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album reviews

Jethro Tull

Aqualung

Dating from at least the Electric Prunes' Mass In D Minor, rock and religion have evinced an unlikely affinity for each other. Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, Peter Townshend, John Lennon, George Harrison (and let us not forget the Reverend Richard Penniman) have all at some point dedicated themselves and their music to God in his myriad varieties. On the heels of Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson joins this heady list.   Tull is one of o... | More »

Elvis Presley

Love Letters from Elvis

The first cut is "Love Letters" and it's a beautiful song. Presley's voice is all there and then in comes the schizoid background, half-funk and half muzak. And thus it goes for two sides of Presley's latest. The voice is there, some of the material is OK, James Burton is picking away, the rhythm sounds passable, but oh those strings, horns, background voices, and what not. It's enough to drown a grown man — precisely what it does to Elvis on this album. Love Letter... | More »

T. Rex

T. Rex

Amazingly, it all comes out rock and roll; there's no questioning it. But rock and roll with lyrics dealing with such subjects as wizards, Druids, and a Liquid Poetess in a buckskin dress. Bolan is clearly infatuated with mysticism, as well as the pure sounds of the English language.   It's difficult to isolate any one or two songs as being special favorites; "One Inch Rock" is fun, beginning instrumentally like a big band swing piece (all on guitars, percussion and vocals) a... | More »

The Jackson 5

Maybe Tomorrow Motown

This might be referred to as a "mature" album, and that's its major disappointment. Rather than an intensification of the Jackson 5's earlier work, Maybe Tomorrow is a cooling off — carefully considered and well-timed, but just a little too easy. It's the difference between the slow exhalation of breath that opens "Never Can Say Goodbye" and the urgent screams in "I Want You Back." In its own way, Michael breathing in your ear is exciting as instant intimacy but it's... | More »

July 8, 1971

Elton John

11/17/1970

Jim Morrison used to toy with this idea of starting an album with the sounds of a guy driving around with the rain pouring down. Finally the guy turns the radio on and lo and behold it's the new Doors album. Naturally Paul Rothchild nixed the idea so it never got done. So we've got to settle for an Elton John radio album instead. I mean who else could ever do it in a million years but the master of preciousness? Like he couldn't have done it on AM, it had to be FM. At least it ... | More »

Rod Stewart

Every Picture Tells A Story Mercury

He has it in him, has Rod Stewart, to save a lot of souls, to rescue those of us who are too old for Grand Funk but not old enough for those adorable McCartneys from being nearly consummately bored with the current rock and roll scene. It's not inconceivable that he could do it without even opening his mouth: He's physically sensational, the idol of perhaps three continents' heavy trendies, the most profound influence on rock and roll fashion since the Stones' Tour. He�... | More »

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 »

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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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