Stereo Review In Review: January 1987

I’ve been doing some advance reconnaissance for the 2021 edition of SRIR, and maybe two-thirds of the issues I plan to examine this year have been tentatively selected. As of this moment, I don’t expect there to be any that came after this one, but we’ll see. While it’s possible I could have read this while home on my first winter break from grad school, nothing feels familiar; maybe Dad had already let his subscription expire…

Articles
Ann Ferrar Talks with the Bangles
“Walk Like an Egyptian” was riding high on the charts when this issue appeared, but the interview must have taken place several months earlier, as “Manic Monday” is the only song from Different Light to receive mention. Ferrar catches up with them on a night they’re to appear at Catch a Rising Star in NYC; the article touches on their 60s influences, notes the opportunity that having four vocalists presents, and addresses comparisons to the Go-Go’s (natch) and Bananarama.

Steve Simels on Starting a Compact Disc Collection
Simels takes a look at ten favorite discs that one might consider as the CD-era begins its fast rise. His choices include Wish You Were Here, Synchronicity, Scarecrow, Beggar’s Banquet, Hounds of Love and two from the Who.

Our reviewers this month are stalwarts Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, and Steve Simels.

Best of the Month
–Talking Heads, True Stories (MP) “The songs these stories inspired, an American-made gumbo of rock-and-roll, gospel, Tex-Mex, and mariachi, are simple yet absorbing…dissecting the facts and perceptions of the characters’ lives and rearranging them in strange, unreal ways.”
–Timbuk 3, Greetings from Timbuk 3 (SS) “…one of the sharper debut albums of the year. The basic sound…is a sort of sardonic, bluesy, neo-folk rock, with occasional forays into peripherally related styles like reggae.”

Other Disks Reviewed (* = featured review)
–*Beat Rodeo, Home in the Heart of the Beat (MP) “The alliance between pop, punk, and country creates what I can only call a mournful playfulness—the country in Beat Rodeo wants to make these songs sad, but the pop keeps winking at you.”
–George Benson, While the City Sleeps (PG) “Best of all, there are times when he engages in his special manner of singing in unison with his agile guitar improvisations…You can’t ask for too much more—except, perhaps, for a little jazz.”
–The B-52’s, Bouncing Off the Satellites (MP) “I feel a little silly playing this record when anyone else is around, but I sneak a listen whenever the opportunity presents itself…”
–Suzanne Ciani, The Velocity of Love (MP) “Ciani is clearly trying to create a soundtrack for a love affair…What she ends up with, though is the kind of gauzy, breathless stuff a ‘ladies’ man’ puts on to go with a candlelit dinner…”
–Duke Ellington, New Mood Indigo (CA) “Because Ellington recordings are available in such abundance, this release, which has the earmark of a grab bag, loses some of the interest it might otherwise merit.”
–John Fogerty, Eye of the Zombie (SS) “…a snoozer, the sound of a genuine rock original approaching self-parody.”
–Phyllis Hyman, Living All Alone (PG) “…plays up the finest qualities of Hyman’s lusty, full-throated voice and sensual delivery with songs that reflect a full range of moods in tasteful, rhythmically varied arrangements.”
–James, Stutter (AN) “All in all, this is a most challenging and creative romp through a lyrical and melodic house of horrors where you never know what kind of twisted image waits around the corner.”
–Huey Lewis and the News, Fore! (MP) “With the Tower of Power horns at the hot end and the News’s patented a cappella vocals at the cool end, there’s plenty of material here for all those prom bands out there.”
–*Lyle Lovett, S/T (AN) “Sophisticated and sinewy whether he’s writing about twisted love or the high and low life of society, he has a lot of the New Breed of Nashville scared silly.”
–Out of the Blue, Inside Track (CA) “It does not take a keen ear to predict that (this group) has a bright future on the jazz scene, and though it echoes the last great period in jazz history, it sounds far fresher than so-called New Age music.”
Television’s Greatest Hits, Volume II (SS) “…an album that, among other splendid accomplishments, validates Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious…While the music ranges from the genuinely excellent to the surrealistically awful, there’s never a dull moment.”
–Toto, Fahrenheit (MP) “Toto has always been able to take mediocre material and make it sound great…Fahrenheit begins to show songwriting ability that approaches the level of (their) tremendous musicianship.”
–Tina Turner, Break Every Rule (AN) “…impressive and sometimes stunning. But it is also a portrait of a superstar playing it safe.”

Stereo Review In Review: December 1977

This makes twelve months of rifling through old Stereo Review magazines–I’m so grateful to worldradiohistory.com for collecting them. It’s been fab re-discovering turns of phrase from Simels, Peel, Coppage, Nash, et. al., but also learning about acts and songs that I missed way back when. It doesn’t seem to be my most popular feature, but right now I’m interested enough to carry on for at least another year or two.

This issue goes back closer to the beginning of my love affair with SR than anything I’ve examined so far (I can tell I read at least some 1976 issues). I’m pretty sure I noticed the Mendes review mentioned below, if only because of the name of the band and not the savagery within.

Articles
Roots of Jazz, by Chris Albertson
Albertson interviews and tells the fascinating stories of singer Alberta Hunter and bandleader Sam Wooding, two jazz artists who got their starts in the early 1920s and were still performing over fifty years later.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance, along with a few special guests. Garland was pretty new to this gig, having first gotten her name on the masthead in October.

Best of the Month
–Cleo Laine, Return to Carnegie (PR) “…just an extraordinarily gifted actress-singer radiating first-class musicianship, enormous intelligence, and wit.”
–George Jones, I Wanta Sing (NC) “Jones comes about as close as any singer I’ve heard to actually bleeding for his art.”
–B. J. Thomas, S/T (JV) “…with the recent loss of Elvis Presley, it is probable that Thomas can be ranked as the most artistically important pop baritone in this country.”

