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album reviews

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 »

Captain Beefheart

Lick My Decals Off, Baby

The broom tongue on The Buggy Boogie Woogie evidently has whisk-fringes. The alchemistshaman — genius — wizard — freak — medicine man type is always a fringe figure. Never part of the conventional social structure. In order to listen to the shuttling, whispering ancient language of energy (long faint sighs across the millennia) you have to shut out the grey noise of the market place. Unglue the lids of the nuclei and release the pure white phosphene stuff inside. "Mus... | More »

Captain Beefheart

Lick My Decals Off, Baby

In a twilight region which separates laughter from terror and precision from chaos, five men walk along a musical path with a purpose they disclose only in their smiles. Zoot Horn Rollo, a fortunate refugee from the Land of Drugs, carries his lead guitar between a thumb and one glass finger. He speaks through his instrument with a voice of gentleness, restraint and lyricism. To a large extent the success of this expedition rests on his shoulders. For it is Rollo's job to catch the melod... | More »

Captain Beefheart

Lick My Decals Off, Baby

It's probably a tribute to the literary conscience of Reprise Records that they decided to include a copy of Beefheart's lyrics. Within a year, some lovely young thing with a doctorate in English will have transformed Beefheart into a demiurge, thereby glorifying herself to a freshman comp class at a state institution. Fortunately, the sheet of lyrics can be overlooked; no great feat, because the sense that comes out of them tends to re-arrange itself with all the life of the infini... | More »

December 2, 1970

Robert Johnson

King Of The Delta Blues Singers (Volume 2)

I don't know why you listen to country blues (or even if you do), but I listen to them because sometimes nothing else will help. Country blues is therapeutic music, last-ditch life savers and misery soothers; when I feel like I'm going over the edge, Robert Johnson or Skip James can pull me back. This is a transcendent criterion — aesthetics has very little to do with it; if I put on a record and it doesn't make me feel better I take if off and put on something else. Tha... | More »

November 26, 1970

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin III Atlantic

I keep nursing this love-hate attitude toward Led Zeppelin. Partly from genuine interest and mostly indefensible hopes, in part from the conviction that nobody that crass could be all that bad, I turn to each fresh album expecting — what? Certainly not subtle echoes of the monolithic Yardbirds, or authentic blues experiments, or even much variety. Maybe it's just that they seem like the ultimate Seventies Calf of Gold. The Zep, of all bands surviving, are today — their music... | More »

Curtis Mayfield

Curtis

Here's a Curtis Mayfield (of the Impressions) solo album; so far as I know, the first. Most of the eight cuts are distinctly Impressionistic, and one, "Miss Black America," includes Sam and Fred singing choruses. There are really no surprises in this album. It's just eight more Mayfield tunes, sweet music to Mayfield maybe, but not what I'd call the best demonstration of the man's talents. For the past year or so, a lot of Mayfield's tunes have seemed die-cast and la... | More »

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Song Stories

“Promiscuous”

Nelly Furtado with Timbaland | 2006

This club-oriented single featuring Timbaland, who produced Nelly Furtado's third album, Loose, was Furtado’s sexy return after the Canadian singer's exploration of her Portuguese heritage on Folklore. "In the studio, initially I didn’t know if I could do it, 'cause Timbaland wrote that chorus," Furtado said. "I'm like, 'That's cool, but I don't know if I'm ready to do full-out club.'" The flirty lyrics are a dance between a guy and girl, each knowing they will end up in bed together but still playing the game. "Tim and I called it 'The BlackBerry Song,' she said, "because everything we say in the song you could text-message to somebody."

More Song Stories entries »
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