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album reviews

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 »

Fleetwood Mac

Kiln House Reprise

I was sure that Peter Green's departure from Fleetwood Mac signaled the end of that band. And it did. That band went under. It was, after all, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac in the beginning, and although never a mere showcase for Green's all too obvious talents, he was still most decidedly the Kingfish of the Kombo. OK. That band folded, but the band didn't fold. Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer took up the slack and built a new engine for the Fleetwood Mac machine. They did... | More »

Bob Dylan

New Morning Columbia

Well, friends, Bob Dylan is back with us again. I don't know how long he intends to stay, but I didn't ask him. Didn't figure it was any of my business. Put simply, New Morning is a superb album. It is everything that every Dylan fan prayed for after Self Portrait. The portrait on the cover peers out boldly, just daring you to find fault with it, and I must admit that if there is a major fault on the album, I haven't found it. Nor do I care to. This one comes easy, and th... | More »

Wilson Pickett

Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia

Wilson Pickett meets Gamble & Huff, the Philadelphia-based soulwriting and production consortium, and the results are mixed. Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and their musical staff (including Bunny Sigler and Ugene Dozier) wrote, arranged and produced all the tunes on the album. They also did all the studio instrumental work save the horns and strings. The album's mighty consistently funky — Pickett and the rhythm section work well together — but the horns and strings aren'... | More »

November 12, 1970

Mott the Hoople

Mad Shadows

The cover of this album, which is a photograph of something resembling a Rorschach ink blot, is highly symbolic of the music inside and of the listener's response to it. The point of such an ink blot, after all, is its deliberate ambiguity, which allows (or forces) the viewer to see it in whatever he wants to see. Mott the Hoople is itself something of an ink blot, this time around: possibly the reason I haven't been able to decide whether or not I really like this album is that the... | More »

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

More Song Stories entries »
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