album reviews

Gram Parsons

Grievous Angel Reprise

Gram Parsons is an artist with a vision as unique and personal as those of Jagger-Richard, Ray Davies, or any of the other celebrated figures. Parsons may not have gone to the gate as often as the others, but when he has he's been strikingly consistent and good. I can't think of a performance on record any more moving than Gram's on his "Hot Burrito No. 1," and the first album of his old band, the Flying Burrito Bros.' Gilded Palace of Sin, is a milestone. The record broug... | More »

The Beach Boys

Holland Brother/Reprise

From the nasal raunch of "Surfin' Safari" to the convoluted elegance of "Surf's Up," through more than ten years of recording and performing, the Beach Boys have sustained a strong musical identity, even though their original guiding light, Brian Wilson, has increasingly become merely a shadow presence. About the time of Today, other Beach Boys besides Brian and Mike Love began singing lead; by Friends, other members of the group besides Brian were contributing songs. Through it all... | More »

Neil Young

Journey Through the Past

Neil Young has been involved in a lot of memorable rock music over the last seven years. He was one of the most interesting songwriters in Buffalo Springfield, and his own solo work with Crazy Horse still sounds fresh today. At his best, Young transformed his thin voice into a distinctive vehicle for a haunting, frail style, while his lead guitar bristled with a concise energy. His most satisfying work, especially the superb Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, captured an intimate presence that ... | More »

Marvin Gaye

Trouble Man/M.P.G.

Even when a movie soundtrack isn't so awful you'd just as soon throw it down the stairs, it very rarely achieves anything beyond a sort of banal, predictable mood music: a little suspense, a little drama, an ooze of romance, maybe a brisk driving-in-the-car-to-possible danger track counterpointed with a lighter, romantic-leads-take-a-walk sequence — all compressed, like a week's worth of garbage, for one tight, bright under-the-credits Main Theme. Altogether, it's ab... | More »

February 15, 1973

Rick Nelson

Garden Party

On the front cover, which is stunning, there are several things of note. Rick photographs better here than he ever has in 32 1/2 unnaturally handsome years, resplendent in a jacket of rock & roll (embroidered) velvet. He's gripping his Les Paul Gibson with both hands, and with the same tenacity that's kept him going through the dubious success of his recent career. Right above his elegantly coifed head, in thin but emphatic lettering, is the name of the first bona fide smasheroo... | More »

James Brown

Get On The Good Foot Polydor

There was a time when James Brown really was Soul Brother Number One. Though it was only six, seven, eight years ago, it seems like a lot longer. Back in the early and mid-Sixties, Brown's shows had the same mythical stature for soul audiences that the Stones now have for the rock audiences. His influence on the developing soul artists of the time — Wilson Pickett, Otis, later Aretha — was immeasurable. It was not only the emphasis on hard rhythms over melody, but the concept... | More »

February 1, 1973

Big Star

No. 1 Record/Radio City

#1 Record In the late Sixties, a Memphis teenager named Alex Chilton won moderate fame and fortune as the lead singer for a sometimes inspired, sometimes insipid recording unit known as the Box Tops. The group was a vehicle for the ideas of producer-writer Dan Penn, and Chilton's raspy, young punk voice was the focal point. After several erratic albums and a couple of downright classic singles, "The Letter" and "Cry like a Baby," Alex tired of being just a mouthpiece. The final Box Tops... | More »

January 18, 1973

Jimi Hendrix

War Heroes Reprise

Days after Hendrix's death, Eddie Kramer, head engineer at Electric Ladyland Studios, was quoted as saying that there were two albums worth of studio cuts and a live Albert Hall gig that would be released soon. However, "associates" were quoted as saying that there were lots more Hendrix tapes that nobody would hear – "It wouldn't be fair to his memory to release them" was the way the rap went. Nevertheless, this is the fourth posthumous album to be released by Hendrix's... | More »

James Taylor

One Man Dog

There is a "patrician arrogance" to James Taylor that accounts in part for his popularity while it at the same time explains the critical resistance to his work. Those who see themselves championing mass tastes can't accept the individualized point of view — the supremely autobiographical quality of his work — even while the audience they presume to speak for has made his modest output of albums among the best sellers ever released by his record company. One group loves him b... | More »

January 4, 1973

Joni Mitchell

For The Roses Asylum

Her appeal is in the subtle texture of her toughness, and her readiness to tell secrets and make obscure and difficult feelings lucid and vocal. She breaks your heart and makes you tentatively smile. She is the leading lady in a personal pageant of Heavy Duty, tension-bound romance. The poetry of her love songs sets her almost on some other planet, some separate plane where there are no inhibitions about divine arrogance, no compunctions about laying the inside of her on the line. And then th... | More »

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

More Song Stories entries »