album reviews

Jefferson Airplane

Bark RCA

Jefferson Airplane have been a subject of some contention ever since they abandoned their Summer of Love posture for music that aspired at once to both topicality and a degree of experimentation. If you love them, you know that they are one of the four or five most consistently vital American bands. If you hate them you're at least partially justified on any rational man's terms, given the rather squishy politics and pretentiously inane sense of humor. And if you're one of thos... | More »

The Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead

To avoid any possible disappointments for those who once had visions of saving the world through the music on Anthem of the Sun and any number of live performances, it might be nice to think of this album as an interlude for the Grateful Dead, a resting place where they've stopped over to brace themselves for the next series of atmospheric excursions. Despite some heartening knew-they-could-do-it-all-along moments, it has all the earmarks of such a betwixt and between record–produc... | More »

Jerry Garcia


I just found out last Friday that Jerry Garcia buys his comics from the same little shop in Mill Valley that I purchase mine at. As I was searching through some old Marvels, looking for a few that I'd missed last summer. John (the cat that runs Village Music) strolled in and lazily noted that he's been selling more comics than records lately (which didn't overly surprise me) and then off-the-cuffly remarked that he'd just sold ninety dollars worth of old EC's to Jerry... | More »

The Band

Cahoots Capitol

Run away — run away — it's the restless age, sings the Band at the beginning of Cahoots (Capitol SMAS 651) and they mean it. They also mean it when they sing of the endlessness of the river, admonishing the listener that "You can ride on it or drink it,/Poison it or dam it,/Fish in it and wash in it,/Swim in it and you can die in it, run you river run ..." Cahoots is about finding a place for yourself in the restless age. The mood of the album is filled with a "tinge of exti... | More »

November 10, 1971

Chuck Berry

Live At Fillmore Auditorium Mercury

How strangely a matter of fate it is that the first album recorded live in San Francisco should be at the Fillmore Auditorium, that it should be of Chuck Berry who created this all and that he should be backed up by a group of musicians who have learned it from him, grown up and migrated to San Francisco to breathe new life into what Berry and all of them laid down so many years ago. The promotion man laid a slightly defective copy of it on us, so we can't hear all of Bill Graham's... | More »

October 28, 1971

James Brown

Hot Pants Polydor

Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh hot pants! Nobody but James Brown could make a great song about hot pants. Thing is. James Brown could make a great song about mouthwash or high-heeled shoes or sweet potato pie. Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh sweet'tato pie! Gotta have it/in the mornin' uh/late at night/ain't it good to ya. Brown's lyrics are secondary to his sound and their force as words with literal (literary) meaning is negligible compared to their more evocative, allusive, poetic qualities and the... | More »

Dr. John

The Sun, Moon & Herbs

This album was recorded while Dr. John was stranded in London; it was clearly born of his intense homesickness for New Orleans. As on his first album, this is Dr. John the pseudo-folklorist squeezing local color out of a tube that is fast drying up. Without vulgarizing it or describing it explicitly, Dr. John manages to suggest the whole voodoo culture in all its aging, fading, exotic seedy Creole backroom glory. Next to Dr. John, other culturerevivers are lightweights. The Kinks trying to b... | More »

John Lennon

Imagine Apple/EMI

Not content to be merely an ex-Beatle. John Lennon has carved out a new career for himself as political gadfly, floating member of the international avant-garde and as rock's most psychologically daring tightrope artist. John has always displayed an amazing capacity for growth, and if one is impatient with the speed with which he takes up and then discards various causes, philosophies, and people, the other side of the coin is that he hasn't fallen into the latter-day complacency of... | More »

October 14, 1971

The Beach Boys

Surf's Up Brother/Reprise

I've been waiting impatiently for this record since Sunflower, and the small letdown I feel could be the other side of that impatience: the wish that they could have kept it a little longer to make it perfect. In this case that would not be a matter of production (why not expect technical perfection from a group that began producing itself in the early Sixties that handles the studio with such mastery?), but rather of waiting for the material to even out in quality. (Perhaps drummer Denn... | More »

Moby Grape

20 Granite Creek

Well it's sure nice to see the Grape have cheered up since their Fillmore East fiasco of the past June. It was to be their big comeback and in practice they played the best live set ever performed anytime anywhere and then when the audience was there they stank. Audiences can be a pain in the ass I guess and this album proves that without an audience and with all the members of the original Grape aboard ship they can outdo Truly Fine Citizen with their eyes closed. The best indication o... | More »

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Song Stories

“Bleeding Love”

Leona Lewis | 2007

In 2008, The X Factor winner Leona Lewis backed up her U.K. singing competition victory with an R&B anthem for the ages: "Bleeding Love," an international hit that became the best-selling song of the year. The track was co-penned by OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder (whose radio dominance would continue with songs such as Beyonce's "Halo" and Adele's "Rumour Has It") and solo artist Jesse McCartney, who was inspired by a former girlfriend, Gossip Girl actress Katie Cassidy. Given the song's success, McCartney didn't regret handing over such a personal track: "No, no," he said. "I'm so happy for Leona. She deserves it. There are really no bad feelings."

More Song Stories entries »