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album reviews

Paul McCartney

Ram Apple/EMI

Ram represents the nadir in the decomposition of Sixties rock thus far. For some, including myself, Self-Portrait had been secure in that position, but at least Self-Portrait was an album that you could hate, a record you could feel something over, even if it were nothing but regret. Ram is so incredibly inconsequential and so monumentally irrelevant you can't even do that with it: it is difficult to concentrate on, let alone dislike or even hate. McCartney's work in the Beatles wa... | More »

June 24, 1971

James Taylor

Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon Warner Bros

When an artist has finally achieved success he is subjected to the kind of critical evaluation which will either legitimize that success or destroy it. Today, the consensus seems to be that this is the season for the demolition of James Taylor. It is the sheer vastness of his success which condemns him, somehow, even to his partisans. By comparison his less talented fellow chart-busters like Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk in fact, almost anyone get off easily. There are both good and bad reasons f... | More »

Curtis Mayfield

Curtis/Live!

Curtis Mayfield is confusing his strengths with his weaknesses these days. As the composer and lead singer of the Impressions he proved to be first and foremost, a beautiful melodist. After that, he often wrote extremely personal and sensitive lyrics, although for every good one he came up with, there was also an inept and pretentious counterpart. His own voice sounded brilliant when pitted against the fabulous harmonies that Sam Gooden and Fred Cash used to supply. And Johnny Pate's arr... | More »

Earth, Wind & Fire

Earth, Wind & Fire

Earth, Wind and Fire is a R&B tentet from Chicago with several vocalists, horn players that are polished but not too much, and a heavy Sly influence. Which is no denigration, because Sly's riffs are showing up (in sometimes peculiar contexts) in a large percentage of the albums appearing today, from Redbone to your latest funky-bucolic rock band. Sly pacesetters like "Thank You" are written all over such songs as "C'Mon Children" and "Moment of Truth." Which is not to say that t... | More »

June 10, 1971

Mott the Hoople

Wildlife Atlantic Records

The outcome of the battle has yet to be conclusively determined, but my scorecard gives the race for "The Most Beloved Rock And Roll Band In All The English Isles" to Mott The Hoople by two full lengths over Free. On this, their third album, they apparently feel sure enough of themselves to venture away from the piano/organ dominated sound which initially distinguished them (and invited all those Dylan comparisons). Instead we hear the country overtones of "It Must Be Love" and "Original Mix... | More »

Donny Hathaway

Donny Hathaway

Donny Hathaway is one of the most important black performers to emerge in recent years. Important in the sense that Isaac Hayes, Sly Stone, Funkadelic/Parliament or the Last Poets are important: influential (for better or worse), far-ranging and possessed of a unique, new style. Hathaway had already completed brilliant work as producer, arranger, composer, musician (choose one or any combination of the above) with Roberta Flack, Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions and others b... | More »

May 27, 1971

The Doors

L.A. Woman

Besides being heavy in their early days the Doors were funny too. Funnier than a fish. Who can ever forget those great Morrison ad libs like the one he once did during a lull in "Gloria" ("Little girl how old are you. little girl what school do you go to, little girl suck my cock")? He was an earnest drinker, which of course helped. Now he's drinking more than ever, hence there's some material basis for all the laughs. And since heaviness has been kicked in the ass of late all the k... | More »

April 29, 1971

John Lee Hooker

Endless Boogie [Beat Goes On]

The black blues legends playing with the white up-and-comers. I guess Sonny Boy Williamson II started it all about six years ago with his Live With the Yardbirds album. Successive years have seen a record-rack full of similar efforts ... from Muddy Waters, Lowell Fulsom, Furry Lewis and Otis Spann .. all resulting in quasi-successful albums that at times effectively blended the old urban, Texas/Chicago post-war Fifties sounds with the post-wah-wah generation. The best of them allowed the old ... | More »

Carole King

Tapestry Ode

Carole King's second album, Tapestry, has fulfilled the promise of her first and confirmed the fact that she is one of the most creative figures in all of pop music. It is an album of surpassing personal-intimacy and musical accomplishment and a work infused with a sense of artistic purpose. It is also easy to listen to and easy to enjoy. Miss King's past accomplishments have become something of a pop music legend. She and her former husband and lyricist, Gerry Goffin, were one of ... | More »

Carole King

Writer

Carole King's second album, Tapestry, has fulfilled the promise of her first and confirmed the fact that she is one of the most creative figures in all of pop music. It is an album of surpassing personal-intimacy and musical accomplishment and a work infused with a sense of artistic purpose. It is also easy to listen to and easy to enjoy. Miss King's past accomplishments have become something of a pop music legend. She and her former husband and lyricist, Gerry Goffin, were one of ... | More »

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

More Song Stories entries »
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