Recordings of Special Merit
–Norton Buffalo, Lovin’ in the Valley of the Moon (NC) “Technically he is the best harmonica player to come along in years…(t)his album has him sounding like a diverse assortment of harp notables, from Stevie Wonder to Charlie McCoy to James Cotton to the Harmonicats.”
–The Chieftains, LIVE! (PK) “This listener…has never heard a reel or a Kerry slide piped out with greater skill or energy. I tell you, these lads get to you.” The last concert Martha and I attended in the pre-COVID era was the Chieftains, toward the end of February. They aren’t ‘lads’ any more, but this review described pretty well what I saw forty-plus years after it was written.
–Ry Cooder, Show Time (JV) “Cooder…is an expert at filling the holes with exquisite ideas…and dramatic inchings toward the resolution of a solo idea—in other words, the man thinks as he plays…”
–Chick Corea/David Holland/Barry Altschul, ARC (CA) “This, then is Corea without the cheap frills, without the buttons and switches that often turn artistry into gimmickry.”
–Nick Drake, Bryter Layter (Lester Bangs) “Three years after his death…Nick Drake’s reality is more compelling than ever.”
–The Emotions, Rejoice (PG) “…demonstrates what can be done within the limits of popular style when talent and imagination are applied.”
–Danny Kirwan, S/T (SS) “Since his departure from (Fleetwood Mac), he’s become something of a cult figure, and justifiably so; he’s an impeccable craftsman both as a guitarist and as a writer…at the risk of committing critical heresy I’d venture to say he’s probably got more talent than the estimable Buckingham/Nicks team that replaced him.” The album was titled Midnight in San Juan in the UK.
–Steve Lacy, Trickles (CA) “The musicianship is of the highest caliber, the material is uniformly interesting, and the quartet’s members are very compatible.”
–Johnny Winter, Nothin’ but the Blues (JV) “This is a surprising and uplifting Winter album, doubtless the best he has ever made.”

Featured Reviews
–Michael Bloomfield, Analine (JV) “(Bloomfield) seems to have approached this album as a kind of recorded spiritual retreat.”
–Judy Collins, So Early in the Spring, the First 15 Years (NC) “This album…is a class product from a class person, extremely pretty to listen to, and an emotion-charged recapitulation of some of the most interesting times anybody ever lived through.”
–Millie Jackson, Feelin’ Bitchy (PG) “Of all the popular soul artists on the scene, Millie Jackson most closely approaches the fundamental earthiness of the classic blues singers…”
–Andy Pratt, Shiver in the Night (Rick Mitz) “…so stunning, so positive, so—all right, I’ll say it—so uplifting that it makes me shiver in the night (and day) to listen to it.”
–Linda Ronstadt, Simple Dreams (William Anderson) “She no longer sounds like Mary Travers but like herself, a finished musician who has polished her abundant natural gifts…”
–Dick Wellstood, Some Hefty Cats! and This Is the One (CA) “One thing I’ve always liked about him is his wide-ranging taste, and he is obviously a man who listens with his mind as open as his ears.”

Other Album Reviews
–Eric Carmen, Boats Against the Current (SS) “Once upon a time, Eric Carmen was a modest young man who had a knack for crafting catchy little hommages to Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, and the Brill Building staffers of the Sixties…but now he is suffering from Neil Diamonditis, a particularly nasty syndrome that transforms talented purveyors of pop fluff into artistes.”
–Donovan, S/T (PR) “In the context of the late Seventies, however, (these songs) seem only naïve, artless, and—worst of all—pointless.”
–Meco, Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk (Ed Buxbaum) “…most of the important themes are…imaginatively turned into very danceable disco that is also fun to listen to whether or not you’ve seen the movie.”
–Sergio Mendes, The New Brasil ’77 (PR) “..oh man, has custom staled and age withered his style! It has now calcified into something like a stale bialy…”
–Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, Rock ‘n Roll with the Modern Lovers (Lester Bangs) “Somebody ought to put this record in a time capsule as proof of just how desperate culture consumers, music fans in particular, got in the Seventies…(Richman) exhibits the mental prowess of a four-year-old.”

Some interesting tunes to post this time…hope you enjoy.

Stereo Review In Review: November 1987

I don’t recall paying all that much attention back in the day to the interviews with/articles on performers that appeared occasionally in the pages of SR. One thing that’s stood out to me thumbing through these old issues this year is how often they featured country artists, first by Noel Coppage and then Alanna Nash; there’s another one this month. We also get a second article, all about my favorite act from 1987 (I doubt I read it at the time, though).

Articles
Elizabeth Costello Interviews Suzanne Vega
Vega talks about being surprised by the success of “Luka,” her singing style (“I’ve always disliked a lot of vibrato”), and the evolution her songwriting (“I think it is becoming more streamlined, more abstract, and more condensed. And I think it’s becoming more melodic.”)

Alanna Nash Interviews Patty Loveless
Nash recounts how native Kentuckian Loveless, whose star was just beginning to rise, reached this moment. Nashville kept calling—at age fourteen she and her brother met Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, who became a friend, and at age eighteen she briefly fronted for the Wilburn Brothers. Marrying that band’s drummer took her to western North Carolina for several years, where she mostly sang rockers in bars and incurred bad habits with drugs and alcohol. After cleaning up, she took one last shot at country stardom and it sure panned out.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, and Steve Simels. Unfortunately, the scan at worldradiohistory.com is missing a couple of pages, including the beginning of the pop reviews, so we might be missing out on a gem or two.

