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album reviews

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 »

T. Rex

T. Rex

Amazingly, it all comes out rock and roll; there's no questioning it. But rock and roll with lyrics dealing with such subjects as wizards, Druids, and a Liquid Poetess in a buckskin dress. Bolan is clearly infatuated with mysticism, as well as the pure sounds of the English language.   It's difficult to isolate any one or two songs as being special favorites; "One Inch Rock" is fun, beginning instrumentally like a big band swing piece (all on guitars, percussion and vocals) a... | More »

The Jackson 5

Maybe Tomorrow Motown

This might be referred to as a "mature" album, and that's its major disappointment. Rather than an intensification of the Jackson 5's earlier work, Maybe Tomorrow is a cooling off — carefully considered and well-timed, but just a little too easy. It's the difference between the slow exhalation of breath that opens "Never Can Say Goodbye" and the urgent screams in "I Want You Back." In its own way, Michael breathing in your ear is exciting as instant intimacy but it's... | More »

July 8, 1971

Elton John

11/17/1970

Jim Morrison used to toy with this idea of starting an album with the sounds of a guy driving around with the rain pouring down. Finally the guy turns the radio on and lo and behold it's the new Doors album. Naturally Paul Rothchild nixed the idea so it never got done. So we've got to settle for an Elton John radio album instead. I mean who else could ever do it in a million years but the master of preciousness? Like he couldn't have done it on AM, it had to be FM. At least it ... | More »

Rod Stewart

Every Picture Tells A Story Mercury

He has it in him, has Rod Stewart, to save a lot of souls, to rescue those of us who are too old for Grand Funk but not old enough for those adorable McCartneys from being nearly consummately bored with the current rock and roll scene. It's not inconceivable that he could do it without even opening his mouth: He's physically sensational, the idol of perhaps three continents' heavy trendies, the most profound influence on rock and roll fashion since the Stones' Tour. He�... | More »

Paul McCartney

Ram Apple/EMI

Ram represents the nadir in the decomposition of Sixties rock thus far. For some, including myself, Self-Portrait had been secure in that position, but at least Self-Portrait was an album that you could hate, a record you could feel something over, even if it were nothing but regret. Ram is so incredibly inconsequential and so monumentally irrelevant you can't even do that with it: it is difficult to concentrate on, let alone dislike or even hate. McCartney's work in the Beatles wa... | More »

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Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

More Song Stories entries »
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