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album reviews

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 »

Booker T & The MGs

In The Christmas Spirit

Stax and Atlantic, as opposed to James Brown / King, have always left their social commentary implicit in the artists' delivery rather than specifically stated in the lyric, and this is consequently reflected in their pair of Christmas albums. The first, featuring Otis Redding's monumental version of "White Christmas" (which really has to be heard to be believed), is an excellent album on all counts. Along with Redding are a number of Stax-Atlantic performers, such as Joe Tex, Carla... | More »

December 24, 1970

The Grateful Dead

American Beauty

For once a truly beautiful album cover is more than matched by the record inside. The dead just refuse to keep within any normal limits, and I hope that it stays that way for a long time. Workingman's Dead was a lovely album, lush, full, and thoroughly real in musical and lyrical content. American Beauty is a joyous extension of the last album. If possible there is even more care on vocal wok. Everyone in the band sings, and sings well alone and together. A complete contentment shines t... | More »

The Allman Brothers Band

Idlewild South Polydor

Idlewood South is a big step forward from the Allmans' first — that combination of Santana and Led Zeppelin, with the Led finally weighing everything down — but its second side disappoints. Layla, on the other hand, sustains itself pretty well throughout, but we've heard a lot of it before. The Allmans offer briefer, tighter, less "heavy" numbers this time around. "Revival" gets things off rousingly, with tambourine and gospel chorus abetting the Duane Allman / Dick Bet... | More »

B.B. King

Indianola Mississippi Seeds

These two faultless discs span the recording career of the most popular and innovative urban bluesman of the past two decades. The man, of course, is Riley "Blues Boy" King and the albums speak for themselves — the Kent consists of 12 of B.B.'s earliest recordings for the RPM label, primitively produced by Sam Phillips of Sun record fame and Joe Bihari, while the ABC-Paramount is B.B. in the Seventies, still going country strong with soulful help from the likes of Leon Russell, Car... | More »

Derek and the Dominos

Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs

Idlewood South is a big step forward from the Allmans' first — that combination of Santana and Led Zeppelin, with the Led finally weighing everything down — but its second side disappoints. Layla, on the other hand, sustains itself pretty well throughout, but we've heard a lot of it before. The Allmans offer briefer, tighter, less "heavy" numbers this time around. "Revival" gets things off rousingly, with tambourine and gospel chorus abetting the Duane Allman / Dick Bet... | More »

Frank Zappa

Chunga's Revenge Bizarre/Reprise

Frank Zappa is a genius. Right. Frank Zappa probably knows more about music than you and I and 3/4 of the other professional musicians in this country put together. Right. Frank Zappa has made an incredible contribution towards broadening the scope of the average American kid's listening habits. Absolutely. Frank Zappa has certain possibly dangerous Machiavellian, manipulative tendencies. Yeah, probably so, but so what? Frank Zappa is a snob who underestimates his audience. Hmmm. Think s... | More »

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Song Stories

“Bizness”

Tune-Yards | 2011

The opening track to Merrill Garbus’ second album under the Tune-Yards banner (she also plays in the trio Sister Suvi), “Bizness” is a song about relationships that is as colorful as the face paint favored by Garbus both live and in her videos. Disjointed funk bass, skittering African beats, diced-and-sliced horns and Garbus’ dynamic voice, which ranges from playful coos to throat-shredding howls, make “Bizness” reminiscent of another creative medium. “I'd like for them not to be songs as much as quilts or collages or something,” Garbus said.

More Song Stories entries »
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