Back in January I was mapping out which Stereo Review issues I wanted to write up this year, skimming through the archives at worldradiohistory.com. For June, a trip back to 1977 looked pretty appealing, except for one thing: something had gone wrong in the scanning process, and pages 110-123—smack in the middle of the Popular Music Reviews section—were missing. Was I to be deterred by this? Of course not—a couple of months later, I purchased a copy (along with another issue that will be featured later this year) from a fellow in British Columbia on eBay.
Flipping through these has sent me back in time—the memories keep flooding in. The original owner had taken wonderful care of them, including not removing the postcard inserts encouraging one to subscribe to SR, Psychology Today or Car and Driver. (You can bet I’d take them up on their offer of three years for $11.97 now if I could.)
It’s one thing to see the text and advertisements of yesteryear in online scans, quite another to hold it in your hands again. I’d forgotten all about the red stripe on the spine—when you arranged six months’ worth of issues together (volumes ran Jan-Jun and Jul-Dec), the stripes aligned on a downward slant—that’s one way to keep your collection in order.
As for the contents, it’s another solid mix of hit albums of the day along with interesting now-obscurities…
Rick Mitz Interviews Bette Midler
Midler touches on her youth in Hawaii, her work ethic, and what it’s like now that she’s a big star. Throughout she reveals vulnerability via rapid shifts between introspection and brash confidence. At the end, there’s a very positive review of Midler’s recently released double-album Live at Last, by Peter Reilly (“It is roses all the way, and all on an energy level—high and unrelenting—that should leave no one feeling short-changed.”).
Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Noel Coppage, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance. Phyl Garland wouldn’t come on board until the October issue.
Best of the Month
–Natalie Cole, Unpredictable (PR) “…a dazzler, proof that the potential she showed in her two earlier albums has been realized, that the daughter of Nat ‘King’ Cole has come securely into her own as a performer of quality.”
–Gary Lawrence and His Sizzling Syncopators, S/T (JV) “…a delightfully jovial yet deadly serious collection of period tunes all done up in Twenties and Thirties stylings…”
–Joel Shulman, Nowhere But Here (CA) “…a series of candid aural snapshots of pianist Joel Shulman and musician friends who regularly drop in at the Garden Party, a combination plant shop/restaurant operated by Shulman and his wife in a Toronto basement.”
Recordings of Special Merit
–Jimmy Buffett, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes (NC) “I guess the point to make here is that Buffett in transition is still more satisfying than most people snuggled in on a comfortable plateau.”
–Johnny Cash, The Last Gunfighter Ballad (NC) “…he’s written some wryly comical liner notes, and the songs he wrote and chose include something for just about every facet of his audience. It’s surprising to me how many facets I seem to fit into.”
–Marshall Chapman, Me, I’m Feelin’ Free (NC) “My favorite blues singer who was born rich is still Bonnie Raitt, by a long shot. But Chapman writes (usually with someone else) good tunes and better than average words, and there’s a quality of toughness in both her songs and singing.”
–Paulhino da Costa, Agora (CA) “…it is the last track, ‘Ritmo Number One,’…that really makes this an outstanding album…an eight-and-a-half minute impression of the rhythms that fill the streets and alleys of Rio de Janeiro at carnival time…”
–Mel Lewis, Mel Lewis and Friends (CA) “…forty-five minutes of excellent, free-wheeling, and totally acoustic jazz.”
–Mary MacGregor, Torn Between Two Lovers (PR) “Although none of the others have the quiet power of the title song, they all reflect a natural and observant sensibility of a high order.”
—A Poke in the Eye (PK) “Imagine a benefit performance featuring the best comedic talent alive in England (including several from Monty Python’s Flying Circus—WRH)…here is just such a recording, made at an extraordinary benefit put at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London for Amnesty International.”
–Buddy Spicher, American Sampler (PK) “…a Nashville violinist who has a taste for all kinds of music and the nerve to bring off almost anything to which he applies his skillful bow.”
