album reviews

Derek and the Dominos

Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs

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 »

Frank Zappa

Chunga's Revenge Bizarre/Reprise

Frank Zappa is a genius. Right. Frank Zappa probably knows more about music than you and I and 3/4 of the other professional musicians in this country put together. Right. Frank Zappa has made an incredible contribution towards broadening the scope of the average American kid's listening habits. Absolutely. Frank Zappa has certain possibly dangerous Machiavellian, manipulative tendencies. Yeah, probably so, but so what? Frank Zappa is a snob who underestimates his audience. Hmmm. Think s... | More »

Sly & the Family Stone

Greatest Hits Epic

The difference between R&B and rock 'n' roll, according to Charlie Gillett, is that the former was made by black people for black people while the latter was made by black people for everyone. And as the black artist found himself playing for an expanded audience his music grew and evolved, taking in a wide assortment of new influences, so that fundamental musical differences between between R&B and rock 'n' roll were soon firmly established. Something similar hap... | More »

December 14, 1970

The Velvet Underground

Loaded Cotillion

Lou Reed has always steadfastly maintained that he Velvet Underground were just another Long Island rock 'n' roll band, but in the past, he really couldn't be blamed much if people didn't care to take him seriously. With a reputation based around such non-American Bandstand masterpieces as "Heroin" and "Sister Ray," not to mention a large avant-garde following which tended to downplay the Velvets' more Top-40 roots, the group certainly didn't come off as your usu... | More »

December 10, 1970

Pink Floyd

Atom Heart Mother EMI Music Distribution

At one time, Pink Floyd was far-out, freaky even. Their work in the electronic capabilities of rock was more advanced than most people recognize. Their use of a third, rear, sound source anticipated quadraphonics. And their music, if it wasn't memorable, reached into the limits of their experimentation. Most other groups, when they thought in terms of electronics, thought only of painful feedback. Pink Floyd used sounds no one else thought of and could make them lyrical besides. Their la... | More »

Captain Beefheart

Lick My Decals Off, Baby

When I first heard Trout Mask Replica, I about puked. What is this shit, I thought. People I met talked about it in glowing terms — not just anybody, mind you, but people I genuinely respected when it came to their musical tastes. Well, I figured, everybody has their own little whatchimacallits. And then came Lick My Decals Off, Baby. Its reputation preceded it, and a prevue of its music at a concert, I was told, would make it all clear. And you know what? It did. You know, those guy... | More »

Captain Beefheart

Lick My Decals Off, Baby

The broom tongue on The Buggy Boogie Woogie evidently has whisk-fringes. The alchemistshaman — genius — wizard — freak — medicine man type is always a fringe figure. Never part of the conventional social structure. In order to listen to the shuttling, whispering ancient language of energy (long faint sighs across the millennia) you have to shut out the grey noise of the market place. Unglue the lids of the nuclei and release the pure white phosphene stuff inside. "Mus... | More »

Captain Beefheart

Lick My Decals Off, Baby

In a twilight region which separates laughter from terror and precision from chaos, five men walk along a musical path with a purpose they disclose only in their smiles. Zoot Horn Rollo, a fortunate refugee from the Land of Drugs, carries his lead guitar between a thumb and one glass finger. He speaks through his instrument with a voice of gentleness, restraint and lyricism. To a large extent the success of this expedition rests on his shoulders. For it is Rollo's job to catch the melod... | More »

Captain Beefheart

Lick My Decals Off, Baby

It's probably a tribute to the literary conscience of Reprise Records that they decided to include a copy of Beefheart's lyrics. Within a year, some lovely young thing with a doctorate in English will have transformed Beefheart into a demiurge, thereby glorifying herself to a freshman comp class at a state institution. Fortunately, the sheet of lyrics can be overlooked; no great feat, because the sense that comes out of them tends to re-arrange itself with all the life of the infini... | More »

December 2, 1970

Robert Johnson

King Of The Delta Blues Singers (Volume 2)

I don't know why you listen to country blues (or even if you do), but I listen to them because sometimes nothing else will help. Country blues is therapeutic music, last-ditch life savers and misery soothers; when I feel like I'm going over the edge, Robert Johnson or Skip James can pull me back. This is a transcendent criterion — aesthetics has very little to do with it; if I put on a record and it doesn't make me feel better I take if off and put on something else. Tha... | More »

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Song Stories


The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

More Song Stories entries »