Stereo Review in Review: March 1978

Gonna sneak this month’s issue in under the wire. This is a fun one; you can take a look at the whole thing here; credit once again goes to americanradiohistory.com.

Articles
Semi-Pro Recording: How to Make Your Own Master Tapes, Vincent Ficara and Peter Ponzol

How to Get Into the Music Business, Rick Mitz
Includes a reading list—books and periodicals about songwriting, along with trade magazines. We also get “Advice from the Experts,” including Clive Davis, the pres and vice-pres of Chappell Music, the late Johnny Mercer, and 28-year old Tommy Mottola, already managing Hall and Oates. What does the future-and-now-once Mr. Mariah Carey have to say? “The number-one thing I listen for in a tape is the songs. They are the essence and the heart of what’s going to become a career…a great visual image and the ability to excite and turn on an audience—those are the other qualities I look for…personally, I would rather hear the raw vocal and piano or guitar because I want to hear the song.”

I also learned that Mottola really is being name-checked in “Cherchez la Femme,” by Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band. I’ve been wondering for several years now if that was just coincidence, but it turns out he was their manager, too.

Cassette Tape Progress: One Expert’s View of Past, Present, and Future Developments, Robert Donadio
Advances in ferric oxide and chromium dioxide tapes, and what might be next (pure metal? digital tape?).

On to the musical highlights—I’ve pulled a few choice quotes this time. Our reviewers are Chris Albertson, Edward Buxbaum, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.

Best of the Month
Earth, Wind and Fire, All ‘n All  (PG)
Hank Williams Jr., The New South (NC)
Lou Rawls, When You Hear Lou, You’ve Heard It All (PR)

Recordings of Special Merit
Rock/Pop/Country/Soul:
Ashford and Simpson, Send It (PG)
John Denver, I Want to Live (NC)
Electric Light Orchestra, Out of the Blue (JV)
Tommy James, Midnight Rider (JV)
Rick Nelson, Intakes (NC)
Esther Phillips, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby (PG)
Queen, News of the World (JV)
Paul Simon, Greatest Hits, Etc. (JV)
Rod Stewart, Foot Loose and Fancy Free (NC) [“This one, in fact, is set up something like a vintage Rolling Stones record: something a little gross, like ‘Fat Legs,’ (sic) to get your attention…”]
Neil Young, Decade (SS)
Flat Picking Guitar Festival (NC)

Jazz:
George Barnes, Blues Goiing Up (CA)
Art Blakey, The Finest of Art Blakey Big Band (CA)
Dexter Gordon, Sophisticated Giant (CA)
Mike Nock, Almanac (CA)
Randy Weston, Randy Weston (CA)

Featured Rock/Pop/Country/Soul/Jazz Reviews
Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True (SS) [“…the influences are so thoroughly digested, even at this early stage in his career…” “…his lyrics…are the most cruelly, tellingly misanthropic broadsides since middle-period Dylan.”]
Don McLean, Prime Time (PR)
Peter Allen, It Is Time for Peter Allen (PR)
Dolly Parton, Here You Come Again/Porter Wagoner, Porter (NC)
Donna Summer, Once Upon a Time (EB)
Miles Davis/Tadd Dameron, The Miles Davis/Tadd Dameron Quintet in Paris, International Festival de Jazz, May 1949 (CA)

Selected Other LPs Reviewed
Beatles, Love Songs (JV)
David Bowie, Heroes (SS)
Natalie Cole, Thankful (PR)
Joni Mitchell, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (NC)
Talking Heads, 77 (JV) [“…it has still to be demonstrated that punk/New Wave is either musically or commercially important.” “…though they try hard it is doubtful that this album would ever have been released without the punk hype.”]
Tammy Wynette, One of a Kind (NC)

Stereo Review In Review: February 1984

After I left for college, carving out time to comb through the newest issue of Stereo Review was definitely a part of my roughly monthly weekend trips home. This one (edit to give credit: screenshots and info are all courtesy of americanradiohistory.com) arrived during my parents’ first winter after moving ten miles north on I-75 to Florence, where they’d live the rest of their lives. What was inside?

The One and Only Frank Sinatra, by Gary Giddins
The article is accompanied by quotes from various vocal luminaries, including Mabel Mercer, Pavarotti, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, and Sammy Davis, Jr. Elsewhere in the issue: the magazine’s cover (which feels a little familiar) features an Al Hirschfield portrait of Sinatra, and the Chairman receives SR’s lifetime achievement award.