–Janis Ian, Miracle Row (PR) “…she has seized for herself the title of Girl Most Likely to Get Pop off Its Moribund Ass in the Late Seventies.”
–Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Dancer with Bruised Knees (Rick Mitz) “…not a follow-up to their spectacular debut album—it’s a follow-through…an equal, not a sequel.” I picked up a copy of this LP seven or eight years later, in college—I’d carried some small semblance of a memory of this review, or at least the name of the record, around all that time.
–The Ramones, Ramones Leave Home (Lester Bangs) “So, if you don’t like the Ramones, don’t come crying to me about the watered-down quality of today’s rock. There is an alternative.”
—Phil Spector’s Greatest Hits (SS) Plus six British reissues of works produced by Spector, on the Phil Spector International label. “…if you’re unfamiliar with what the man has accomplished over the years, this is clearly the place to start educating yourself.”
–Richard Thompson, Richard Thompson Live! (More or Less) (SS) “If you buy no other album this year, this is the one you should invest in; it’s as close to a masterpiece as anything you’ll ever have in your collection.”
Other Disks Reviewed
–The Band, Islands (SS) “…exactly what you’d expect from them, given that everyone is obviously more interested in getting his individual career launched and consequently is saving his good material for forthcoming solo LPs.”
–George Benson, In Concert—Carnegie Hall and In Flight (CA) Regarding the latter: “I have to admit that I’d rather hear him play the straight jazz he plays so well, but I’m glad he’s making it, and I’d rather listen to his way of making it than to, say, Herbie Hancock’s.”
–Glen Campbell, Southern Nights (PK) “…he’s surrounded here by gigantic orchestral arrangements that unfold like the petals of great plastic orchids in the climaxes singers these days seem to think they have to achieve to impress upon us that they’re in excellent form, thank you…”
–Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (SS) “The only really successful track here is Buckingham’s hit ‘Go Your Own Way,’ as catchy and energetically performed a rock single as we are likely to hear in the immediate future…(t)he rest is all solidly crafted and certainly pleasant, but it seems rather pointless to shell out $7.98 for what is essentially a one-song album.”
–Dean Friedman, S/T (NC) “There’s a good line here and there, though, and some promise. Make a note to look him over again in his junior year.”
–Genesis, Wind & Wuthering (NC) “From the sound of it, Genesis continues to write with its thumbs and then sits up all night stretching melodic lines all out of shape to fit this stream of self-consciousness.”
–John Miles, Stranger in the City (NC) “I suspect the real Miles is more interesting than the one he projects. May that suspicion someday visit him too.”
–Pablo Cruise, A Place in the Sun (Lester Bangs) “It’s not that there anything so terrible about this group; it’s just that there is nothing particular about them at all…Every track is smoothly inoffensive and instantly forgettable…”
–Piper, S/T (Lester Bangs) “(Billy) Squier’s vocals are ragged and sprawling, with a sort of squashed-Jagger effect…(t)here should be nothing to stop these boys from stepping into Aerosmith’s boots in a couple of years. On the other hand, there’s no evidence here that they aspire to any greater distinction.”
–Jean Redpath, The Songs of Robert Burns (PR) “…beautifully researched and explained by Serge Hovey (who also produced it) and sung in what is presumably authentic (late 1790s) style…I must admit that it has a certain otherworldly charm.”
–Smokey Robinson, Deep in My Soul (JV) “…this collection of slick, highly professional soul-pop is an impressive demonstration of how a performer works an audience so that the audience works for him.”
–Rufus, Ask Rufus (JV) “The orchestral arrangements always stop just this side of being too lush or preposterous, and Chaka Khan’s singing, despite elements of night-club gospel, displays a kind of sassy craftsmanship.”
On to sampling some tunes. “Party Lights” reached #79 on the Hot 100 in August.
Here’s a live version of a song that appears on the Sizzling Syncopators album.
Simels notes that one disk of the Thompson release is actually Richard and Linda’s 1974 album I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight.
One of the French-language selections from Anna and Kate.
Wrapping up with the da Costa track mentioned above.