album reviews

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin II Atlantic

Hey, man, I take it all back! This is one fucking heavyweight of the album! OK — I'll concede that until you've listened to the album eight hundred times, as I have, it seems as if it's just one especially heavy song extended over the space of two whole sides. But, hey! you've got to admit that the Zeppelin has their distinctive and enchanting formula down stone-cold, man. Like you get the impression they could do it in their sleep. And who can deny that Jimmy Page ... | More »

Jethro Tull

Stand Up

No, Jethro Tull is not just another English blues band. This Was, their first album, made some gestures in that direction, obligatory, in a way, for the time (summer of '68); in its differences it was intriguing even as it disappointed. Its inadequacies were unconventional; the essential problem seemed to be a style in search of a subject. Bob Dylan once said that the English know how to pronounce "marvelous" better than Americans, but that they have a little trouble with "raunchy." Sta... | More »

Fleetwood Mac

Then Play On Reprise

Nowadays Fleetwood Mac is stepping out on its own. Tired of being another British blues band, the group has said goodbye to Elmore James and is moving into the pop-rock field. On this album, they fall flat on their faces. Most of the music on the album is slow and wandering — instruments in search of an idea. Of the songs in this category, "My Dream," with its pleasant melody, is the only one that works. The eclecticism is excessive here, most of the songs sounding like warmed-over ear... | More »

November 15, 1969

The Beatles

Abbey Road Apple

Simply, side two does more for me than the whole of Sgt. Pepper, and I'll trade you The Beatles and Magical Mystery Tour and a Keith Moon drumstick for side one. So much for the prelims. "Come Together" is John Lennon very nearly at the peak of his form; twisted, freely-associative, punful lyrically, pinched and somehow a little smug vocally. Breathtakingly recorded (as is the whole album), with a perfect little high-hat-tom-tom run by Ringo providing a clever semi-colon to those eerie ... | More »

Miles Davis

In A Silent Way Columbia

This is the kind of album that gives you faith in the future of music. It is not rock and roll, but it's nothing stereotyped as jazz either. All at once, it owes almost as much to the techniques developed by rock improvisors in the last four years as to Davis' jazz background. It is part of a transcendental new music which flushes categories away and, while using musical devices from all styles and cultures, is defined mainly by its deep emotion and unaffected originality. Miles ha... | More »

November 1, 1969

The Kinks

Arthur (Or Decline and Fall Of The British Empire)

"You look like a real human being but . . ." "He got feet/ Down/ below his knees/ Hold you in his arms yeah you can feel his disease . . ." It's all over for England. They've had their history and it's been written in books; they've fought their wars and buried their heroes. The English have owned the world and jettisoned their empire, and all that's left is — rock and roll. "England has got all the bad points of Nazi Germany, all the pompous pride of France, a... | More »

Dusty Springfield

Dusty In Memphis

A few months ago I walked into the Rolling Stone office and palely inquired if the journal might possibly be interested in a review of the then-new Dusty Springfield album. Blank stares and a few snickers. Today, Jackie De Shannon's "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" is one of the day's events on AM radio and I still dig Dusty in Memphis. Dusty started out with a nice little rocker called "I Only Want to Dance With You," her first hit, riding in on the heels of Beatle boots in 1964,... | More »

Janis Joplin

I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!

Janis herself has never sounded better on record, but it took me four full listenings to the LP before I could hear her. That's how bad her band is. When (and if) you get hold of this record, my suggestion is that you listen really hard to how awful the backup is — everything from the arrangements to the level of musicianship. Those sons of bitches can't do anything really right. The only answer is to get super-familiar with what they're doing so you can ignore it. And th... | More »

October 18, 1969

The Who

Direct Hits Track

So you like the Who, huh, and you've been looking for a concise collection of some of their best tracks, and you bought Magic Bus and got disappointed? Well, it may take you some searching to find it (Track is a British label distributed by Atlantic over here), but this album is the answer. True, it has some stuff that is on the Bus album, but the intrepid Who collector will never let that stand in his way, because the rest of the cuts on this collection make it invaluable. Side One has... | More »

The Band

The Band Capitol Records

It's home made, Robbie Robertson says, done in the house they rented in Hollywood last winter in which they fixed up a room with baffles and a projector for flicks and the recording equipment. Robbie was engineer for about 90% of the work and they really produced the album themselves. John Simon, aside from being odd man in for the horn section, became "that outside ear and outside opinion you could trust." So it really is just the Band. There are twelve tracks. Robbie wrote eight of t... | More »

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Song Stories

“Road to Nowhere”

Talking Heads | 1985

A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

More Song Stories entries »