Best of the Month
–Rosanne Cash, King’s Record Shop (AN) “…Cash again offers a stunning mix of traditional and progressive country, ballad, and biting rock. Far more sober than her previous album, King’s Record Shop rips into vital veins and arteries of emotion…” This one’s been in my collection for a long time.
–Cruzados, After Dark (MP) “Cruzados combine the country music of parched cinderblock and sweating beer bottles with the hard rock of a fist fight waiting to happen.”

Other Disks Reviewed (* = featured review)
–*Three sets of unreleased recordings of Count Basie (CA) “Eventually (remaining Basie tapes) will all be released—the great, the good, and the simply fair. These three albums cover all three bases.”
–Natalie Cole, Everlasting (PG) “She presents it all with grace, ease, and taste. And she’s in good voice, with energy to spare.”
–Duane Eddy, S/T (SS) “…as nuttily entertaining an album as I’ve heard all year.”
–Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine, Let It Loose (PG) “Their cohesive music and sound prove that there are still new horizons to be explored in popular music.”
–A Flock of Seagulls, The Best of… (SS) “Call it disposable, call it New Wave nostalgia, but there’s something oddly touching about the innocence of this music, just as there’s something oddly touching about the innocence of a Buddy Holly song.”
–The Grateful Dead, In the Dark (SS) “Whatever you think of these guys, this is clearly the most surprising album of the year: the first Grateful Dead record you don’t have to be a Deadhead to enjoy.”
–Highway 101, S/T (AN) “…this is commercial country music, retro honky-tonk…(t)he real news, however, is Paulette Carlson. Sounding at once like early Dolly Parton, earlier Brenda Lee…(she) throws a one-two punch as a vocalist and songwriter.”
–*La Bamba (SS) “…the most exciting evocation of Fifties rock anybody has ever recorded.”
–Richard Lloyd, Real Time (SS) “In retrospect, Television…was never as radical as people assumed at the time, and it now seems clear that was because Lloyd played Paul McCartney to (Tom) Verlaine’s John Lennon.”
–Split Enz, History Never Repeats—The Best of Split Enz (MP) “The selections display the group’s facile songwriting, clever word play, and the determinedly lighthearted approach that probably doomed it.”
Who’s That Girl (AN) “Alas, there is nothing gutsy about Madonna’s performance on the sound the soundtrack of Who’s That Girl, a movie in which the singer goes to great lengths to prove she is not an actress…”
–X, See How We Are (MP) “…there’s an unfinished quality to the rough harmonies and rambling tunes, a roughness that allows X to communicate directly and forcefully in live performance but seems hollow and self-conscious on record…”

Stereo Review In Review: October 1983

After three months examining issues from the mid- or late-80s, we’re back to when SR was still doing Recordings of Special Merit. Seems like they had more reviews in these earlier days, too. This one rings no bells–my parents moved from Walton to Florence in September, so perhaps it got buried in the resultant chaos–but there are plenty of notable LPs to check out nonetheless.

Articles
–Jargon!, by Bruce Bartlett. Described as “an examination of the most commonly used descriptive audio terms.”
–In the classical section, they talk up the first compact disk releases on Telarc.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.

Best of the Month
–Deniece Williams, I’m So Proud (PG) “Each precisely enunciated word or syllable of a lyric is the cutting edge of an emotion that is bursting to be expressed.”

–Mitch Ryder, Never Kick a Sleeping Dog (JV) “Given a chance to return to the mainstream, Ryder has responded with the relief of an outcast welcomed back into the fold, but he has not compromised either his talent or his experience.” Don’t remember this one at all; John Mellencamp produced it, in what feels like an attempt to duplicate what Springsteen did for Gary U.S. Bonds (JCM did name-check Mitch a couple of years later in “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A”).

Casey did a “Whatever Happened To…?” piece on Ryder on the 8/18/79 show. A quick tour of Mitch’s page at allmusic.com shows he began recording again in the very late 70s, not long before the AT40 story. You remember how frequently VH-1’s Behind the Music episodes featured acts attempting to make a comeback? I’ve come to realize in re-listening to shows from the latter half of the 70s how often Casey was doing something similar with those segments, trying to lift up hit-makers from his earlier days in radio as they made another go at the spotlight.

Recordings of Special Merit
Pop/Rock/Soul/Country:
–John Denver and the Muppets, Rocky Mountain Holiday (AN) “You’d have to be an ogre not to like this encore pairing of America’s favorite nonhumans and the original far-out flower child.”
–Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams (MP) “…a seductive disco beat, arm’s-length sensuality, cool waves of synthesizer sound, and arrangements (crisp horns and stinging guitar) that are as tight as a clenched, gloved hand.”
–Maze, We Are One (PG) “Maze modestly never promises more than it can deliver, which is soothing soul music that never lets you down.”

Jazz:
–John Coltrane, Bahia (CA) “This session has not been available for a long time, and I strongly recommend that you add it to your collection before it disappears from the catalog again.”
–George Kawaguchi and Art Blakey, Killer Joe (CA) “The last thing Blakey needs, of course, is another drummer, but Kawaguchi blends in smoothly with this talented group.”
Bill Evans—A Tribute (PR) “Fourteen of the very best of today’s jazz pianists have contributed one performance each, and the result is a splendid entertainment.”
Jazz at the Opera House (CA) This was a benefit concert to raise money to cover medical bills for SF jazz writer Conrad Silvert.

Featured Reviews
–Delia Bell, S/T (AN) “…one of the most impressive old-style country-and-bluegrass albums of the decade.”
–Bob Marley and the Wailers, Confrontation (MP) “Cult deity or not, as a prophet of hope and liberation Marley lives on through his music.”
–James Newton, S/T (CA) “..a wonderful exercise in restraint and timing…There is a classical air about this album, but it also has firm roots in jazz.”
–Thin Lizzy, Thunder and Lightning (MP) “…does what all great heavy-metal does—it lets you raise a little hell vicariously.”
–Richard Thompson, Hand of Kindness (SS) “…the new songs here are among Thompson’s best: they’re tuneful, they’re lyrically economical, and they leave just enough room for the composer to burn on guitar without being overbearing about it.”