Compact Discs on the Warner/Elektra/Atlantic Labels, by Chris Albertson
Okay, this occupies just one page, but it’s worth separating out. CDs weren’t on my radar one whit at this moment—in fact, it was only in February of 1984 that I began avidly buying vinyl LPs—but here they come.  The first two paragraphs of Albertson’s write-up:

Among WEA’s first generation of releases: Ronstadt, Nicks, Benson, Jarreau, and Talking Heads.

Record of the Year Awards for 1983
Every February SR picked 12 Records of the Year, and about twice as many Honorable Mentions. They’re generally split half-and-half between classical and not; the non-classical picks for the year that had just past were:

Records of the Year
Michael Jackson, Thriller
Mark Knopfler, Local Hero
Susannah McCorkle, The People That You Never Get to Love
Wynton Marsalis, Think of One
The Police, Synchronicity
Richard Thompson, Hand of Kindness

If there’s anything from this issue that rings a bell today, it’s the two-page spread featuring pictures of those album covers.

Honorable Mention
Joan Baez, Very Early Joan
David Bowie, Let’s Dance
Earl Thomas Conley, Don’t Make It Easy for Me
Thomas Dolby, Blinded by Science
Bob Dylan, Infidels
Donald Fagen, The Nightfly
Liz Meyer, Once a Day
Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Love Over and Over
Graham Parker, The Real Macaw
Prince, 1999
Lou Reed, Legendary Hearts
Rolling Stones, Under Cover

I’m not going to comment, except to say it feels like there are a lot of critical darlings here.

On to what’s reviewed… I won’t include a picture of the list of reviewers each time, but there had been a few changes in personnel in the four years following last month’s January 1980 feature.

Alanna Nash had taken over the country side of things from Noel Coppage; disco reviewer Edward Buxbaum was long gone; and Mark Peel had come on board for mainstream rock. My recollection is that Peel seemed to fancy himself a provocateur.

Best of the Month
Ricky Skaggs, Don’t Cheat in Our Hometown  (AN)
Was (Not Was), Born to Laugh at Tornadoes (SS)
David Murray Octet, Murray’s Steps (CA)

Recordings of Special Merit
Rock/Pop/Country/Soul:
Junior, Inside Looking Out (PG)
Huey Lewis and the News, Sports (JV)
Rufus and Chaka Khan, Live—Stompin’ at the Savoy (PG)
The Whites, Old Familiar Feeling (AN)
X, More Fun in the New World (SS)

Jazz:
Dave Frishberg Trio, The Dave Frishberg Songbook, Volume Two (CA)
Loonis McGlohon, Loonis in London (PR)
Mark Morganelli, Live on Broadway (CA)
George Russell, Live in an American Time Spiral (CA)
The Henry Threadgill Sextet, Just the Facts and Pass the Bucket (CA)

Featured Rock/Pop/Country/Soul Reviews
John Anderson, All the People Are Talkin’ (AN)
Jennifer Holliday, Feel My Soul (PG)
Mental As Anything, Creatures of Leisure (MP)
Marty Robbins, A Lifetime of Song, 1951-1982 (AN)
Barbra Streisand, Yentl (PR)

Selected Other LPs Reviewed
Daryl Hall and John Oates, Rock ‘n Soul Part 1 (JV)
Paul McCartney, Pipes of Peace (JV)
John Cougar Mellencamp, Uh-Huh (MP absolutely strips the bark off of JCM)
Midnight Star, No Parking on the Dance Floor (CA)
Anne Murray, A Little Good News (PR)
Spyro Gyra, City Kids (MP)

Finally, a little music. Here’s a splendid cover of a Rupert Holmes track from Partners in Crime. McCorkle lost a battle with depression in 2001.

I know almost nothing of Liz Meyer: from DC, spent most of her years in Europe forging a country/bluegrass career. She died of cancer in late 2011.

And a little Aussie rock. Continuing what turned into a theme, Greedy Smith, lead vocalist in MAA’s heyday, passed away this past December.

I’m guessing there’ll be a trip back to the 70s for next month’s featured issue.

Stereo Review In Review: January 1980

I don’t think that my father exactly fancied himself an audiophile, but he did purchase a decent stereo system around the end of 1973, complete with receiver, turntable, reel-to-reel, and speakers. He’d been buying vinyl since before I was born, both classical and rock; we had several shelves stuffed full with LPs in our basement. He took meticulous care of all of it, including carefully dusting records off both before and after playing them (a trait I did not remotely inherit from him). As I got older and became more interested in music myself, I took notice of a stack of Stereo Review magazines in the basket we used to keep our periodicals (mixed in with Mom’s Good Housekeeping, no doubt). I don’t know if Dad started his subscription for the equipment or music reviews, but by the time I was 12 or 13 I became all about reading the latter.

