album reviews

Etta James

The Sweetest Peaches Part 2

You can dig Peaches as a catalogue of rhythm-and-blues styles from the Fifties to the present. You can enjoy it as the most varied and satisfying "greatest hits" collection of the year. You can stand off and admire it as a monument to a soulful queen of the blues who just won't quit. Better yet, put the record on and listen to the woman sing. Compared to Etta James, Aretha is an ornamentalist. While Aretha decorates and elaborates each song to fit her own personality. Etta simply become... | More »

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin IV

It might seem a bit incongruous to say that Led Zeppelin — a band never particularly known for its tendency to understate matters — has produced an album which is remarkable for its low-keyed and tasteful subtlety, but that's just the case here. The march of the dinosaurs that broke the ground for their first epic release has apparently vanished, taking along with it the splattering electronics of their second effort and the leaden acoustic moves that seemed to weigh down the... | More »

December 20, 1971

The Rolling Stones

Hot Rocks, 1964-1971 London

It would be nice to be able to call it something like The Rolling Stones' Golden Decade, for the Stones have been the most enduringly prolific highwire act of their time, both reflecting and surpassing the era with a deadly accuracy that can make them seem more dangerous than they really are. But somehow this album merely falls into that venerable Stones tradition of supra-throwaway albums, collections like December's Children and Flowers that by their very slapdash cynicism validat... | More »

December 9, 1971

Jimi Hendrix

Rainbow Bridge Reprise

Ahh, a surprise – more Hendrix in the studio. Of late a lot of in-concert Hendrix has surfaced; the full-side each on the Woodstock sets, the Isle of Wight performance on Columbia's Rock Festivals set, the in-concert movie of Hendrix at Berkeley, as well as an English in-concert film with an accompanying soundtrack LP. But Hendrix on stage and Hendrix in the studio are two animals of pretty divergent cellular structure. His later concerts involved a lot of extended instrumental ja... | More »

Yoko Ono


Yoko's new offering, unlike her husband's, is a two-record set. I admit to a bias against double albums, which often seem to represent only an inadequate solution to the problem of what to leave out. That prejudice declared, I have to say that I found it impossible to listen attentively to this whole album more than once. It's hard to guess why Yoko found it necessary to take up so much vinyl to state her case. The title song, "Fly," which originally accompanied the perambulat... | More »

Fleetwood Mac

Future Games Reprise

Back in the Bar-Mitzvah days of the drug culture the British music scene was shaken by what came to be known as The Blues Boom. Beginning with a small corps of dedicated musicians in the early Sixties, blues bands proliferated at a feverish pace until by 1968 nearly every person in the British Isles between the ages of 16 and 35 was in a blues band. But by its very popularity the blues boom insured its own destruction. After all with so many people in unsuccessful blues bands how could anyone... | More »

Cat Stevens

Teaser and The Firecat

I get the tune and then I just keep on singing the tune until the words come out from the tune. It's kind of a hypnotic state that you reach after a while when you keep on playing it where words just evolve from it. So you take those words and just let them go whichever way they want.... "Moonshadow"? Funny, that was in Spain, I went there alone, completely alone, to get away from a few things. And I was dancin' on the rocks there ... right on the rocks where the waves were like blo... | More »

November 25, 1971

Black Sabbath

Master of Reality Vertigo

The second-generation rock audience (that is, those who went steady to "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and got serious with Highway 62 Revisited) suffer mightily wrestling with the phenomenon represented by Grank Funk and Black Sabbath. If nothing else, though, both Funk and Sabbath are for all their monotony at least supremely consistent — as opposed to schtick collectors with no personal vision like Deep Purple. And since when is monotony so taboo in rock & roll, anyway? Rock has been &m... | More »

Van Morrison

Tupelo Honey Polydor

Tupelo Honey (Warner Bros. 1950), like all of Van Morrison's albums, is both a synthesis of what has preceded it and a statement of something new. It has the musical compactness of Moondance and some of the spirited looseness of Van Morrison His Band and The Street Choir. It is also the best sounding record he has done so far, thus making up for one of the main flaws on the last album: the inferior mix. Thematically, Van's songs of dedication and devotion to women are elevated and ... | More »

Little Richard

Little Richard: Kings of Rock'n'Roll Series

Little Richard is perfect for the late night TV freak circuit: he's funny, loud, outrageous, superficial even on important issues and willing to talk when he has absolutely nothing to say. Sometimes he'll even sing, but that's not necessary because, just as Raquel Welch is more a Star a "Personality" than an actress, Little Richard is now more a Star than a singer. That's show biz. When you're the King of Rock and Roll you can talk about your clothes and mug your way ... | More »

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Song Stories

“Stillness Is the Move”

Dirty Projectors | 2009

A Wim Wenders film and a rapper inspired the Dirty Projectors duo David Longstreth and Amber Coffmanto write "sort of a love song." "We rented the movie Wings of Desire from Dave's brother's recommendation, and he had me go through it and just write down some things that I found interesting, and they made it into the song," Coffman said. As for the hip-hop connection, Longstreth explained, "The beat is based on T-Pain. We commissioned a radio mix of the song by the guy who mixes all of Timbaland's records, but the mix we made sounded way better, so we didn't use it."

More Song Stories entries »