album reviews

Randy Newman

12 Songs

Back in 1968, Paul McCartney phoned Randy Newman to tell him how much he liked his new album. Though the record received praise from fellow songwriters, musicians, and critics, it proved less than popular among the public. Promo tags like "Once you get used to it, his voice is really something" didn't help. Eventually Reprise redesigned the cover and gave the album away to those willing to write for it; sales have still not passed 4500 copies. Today, with the release of Twelve Songs, Ne... | More »

Alice Cooper

Easy Action

On stage they may flay dead chickens, but there's nothing nearly that interesting here. The freaky music is sort of freaky, but the pretty stuff sounds like something Walt Disney had the good sense to leave in the can. | More »

March 19, 1970

Van Morrison

Moondance Warner Bros

Long ago, Van Morrison reached that point where the influences on his music no longer mattered. It is as pointless to attempt to detect those influences as it would be for any musician to try to imitate him. Van Morrison's music cannot really be imitated, because, as with Dylan's music, what one hears is not style, but personality. With each record — Them Again, Astral Weeks, or Moondance — one gets a sense that Van has achieved some ancient familiarity with his band an... | More »

March 7, 1970

Frank Zappa

Hot Rats Reprise

This recording brings together a set of mostly little-known talents that whale the tar out of every other informal "jam" album released in rock and roll for the past two years. If Hot Rats is any indication of where Zappa is headed on his own, we are in for some fiendish rides indeed. In the past both Zappa's high-flown "serious music" and his greasy Fifties routines grew heavy-handed, but this album suggests he may be off on a new and much more individual direction, inspired by Captain... | More »

The Jackson 5

Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5

The Jackson Five stand in the tradition of super young rock singers that goes back to Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers and, more recently. Little Stevie Wonder. Ever since the day that Frankie Lymon lied about his age to producer George Goldner and earned the right to sing lead on "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," there has been a prominent place in rock and roll for the very young, exceptional voice. The Jackson Five range in age from 10 to 16. Michael Jackson, the magnificent lead singer, is a s... | More »

February 21, 1970

Elvis Presley

Elvis Is Back! RCA Victor

Elvis' first out-of-the-army LP, cut with an extremely strong blues band. Definitely one of his best albums, virtually on a par with his recent From Elvis In Memphis. Includes the great "Reconsider Baby" and lots of army-life photos to boot. | More »

Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker!

Joe Cocker's delightful second album is ample proof that the imagination that transformed a song so fixed in our minds as "With a Little Help From My Friends" has not run out of things to do, nor fallen into the trap of "stylization." Joe, his Grease Band, and their friends — who together form one of the toughest rhythm and blues bands outside of the Motown studios — start from the bottom up in re-arranging material as familiar as "Dear Landlord" or "She Came In Through the ... | More »

The Allman Brothers Band

The Allman Brothers Band Polydor

The Allman Brothers are a rather heavy white blues group out of Muscle Shoals. They look like the post-teen punk band rehearsing next door, and there is little in their music that we haven't heard before. And both they and their album are a gas. For all the white blooze bands proliferating today, it's still inspiring when the real article comes along, a white group who've transcended their schooling to produce a volatile blues-rock sound of pure energy, inspiration and love. T... | More »

Jefferson Airplane

Volunteers RCA

I guess it's all in what you look for in a rock and roll record. Now, I happen to think that the Jefferson Airplane, on the basis of what they have done on Bathing at Baxters' and now Volunteers, are musical pioneers. But tell this to some people and they tell you that the Airplane is dull, leaden. They don't swing, for chrissakes. And on Volunteers, man, the politics ... But there is most assuredly something there with the Airplane, something that may raise the musical sophi... | More »

February 7, 1970

The Plastic Ono Band

Live Peace In Toronto, 1969 Apple/EMI

The public is starved for music from the Big Three of rock and roll — an album and maybe a single a year isn't enough, and the rest of the musicians on both sides of the Atlantic are not providing enough excitement on their own to let us take what we get from Dylan, the Stones and the Beatles and be satisfied. We want more, and as the slogan goes, "find a hole and fill it," and thus it's being filled up fast. Of the two new Dylan pirate albums, John Birch has much better fide... | More »

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Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

More Song Stories entries »