album reviews

Janis Joplin

Pearl Columbia

Janis' last. Fortunately, Pearl is a good record and Janis is often magnificent. The voice cut off was clearly in its prime. I suspect that some of the tracks are not in their final shape, but these are not scraps, and there is every indication that Janis was working toward a new maturity and confidence. Her last album can't simply be an occasion for evaluation. The fact that there will be no more studio albums inevitably outweighs the issue of how good or how bad the record might ... | More »

Cat Stevens

Tea For The Tillerman

Is it on the roads of Provence or the tube to Portobello Road that I visualize Cat? He is both the next in a long line of troubadours and very much the London neighborhood musician, encompassing at once the allure of the exotic and the ability to domesticate it. He wanders, but he returns home. "Miles From Nowhere," "Wild World," "On the Road to Find Out," "Father and Son" are songs of leaving — travel through time and space. Every song is an excursion into Cat's personal world; t... | More »

Elton John

Tumbleweed Connection MCA Records

The only criticism heard with any frequency of Elton John's first American album, Elton John, was that the production was too grandiose. The melodies were superb, and lyrics frequently very good, and the performances flawless. However, Elton did inevitably get lost on many of the tracks and like many of his admirers, I am glad he toned things down a bit on Tumbleweed Connection. In fact, my main reservation about the new album is that he didn't go far enough. Tumbleweed Connection ... | More »

Quicksilver Messenger Service

What About Me

Quicksilver displayed acute weakness on their previous album and they remain very much in evidence on What About Me. Though the group has polished up considerably — at times nearly to the point of respectability — a simple coat of polish cannot disguise the fact that they haven't solved their problems. The amateurish production which so handicapped their last album asserts itself again on the material recorded in Hawaii, but even the cuts recorded stateside suffer. The band&... | More »

February 4, 1971

Van Morrison

His Band and The Street Choir Warner Bros.

During his down and out days. Van Morrison used to live on Green Street, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After "Brown Eyed Girl" had hit during the summer of 1967, Van had followed his stars to the Boston of "Bosstown Sound" notoriety. Back then, the Boston Tea Party presented mainly local bands and the most popular of these was a group called the Hallucinations, which proved to be the forerunner of the J. Geils Band. The Hallucinations used to do Morrison's classic "Gloria" as a regular p... | More »

Rick Nelson

Rick Sings Nelson

Somewhere in my heart there is a warm spot for Rick Nelson, for behind those dreamy blue eyes and subtly choreographed jaw movements (Elvis may have revised the body English dictionary for the pelvic region, but the jaw was strictly Rick's turf), there lies someone who has glimpsed the nitty gritty of rock and roll. After all, as it has been said many times before, it was the original band of Rick Nelson that gave us the inspired guitar of James Burton. And, it was Rick Nelson who presen... | More »

Jefferson Airplane

The Worst Of Jefferson Airplane RCA

The Jefferson Airplane has always been one of my very favorite rock bands of the non-blues — playing, white, American variety, and it has always been my contention that they were perhaps fated to advance what has come to be called rock into yet-unexplored areas in much the same way as the Beatles and Cream have done. This unexplored region, my reasoning went, would involve a kind of broad expansion of the notion of tonality (an area in which rock has done some amazing things), a further... | More »

January 21, 1971

George Harrison

All Things Must Pass

In those haylcyon days when Beatles did not have destinies, only personalities, and every Beatle fan had a favorite Beatle, John once satirized his mates as "wide-eyed Paul, cozy Ringo, and skeleton George." George, overshadowed as he was by two enormous egos, and lacking Ringo's openess, was the hardest to know. I remember him as shy, aloof, "Don't Bother Me" George, whose luck it was to come down with a sore throat on the group's first tour of the States, barely croaking out ... | More »

The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys' Christmas Album

Being based on essentially commercial grounds, the loosely — bounded field of pop-rock music adopted Christmas in the same way it managed to assimilate most everything else. At some time or another, most major artists have recorded either albums or singles devoted to the holiday season, and from there, it's only logical that a few would create classics in this manner. Tripping back along the golden memory years, we can find such as Brenda Lee with her "Rockin' Around the Chris... | More »

January 7, 1971

Stevie Wonder

Signed, Sealed and Delivered Motown

Any of the 12 songs on Stevie Wonder's new album holds more creative singing than you're likely to find in another performer's entire body of work. And while everything may not reach the energy level of the title song, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," there's not a bad cut on the LP. One of the best is a version of Lennon-McCartney's "We Can Work It Out," which had a startling, brand-new vitality even on an early unmixed tape. In its finished state, it's extraordinar... | More »

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Song Stories


Lou Reed | 1972

Opening Lou Reed's 1972 solo album, the hard-riffing "Vicious" actually traces its origin back to Reed's days with the Velvet Underground. Picking up bits and pieces of songs from the people and places around him, and filing his notes for later use, Reed said it was Andy Warhol who provided fuel for the song. "He said, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Vicious,'" Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. "And I said, 'What kind of vicious?' 'Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.' And I wrote it down literally."

More Song Stories entries »