Other Disks Reviewed
–Adam and the Ants, Dirk Wears White Sox (MP)  “The disc sounds exactly like what this group turned out to be: a dead end.”
–The Fixx, Reach the Beach (MP) “The keyboards are consigned to electronic window dressing, the drumming barely keeps the time—it seems to chime every hour on the hour—and (Cy) Curnin is left to drift, deeply, soberly intoning some ludicrously opaque lyrics.”
–Goanna, Spirit of Place (MP) “…if this were an American band you’d find it shelved in country rock…it certainly compares favorably with what Poco and Pure Prairie League used to keep America enthralled with.”
–The Hollies, What goes around… (SS). “It is as useless a vinyl product as has crossed my desk in years, and I say that as a Hollies partisan from way back…the only exception is a brilliant revamping of the Supremes’ “Stop in the Name of Love”…
–Billy Joel, An Innocent Man (MP) “There’s just no way around it: Billy Joel is a consummate pop stylist, even when he’s doing doo-wop.”
–The Kinks, State of Confusion (SS) “This is hardly a great album…But after twenty years, even a less than epochal album from these guys sounds like a letter from home.”
–Stevie Nicks, The Wild Heart (AN) “Nicks either wrote or co-wrote all but one of the songs here, but it is just about impossible to tell what she is trying to say…The lyrics are all pretty and enigmatic but fleshless as a stray dog.”
–Robert Plant, The Principle of Moments (SS) “The songs here generally sound like rhythm tracks with lyrics written and recorded later, almost as afterthoughts.” I had a friend in college who called its first hit “Big Bore” and tweaked the opening line of the second single to, “I’m in the mood for monotony.”
–Donna Summer, She Works Hard for the Money (CA) “…the voice has not changed, but the quality of her material has.”
–Talking Heads, Speaking in Tongues (SS) “To these cynical ears, it’s mostly tepid art-school funk.”

Some tunes:

Ryder had charted in July with a song from his new album. Music In The Key Of E has the deets here.

Bell’s champion was Emmylou Harris; Chet Atkins also appears on the album.

Thunder and Lightning was Thin Lizzy’s swan song. Phil Lynott had planned to continue on with a solo career, but drug/alcohol issues overwhelmed him just a little over two years after this issue was published.

Stereo Review In Review: September 1988

My decade-long love affair with Stereo Review was pretty much over by this time. John and I had just moved well south of downtown Urbana, to our basement apartment on Michigan Avenue; it was a swell spot, but I missed being a stone’s throw from my favorite diner, The Courier Café. Maybe even more importantly, I could no longer make the easy, one-block trek to the Urbana Free Library, so it wasn’t nearly so easy to get my music magazine fix, Rolling Stone subscription aside.

That doesn’t mean we can’t take a look inside an issue from then, though–right?

Articles
Mark Peel Interviews Thomas Dolby
Dolby had just released his first album in four years, Aliens Ate My Buick, and Peel uses the occasion to get TD on the record about producing (Prefab Sprout, Joni Mitchell), soundtrack-writing (Howard the Duck, Gothic), making videos, and, of course, his new album. Among other things, Mr. Blinded with Science defends his lyrics on the first single (“It’s not about women, it’s about airheads.”), and goes on about working with George Clinton, who wrote “Hot Sauce” (“George doesn’t even confine himself to this planet.”).

Polygram’s First Compact Disk Videos
I never bought a CDV—not even sure I ever knew they existed until now—but apparently folks were trying to jump-start the DVD era even before the 80s closed out. CDVs featured one video and four audio tracks. SR identifies twenty titles in the first (only?) wave of releases, including titles by Bon Jovi, Cameo, Cinderella, John Cougar Mellencamp, the Moody Blues, and Rush. Wondering how many of these are in the hands of the folks over at the CD Project…

Our reviewers this month include a couple of new ones for me: Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Ron Givens, Roy Hemming, Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, and Steve Simels.

Best of the Month
–k.d. lang, Shadowland (AN) “…perhaps this record is only a side excursion from what promises to be a certain, if circuitous, trip to the top.” lang lured Owen Bradley, Patsy Cline’s producer, out of retirement for this stunning work.
–Marti Jones, Used Guitars (RG) “…an incomparable voice—thick and sensuous on the bottom, clear and silvery on top—and an incurably romantic personality.” It’s one of the last new vinyl LPs I ever purchased; it became a CD-only world for me very soon after the fall of 1988.

One of the rare cases where I own both BotM features; they’re fabulous.

Selected Other LPs Reviewed (* = featured review)
Rock/Pop/Country/Soul:
–*Camper Van Beethoven, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart (SS) “Best Sixties Album Made in 1988 by a College Radio Band…arch and absolutely sincere at the same time.”
–Michael Crawford, Songs from the Stage and Screen (RH) “His combination of youthful exuberance and romantic charm even manages to win out over the bland orchestra-and-chorus arrangements.”
–Everything But the Girl, Idlewild (RG) “These are the torch songs of normal people living normal lives, universal situations presented in low relief with a subtlety that gives them great power.”
–*Daryl Hall and John Oates, Ooh Yeah! (RG) “If you’ve ever loved Hall’s emotive crooning, Oates’s sweet harmonies, and the funky-but-cool band behind them, this new record will satisfy you down to your boogity-shoes.”
–Evelyn “Champagne” King, Flirt (PG) “…she proves that she still has the power to deliver classy dance music that’s tuneful and spirited.”
–Dan Reed Network, S/T (RG) “When it comes to writing catchy tunes, Reed stocks more hooks than a bait-and-tackle shop, and his Network plays as if its musical life hung in the balance.”
–Feargal Sharkey, Wish (RG) “…five out of the ten tracks are hardly memorable. But the good ones are very good.”
–Southern Pacific, Zuma (AN) “Anyone looking for artistic or spiritual vision…is not likely to come away satisfied.”
–Van Halen, OU812 (RG) “…the music seems less cartoony than before.”
–Neil Young and the Blue Notes, This Note’s for You (SS) “…this latest installment of Young’s ongoing identity crisis is at best a middling effort.”

