Stereo Review In Review: June 1977

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…

Article
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.”

Featured Reviews
–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.

Stereo Review In Review: May 1978

At fourteen, I was evidently too young to appreciate, to virtually any extent, music outside of what I heard on Top 40 radio. Forty-three years later, the education continues…

Articles
Loft Jazz, by Chris Albertson
Albertson chronicles the developing jazz scene in NYC as it migrated from 52nd Street to lofts in the SoHo district near Greenwich Village, and surveys a five-LP recent release called Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions.

How to Read a Record Jacket, by Steve Simels
Dripping with sarcasm, Simels attempts to decode the significance of all the terminology in liner notes, as their length had exploded over the past decade. Here are two snippets that give you a taste. 1) Producer: “All in all, however, be he hack, artiste, skilled technician, or visionary, his basic function is to sit in the control room and nod knowingly after the musicians have finished a take.” 2) Background Vocals: “This particularly odious form of cronyism was originally pioneered by Stephen Stills, who once not only recorded a chorus consisting of David Crosby, Graham Nash, Joni Mitchell, John Sebastian, and Mama Cass Elliot, but somehow managed to get all to sound like clones of himself.”

This month’s reviewers are Chris Albertson, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance. There’s lots to cover, so let’s get to it.

Best of the Month
–Art Garfunkel, Watermark (PR) “Garfunkel has exactly the right spare, intelligent vocal style for (Jimmy) Webb’s intense, deeply felt lyrics and the nonchalant but enormously secure musicianship the elusive music demands.”
–Gordon Lightfoot, Endless Wire (NC) “…his rockingest album yet…(h)is songwriting is everywhere crafty and in spots exceptionally bright.”
–Jay McShann, The Last of the Blue Devils (CA) “…certainly among the last of a vanishing breed of musicians whose performances are designed to stir the soul and make the feet stomp…”

Recordings of Special Merit
Pop/Rock/Soul/Country:
–Blossom Dearie, Winchester in Apple Blossom Time (PR) “Like a new book by Jean Rhys or a new sculpture by Louise Nevelson, a new album from Blossom is a welcome reminder that there is still civilized, urbane life on this planet…” Maybe like me, you know Dearie best as the singer of “Figure Eight” or “Unpack Your Adjectives”—seems it’s high time I diversify that portfolio. (Schoolhouse Rock asides: I have it in my head that “Figure Eight” was the first of those shorts I ever saw—it was almost certainly my introduction to the infinity symbol. And it’s interesting enough that a little calculus knowledge is used in “Unpack Your Adjectives” as a sign of being brainy.)

–Al Green, The Belle Album (PG) “Admittedly, some of his recent albums have bogged down in banality, but he has broken out of that slump with this one, which should rank among his finest…ironically, the most danceable tracks are the more religious ones.”
–Anne Murray, Let’s Keep It That Way (NC) “Thematically, the album is not focused at all, but sonically (producer Jim Ed) Norman has pointed everything toward the clear and beautiful tones Anne Murray makes.”
–Roomful of Blues, S/T (JV) “…like most rhythm-and-blues combos of the era they re-create, Roomful of Blues combines barrel-house slugging power with a concern for jazz.”

Jazz:
–Double Image, S/T (CA) “…a cross between Balinese music and that of the late Modern Jazz Quartet.”
–Bill Evans, Alone (Again) (CA) “Evans doesn’t just play a tune; he caresses it, embellishes it, and turns it into a new and very personal experience.”
–Charlie Haden, The Golden Number (CA) Four duets, with Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, and Hampton Hawes.
–Charles Mingus, Three or Four Shades of Blues (CA) “Mingus has never moved with commercial trends…which is one reason his music endures.”

Featured Reviews
–Roberta Flack, Blue Lights in the Basement (PG) “There are some jewel-like moments on it, precious and shimmering, but involvement and depth of feeling seem to be missing almost throughout.”
–Tom T. Hall, New Train—Same Rider and Waylon Jennings/Willie Nelson, Waylon & Willie (NC) “Taken together, these albums suggest that country music’s relationship to the world beyond its strongholds is much less predictable now than it was a few years ago…both appeal more to people who don’t know the artists than to people who do.”
The King and I (PK) “…the record so adroitly blends dialogue, ballads, and spectacular choruses that one gets the feeling of attending a real performance rather than of listening to a series of spliced-together excerpts from it.”
Saturday Night Fever (PG) “The music here has an unflagging thrust, yet it is sufficiently varied in style, mood, and instrumentation to transcend the trite strictures commonly associated with disco.”
The Smithsonian Collection (PK) An overview of the first three musical comedy selections in the series: Ziegfeld Follies of 1919, the Gershwins’ Lady, Be Good! (featuring Fred and Adele Astaire), and Cole Porter’s Anything Goes.
–Muddy Waters, I’m Ready (JV) “Waters proves that whatever the artfulness of the blues—and it is considerable—it derives not from ‘artistic’ pretensions but from professional entertainers’ need to please their audiences.”
–Warren Zevon, Excitable Boy (SS) “…gives you the guitar raunch of the Rolling Stones, the wit and verbal facility of Randy Newman…and some fantasies that make Elvis Costello’s seem as mundane as Barry Manilow’s.”