Sometime in the last couple of years, americanradiohistory.com added scans of copies of Stereo Review to their archives; I’ve referenced a few of these in posts already. Toward the end of last year, I decided I would begin a monthly feature in which I take a look at highlights in an issue of the current month selected from the period I was a faithful reader (approximately 1977-86). I don’t have a real feel yet for the form this should take, but we’re going to wheel something out today anyway and see where it leads. The inaugural post in this series comes from 40 years ago. Drumroll, please…

The stable of reviewers changed some over the years, but these are names I mostly recognize. Chris Albertson did jazz, Noel Coppage generally covered country, and Phyl Garland mostly did R&B. Peter Reilly and Joel Vance got the rock/pop albums that Steve Simels didn’t want (or at least that’s how it seemed). To be honest, I’d forgotten that SR had a Disco section for a while, so Edward Buxbaum doesn’t ring a bell; neither does Paul Kresh, and I couldn’t immediately tell what he did in this issue.

Articles
Pop Music in the Eighties, by Lester Bangs
Bangs may be best known now for being name-checked in “It’s the End of the World As We Know It,” but in his time he was a highly regarded, if mercurial, rock critic. I don’t recall reading any of his stuff prior to his death in March of 1982, though I certainly had heard the name. Here, he’s trying to predict the future of various genres of popular music. Parts of his forecast are laughably wrong, while others feel prescient. Here’s a taste; click on the link a couple paragraphs up and go to page 74 if you’re interested in checking out more. (I don’t know that I could have lived on a steady diet of his writing, I’ll confess.)

Alanna Nash interviews Charlie Daniels
Nash had already written a Dolly Parton biography by this time; later she’d go on to pen several books about the life of Elvis Presley. I know of her primarily because she eventually took over Coppage’s country beat in the reviews.

She mentions in the article that her conversation with Daniels took place in a hotel room in Lexington, KY (a bit of internet sleuthing indicates the CDB played Rupp Arena on 8/26/79); Nash is a Louisville native, so maybe she was still based there at the time. My main takeaways from the piece: Daniels considers his music both very simple and very uncategorizable (don’t call him country), and he says one shouldn’t view all Southern music bands as a monolith. It’s interesting enough, and starts on page 80.

Stereo Review gave extensive coverage to both classical and popular music. Each month, they chose four or five recent releases as Best of the Month (two of them popular), flagged numerous others as a Recording of Special Merit, and wrote a few lengthier reviews, often for well-established acts or promising newcomers.

Obviously, we’re going to be strictly popular here. This time out, I’m simply going to list the highlights; I may include snippets from reviews in future installments. I’ll admit that several of their picks are completely unfamiliar, but maybe I can take this as an opportunity for some long-overdue investigation. Initials refer to the reviewer, natch. (Here’s the link again, if you want to check anything out. BofM starts on page 85, while popular reviews begin on page 116.)

Best of the Month
Bette Midler, Thighs and Whispers  (PR)
Joe Jackson, I’m the Man (SS)

Recordings of Special Merit
Rock/Pop/Country:
Phil Everly, Living Alone (NC)
Steve Forbert, Jackrabbit Slim (NC)
Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Bros. Band, Straight Ahead (NC)
Hall and Oates, X-Static (PG)
The Osborne Bros. and Mac Wiseman, The Essential Bluegrass Album (NC)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Damn the Torpedoes (SS)
Rose Royce, Rainbow Connection IV (PG)
Sweet Inspirations, Hot Butterfly (PG)
Tom Verlaine, S/T (SS)

Disco:
Dante’s Inferno, S/T (EB)
The Duncan Sisters, S/T (EB)

Jazz:
Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio, Dedications (CA)
Joanne Brackeen, Keyed In (CA)
Shelly Manne, French Concert (CA)
Dave McKenna/Scott Hamilton/Jake Hanna, No Bass Hit (CA)
Buster Williams, Heartbeat (CA)

Featured Lengthier Rock/Pop Reviews
The Boomtown Rats, The Fine Art of Surfacing (SS)
Jimmy Buffett, Volcano (PR)
Fleetwood Mac, Tusk (NC)

Selected Other LPs Reviewed
Herb Alpert, Rise (PR)
Cheap Trick, Dream Police (SS)
Foreigner, Head Games (JV)
Crystal Gayle, Miss the Mississippi (NC)
Barry Manilow, One Voice (PR)
Weather Report, 8:30 (JV)

I carry around in my head recollections of a modest number of the reviews I encountered in SR–if there’s anything from this issue I remotely remember, it’s the Petty.

We’ll close with a few music selections from the Special Merit listings that are totally new to me. Those horizons won’t expand on their own…