Stereo Review In Review: July 1977

Last year I received in the mail a package from friend Mark over at My Favorite Decade. Inside were a couple of vintage music magazines; he figured I might be interested, and of course he was most correct: I had become the happy possessor of the October 1981 issue of Musician and July 1977 issue of Stereo Review. The latter is particularly cool to have, as it goes nicely on the shelf next to the June ’77 issue I had earlier picked up on eBay (and subsequently examined). Now that we’ve reached July once again, it’s the perfect time to stroll through its pages to see what delights await–and delights there are.

One Hundred Years of Recording, by Ivan Berger
It’s the centennial of the first recorded sound, and Berger takes us on a tour of the visionaries who led the way to where we were three-quarters of the way through the 20th century: Thomas Edison, Charles Cros, and Emile Berliner. (Also in the issue, a selection of the best recordings of the past century–classical only, natch–by David Hall.)
The Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin Big Band, by Chris Albertson
Albertson tells the story of how pianist Akiyoshi rose in jazz circles, first in post-WWII Japan and then in Boston (after getting a scholarship to Berklee) and New York, where she met tenor saxophonist Tabackin in the late 1960s. After they married and relocated in LA, they formed their Big Band. By 1977, they were big in Japan and finally gaining a bit of traction in the States. A review of their live album Road Trip comes at the end of the article: “This group has everything you ever wanted to hear from a big band: the heat and bounce of Basie at his best, imaginative Gil Evans-esque voicings, and as fine a battery of soloists as your ears are likely to encounter. Akiyoshi, who composed and arranged all but one selection, paints her orchestral pictures with strokes that are modern, yet unmistakably rooted in the past.”

This month’s reviewers are Chris Albertson, Noel Coppage, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.

Best of the Month
–Miles Davis, Water Babies (CA) Material recorded prior to Bitches Brew sees the day at last. “For wine this is, and a fine vintage too. Hearing Miles’ clear, sharp tones again without that damn wah-wah device is a joy…”
–Diana Ross, An Evening with Diana Ross (PR) “It isn’t precisely what you’d call easy-chair listening. With this lady, you’d better be sitting bolt upright in one of those thousand-dollar leather-and-chrome Mies van der Rohe jobs, preferably in dinner clothes and ready to go-go-GO!”

Recordings of Special Merit
–Jorge Ben, Tropical (PR) “The arrangements are as extravagantly thick and heavy as the scent of sandalwood in an overheated room, but they fit Ben’s work perfectly.”
–The Dave Brubeck Quartet, 25th Anniversary Reunion (CA) “It is excellent throughout, a wonderful reminder of what jazz was before musicians became electronic engineers.”
–Bing Crosby, A Legendary Performer (JV) “How can anyone sound so casual and be such an uncanny craftsman at the same time?”
–Jonathan Edwards, Sailboat (NC) “Edwards seems to have great confidence in his voice these days and doesn’t hesitate to give it some tough assignments.”
–Michael Franks, Sleeping Gypsy (JV) “But the more I listened to this album, the more I grew accustomed to his voice and his tonal flapdoodles–and the more I liked his songs.”
–Andy Fairweather Low, Be Bop ‘n Holla (JV) “Low gleefully glides through several styles–Latin, jazz, reggae, rock, country–with accompanying lyrics that are alternately zany and straightforward…If you put this charming and infectiously satisfying album on your turntable you will probably not be able to take it off.”
–The Marshall Tucker Band, Carolina Dreams (NC) “It must have been well planned, but it sounds spontaneous, and how it sounds is what counts.”

Featured Reviews
–Dexter Gordon, Homecoming (CA) “Highlights? The album itself is a highlight, and I hope it sells as well as the music merits. Maybe a decent sales record for this one would encourage not only Columbia but the rest of the sleeping giants to reactivate their jazz catalogs.”
–Nils Lofgren, I Came to Dance (SS) “His best songs are melodically charming, neatly constructed, and imbued with a teen romanticism that never rings false. Bruce Springsteen excepted, he may be the last real innocent in rock.”
–Loretta Lynn, I Remember Patsy (NC) “Still, this is an interesting thing to have around; it does satisfy a sort of what-if peckishness one might have about singers identified with certain styles. Lynn proves she can do the other person’s kind of song, and her way never wavers from true-blue Loretta Lynn.”
–Helen Schneider, So Close (PR) “She’s what pop music has grown up to as the Seventies draw to a close: a performer who uses ‘rock’ as an action verb in her musical sentences; one who can actually sing and thus doesn’t have to fake it and try to cloak that fakery with ‘meaningfulness’; and most of all, a performer who wants to get close to her audiences, not dazzle or berate them.”
–Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes, This Time It’s for Real (SS) “…they are now resolutely making a unique and personal kind of music that owes a debt to the past but is stamped with an instantly identifiable character of its own…The Asbury Jukes are the first white band since the Rolling Stones to manage that kind of quantum leap.”

Other Disks Reviewed
–America, Harbor (NC) “You can’t sue yourself for plagiarism, which may come in handy for America with parts of this album.”
–Bad Company, Burnin’ Sky (SS) “Paul Rodgers remains, technically, a great vocalist, but I haven’t believed a word he’s sung since he left Free, and the rest of the group might as well be Kiss, Aerosmith, or any other of the undistinguished loud noises currently being enshrined in vinyl.”
–Dee Dee Bridgewater, S/T (PR) “Bridgewater ought to leave the heavy breathing to others who do it a lot better and concentrate on her comic gift.”
–Don Harrison Band, Red Hot (JV) “What the Harrison band ought to do–what hundreds of bands ought to do–is give up the false notion that self-penned material is essential to its glory and start drawing on the catalog of solid, proven tunes that are both fun to play and can reveal the band’s talents.”
–Roger McGuinn, Thunderbyrd (SS) “This album should once and for all put an end to the Roger McGuinn-as-auteur theories of certain rock critics.”
–Split Enz, Mental Notes (JV) Vance misidentifies the band’s country of origin. “It is difficult to tell when this group–or any English Gothic group–is kidding or when the emotional imbalance described in the music does in fact reflect the state of mind of the musicians.”

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