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album reviews

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 »

Sly & the Family Stone

Greatest Hits Epic

The difference between R&B and rock 'n' roll, according to Charlie Gillett, is that the former was made by black people for black people while the latter was made by black people for everyone. And as the black artist found himself playing for an expanded audience his music grew and evolved, taking in a wide assortment of new influences, so that fundamental musical differences between between R&B and rock 'n' roll were soon firmly established. Something similar hap... | More »

December 14, 1970

The Velvet Underground

Loaded Cotillion

Lou Reed has always steadfastly maintained that he Velvet Underground were just another Long Island rock 'n' roll band, but in the past, he really couldn't be blamed much if people didn't care to take him seriously. With a reputation based around such non-American Bandstand masterpieces as "Heroin" and "Sister Ray," not to mention a large avant-garde following which tended to downplay the Velvets' more Top-40 roots, the group certainly didn't come off as your usu... | More »

December 10, 1970

Pink Floyd

Atom Heart Mother EMI Music Distribution

At one time, Pink Floyd was far-out, freaky even. Their work in the electronic capabilities of rock was more advanced than most people recognize. Their use of a third, rear, sound source anticipated quadraphonics. And their music, if it wasn't memorable, reached into the limits of their experimentation. Most other groups, when they thought in terms of electronics, thought only of painful feedback. Pink Floyd used sounds no one else thought of and could make them lyrical besides. Their la... | More »

Captain Beefheart

Lick My Decals Off, Baby

When I first heard Trout Mask Replica, I about puked. What is this shit, I thought. People I met talked about it in glowing terms — not just anybody, mind you, but people I genuinely respected when it came to their musical tastes. Well, I figured, everybody has their own little whatchimacallits. And then came Lick My Decals Off, Baby. Its reputation preceded it, and a prevue of its music at a concert, I was told, would make it all clear. And you know what? It did. You know, those guy... | More »

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Song Stories

“Road to Nowhere”

Talking Heads | 1985

A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

More Song Stories entries »
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