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album reviews

Stevie Wonder

Talking Book Tamla

Stevie Wonder's second album this year is in many ways a reprise with variations of the first, Music of My Mind. Both are ambitious, richly-textured, almost entirely the work of Wonder himself, who produced (with assistance, primarily on the Moog work, from Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff), composed the music and all but a few of the lyrics, plays the bulk of the instrumental tracks (aided here and there on Talking Book by eight musicians including, on one cut, Jeff Beck and Buzzy Fe... | More »

Lou Reed

Transformer RCA Records

A real cockteaser, this album. That great cover: Lou and those burned-out eyes staring out in grim black and white beneath a haze of gold spray paint, and on the back, ace berdache Ernie Thormahlen posing in archetypal butch, complete with cartoon erectile bulge, short hair, motorcycle cap, and pack of Luckies up his T-shirt sleeve, and then again resplendent in high heels, panty hose, rouge, mascara, and long ebony locks; the title with all its connotations of finality and electromagnetic pe... | More »

Elvis Presley

Burning Love

That Elvis sure is a card! Just when you think he's cashed his last chip and sold so low he can't get no crasser, he comes along with something like this and proves that he and Colonel Bogey are still one jump ahead of the rest of us would-be Barnums. You gotta love him for it; it makes him matter, and even if that don't matter, his exploi-expertise is his charm. Since the Big EP had just cut his most gutsy single in a skunk's age, causing some fools to drool on spec ... | More »

The Grateful Dead

Europe '72

I am convinced that God made the Grateful Dead so that they could be heard in concert. Besides the tremendous amount of music which the Dead plays at a date (usually they will play until they are stopped), the band exudes a laid-back, happy confidence that puts a flame in the soul and a smile on the face; yes it does. The group is a living sense of security and contentment for pop music watchers, and it is probably our most important band still functioning. This three-record set is the resul... | More »

Carly Simon

No Secrets

Carly Simon's third album comes handsomely dressed by super-producer Richard Perry and boasts many illustrious helpers. In the degree of its intelligence and forthrightness it is the equal of its predecessors. Regardless of the quality of her songs — they range from fair to excellent — everything Carly does is likable for her radiant vocal personality. She has the whitest of white voices and uses it well, singing full throat with faultless enunciation. Her almost literal note... | More »

December 21, 1972

Carole King

Rhymes & Reasons

"It's a gray, gray gloomy day/A strange and moody blues day/Gotta get through, gotta get through another day." So begins one of the best and most representative songs on Carole King's troubling new album — troubling because its spirit is uncharacteristically depressed and uncertain. In the past, Carole has reached out to us, offering the strength of her musical confidence and humanistic faith. On Rhymes and Reasons, the tables are reversed, and the burden is ours to bear with ... | More »

Captain Beefheart

The Spotlight Kid/Clear Spot

The continuing evolution of Beefheart's music has been one of the most fascinating developments of contemporary rock. The Captain has often seemed an introverted, almost schizophrenic figure, mirroring in his work the apparent dichotomy between the rigorous ensemble playing of the Chicago-out-of-Mississippi bluesmen and the anarchic-sounding sprung rhythms of modernists like Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman. But the unique facet of Beefheart's blues playing has always been his under... | More »

December 7, 1972

Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 Vertigo

As the Sabs poured into "Wheels of Confusion" like giant gobs of wet cement gushing from the heavens in the never-ending sameness of a taffy-pull performed by mutants, people began pouring into my house. One by one they instantly began digging the Sabs, nodding, heavy dudes one and all. Everyone picked up that old Sab neck-wobble trip where your head sort of rocks back and forth on your neck python-fash, right? Where the organ comes in over the big slow power chords; no it's not an organ... | More »

Miles Davis

On The Corner Columbia/Legacy

The Street's the same in New York or Frisco. It leads to heaven or hell, maybe both, and what comes down around you depends on how you travel just as much as where you're coming from. In that sense, Miles Davis from St. Louis by way of jazz and Carlos Santana from San Francisco by way of rock have a great deal more in common than either may realize. These are philosophical albums, if one may be permitted to apply that adjective to musical composition and performance. Both albums ex... | More »

Mott the Hoople

All The Young Dudes

Taking what does not belong to you is a crucial part of the process of creating rock & roll: Exploiting proven riffs, phrases and hooks, then adding a few twists of your own — that's how it works and that's how it's always worked. Only nobody made a big thing about it until Mott the Hoople came along. They've never made any attempt to camouflage the sources of their music; on the contrary, they have glorified the practice of musical thievery. Mott's first al... | More »

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Song Stories

“Vans”

The Pack | 2006

Berkeley, California rappers the Pack made their footwear choice clear in 2006 with the song "Vans." The track caught the attention of Too $hort, who signed them to his imprint. MTV refused to play the video for the song, though, claiming it was essentially a commercial for the product. Rapper Lil' B disagreed. "I didn’t know nobody [at] Vans," he said. "I was just a rapper who wore Vans." Even without MTV's support, Lil' B recognized the impact of the track. "God blessed me with such a revolutionary song… People around my age know who really started a lot of the dressing people are into now."

More Song Stories entries »
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