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album reviews

Bee Gees

Horizontal Polydor Records

To comprehend the Bee Gees is to comprehend much that is banal, without grace, and trite. This is necessarily to say that the Bee Gees have deep roots in one of the most neglected areas of rock music, the popular romantic ballad. What is called rock and roll sprang not only from the blues, rhythm and blues, and country-western, but also from the American popular song. Even the early vocal groups mined this lode of mediocre material: "The Way You Look Tonight" by the Jaguars anticipates "Wher... | More »

Bee Gees

Idea Polydor

To comprehend the Bee Gees is to comprehend much that is banal, without grace, and trite. This is necessarily to say that the Bee Gees have deep roots in one of the most neglected areas of rock music, the popular romantic ballad. What is called rock and roll sprang not only from the blues, rhythm and blues, and country-western, but also from the American popular song. Even the early vocal groups mined this lode of mediocre material: "The Way You Look Tonight" by the Jaguars anticipates "Wher... | More »

December 7, 1968

Captain Beefheart

Strictly Personal

The only white voice that has come close to capturing what Charley Patton and Son House are all about, Captain Beefheart has gathered some superb musicians, very heavy and with much Delta feeling. Therefore, he has, one would suppose, the capability of making the ultimate white blues album. He has not done so. His first album (Safe As Milk on Buddah) failed by lapsing into dull commercial rock on the order of Love's early efforts. This one fails by lapsing into dull commercial rock on t... | More »

December 6, 1968

The Rolling Stones

Beggar's Banquet London

On the surface rock and roll changes at an amazing pace. The influence of a figure like the Maharishi can appear and disappear in a matter of months. Talk about old fashioned rock and roll finds itself dead before it begins. Yet some things do remain, while others maintain enough of their former selves so that the logic of their growth at least makes itself obvious. An example of someone who doesn't change is Elvis Presley. His recent TV special was a testimony to the vitality of his or... | More »

November 23, 1968

Albert King

Live Wire/Blues Power

There's an old, old blues couplet — I first heard Big Bill Broonzy sing it but it certainly goes further back than even his recollection did, probably to some recently emancipated tenant farmer in the Yazoo Delta looking out from his front porch at the wavy red reflections on the river — "The sun rises in the east, mama, and it sets down in the west/It's so hard, hard to tell which woman will love you the best." Albert King's "Blues at Sunrise" on this LP opens this... | More »

November 9, 1968

The Who

Magic Bus: The Who on Tour Decca Records

This is not so much a review as a complaint. Decca is well known as one of the more myopic record companies — "If you liked the Who, you are sure to enjoy Len Barry," read their notes to My Generation — and Decca has also gained special fame for the inattention they have lavished on the Who, such as their forgetting to send review copies of some of the group's singles to Billboard and Cashbox. But the Who, thank God, made it on their own, and Decca, afraid of losing any of ... | More »

Jimi Hendrix

Electric Ladyland Polydor

Being a bit fed up with music as "reactive noise" ("God man, the world's a drag, let's play loud and drown it out"), I was sort of set not to dig this LP, but I had to. Hendrix is a good musician and his science fiction concepts surmount noise. There isn't really a concept (no Sgt. Pepper trips here) — instead there's a unity, an energy flow. The LP opens with an electronic track using tape loops and phasing (think of "Itchy Coo Park" by the Small Faces for an exampl... | More »

Booker T & The MGs

Soul Limbo

This is the sixth album by the MG's who are in many respects representative of the finest in American popular music. Although they are solo recording artists in their own right, they cannot be seen out of the context of the Stax-Volt Company. This company typifies the synthesis of the best in American music. It is music that is universal and unafraid to borrow from sources black, white or brown. Otis Redding, the most popular Stax performer was no mere 'soul singer' but a man i... | More »

October 26, 1968

Pink Floyd

A Saucerful of Secrets Capitol

The Pink Floyd were in the forefront of the self-consiously psychedelic rock movement in Britain as it developed over a year ago; they had to their credit a couple of promising singles ("Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play") and a fairly impressive first album. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Syd Barrett (vocals and lead guitar) displayed a minor talent for writing as well as a not insubstantial ability to prepare special effects and production work. If much the Floyd did was based on gimmicks,... | More »

Jefferson Airplane

Crown of Creation RCA Victor

The Jefferson Airplane, for all their commercial success and artistic importance, have had a peculiarly checkered recording career; after hearing each album in toto one gets the impression that it somehow could have been better — even if what we are given is quite admirable in many aspects. Thus The Jefferson Airplane Takes Off has several rock masterpieces amid mediocrities and up against the liability of a recording that is in general poorly engineered. After Bathing at Baxters can at... | More »

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

More Song Stories entries »
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