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Tom Carson


  • Autoamerican

    Blondie's Autoamerican is a terrible album, but it's bad in such an arcane, high-toned way that listening to it is perversely fascinating. After Parallel Lines gave Chris Stein a carte blanche, it was only a matter of time until he started living out his fantasies of himself as a deep thinker. Since he could always […]

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  • The Blue Mask

    Lou Reed's the Blue Mask is a great record, and its genius is at once so simple and unusual that the only appropriate reaction is wonder. Who expected anything like this from Reed at this late stage of the game? Even though the Velvet Underground, as critic Lester Bangs once remarked, "invented the Seventies," Reed […]

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  • Higher Plane

    In his unequaled string of Seventies hits, Al Green effortlessly invested his sexuality with a spiritual dimension that he made sound perfectly appropriate. Now, in his new incarnation as a preacher, he comes close — just as effortlessly — to reversing the equation. Higher Plane may be the most intimately seductive gospel album ever recorded. […]

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  • Face Dances

    The cover looks sort of like the Rolling Stones' Emotional Rescue and even the title feels slightly off. Not that the Who hasn't used masks as themes or images before – a good half of their work can be summed up by Kurt Vonnegut's line that we are who we pretend to be, so we […]

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  • Bad Reputation

    Of the Runaways, Joan Jett was the true rocker, instinctively realizing rock & roll's opportunities for pleasure, violence and triumph. But her identity was obscured by singer Cherie Currie's starlet moves, producer-manager Kim Fowley's sleaze-sisters hype and group chops that never overcame their limited heavy-metal sources. Bad Reputation hits closer to home. Doing Lesley Gore's […]

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  • Common One

    Van Morrison has an extraordinary knack for inventing brick walls to butt his head against, whereas anybody else would just walk right through. If an explanation were asked for, Morrison, resting between blows, would most likely answer: "Because it's there." This artist has staked his whole career on a wrestle with the unnamable. And unless […]

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  • Reach for the Sky

    Any chance that Southern-style rock & roll had of becoming the dominant sound of the last decade disappeared when its two best bands were all but destroyed. The Allman Brothers played out their string through deaths in the family, drug busts and sellouts. Lynyrd Skynyrd went quicker and harder, in a plane crash that took, […]

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  • Get Happy!!

    A monstrously intricate set of miniature epics about political violence and commitment, fascism and fashion, dialectics and ambiguity, Elvis Costello's Armed Forces (1979) was still a gorgeously seductive piece of high-style pop. Now Costello has made a record about that most accessible of pop subjects. Love with a capital L, and in many ways it's […]

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  • London Calling

    By now, our expectations of the Clash might seem to have become inflated beyond any possibility of fulfillment. It's not simply that they're the greatest rock & roll band in the world — indeed, after years of watching too many superstars compromise, blow chances and sell out, being the greatest is just about synonymous with […]

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  • Wave

    Patti Smith possesses some qualities that are fast disappearing from most American rock & roll: passion, flamboyance, a sense of the epic, a belief in the music itself as a revolutionary force. As a moony high priestess of art, forever building altars to herself, she's a bore — as pretentious as a college sophomore who's […]

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