album reviews

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 »

September 17, 1970

John Cale

Vintage Violence

It was about 3:30 in the afternoon. Down 7th Street, a parade of parochial school girls wended its way towards the projects on Avenue D, the sidewalks coming alive with the plaid skirts swishing not quite in unison as they walked in twos and threes. People sat on the stoops reading papers, and a game of stickball was in progress in the vacant lot. Suddenly, an argument flared up — in staccato Spanish — Dee Christian, a Robin-Hood-like figure among the 7th Street amphetamine junki... | More »

Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath Vertigo

Mediocrity doesn't tutor greatness often — when it is influential at all, its progeny usually achieve even ranker nadirs. But in rock, one of whose founding principles is that glorious mistakes can open out into amazing new styles, anything can happen. Thus the Cream phenomenon, which is far from dead even now. Although they were essentially an egotistical group of lazy artisans who ified their considerable talents by swallowing their own hype, raking in fistfulls of cash and flyin... | More »

The Band

Stage Fright Capitol

Step right up ladies & gents! Don't be shy, anybody can play this game. Want you to join me as we explore the appearance of another strange mystery in our midst. Thrills! Enigmas. Exquisite loveliness! Disappointments. Engaging sobriety! Murky slumbers. It's all here, folks —all that, plus five lifetimes in our recent generation, crossing, merging, walking toward separate rainbows! Losing stride, marching gloriously on. In this game —most of you already are hip to t... | More »

Otis Redding

Tell The Truth Atco

This is not the posthumous masterpiece that Love Man was, that great album that was in the can when Otis died nearly three years ago. This is where the anthologists start reaching back into the vaults for the not-so-brilliant material that was left off earlier albums and songs that were beginning to get there for future albums. That's just by way of saying that if you have never heard an Otis Redding album before, this is not the first one to buy. But it's unthinkable that you have... | More »

September 4, 1970

The Rolling Stones

Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out Decca

As much as the recorded product, the rock and roll concert scene seems mighty unhealthy these days. I hardly ever go to see name bands anymore myself, because most of them are so incredibly boring. Standards of performance are very low, and those few artists with enough talent or interest to put on a credible show often end up turning in performances so professionally, predictably competent that you walk out with the palest satisfaction and few memories. In the past year I have watched Ten Ye... | 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 »