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album reviews

Paul McCartney

Wild Life [US Bonus Tracks]

Like Paul McCartney's first two post-Beatles albums. Wild Life is largely high on sentiment but rather flaccid musically and impotent lyrically, trivial and unaffecting. It lacks the exhilarating highs of Ram (which highs I, as one who found it as worthless as the next guy when it first arrived, can assure you are indeed present), and, in the form of a track called "I Am Your Singer," contains the most embarrassingly puerile single piece of work Paul's been associated with since "Sh... | More »

Miles Davis

Live-Evil Columbia/Legacy

Miles' touted "Fillmore Band" didn't sound much like a band to me. In an area of music where individual virtuosity is the rule rather than the exception, give-and-take between players becomes all important. And only occasionally did the Fillmore crew get down to taking care of business as a unit. There was lots of individual brilliance of course, just like there is lots of individual brilliance on Live-Evil. But this is no collection of isolated geniuses; it's a band, and it�... | More »

Elton John

Madman Across The Water UNI/DJM

Elton John's music means a lot to me, and, as a result, I'm not overjoyed with this album. A record with a theme, it's an account, sometimes photographic, sometimes emotional, all too often metaphorical, of Elton John in America — the madman across the water. As impressions, it's brought out the worst in Bernie Taupin and forced Elton back on his melodic devices. These are sometimes powerful enough to make a song, but too often they're not. I still like this alb... | More »

January 6, 1972

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 Columbia

As with everything else in life, there are two ways to look at it. Undoubtedly, somebody up at Columbia thought that Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Volume II ought to be in there competing with Bangla Desh for the Christmas dollar, and thus the set, complete with beautiful Bangla Desh color cover, was rush-released into the stores. Dylan, bless him, wasn't so calculating, and took pains to include his own Christmas gift: five "new" songs — or, more accurately, five songs made some... | More »

Stevie Wonder

Greatest Hits Vol. 2 Motown

In a recent interview, Stevie Wonder said, "I think the ultimate is one's nakedness — being stripped of all these [material] things, and if there's such a thing as the soul that speaks — which I do believe — then that would be seen." These almost mystical ideas have a lot to do with the work of this musical genius. His music is atypical for Motown. He's put out their funkiest, most Memphis-like stuff ("Signed, Sealed, Delivered") as well as their most pop-sou... | More »

David Bowie

Hunky Dory RCA

David Bowie, the swinging/mod Garbo, male femme fatale, confidante to and darling of the avant garde on both sides of the Atlantic, and shameless outrage, is back, and with a bang, although bearing little resemblance to the dangerous loony of The Man Who Sold The World from earlier this year. For the most part, Dave is back, after an affair with heavy! highenergy killer techniques, back into his 1966-ish, Tony Newley/poprock thang, and happily so: Hunky is his most easily accessible, and thu... | More »

Pink Floyd

Meddle Harvest/EMI

Pink Floyd has finally emerged from the Atom Heart Mother phase, a fairly stagnant period in their musical growth, marked by constant creative indecision. They tried to cover for it by putting a particular series of subliminal sound effects on the Atom Heart LP, and by dragging in huge, unwieldy brass orchestra sections to their concerts. Nothing short of disaster on both counts. Their new album. Meddle not only confirms lead guitarist David Gilmour's emergence as a real shaping force wi... | More »

Faces

A Nod Is As Good As A Wink...To A Blind Horse

Well, now this doesn't make any sense at all. Rod Stewart has three solo albums out, all of them excellent. With the release of A Nod Is As Good As A Wink ... the Faces, with Stewart singing lead, have three albums out, each of them duller than the one that preceded it, and with the first one having been none too great to begin with. It is apparent that when Stewart takes charge of his music he elevates the musicianship of everyone around him; when he submerges himself in the artistic gr... | More »

T. Rex

Electric Warrior

So elegant, so fey (check the cover of T. Rex, his first on Reprise), Marc Bolan is a stripling, a sylph. Too old to be innocent in today's world, though his years number 23, he plays to the post-J.F.K. set, yet with enough decadence and sarcasm for any war baby to hum along. He's been rewarded with three No. One singles in England, where their sense of youth is less pristine (and besides, how old is the average singles consumer anyway?).   Marc is one of the eternally precoc... | More »

Alice Cooper

Killer

Like all the true rock superstars to rise in the Sixties, Alice Cooper is a consummate master of imagemanipulation. He continually sees to it that new configurations are born in his studiedly outrageous stage persona and the spirit-force of his sound, with the end in mind of putting both himself and his audience through a steeplechase of changes and keeping everybody alert at gut-level. Whether the myth has much at all to do with Alice Cooper the man behind the role is highly debatable, but e... | More »

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

More Song Stories entries »
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