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album reviews

Jimi Hendrix

The Cry Of Love Reprise

Maybe it's just my imagination, but the Jimi Hendrix section of my local record bin seems to have been growing at an astonishing pace lately. In recent weeks, we've been offered a bland semi-jam with Lonnie Youngblood (who?) on Maple Records, a collection of ancient tapes with the Isley Brothers (a product of Buddah, from whom it would have been nice to say that they should've known better), and a large assortment of bootlegs, all seemingly taken from the same series of Los Ang... | More »

March 18, 1971

B.B. King

Live In Cook County Jail

Virtually every attempt to update the style of recordings of the great blues artists has been horribly misconceived. Chuck Berry playing with the Steve Miller Band, Wolf and Muddy being forced to record with idiot hard rock bands, Otis Rush and Freddie King having to bear the weight of arrangements and production imposed on their music instead of coming out of it–none of these sessions has been worth the time, effort and money that went into them. Only B.B. King has stood above this ae... | More »

Faces

Long Player

Being one of the few English bands left willing (nay, all too happy) to flaunt their Englishness, and moreover ranking no lower than third on the current faverave list of such heavy critics as John Mendelsohn, Faces should be just a shout away from becoming very enormous indeed, and, in the opinion of such heavy critics as John Mendelsohn, perhaps saving rock and roll from taking itself seriously to death in the process. In view of which we all have reason to be a trifle disappointed with Fac... | More »

Booker T & The MGs

Melting Pot

Eclectic is a word only recently in vogue, but Memphis music has always been eclectic, a melding of the musical and social forces that converge on the town from all sides. Memphis' top-of-the-delta position has always made it a repository for some of the best of the Mississippi Delta styles, but the folk ballad filtered in early from Eastern Tennessee and Appalachia. These two white and black traditions, as well as the influence of gospel music, can be heard in the earliest Memphis recor... | More »

March 4, 1971

Elvis Presley

Elvis Country (I'm 10,000 Years Old) RCA Records

You wonder sometimes just who is controlling Elvis' career. In the middle of a typical movie soundtrack album, Spinout, you come across not only a raunchy "Down in the Alley" but the interpretation by which Bob Dylan would most like to be known. "Tomorrow is a Long Time." In a bland follow-up to his dynamic Memphis album, Back in Memphis, you find a brilliant and impassioned treatment of the Percy Mayfield blues, "Stranger in My Own Home Town." And now at a time when it seemed as if his ... | More »

John Lennon

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band Apple/EMI

Anyone performing avant-garde music is laying themselves open to a certain amount of hostility and derision at the outset. And if that person also happens to be Yoko Ono, who has not only displayed a gift for hyping herself with cloying "happenings" but also led poor John astray and been credited by more than one Insider with "breaking up the Beatles," why, the barbs and jeers can only be expected to increase proportionately. Not only do most people have no taste for the kind of far-out warbl... | More »

Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono and Plastic Ono Band

Anyone performing avant-garde music is laying themselves open to a certain amount of hostility and derision at the outset. And if that person also happens to be Yoko Ono, who has not only displayed a gift for hyping herself with cloying "happenings" but also led poor John astray and been credited by more than one Insider with "breaking up the Beatles," why, the barbs and jeers can only be expected to increase proportionately. Not only do most people have no taste for the kind of far-out warbl... | More »

February 18, 1971

David Bowie

The Man Who Sold The World Virgin Records

"Some say the view is crazy/But you may adopt another point of view. So if it's much too hazy/You can leave my friend and me with fond adieu," sings David Bowie in The Man Who Sold The World, thus supplying a most cogent critique of his own recent work — Bowie's music offers an experience that is as intriguing as it is chilling, but only to the listener sufficiently together to withstand its schizophrenia. Bowie deals throughout this second album in oblique and fragmented ima... | More »

Janis Joplin

Pearl Columbia

Janis' last. Fortunately, Pearl is a good record and Janis is often magnificent. The voice cut off was clearly in its prime. I suspect that some of the tracks are not in their final shape, but these are not scraps, and there is every indication that Janis was working toward a new maturity and confidence. Her last album can't simply be an occasion for evaluation. The fact that there will be no more studio albums inevitably outweighs the issue of how good or how bad the record might ... | More »

Cat Stevens

Tea For The Tillerman

Is it on the roads of Provence or the tube to Portobello Road that I visualize Cat? He is both the next in a long line of troubadours and very much the London neighborhood musician, encompassing at once the allure of the exotic and the ability to domesticate it. He wanders, but he returns home. "Miles From Nowhere," "Wild World," "On the Road to Find Out," "Father and Son" are songs of leaving — travel through time and space. Every song is an excursion into Cat's personal world; t... | More »

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

More Song Stories entries »
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