album reviews

Quicksilver Messenger Service

Comin' Thru

Dino Valenti had a pretty good niche in history carved out for a while: he wrote (or at least claimed to have written) "Hey Joe," the pube classic that's been done by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to the Leaves to the Shadows of Knight. Also to Dino's songwriting credit was "Get Together," one of the best things to come out of the whole Summer Of Love (as done by those wizards of tight AM rock, the early Youngbloods). Then Dino went and ruined it all by joining Quicksilver, and pretty... | More »

Dr. John

Dr. John's Gumbo

Wipe your mind clean of all you've ever heard and read about Dr. John the Night Tripper. If you knew that once he was a New Orleans session musician and songwriter called Mac Rebennack, forget that too. And although Gumbo (Atco 7006) comes with maybe the best set of liner notes you are ever going to find, don't look at them. Instead, hand this record to a friend and ask her to find the place in "Tipitina" (side two, band three) where the first vocal ends and the instrumental break b... | More »

Janis Joplin

In Concert

Janis Joplin is gone, by now just one more we've seen succumb in the public arena of the pop marketplace. It's not just that this kind of early death has become a fact of life that is disturbing, but that it's been accepted as a given so quickly. We're getting to the point where we merely anticipate between exits, idly wondering which will be the next among our "heroes" to go. And caring less all the time. I don't know which is worse, the cannibalistic impulse of the... | More »

Jeff Beck

The Jeff Beck Group Epic/CBS

Should you ever find yourself in the mood to be bored comatose, simply hop on the next jet to Hollywood, where this writer will gladly spend an afternoon with you explaining why — on the basis of the soon-to-be-mentioned's irrepressible musical eccentricity, exquisite taste for the hilariously incongruous, and expertise at producing some of the lewdest noises ever enjoyed by teenage ears — he considers Jeff Beck a peerless rock and roll guitarist, as good in his own way as ar... | More »

May 25, 1972

Deep Purple

Machine Head

I just don't understand, as Ann-Margret once sang, why an exciting band like Deep Purple, who consistently hit the top of the charts in Merrie Olde and have taken Europe by storm, remain a comparatively unknown quantity to American audiences. Especially when said audiences have wholeheartedly embraced bands with similar musical aims and not one more ampere of excitement. It's a shame, but Deep Purple themselves are at least partially to blame. Their first two American albums on Tet... | More »

The Kinks

The Kink Kronikles Reprise

In the very first paragraph of his liner notes to The Kink Kronikles (Reprise 2XS-6454), John Mendelsohn emphasizes the Kinks' position as an underdog band. Perhaps even more than the exceptional individuality of their musical catalogue, this is one of the main factors that has made them so unique. Indeed, it is a factor that the group has at times seemed to welcome. More about that later. The Kinks started out by being raunchier than any group in history. "You Really Got Me," "All Day ... | More »

May 12, 1972

The Rolling Stones

Exile on Main Street Rolling Stones Records

There are songs that are better, there are songs that are worse, there are songs that'll become your favorites and others you'll probably lift the needle for when their time is due. But in the end, Exile on Main Street spends its four sides shading the same song in as many variations as there are Rolling Stone readymades to fill them, and if on the one hand they prove the group's eternal constancy and appeal, it's on the other that you can leave the album and still feel va... | More »

May 11, 1972

Muddy Waters

Live (At Mr. Kelly's) Geffen

Good news — the old Muddy Waters sound is back! Muddy was one of the founders of the Chicago Blues sound, and his original line-up of guitars, piano, bass and drums is present on this album in full force. It was cut in Chicago last year using Muddy's working band, and though the genius of late pianist Otis Spann and harpman Little Walter are still missed, the present band stomps right along. Vocally, Muddy hasn't sounded this good in years — he's singing like he me... | More »

Martha and the Vandellas

Black Magic

Don't ask me what's happened to Martha & the Vandellas. I can't figure it out either. Here's their latest album — a more respectable package than their last, Natural Resources, but another collection of odds and ends carelessly wrapped, the tissue paper fillers spilling out at the seams and packed so thick you almost chuck the whole thing out before you find the good parts. Perhaps it is the inevitable result of the way Black Magic was organized, or disorganized... | More »

April 27, 1972

Nick Drake

Nick Drake Island

British singer-songwriter Nick Drake's American debut album is a beautiful and decadent record. A triumph of eclecticism, it successfully brings together varied elements characteristic of the evolution of urban folk rock music during the past five years. An incredibly slick sound that is highly dependent on production values (credit Joe Boyd) to achieve its effects, its dreamlike quality calls up the very best of the spirit of early Sixties' jazz-pop ballad. It combines this with th... | More »

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

More Song Stories entries »