Jazz:
Classic Jazz Piano (1927-1957) (CA) “…reflects the diversity of jazz in the most compelling way.”
–Gil Evans, Bud & Bird (CA) “My advice is: pick up that Verve album, or any of the Davis/Evans sessions, instead.”
–Ella Fitzgerald, Ella in Rome—The Birthday Concert (CA) “Everything you have ever loved about Ella Fitzgerald is reflected in this previously unreleased, truly superb fortieth-birthday celebration, recorded in Rome’s Teatro Sistina in 1958.”

Stereo Review In Review: August 1985

I was about to begin my senior year of college, but I know I took time on my occasional trips home to check out the latest issue of SR. The Prince review is the one I distinctly remember reading; however, I’ll bet I made note of Simels’s Best of the Month feature, too–that one became a favorite two or so years later.

Articles
Alanna Nash interviews Reba McEntire
McEntire’s career was still in its ascendancy at this point. The previous year, My Kind of Country had her finding her “true country” voice, and she was beginning to win CMA awards. Nash met with McEntire in Nashville right around the time the follow-up, Have I Got a Deal for You, was being released, and much of the interview centers on Reba being Reba: “All I can say is I’ll sure be goin’ more traditional, and it’s not because I’m the next Waylon Jennings, or that I’m trying to be a renegade or anything, really other than the fact it’s what I feel the best with.”

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, Peter Reilly, and Steve Simels.

Best of the Month
–Lone Justice, S/T (SS) “There’s more than a suggestion here that McKee may turn out to be a major songwriter as well as the possessor of truly spectacular pipes.”
–Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Highwayman (AN) “…a rare treat in country music—four consummate country voices blending in friendship and harmony over dignified, quality material, stamping their marks of individuality on even the most familiar songs.”

There was only one “featured” album in the Popular section this month (the Braxton); I elected to merge it with the rest.

Selected Other LPs Reviewed
Rock/Pop/Country/Soul:
–Merle Haggard, Kern River (AN) “The Man from Bakersfield has certainly done better albums…but Kern River has an undeniably moody charm about it…”
–Whitney Houston, S/T (PG) “Seldom has a young artist been so well equipped for the success that is bound to come her way.”
–Howard Jones, Dream Into Action (MP) “Dream Into Action may fail as often as it succeeds, but even Jones’s failures are more challenging and interesting that most pop musicians’ successes.” Peel had been all about Human’s Lib the year before.
–Katrina and the Waves, S/T (MP) “…prototypical garage-band pop, an affectionate medley of styles from Motown to Mersey to Tex-Mex.”
–Edith Piaf, Live at Carnegie Hall—January 13, 1957 (PR) “At the time of this concert she was already a legend. Almost thirty years later it’s easy to hear why.”
–The Power Station, 33 1/3 (MP) “The supergroup to end all supergroups? One can only hope.”
–Prince and the Revolution, Around the World in a Day (SS) “Overall, you have to give the Kid credit for trying something a little different, even if it doesn’t quite come off.”
–David Sanborn, Straight to the Heart (AN) “Still, it is a better-than-average pop-jazz effort, and maybe next time Sanborn will even blow a little heavier on the blues end of the horn.”

Jazz:
–Anthony Braxton, Seven Standards 1985, Volume 1 (CA) “That Braxton is capable of reaching back so eloquently should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed his career, listened to his music, and read his liner notes.”
–Claude Bolling, Live at the Méridien, Paris (CA) “…has a sound that reflects big bands past…I certainly prefer this Bolling to the pastry chef two turns out all those suites.”
–Dave Grusin, One of a Kind (CA) “’Playera’ is a miniature masterpiece that by itself justifies the reissue of this album.”

Stereo Review In Review: July 1986

This issue is likely one of the last ones I read at my parents’ house (though nothing in it possesses any familiarity)—I would have been just a few weeks away from embarking on my graduate studies in the Land of Lincoln. I have no idea when Dad let the subscription lapse, but it probably didn’t continue too much longer.

The format had changed somewhat while I was in college: Recordings of Special Merit were no more after March 1984, and there are seemingly fewer featured reviews overall. It’s still a pleasure for me to take a trip back in time, though.

Articles
On the equipment side, there’s a lengthy “special report” on Japanese audio technology, as well as something on “How to Buy a Receiver.” The centennial of Franz Liszt’s death was 7/31/86, and SR raises a glass in tribute by identifying some of their favorite recordings of Liszt’s work.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, Peter Reilly, and Steve Simels. Joel Vance had left the building by this point, and I didn’t find anything with Reilly’s name on it in this issue,either.

Best of the Month
–Reba McEntire, Whoever’s in New England (AN) “…(I)t’s certain that McEntire…has not only revived the woman-to-woman genre, but that she has also confirmed her place alongside Wynette and Wells as one of the formost woman singers in the history of country music.”
–Stan Ridgway, The Big Heat (MP) “A bizarre collision of styles, but it works…(o)ne of the real finds of 1986.” Songs from Ridgway’s follow-up LP Mosquitos have gotten play here a couple of times, but I’ve not taken time for The Big Heat; that’s about to change.

