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album reviews

John Cale

Vintage Violence

It was about 3:30 in the afternoon. Down 7th Street, a parade of parochial school girls wended its way towards the projects on Avenue D, the sidewalks coming alive with the plaid skirts swishing not quite in unison as they walked in twos and threes. People sat on the stoops reading papers, and a game of stickball was in progress in the vacant lot. Suddenly, an argument flared up — in staccato Spanish — Dee Christian, a Robin-Hood-like figure among the 7th Street amphetamine junki... | More »

Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath Vertigo

Mediocrity doesn't tutor greatness often — when it is influential at all, its progeny usually achieve even ranker nadirs. But in rock, one of whose founding principles is that glorious mistakes can open out into amazing new styles, anything can happen. Thus the Cream phenomenon, which is far from dead even now. Although they were essentially an egotistical group of lazy artisans who ified their considerable talents by swallowing their own hype, raking in fistfulls of cash and flyin... | More »

The Band

Stage Fright Capitol

Step right up ladies & gents! Don't be shy, anybody can play this game. Want you to join me as we explore the appearance of another strange mystery in our midst. Thrills! Enigmas. Exquisite loveliness! Disappointments. Engaging sobriety! Murky slumbers. It's all here, folks —all that, plus five lifetimes in our recent generation, crossing, merging, walking toward separate rainbows! Losing stride, marching gloriously on. In this game —most of you already are hip to t... | More »

Otis Redding

Tell The Truth Atco

This is not the posthumous masterpiece that Love Man was, that great album that was in the can when Otis died nearly three years ago. This is where the anthologists start reaching back into the vaults for the not-so-brilliant material that was left off earlier albums and songs that were beginning to get there for future albums. That's just by way of saying that if you have never heard an Otis Redding album before, this is not the first one to buy. But it's unthinkable that you have... | More »

September 4, 1970

The Rolling Stones

Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out Decca

As much as the recorded product, the rock and roll concert scene seems mighty unhealthy these days. I hardly ever go to see name bands anymore myself, because most of them are so incredibly boring. Standards of performance are very low, and those few artists with enough talent or interest to put on a credible show often end up turning in performances so professionally, predictably competent that you walk out with the palest satisfaction and few memories. In the past year I have watched Ten Ye... | More »

September 3, 1970

The Jackson 5

ABC Motown

Flash, however, is not an album that dwells on the past. In the same way that he adapted jazz fusion to arena-rock dimensions on the mid-Seventies LPs Blow by Blow and Wired, Beck challenges the rigid discipline of Eighties dance music, with Arthur Baker producing two songs and Nile Rodgers writing and producing another four. In fact, these collaborations almost don't work; Rodgers essentially gives Beck a series of static groove tunes to gallop around in, as on "Get Workin'" (with ... | More »

Rod Stewart

Gasoline Alley Mercury

The music of Rod Stewart helps us to remember many of the small but extremely important experiences of life which our civilization inclines us to forget. Compassion. Care for small things. The textures of sorrow. Remembrance of times past. Reverence for age. Stewart has a rare sensitivity for the delicate moments in a person's existence when a crucial but often neglected truth flashes before his eyes and then vanishes. The amazing character of Stewart's work is largely due to the fa... | More »

Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton

"Bet you didn't think I knew how to rock and roll ..." Well, to tell you the truth, Eric, we had begun to wonder. What with all the running around you've been doing of late, we'd begun to worry that you'd become just another studio musician, hobnobbing with the rich and famous. After all, overexposure to Leon Russell has been known to turn some people into wind-up tambourine-beating rocknroll dolls. But no. Even though it's a "supersession," even though the personne... | More »

August 6, 1970

Jethro Tull

Benefit

The popularity of Jethro Tull continues to amaze me, They draw good crowds, they get lengthy interviews and writeups in the rock press. They turn people on. I've got to think that Ian Anderson must be an extremely nice, cooperative, charismatic, or some such kind of cat, because I find his records pretty lame and dumb.   The new album, Benefit, is a sluggish bore — a kind of Anthology of Rock Muzak, performed dispiritedly and mechanically. Especially rhythm — each trac... | More »

Nina Simone

Gifted & Black

It's not that this album, recorded around 1967 (?), is misrepresentative of what Nina is currently up to, and does a disservice to an exceptional artist's career. It's not that the strings, which are dubbed over her piano trio are in poor, nay, bad taste. It's not that it sounds as though the recording mikes were placed down the hall from the studio, in the toilet, perhaps. It's not that "The Thrill is Gone" is absolutely the most embarrassing musical miscarriage I�... | More »

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Song Stories

“Bleeding Love”

Leona Lewis | 2007

In 2008, The X Factor winner Leona Lewis backed up her U.K. singing competition victory with an R&B anthem for the ages: "Bleeding Love," an international hit that became the best-selling song of the year. The track was co-penned by OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder (whose radio dominance would continue with songs such as Beyonce's "Halo" and Adele's "Rumour Has It") and solo artist Jesse McCartney, who was inspired by a former girlfriend, Gossip Girl actress Katie Cassidy. Given the song's success, McCartney didn't regret handing over such a personal track: "No, no," he said. "I'm so happy for Leona. She deserves it. There are really no bad feelings."

More Song Stories entries »
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