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album reviews

Dr. John

The Sun, Moon & Herbs

This album was recorded while Dr. John was stranded in London; it was clearly born of his intense homesickness for New Orleans. As on his first album, this is Dr. John the pseudo-folklorist squeezing local color out of a tube that is fast drying up. Without vulgarizing it or describing it explicitly, Dr. John manages to suggest the whole voodoo culture in all its aging, fading, exotic seedy Creole backroom glory. Next to Dr. John, other culturerevivers are lightweights. The Kinks trying to b... | More »

John Lennon

Imagine Apple/EMI

Not content to be merely an ex-Beatle. John Lennon has carved out a new career for himself as political gadfly, floating member of the international avant-garde and as rock's most psychologically daring tightrope artist. John has always displayed an amazing capacity for growth, and if one is impatient with the speed with which he takes up and then discards various causes, philosophies, and people, the other side of the coin is that he hasn't fallen into the latter-day complacency of... | More »

October 14, 1971

The Beach Boys

Surf's Up Brother/Reprise

I've been waiting impatiently for this record since Sunflower, and the small letdown I feel could be the other side of that impatience: the wish that they could have kept it a little longer to make it perfect. In this case that would not be a matter of production (why not expect technical perfection from a group that began producing itself in the early Sixties that handles the studio with such mastery?), but rather of waiting for the material to even out in quality. (Perhaps drummer Denn... | More »

Moby Grape

20 Granite Creek

Well it's sure nice to see the Grape have cheered up since their Fillmore East fiasco of the past June. It was to be their big comeback and in practice they played the best live set ever performed anytime anywhere and then when the audience was there they stank. Audiences can be a pain in the ass I guess and this album proves that without an audience and with all the members of the original Grape aboard ship they can outdo Truly Fine Citizen with their eyes closed. The best indication o... | More »

September 30, 1971

Albert King

Lovejoy

Albert King cut his first blues for Parrot records in 1952 and has seen ups and downs in the nearly twenty years that followed, as he pursued the career of an urban bluesman. In succeeding years he enjoyed periods of popularity when he recorded for Bobbin and King, but it wasn't until he came to Stax in the mid-Sixties that his career jumped. His initial 45 release ("Laundromat Blues" "Overall Junction") proved his mettle and further releases (including his now classic Blues Power album)... | More »

Howlin' Wolf

The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions Chess

Two new vivid collections of blues from Chess records. The Wolf album is the latest in a long line of recent blues Super Session enclaves (includes Clapton, Winwood, Wyman and Watts) that rates among the most successful of these black-meets-white get-togethers. The Waters two-record set is sort of a BEST OF anthology that culls, from various earlier Waters albums, Muddy's best performances from 1950 on down to a couple of live cuts from Waters' legendary 1960 appearance at the Newpo... | More »

Funkadelic

Maggot Brain

Who needs this shit? That said, we can progress to a more balanced appreciation of the third Funkadelic album. In it, the group continues their rather limited exploration of the dark side of psychedelia — a shattered, desolate landscape with few pleasures. At its most mindless, we are given almost nine and a half minutes of "Wars of Armageddon" — steady bongos and drums behind a creeping ooze of guitars and repeated nudges from an organ, collaged with an arbitrary mix of angry y... | More »

September 2, 1971

Leonard Cohen

Songs of Love and Hate Sundazed

Songs From A Room, Cohen's second album, was for me a great improvement over his first because of restraint in the use of strings, clarions and angelic choirs, and because the compositions themselves were fairly even in quality (with "Bird on the Wire" and "Story of Issac" two really tight, clean stand-outs). And short — he shouldn't be straining the frail but frequently quite lovely melodies to five and six minutes, as he does on Songs of Love and Hate. But this record, alas,... | More »

The Who

Who's Next Simply Vinyl Records

Who's Next, regardless of what you may have been led to believe to the contrary, is neither the soundtrack to the realization of Pete Townshend's apparently-aborted Hollywood dream, the greatest live album in the history of the universe, nor a, shudder, rock opera, but rather an old fashioned long-player containing intelligently-conceived, superbly-performed, brilliantly-produced, and sometimes even exciting rock and roll. Having said which, I will digress . . . If, instead of a H... | More »

MC5

High Time

It seems almost too perfectly ironic that now, at a time in their career when most people have written them off as either dead or dying, the MC5 should power back into action with the first record that comes close to telling the tale of their legendary reputation and attendant charisma. This may appear particularly surprising, given the fact that the group's live performances have been none too cosmic of late, but then the old saw is that you can't keep a good band down, and it'... | More »

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

More Song Stories entries »
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