Featured Reviews
–The Cult, Love (MP) “Everything else recedes before the awesome display of heavy-metal firepower by guitarist William Duffy.”
–The Rolling Stones, Dirty Work (Louis Meredith). “…sounds more like temp work.”
–James Williams, Progress Report (CA) “This is not just another jazz album. We will remember this one long after the fusioneers have synthesized their last notes…”

Selected Other LPs Reviewed
Rock/Popl/Country/Soul:
–Hüsker Dü, Candy Apple Grey (SS) “The counterpoint between Mould’s anthems of confusion…and Hart’s pop tunes…make for one of the neatest sweet-and-sour experiences since Lennon and McCartney.”
–Jermaine Jackson, Precious Moments (PG) “(Michael’s) brother Jermaine not only possesses more substantial musical gifts but is a better singer.”
–Judas Priest, Turbo (MP)
–The Moody Blues, The Other Side of Life (MP) “There ought to be a warning about the mushbrain lyrics, but it’s fun.”
–The Rave-Ups, Town and Country (AN) “If you can imagine the kind of music a band made up of Pete Townshend, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Brian Wilson, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins might make, then you have an idea of what to expect from the Rave-Ups.” The band plays “Positively Lost Me,” the lead track on Town and Country, in a scene in the movie Pretty in Pink (lead Rave-Up Jimmer Podrasky was seeing Molly Ringwald’s sister at the time; they eventually had a kid whose name graced the band’s third and final album). You have to go looking for this album, but it’s good.
–The Swimming Pool Q’s, Blue Tomorrow (MP) “(Their) savvy feel for Eighties pop rhythms…combined with an old-fashioned acoustic sensibility and applied to material that evokes bands like the Byrds, the old Jefferson Airplane, and even Peter, Paul and Mary, make the Swimming Pool Q’s one of the most original bands in pop.” I was thinking their previous album (self-titled and their major-label debut) had been a Best of the Month, but I’m not finding any evidence of that right now.
–The Violent Femmes, The Naked Leading the Blind (SS)
–Dwight Yoakam, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. (AN) “But Yoakam…may also have been too cool for Nashville in the late Seventies, so now he’s come through the same door that Emmylou Harris did a decade ago—winning the hip, pop California audience with a music of intense, hardscrabble purity.”

Jazz:
–Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham, Midnight Mama (CA) “All in all, this album is a joy from beginning to end, a wonderful reminder of a time when groups like Louis Jordan’s Tympany Five….stirred a whole lot of fun into a rhythmic jazz blend.”
–Paula Hatcher, Rise and Shine! (CA)
–Kazumi Watanabe, Mobo Splash (CA) “Watanabe himself is both adept and creative, but there is still something cold and metallic about it all.”

Stereo Review In Review: June 1982

What was I discovering in SR as I was graduating from high school? Among other things, one of my inner-circle Hall of Fame LPs.

Article
Noel Coppage Interviews Karla Bonoff
We learn that Bonoff decided to become a songwriter after watching Jackson Browne play at the Troubadour when they were both in their teens. Her breakthrough came when Linda Ronstadt recorded three of her songs on Hasten Down the Wind, including the righteous “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me.” Her connection to Ronstadt was no accident, though: Bonoff had been in Bryndle, a band with Andrew Gold, Kenny Edwards of the Stone Poneys, and Wendy Waldman, in the early 70s.

Coppage likes Wild Heart of the Young, Bonoff’s new LP, fairly well. He notes a bit of a Motown vibe and observes (as Casey did once) that “Personally,” what turned out to be her one hit, was one she didn’t write. “The melodies are catchy, sure-handed, and mostly pretty—but their straight-ahead simplicity leaves no room for the brief, off-the-wall detours her old melodies took, and those did lead, sometimes, through a garden of delight.”

This month’s reviewers are Chris Albertson, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Mark Peel, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance. Peel had come on board with the October 1981 issue.

Best of the Month
–Gordon Lightfoot, Shadows  (NC) “His melodies are so natural-sounding you find yourself thinking there’s no excuse for their not having existed before.”
–Wynton Marsalis, S/T (CA) “…one of the most impressive debut albums I have ever heard, a grand entrance that will undoubtedly give jazz a healthy boost at a time when some of its best practitioners have strayed from the field.” 

Recordings of Special Merit
Rock/Pop/Country/Soul:
–Irene Cara, Anyone Can See (PG) “…it stands above most (other albums) because of its success in reshaping the molds and moods of the past to suit current tastes.”
–Jean Knight and Premium, Keep It Comin’ (PG) “This is the sort of plain, old-fashioned r-&-b that’s played on bar jukeboxes before last call.”
–Graham Parker, Another Grey Area (SS) “…he sounds again as if he means what he’s saying.”

Theater/Films:
Quartet (PK) “More new records like this one just might bring back the Jazz Age along with Jean Rhys’ novels.”

