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album reviews

The Allman Brothers Band

At Fillmore East Polydor

That rarity on the contemporary rock scene — an integrated group from the Deep South — the Allman Brothers Band has for a couple of years rivaled the Braves for Atlanta's affections the way the J. Geils Band stole the Red Sox' following (a good part of it, anyway) in Boston. Wherever they play throughout the South, in fact, audiences seem to regard the Allmans as their own. On the strength of their two previous albums and, more recently, a string of knockout live perfor... | More »

The Byrds

Byrdmaniax Line

What a boring dead group. But then again aren't they all? Right, that puts it all in a different perspective. Increments of pus. Anything unfestering is a bonus. Two halfway decent cuts makes an album a winner, maybe even one. The cover features death masks of the Byrds. But the eyes are closed and lots of stiffs have the eyes open. When you're alive and having your face cast you have to watch out for your eyes. So it looks like things have returned to the pre-fanatical days before... | More »

Randy Newman

Live

In its latest attempt to halt Randy Newman's kamikaze flight into oblivion, Reprise has mailed out this collector's item, a live recording of Randy's appearance at the Bitter End last fall, to people in the trade without releasing it to the public, nor with any plans to do so anytime in the future. As befits a composer of songs about anti-heroes, Randy has stubbornly remained an anti-pop-star; he has performed in public exactly three times and his two albums have withered on th... | More »

August 5, 1971

Nina Simone

Here Comes The Sun RCA

The old Nina Simone, the one without whom Laura Nyro would not have been possible, was terrific at dynamics. No one could build to a more dramatic crescendo, or squeeze out a more poignant decrescendo, or simply hold a rest to stronger effect. And dynamics was just one facet of Nina's overall theatricality. Her classic numbers – like "Mississippi Goddam," "I Loves You Porgy," "Irate Jenny" or "Ne Quitte Pas" – were nearly all dramatic performances in the grand manner, replete... | More »

Blood, Sweat and Tears

Blood, Sweat & Tears 4

When Ed Sullivan welcomed Blood, Sweat & Tears to his show a while back he asked them where they got the unusual name from. From Churchill, they replied. Well, since the Kinks did Arthur, everybody knows Churchill isn't worth very much anymore, so as a result the name has been immeasurably weakened. So maybe they ought to shorten it (names of groups are too long nowadays) to just Tears. After all it's the Tears that have always been their most vital component. There really hasn&... | More »

Marvin Gaye

What's Going On Motown

Ambitious, personal albums may be a glut on the market elsewhere, but at Motown they're something new. These, from two of the Corporation's Finest, represent a subversive concept, allowed only to producers the overseerstars of Motown's corporate plantation as long as they didn't get too uppity. Both Gaye and Wonder have been relatively independent at Motown, their careers following their own fluctuations outside the mainstream studio trends, but these latest albums are dep... | More »

Joni Mitchell

Blue Reprise

The last time I saw Joni Mitchell perform was a year and a half ago at Boston's Symphony Hall, in one of her final appearances before she forswore the concert circuit for good. Fragile, giggly and shy, she had the most obvious case of nerves I have ever seen in a professional singer. Her ringing soprano cracked with stage fright and her frightened eyes refused to make contact with the audience. It wasn't until well into the second half of the concert that she settled down and began ... | More »

Stevie Wonder

Where I'm Coming From Motown

Ambitious, personal albums may be a glut on the market elsewhere, but at Motown they're something new. These, from two of the Corporation's Finest, represent a subversive concept, allowed only to producers the overseerstars of Motown's corporate plantation as long as they didn't get too uppity. Both Gaye and Wonder have been relatively independent at Motown, their careers following their own fluctuations outside the mainstream studio trends, but these latest albums are dep... | More »

July 22, 1971

Jethro Tull

Aqualung

Dating from at least the Electric Prunes' Mass In D Minor, rock and religion have evinced an unlikely affinity for each other. Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, Peter Townshend, John Lennon, George Harrison (and let us not forget the Reverend Richard Penniman) have all at some point dedicated themselves and their music to God in his myriad varieties. On the heels of Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson joins this heady list.   Tull is one of o... | More »

Elvis Presley

Love Letters from Elvis

The first cut is "Love Letters" and it's a beautiful song. Presley's voice is all there and then in comes the schizoid background, half-funk and half muzak. And thus it goes for two sides of Presley's latest. The voice is there, some of the material is OK, James Burton is picking away, the rhythm sounds passable, but oh those strings, horns, background voices, and what not. It's enough to drown a grown man — precisely what it does to Elvis on this album. Love Letter... | More »

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

More Song Stories entries »
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