album reviews

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 »

The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys' Christmas Album

Being based on essentially commercial grounds, the loosely — bounded field of pop-rock music adopted Christmas in the same way it managed to assimilate most everything else. At some time or another, most major artists have recorded either albums or singles devoted to the holiday season, and from there, it's only logical that a few would create classics in this manner. Tripping back along the golden memory years, we can find such as Brenda Lee with her "Rockin' Around the Chris... | More »

January 7, 1971

Stevie Wonder

Signed, Sealed and Delivered Motown

Any of the 12 songs on Stevie Wonder's new album holds more creative singing than you're likely to find in another performer's entire body of work. And while everything may not reach the energy level of the title song, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," there's not a bad cut on the LP. One of the best is a version of Lennon-McCartney's "We Can Work It Out," which had a startling, brand-new vitality even on an early unmixed tape. In its finished state, it's extraordinar... | More »

Booker T & The MGs

In The Christmas Spirit

Stax and Atlantic, as opposed to James Brown / King, have always left their social commentary implicit in the artists' delivery rather than specifically stated in the lyric, and this is consequently reflected in their pair of Christmas albums. The first, featuring Otis Redding's monumental version of "White Christmas" (which really has to be heard to be believed), is an excellent album on all counts. Along with Redding are a number of Stax-Atlantic performers, such as Joe Tex, Carla... | More »

December 24, 1970

The Grateful Dead

American Beauty

For once a truly beautiful album cover is more than matched by the record inside. The dead just refuse to keep within any normal limits, and I hope that it stays that way for a long time. Workingman's Dead was a lovely album, lush, full, and thoroughly real in musical and lyrical content. American Beauty is a joyous extension of the last album. If possible there is even more care on vocal wok. Everyone in the band sings, and sings well alone and together. A complete contentment shines t... | More »

The Allman Brothers Band

Idlewild South Polydor

Idlewood South is a big step forward from the Allmans' first — that combination of Santana and Led Zeppelin, with the Led finally weighing everything down — but its second side disappoints. Layla, on the other hand, sustains itself pretty well throughout, but we've heard a lot of it before. The Allmans offer briefer, tighter, less "heavy" numbers this time around. "Revival" gets things off rousingly, with tambourine and gospel chorus abetting the Duane Allman / Dick Bet... | 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 »