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album reviews

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 »

November 26, 1970

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin III Atlantic

I keep nursing this love-hate attitude toward Led Zeppelin. Partly from genuine interest and mostly indefensible hopes, in part from the conviction that nobody that crass could be all that bad, I turn to each fresh album expecting — what? Certainly not subtle echoes of the monolithic Yardbirds, or authentic blues experiments, or even much variety. Maybe it's just that they seem like the ultimate Seventies Calf of Gold. The Zep, of all bands surviving, are today — their music... | More »

Curtis Mayfield

Curtis

Here's a Curtis Mayfield (of the Impressions) solo album; so far as I know, the first. Most of the eight cuts are distinctly Impressionistic, and one, "Miss Black America," includes Sam and Fred singing choruses. There are really no surprises in this album. It's just eight more Mayfield tunes, sweet music to Mayfield maybe, but not what I'd call the best demonstration of the man's talents. For the past year or so, a lot of Mayfield's tunes have seemed die-cast and la... | More »

Fleetwood Mac

Kiln House Reprise

I was sure that Peter Green's departure from Fleetwood Mac signaled the end of that band. And it did. That band went under. It was, after all, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac in the beginning, and although never a mere showcase for Green's all too obvious talents, he was still most decidedly the Kingfish of the Kombo. OK. That band folded, but the band didn't fold. Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer took up the slack and built a new engine for the Fleetwood Mac machine. They did... | More »

Bob Dylan

New Morning Columbia

Well, friends, Bob Dylan is back with us again. I don't know how long he intends to stay, but I didn't ask him. Didn't figure it was any of my business. Put simply, New Morning is a superb album. It is everything that every Dylan fan prayed for after Self Portrait. The portrait on the cover peers out boldly, just daring you to find fault with it, and I must admit that if there is a major fault on the album, I haven't found it. Nor do I care to. This one comes easy, and th... | More »

Wilson Pickett

Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia

Wilson Pickett meets Gamble & Huff, the Philadelphia-based soulwriting and production consortium, and the results are mixed. Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and their musical staff (including Bunny Sigler and Ugene Dozier) wrote, arranged and produced all the tunes on the album. They also did all the studio instrumental work save the horns and strings. The album's mighty consistently funky — Pickett and the rhythm section work well together — but the horns and strings aren'... | More »

November 12, 1970

Mott the Hoople

Mad Shadows

The cover of this album, which is a photograph of something resembling a Rorschach ink blot, is highly symbolic of the music inside and of the listener's response to it. The point of such an ink blot, after all, is its deliberate ambiguity, which allows (or forces) the viewer to see it in whatever he wants to see. Mott the Hoople is itself something of an ink blot, this time around: possibly the reason I haven't been able to decide whether or not I really like this album is that the... | More »

Aretha Franklin

Spirit in the Dark

When I was an innocent 17-year-old freshman, a black grad student I met invited me to play guitar at this "discussion group" he "chaired" at a downtown Pittsburgh "hall." Well, that sounded good enough, so one evening I went to the address he gave me and found myself the only white person — youngest to boot — in the middle of a Pittsburgh-ghetto-preaching and shouting non-denominational-holy rollering one-preacher-30-parishoner-store-front church. My grad student friend was the o... | More »

Elton John

Elton John Uni

Given that his voice combines the nasal sonority of James Taylor with the rasp of Van Morrison with the slurry intonation of M. Jagger with the exaggerated twang of Leon Russell; that, in this age during which most everyone seems content to sing unison with moronic little guitar riffs, he writes attractive melodies; that the lyrics devised by his songwriting partner appear on first glance to be Genuine Poetry; that, while the standard procedure for the modern singing songwriter is to either p... | More »

October 29, 1970

The Stooges

Funhouse Elektra

Ah, good evening my good friend. Good evening and welcome to the Stooges' Funhouse. We are so glad you could come. Oh, do not be alarmed, dear one, if things should seem a trifle unusual ... or, as the natives say, "oh-mind" ... at first. You'll doubtless get used to it. Perhaps, you may even begin to ... like the things you see. Why do you look so pale, my friend? Why, that's only tenor saxophonist Steve Mackay vigorously fucking drummer Scott Asheton, dog-style. Steve is a n... | 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 »
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