album reviews

Captain Beefheart

Trout Mask Replica

Captain Beefheart, the only true dadaist in rock, has been victimized repeatedly by public incomprehension and critical authoritarianism. The tendency has been to chide C. B. and his Band as a potentially acceptable blues band who were misled onto the paths of greedy trendy commercialism. What the critics failed to see was that this was a band with a vision, that their music, difficult raucous and rough as it is, proceeded from a unique and original consciousness. This became dramatically ap... | More »

July 12, 1969

The Grateful Dead


The Grateful Dead is two bands: the band when Pigpen is singing and the band when he isn't. Pigpen sings in a recognizable musical form, the harshness and seediness of which is not fundamental to the Dead. The music behind him and all around him is so tasty (as in "Love Light" where the rhythmic structuring builds in unimaginable waves to melodic insensibility), so rich with quivering energy that Pigpen can almost always be overcome. Pigpen "fits" because the Dead choose to embody a gene... | More »

Alice Cooper

Pretties for You

Alice Cooper is a West Coast Zappa-sponsored group: two guitars, bass, drums and a vocalist who doubles on harmonica. Echoes of 1967 psychedelia in the oscillators and distorted guitars. Showing here the influence of the Mothers, here the first-wave San Francisco sound, there and almost everywhere the Beatles. But their overall texture and the flow of randomly-selected runs interspersed by electronic gimmicks place them closer to a certain rivulet in that deluge of pre-packaged groups which c... | More »

June 14, 1969

The Kinks

Village Green Preservation Society Pye

I certainly love the Kinks; it's been fifteen months since I've had a new Kinks album in my house, and though I've been listening to them I've missed that pleasure. Bob played The Village Green Preservation Society for me when he bought a British copy, about a month ago, and I've played it twice since it arrived here this afternoon, and already the songs are slipping into my mind, each new hearing is a combined joy, of renewal and discovery. Such a joy, to make new fr... | More »

May 31, 1969

Dr. John


Try to imagine Mose Allison stoned and trapped in a swamp with a chorus of mistaken Baptist harmonies. Do you remember Dr. John's first album? It was really underground stuff: smoky and aquatic, a sort of voodoo-funk. His second album, Babylon, has some of the mystery and charm of the first, but on the whole it's disappointing. It's not at all together; it seems to fall apart inside your ear.   What's wrong is the relationship between the lyrics and the music. The m... | More »

Bob Dylan

Nashville Skyline Columbia

Bob Dylan's ninth album poses fewer mysteries and yet, paradoxically, offers greater rewards than any of his previous work. Its only difficulties aren't metaphysical or interpretative — indeed, the beauty and openness within is kept almost rigorously simple in genre — but rather those of taking the artist's new-found happiness and maturity for exactly what they appear to be. That smiling face on the cover tells all — and isn't it wonderful? Most obviousl... | More »

The Everly Brothers


This odd, new Everly Brothers album is full of Ma and Pa and sweet gospel singin' on the radio, harmonizing "family style and country style," and memories of the old home in Brownie, Kentucky. It is also a showcase for the superb talent of the Everlies as they are today. To accomplish this, producer Lenny Waronker has woven an unusual fabric of Southern California salon rock, country-tinged rock, and tapes from the Everly Family radio show of 1952. The result is a warm, sentimental albu... | More »

May 17, 1969

Leonard Cohen

Songs From A Room Phantom Import Distribution

Well, it looks like Loneard Cohen's second try won't have them dancing in the streets either. It doesn't take a great deal of listening to realize that Cohen can't sing, period. And yet, the record grows on you, and if you give it a chance, it has something to offer. But you can hardly be blamed if you aren't willing to take the time. The first thing that has to be with-stood is his voice. It's monotonous in a literal sense of the word. He seems to be sort of dr... | More »

The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground Polydor

The Velvet Underground are alive and well (which in itself may surprise some people) and ever-changing. How do you define a group like this, who moved from "Heroin" to "Jesus" in two short-years? It is not enough to say that they have one of the broadest ranges of any group extant; this should be apparent to anyone who has listened closely to their three albums. The real question is what this music is about — smack, meth, deviate sex and drugdreams, or something deeper? Their spiritual... | More »

May 3, 1969

Linda Ronstadt

Hand Sown...Home Grown

This is a distinctive, if not unique, approach to country music as rock. As the jacket admits humorously, the attempt here is not at "purity," but rather something looser, less self-conscious. The record was made in L.A., and borrows from country pop mainly the idea of "orchestration" — a succession of riffs that try to keep the song "moving" from place to place; the arrangements are loud, but orderly, with drums (sometimes reminiscent of Presley) up front. Linda Ronstadt was lead sing... | More »

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Song Stories

“Love Is the Answer”

Utopia | 1977

The message of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" proved to be a universal and long-lasting one, which Utopia revisited 10 years later on this ballad. "From a lyrical standpoint, it's part of a whole class of songs that I write, which are about filial love," Todd Rundgren explained. "I'm not a Christian, but it's called Christian love, the love that people are supposed to naturally feel because we are all of the same species. That may be mythical, but it's still a subject." Though "Love Is the Answer" wasn't a hit, a cover version two years later by England Dan & John Ford Coley peaked at Number Ten on the Billboard singles chart.

More Song Stories entries »