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album reviews

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 »

March 2, 1972

Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne Asylum

It's not often that a single album is sufficient to place a new performer among the first rank of recording artists. Jackson Browne's long-awaited debut album chimes in its author with the resounding authority of an Astral Weeks, a Gasoline Alley, or an After the Gold Rush. Its awesome excellence causes one to wonder why, with Browne's reputation as an important songwriter established as far back as 1968, this album was so long in coming. Perhaps Browne acquired performing abil... | More »

Paul Simon

Paul Simon Columbia/Warner Bros.

Paul Simon's long and manicky struggle between his songs of endearing but forced whimsy and his confessions of unhappiness and loneliness is over, with the latter, in fully developed and radically different form, the victor. Simon's first solo album is also his least detached, most personal and painful piece of work thus far — this from a lyricist who has never shied away from pain as subject or theme. By contrast to the recent prototype for confessional work, John Lennon... | More »

Mott the Hoople

Brain Capers

Well, up till now Mott's been batting a respectable but unspectacular 333 — one line drive smash still climbing as it left the park (the first album), one disastrous bush-league strikeout (Mad Shadows); and a long fly ball the center-fielder caught up with some 400 feet from the plate (Wildlife). Maybe baseball images seem out-of-place with a British rock band yet there's a distinctly American orientation to this band that draws its inspiration (aside from its Kinksiness) from... | More »

February 17, 1972

The Jackson 5

Greatest Hits

Greatest hits albums usually lack focus. Time after time, for some obvious reasons, andsome mysterious ones, the essence and real greatness of the group or individual artist eludesattempts at collections. The Jackson Five, one of Motown's most commercially successful groups,suffers dramatically from this process. On this package the limitations of the group — mainly theslickness and vapidity of some their AM material, and the immaturity and shrillness of Michael'svoice —... | More »

Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt has run through three different producers with her last three albums, and it's easy to see why she wears them out so fast. Of the three, not one of them has had much luck with the considerable job of imposing any direction or discipline on Linda's seemingly boundless raw energy. She has yet to find someone who can shape up a whole album to match the best of her individual performances on isolated cuts. Hand Sown ... Home Grown was the roughest, loudest, loosest and m... | More »

Quicksilver Messenger Service

Quicksilver

Quicksilver is Dino Valenti's album. He wrote all the songs but two (by drummer Gary Duncan), he takes the vocals with that quavering breathy echo-laden whine which metamorphoses into an acceptable shout when he gets to screwing it on. But 'tis not on the basis of vocal or instrumental talent alone that Dino has assumed such a heavy role in the band's music. Above all, he is an enthusiastic practitioner of the Good Time Rock Star Ogle, a showman, a front man who steals the lime... | More »

Curtis Mayfield

Roots

Roots, Curtis Mayfield's third solo album, is a confused and confusing record. It's undoubtedly been influenced, both conceptually and technically, by Marvin Gaye's What's Going On? Gaye's record surprised a lot of people by its strong religious content, coming from someone who had previously recorded only love songs. Curtis, on the other hand, wrote and sang, with the Impressions, many religious and quasi-religious songs like "People Get Ready" and "Keep On Pushing."... | More »

February 3, 1972

Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt's debut album features an unusual collection of songs performed by an unusual assortment of musicians. And Bonnie is something out of the ordinary herself. She has been traveling the blues-festival circuit since 1968, playing the Boston-New York-Philadelphia folk run, since 1970. Now she has done something unusual with her first Warners album. In August, Bonnie rented a fishing camp on a Minnesota island, solicited the production services of Willie Murphy, the musical talen... | More »

George Harrison

Concert For Bangladesh

The Concert for Bangla Desh is rock reaching for its manhood. Under the leadership of George Harrison, a group of rock musicians recognized, in a deliberate, self-conscious, and professional way, that they have responsibilities, and went about dealing with them seriously: My friend came to me, With sadness in his eyes, He told me that he wanted help, Before his country died, Although I couldn't feel the pain, I knew I'd have to try, Now I'm asking all of you, To help us... | 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 »
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