Sometimes it all seems to come down to the question of survival — and learning to live with loss. Rock and blues have lost a lot of people in the past five years, but the death of an artist always diminishes the music more than the death of a "star" — and Duane Allman was an artist. He lived for and in music, loving it with the kind of possessed passion that sometimes leads people to believe that bluesmen have traded their souls to the Devil for the magic of their music. When Dua... | More »

March 30, 1972

Jimi Hendrix

Hendrix In The West Reprise

Scrape, Scrape. That sound you hear is Eddie Kramer, the proprietor of the late Jimi Hendrix's New York recording studio, Electric Ladyland, scraping the bottom of the Hendrix barrel for the second and possibly second-to-last posthumous album of the deceased genius' music, Hendrix In The West. But to talk about bottoms of barrels is meant in no way to deprecate this album or Kramer's work. Jimi Hendrix was to rock what Charlie Parker was to jazz – an energiser, a vitalize... | More »

Al Green

Let's Stay Together

Al Green, from Forrest City, Arkansas, has risen from obscurity to fame with a rapidity that is astonishing even by the standards of the mercurial music industry. His unusually expressive voice, and the simple, spare arrangements of producer Willie Mitchell, fit together with the kind of seamless perfection that characterized the Redding/Cropper collaboration. Green's records sound like they were bound to happen; for the listener who digs soul music, the fact that two-and-a-half million ... | More »

Captain Beefheart

The Spotlight Kid/Clear Spot

"Said the Mama to the baby in the corn:/'You are my first-born/That shall hereon in be known/As the Spotlight Kid.'" That's how the title song of this album begins, and one glance at the picture on the cover — Cap natty in Las Vegas jacket, with a knowing almost-smile on his face — reveals a man with the self-understanding and self-confidence to bill himself as a new-generational hero with no false pride. And make no mistake, it is definitely to the new audience, t... | More »

Neil Young

Harvest Reprise

At the end of this, five'll getcha ten, most of you are going to be exclaiming lividly, "O what vile geeks are rock critics! How quick are they to heap disapproval on one whose praises they once sang stridently at the first sign of us Common Folk taking him to heart en masse! How they revel in detesting that which we adore!" However often I might second with a hearty "right on!" such a perception of the critic/audience chasm, though, I will swear under oath before the highest court in th... | More »

March 16, 1972

The Byrds

Farther Along Columbia

Farther Along is the Byrds' first completely self-produced LP, and exists as a kind of backlash to Terry Melcher's elaborate string and choir-laden production of Byrdmaniax. Farther Along was recorded within three months of Byrdmaniax, so eager was the band to make amends. Because of their closeness in time, their programmatic similarity is not surprising, though the sound has been considerably cleaned up. The personalities which are projected here are of the same cloth as those whi... | More »

Aretha Franklin

Young, Gifted And Black

The hype on the new Aretha Franklin album would have us believe that this is her best work since the Sixties, when a string of now-classic albums with Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin established her as the definitive female soul singer. Even the press bio that accompanied Who's Zoomin' Who? claims the record has been "hailed by critics as one of the true landmark albums of [Franklin's] career." A critic not consulted in this prerelease poll is naturally a little skeptical, especia... | More »

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Song Stories

“Money For Nothing”

Dire Straits | 1984

Mark Knopfler wrote this song with Sting, and it wasn’t without controversy. The Dire Straits frontman's original lyric used the word “faggot” to describe a singer who got their “money for nothing and their chicks for free.” Even though the slur was edited out in many versions, the band, and Knopfler, still took plenty of criticism for the term. “I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London--he actually said it was below the belt,” Knopfler told Rolling Stone. Still, "Money For Nothing," undoubtedly augmented by its innovative early computer-animated video, stayed at Number One for three weeks.

More Song Stories entries »