Jazz:
–Benny Carter, Opening Blues (CA)
–Chico Freeman, Destiny’s Dance (CA)
–Egberto Gismonti and Academica de Danças, Sanfona (CA) 
–Bill Henderson, A Tribute to Johnny Mercer (CA)
–Jean-Luc Ponty, Mystical Adventures (MP)

Featured Rock/Pop Reviews
–Paul McCartney, Tug of War (MP) Peel is not a fan: “Much of the problem is over-production, excessive electronic tampering often disfigures the vocals and horns to no apparent purpose.”
–Marshall Crenshaw, S/T (SS) This review put Crenshaw on my radar. Even though I liked “Someday, Someway” quite a bit that summer, it’s not clear I would have bought the LP 18 months later without Simels’s clarion call. “But let us not pussyfoot: this is the strongest debut album by an American rocker I have ever been privileged to review. In the immortal words of Redd Foxx: ‘This is the Big One, Elizabeth.’”
–Toots and the Maytals, Knock Out! (MP)  Second month in a row I’ve picked an issue with love for Toots. “At a time when too much reggae seems to slipping away into lazy, monotonous, knee-jerking jamming, this album is packed with catchy melodies and irrepressible rhythms.”
–Lou Reed, The Blue Mask (SS) “…Lou Reed has finally shed his masks (blue or otherwise) and made the album that most of us, even his biggest fans, had long lost hope of ever hearing.”
–Bunny Berigan, The Complete Bunny Berigan, Vol 1–1937 (JV)  His name is new to me, but he was a bit of a legend. Played with Miller and Goodman, led his own band for a few years, severe alcoholic who died in 1942 at age 33. “Of all the figures in the Swing Era, he probably swung the hardest.”

Selected Other LPs Reviewed
–Adam and the Ants, Prince Charming (SS) “It’s somehow immensely reassuring to know that a good commercial gimmick can still compensate for utter lack of talent.”
–B-52’s, Mesopotamia (MP) “Give them credit: the B-52’s are making baking, ancient civilization, and mediocrity in general a lot more fun to dance to.”
The Catherine Wheel (Eric Salzman) “These are rhythmic outlines for music with a ghastly emptiness inside…”
–Sammy Hagar, Standing Hampton (MP) “…the guy’s convinced he’s a ladies’ man and a deep thinker. Maybe he is, but he seems to have exhausted most of his cleverness here on the enigmatic record jacket.”
–Loretta Lynn, I Lie (NC) “Not a great album, but one aspiring singers could learn from.”
–Grover Washington, Jr., Come Morning (MP) “…all atmosphere, all sensation.”

Bryndle recorded an album in the early 70s but it was never released. They re-formed in the 90s and did put out two albums before Edwards and Gold passed away. Here’s a song from those first recording sessions that actually was released as a single.

A favorite from that Crenshaw debut.

And we wrap up with Berigan’s best-known song. He’s doing the vocals, too.

Stereo Review In Review: May 1981

With classes now over, I’m better able to get to our next installment of SRIR before the last day of the month. We’re back to some early 80s action this time.

Article
Noel Coppage Interviews Rosanne Cash
It’s actually a combination chat/review of Seven Year Ache. We get an overview of the moments that led to her fledgling career (Seven Year Ache is her second LP): singing backup for Dad for three years, college (an English/drama double major at Vanderbilt), meeting first husband Randy Crowell, a failed attempt at recording an album in Germany. Coppage calls Ache a concept album, in spite of Cash writing only two of its songs (one of which is that awesome title track); he also doesn’t think it’s maybe quite as good as her first record. 

During this period SR often ran a section entitled Popular Music Briefs. Our issue at hand includes this contrast in styles.

Yes, that’s Carl Wilson with Wendy O. Williams. It does make for an interesting picture, though the caption writer takes a gratuitous shot at Williams’s appearance and grandmaternal prospects.

On to the reviews. This month we have Chris Albertson, Irv Cohn, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance. Cohn appears to have replaced Edward Buxbaum, but I don’t believe he was around too long.

Best of the Month
–Tantra, The Double Album  (IC) “…music persuasively—even fiendishly—designed with no other purpose than getting you up on your feet and dancing…”
–Toots and the Maytals, Live at Hammersmith Palais (PG) “To listen to Toots is to hear unmistakably, despite the pronounced Caribbean lilt, strong and uncannily accurate echoes of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke.”
–Fleetwood Mac, Live (NC) “…they never forget the aesthetic value of contrast, seldom let a thing run on too long, and always let you hear through the instrumentals when you need to in order to get the point.”

Recordings of Special Merit
Rock/Pop/Country/Soul:
–Gail Davies, I’ll Be There (NC) 
–The Gap Band, III (IC) “These guys really know what they’re doing. And their music is fun to listen to.”
–The Searchers, Love’s Melodies (SS) “Anyone looking for melodic pop-rock that doesn’t insult your intelligence need look no further.”
–Phil Seymour, S/T (JV) “I haven’t heard such a commanding, seasoned, and tasteful mainstream rock singer in many a day.”

Theater/Films:
Ben Bagley’s Everyone Else Revisited (PK)

Jazz:
–Dexter Gordon, Gotham City (CA)
–Gerry Mulligan and His Orchestra, Walk on the Water (CA)
–Gil Scott-Heron, Real Eyes (PG) “(His) lyrics are so far above the mindless stuff of most of today’s popular music that I would like to see him turn again to his typewriter in pursuit of longer forms. Until he does, though, this album will do.”

Featured Rock/Pop Reviews
–The Clash, Sandanista! (SS) “There’s enough obviously first-rate music here to demonstrate that the Clash continues to evolve in ways that even their initial boosters couldn’t have foreseen, and that they will likely do so for as long as they want.”
–The Two Tons, Backatcha (PG) Formerly Two Tons o’ Fun, soon to be the Weather Girls.
–Christopher Cross, S/T (SS)  Apparently SR ignored Cross’s debut when it was released and felt obliged to pan it after its commanding performance at the Grammy Awards earlier in the year: “Bantamweight a talent though Cross may be, his is decently accomplished at what he does, which is to make brainless, catchy, quintessentially Californian pop records—no more, no less.”
–Weslia, Lady Love (PK) Weslia Whitfield (she eventually shortened her first name to Wesla) was a paraplegic for the last four decades of her life. The standards singer passed away a little over two years ago.
–T. S. Monk, House of Music (IC)  Two kids of the jazz legend strike out on their own.

