album reviews

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 »

Elton John

Tumbleweed Connection MCA Records

The only criticism heard with any frequency of Elton John's first American album, Elton John, was that the production was too grandiose. The melodies were superb, and lyrics frequently very good, and the performances flawless. However, Elton did inevitably get lost on many of the tracks and like many of his admirers, I am glad he toned things down a bit on Tumbleweed Connection. In fact, my main reservation about the new album is that he didn't go far enough. Tumbleweed Connection ... | More »

Quicksilver Messenger Service

What About Me

Quicksilver displayed acute weakness on their previous album and they remain very much in evidence on What About Me. Though the group has polished up considerably — at times nearly to the point of respectability — a simple coat of polish cannot disguise the fact that they haven't solved their problems. The amateurish production which so handicapped their last album asserts itself again on the material recorded in Hawaii, but even the cuts recorded stateside suffer. The band&... | More »

February 4, 1971

Van Morrison

His Band and The Street Choir Warner Bros.

During his down and out days. Van Morrison used to live on Green Street, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After "Brown Eyed Girl" had hit during the summer of 1967, Van had followed his stars to the Boston of "Bosstown Sound" notoriety. Back then, the Boston Tea Party presented mainly local bands and the most popular of these was a group called the Hallucinations, which proved to be the forerunner of the J. Geils Band. The Hallucinations used to do Morrison's classic "Gloria" as a regular p... | More »

Rick Nelson

Rick Sings Nelson

Somewhere in my heart there is a warm spot for Rick Nelson, for behind those dreamy blue eyes and subtly choreographed jaw movements (Elvis may have revised the body English dictionary for the pelvic region, but the jaw was strictly Rick's turf), there lies someone who has glimpsed the nitty gritty of rock and roll. After all, as it has been said many times before, it was the original band of Rick Nelson that gave us the inspired guitar of James Burton. And, it was Rick Nelson who presen... | More »

Jefferson Airplane

The Worst Of Jefferson Airplane RCA

The Jefferson Airplane has always been one of my very favorite rock bands of the non-blues — playing, white, American variety, and it has always been my contention that they were perhaps fated to advance what has come to be called rock into yet-unexplored areas in much the same way as the Beatles and Cream have done. This unexplored region, my reasoning went, would involve a kind of broad expansion of the notion of tonality (an area in which rock has done some amazing things), a further... | More »

January 21, 1971

George Harrison

All Things Must Pass

In those haylcyon days when Beatles did not have destinies, only personalities, and every Beatle fan had a favorite Beatle, John once satirized his mates as "wide-eyed Paul, cozy Ringo, and skeleton George." George, overshadowed as he was by two enormous egos, and lacking Ringo's openess, was the hardest to know. I remember him as shy, aloof, "Don't Bother Me" George, whose luck it was to come down with a sore throat on the group's first tour of the States, barely croaking out ... | More »

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Song Stories

“Wake Up Everybody”

John Legend and the Roots | 2010

A Number One record by Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes in 1976 (a McFadden- and Whitehead-penned classic sung by Teddy Pendergrass) inspired the title and lead single from Wake Up!, John Legend's tribute album to message music. The more familiar strains of "Wake Up Everybody" also fit his agenda. "It basically sums up, in a very concise way, all the things we were thinking about when we were putting this record together in that it's about justice, doing the right thing and coming together to make the world a better place," he said. Vocalists Common and Melanie Fiona assist Legend on this mission to connect.

More Song Stories entries »