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album reviews

Joe Cocker

Mad Dogs & Englishmen

This live two-album set is probably indispensable to diehard Joe Cocker fans. Anyone else should proceed at his own risk. The reason isn't too hard to figure out. Mad Dogs and Englishmen was formed on a few days' notice to meet contractual obligations, and sounds like, well, like a group that was formed on a few days' notice to meet contractual obligations. With the exception of Leon Russell, who excels on guitar as well as on piano, no one has any musical identity on this alb... | More »

September 17, 1970

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 »

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

More Song Stories entries »
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