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album reviews

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 »

October 15, 1970

Otis Redding and the Jimi Hendrix Experience

Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival Reprise

This album has to be judged as three-year-old music or simply as a most welcome souvenir. If you were there, you'll probably like it more than if you weren't. But even if you weren't, you'll find some very satisfying music by two of our most gifted artists. I'm not going to go into why you'll probably like it more if you were there; see the movie. I was there, and I like it a lot. Starting with the best, the side with Hendrix is devastating. What's so devas... | More »

Neil Young

After The Gold Rush WEA

Neil Young devotees will probably spend the next few weeks trying desperately to convince themselves that After The Gold Rush is good music. But they'll be kidding themselves. For despite the fact that the album contains some potentially first rate material, none of the songs here rise above the uniformly dull surface. In my listening, the problem appears to be that most of this music was simply not ready to be recorded at the time of the sessions. It needed time to mature. On the album ... | More »

Quicksilver Messenger Service

Just for Love

The rock and roll drought of 1970 shows no signs of letting up as summer comes to a close. A few good records have been released here and there but on the whole things have been pretty bad. These two albums show the problems even the best established bands are having. Quicksilver and the Steve Miller Band have been two of the most consistent groups in the country over the past couple of years but these two new releases don't come near the excellence of either group's past work. On ... | More »

October 1, 1970

The Beach Boys

Sunflower Brother/Reprise

After a long period of recovery, mediocrity, and general disaster, the Beach Boys have finally produced an album that can stand with Pet Sounds: the old vocal and instrumental complexity has returned and the result largely justifies the absurd faith some of us have had that the Beach Boys were actually still capable of producing a superb rock album — or, more precisely, a suberb rock muzak album. "Add Some Music to Your Day"; hip supermarkets might program this album for contented brows... | More »

Joe Cocker

Mad Dogs & Englishmen

This live two-album set is probably indispensable to diehard Joe Cocker fans. Anyone else should proceed at his own risk. The reason isn't too hard to figure out. Mad Dogs and Englishmen was formed on a few days' notice to meet contractual obligations, and sounds like, well, like a group that was formed on a few days' notice to meet contractual obligations. With the exception of Leon Russell, who excels on guitar as well as on piano, no one has any musical identity on this alb... | 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 »
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