Selected Other LPs Reviewed
–The Blues Brothers, Made in America (NC) “The main attraction, as it has been all along, is the band behind them…and the tail can go on wagging the dog just so long.”
–Ry Cooder, Borderline (NC) “It’s better than most albums, just not better than most Cooder albums.”
–Lani Hall, Blush (PR) “The songs are fairly bad, the production obviously expensive, and the singer’s talents largely wasted…”
–Earl Klugh, Late Night Guitar (JV)
–Loverboy, S/T (NC)
–Randy Meisner, One More Song (NC) “One wonders why Randy Meisner bothered to get out of the Eagles, since he could have gone on doing more or less the same stuff in the Eagles.”
–Yes, Yesshows (JV) “Without detailing the wretched excesses of each cut, I would merely suggest that a suitable revenge upon the Iranian hostage-takers would be 444 days of compulsory listening to a medley of ‘Ritual’ and ‘The Gates of Delirium.’”

Stereo Review In Review: April 1979

Yesterday was the last day of classes. I still have finals to write–and of course grade–but maybe I’m spying a tiny light at the end of my tunnel. Enough, at least, to feel like I can take a tiny break to squeeze in another look back at an issue of my old pal Stereo Review. This one was thoroughly enjoyable, I must say.

Articles
Steve Simels Talks to Frank Zappa
Zappa takes on Saturday Night Live, rock criticism, the charge of being condescending to his fans, and trying to work with orchestras. You learn a lot about the man by reading these extended quotes. Way worth a read.

A Career Retrospective of the Bee Gees, by Noel Coppage
Some select quotes: 
–“Despite their assertion, ‘Words are all I have to take your heart away,’ the Bee Gees did not have—and still do not have—much of a way with words…(w)hat they really had were melodies, good, old-time, straight, lush ones. What they needed was what they’ve got now, an audience that’s not into words.”
–“(Barry) has been quoted as saying, ‘I figure there are about a dozen ways to use falsetto that have never been tried before. Believe me, I’m going to find every last one of them.’ I believe him.”
–“Changing times are the biggest threat to the Bee Gees’ lofty status. The kind of style that culminated in the Saturday Night Fever music…more than likely won’t last.”

Our reviewers this go-round are Chris Albertson, Edward Buxbaum, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance, plus a special guest appearance.

Best of the Month
–The Grateful Dead, Shakedown Street (NC) “(T)he closest to spontaneity they’ve come in a long time.”
–Peabo Bryson, Crosswinds (PG) “…he is bound…to give at least a few well-known performers a run for their money if he continues to jog so stylishly along this exceptionally promising track.”
–Helen Merrill, Something Special (PR) “…one of those timeless, priceless, classic recordings that will be reappearing again and again through the years…”

Recordings of Special Merit
Rock/Pop/Country/Soul:
–Steve Forbert, Alive on Arrival (SS) “…the first New Wave folkie…Someone to watch.”
–The J. Geils Band, Sanctuary (JV)
–Bob Marley and the Wailers, Babylon By Bus (PG)
–The Neville Brothers, S/T (JV) “(They) provide some fine examples of the charm, ease, and lilt that results when the New Orleans attitude is applied to commercial pop.”

Disco:
–Dan Hartman, Instant Replay (EB)
–Side Effect, Rainbow Visions (PG)
–The Three Degrees, New Dimensions (EB)

Theater/Films:
–Noel Coward and Mary Martin, Together with Music (PK)
Too Many Girls (PK)

Jazz:
–Toshiko Akiyoshi, Finesse (CA)
–Louie Bellson, Prime Time (PR)

Featured Rock/Pop Reviews
–Tonio K., Life in the Foodchain (SS) “…I think I’ll have to take back my earlier disclaimer: this is the greatest album ever recorded.”  Definitely recall this review–you’ll want to read it; Simels also picked Foodchain as one of the Best of the Year in the February 1980 issue. The question remains: would I have bought it had I ever seen it in a store?
–Peter Allen, I Could Have Been a Sailor (PR) Astute readers will recall that Allen also had a featured review in last month’s March 1978 post. Reilly really thought a lot of Allen’s music; when I was looking through April issues trying to pick one, I saw another featured review in 1981.
–The Bee Gees, Spirits Having Flown (SS and NC give separate reviews)  Quite the attention being lavished on the Brothers Gibb in this one! Simels’s take was the inspiration for this sketch (wish I could give proper credit to whoever LP is):

–Alice Cooper, From the Inside (NC)
–George Harrison, S/T, and McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman, ST (SS)  Simels pans ‘em both: “Although George’s record is a tepid bore trying to be as inoffensive and suitable for FM as possible, McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman is the most unconscionable sellout in recent memory.”
–Peter Tosh, Bush Doctor (Lester Bangs)  More claims of selling out. “…if the drivel like the stuff quoted at the end of the preceding paragraph doesn’t drive you straight into the Babylonian arms of “Boogie Oogie Oogie” disco, then nothing will.”
Yiddish Folk Songs and Mazltov! (PK)
–Four compilations from the 50s and 60s on the Pacific Jazz label (CA)

Selected Other LPs Reviewed
–Neil Diamond, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers (PR)
–Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Love Beach (SS)
–Patrick Moraz, S/T (JV) “It is appropriate for Moraz to join (the Moody Blues), since he specializes in the presumptuous audio goo and the pompous, naïve abstract moralizing that originally made the Moodies successful.”
–Peaches and Herb, 2 Hot (PG)
–Pointer Sisters, Energy (PG)
–Kenny Rogers, The Gambler (PR)
–Todd Rundgren, Back to the Bars (NC)
–Tanya Tucker, TNT (PR) “The Mrs. made me burn the record right in front of her eyes. (Still got the album cover though—out in the tool shed.)”