Other Disks Reviewed
–Baby Grand, S/T (JV) “Once in a while it sounds as though a song and a performance are going to amount to something, but…alas, alas, ‘almost’ is a sad and final word.”
–Chet Baker, You Can’t Go Home Again (CA) “Except for one selection, this album is a disappointing, formula-ridden echo of the CTI sound that buried the artistry of so many fine jazz soloists over the past few years.”
–Eric Clapton, Slowhand (NC) “Clapton’s vocals have gotten even craggier and mellower, and I think I wish they were mixed a little louder here…maybe what I really want is for Clapton…to sing out, as in away from one’s own chest, which is where he seems to aim some of this.”
–Randy Crawford, Miss Randy Crawford (JV) “…early Aretha in style and bubbly all the way.”
–Doonesbury’s Jimmy Thudpucker, Greatest Hits (JV) “The album is a satire not only on the superstar figure, eager and kid-pompous song-writing, and the studio world but on the pop music audience itself…but the satire is so accurate that it occasionally becomes what it is intended to ridicule.”
–The Emotions, Sunshine (PG) “This material was apparently pressed by Stax years ago, probably between 1971 and 1974…but (it) sounds amazingly fresh.”
–Judy Garland, The Wit and Wonder of Judy Garland (PK) “It all makes one miss Judy Garland even more, for in her untranquilized moments she was not only a clever woman but a very funny one.”
–Leif Garrett, S/T (PR) “As is usual in most such cases, voice and technique are almost nonexistent, but the production by Mike Lloyd is as artful and cosmetic as a pimple pencil.”
–Andrew Gold, All This and Heaven Too (SS) “…indefensible, a totally tuneless exercise that seems to exist for no other reason than to allow him to demonstrate a bit of a Beatles fetish.”
–Emmylou Harris, Quarter Moon in a Ten-Cent Town (NC) “The slant I have on (this album) is that too many of (the songs) she chose for it suit her image rather than challenging her to grow as a singer. But she is growing anyway. And she is already one of the best.”
–Rupert Holmes, Pursuit of Happiness (NC) “Altogether—and the melodies, arrangements, and soft-spoken vocals do this more than the lyrics—Pursuit of Happiness seems much too accepting of the Way It Is to be coming from the kind of intellect Holmes apparently has.”
–The Jam, This Is the Modern World (SS) “There are, after all, plenty of windy bores on the side of the angels. The Jam isn’t quite that bad, but, with two albums down, it’s beginning to look like they will be.”
–Taj Mahal, Evolution (The Most Recent) (JV) “At times in his various recordings, Mahal has seemed alienated from his listeners and resentful of having to perform for them…In Evolution he’s an entertainer.”
–Meco, Encounters of Every Kind (Edward Buxbaum) “It’s like dancing through a space-time travelogue, for these are very ‘visual’ cuts, with the various settings evoked by appropriate music and sound effects.”

Stereo Review In Review: April 1984

At this juncture, SR was in the process of giving itself a design makeover. This turned out to be the final issue to include Recordings of Special Merit; featured reviews were also about to become much less of a thing. What were the last albums to get the RSM designation? You’re about to find out.

Articles
–The Compact Disc Bandwagon, by Christie Barter
EMI is now issuing CDs! And RCA is the first to put out a new album simultaneously on LP, cassette, and CD (the Eurythmics’ Touch).

–Musicals on Video, by Louis Meredith
New home-release tapes of A Star Is Born (Garland/Mason edition), A Hard Day’s Night, and (of all things) Heaven’s Gate get the thumbs-up from LM.

This month’s reviewers are Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance. We also have Video Reviews from Meredith, even though he still appears to be a free-lancer at this point.

Best of the Month
–Debbie Campbell, Two Hearts (AN) “…serves not only as a showcase for Campbell’s impressive talents as a singer-songwriter but also as a sampling of the evolving ‘Tulsa Sound’…a stylish integration of country, blues, and rock.”
–The Parachute Club, S/T (MP) “…perhaps the first rock band of the Eighties to fuse an articulate social awareness, almost old-fashioned in its sincerity, with dance music as contemporary as Boy George.”
–The Pretenders, Learning to Crawl (MP) “Although (the album) seems almost mercilessly fixed on the tragic—aging, infidelity, loneliness, desertion, pain, decay—it’s not the ordeal you’d expect. Hynde manages to sidestep self-pity and seize upon a steely, passionate perceptiveness.” There’s a much less aggressive posture here than in their excellent debut disk, but LtC is easily my favorite Pretenders album.

Recordings of Special Merit
–The Everly Brothers, Reunion Concert (JV) Recorded at the Royal Albert Hall on 9/23/83. “Their vocal harmonies and attack are as crisp as ever, and their genial professionalism is infectious.”
–Stéphane Grappelli and Marc Fosset, Stephanova (JV) “(Grappelli’s) playing is as sturdy but intricate as a stained-glass design, and equally as colorful. Fosset, who plays with a touch of (Django) Reinhardt but does not imitate him, supports and complements Grappelli with a frisky delicacy.”
–John Hiatt, Riding with the King (SS) “The songs here will probably remind you of the early Elvis Costello because, apart from the obvious similarity in their voices, Hiatt too has a flair for word play, a good eye for the details of contemporary culture, and an attitude toward relationships that might be described as cautiously cynical. He’s a lot funnier than Costello, however…”
–Patti LaBelle, I’m in Love Again (PG) “This album has plenty for those who already like Patti LaBelle and even more for those aren’t certain that she appeals to their taste.”
–U2, Under a Blood Red Sky (MP) “What comes across (about The Edge’s work) in the studio as a powerful but primitive technique is transformed here…into something nearly archetypal—fiercely rhythmic, clean, agile…(This album) reveals U2 as a band capable of performances that match the intensity of their music.”
–Jane Voss and Hoyle Osborne, Pullin’ Through (AN) “…more than just a deftly concocted mood-brightener—it’s a hot toddy for the soul.” There’s very little of Voss and Osborne on YouTube, so I took matters into my own hands: last week I went on eBay and purchased this LP as well as their previous album Get to the Heart (which had received a Best of the Year Honorable Mention in the February 1982 issue). I guess I’d classify them as retro, as in 1910s-30s retro. There’s a small band to accompany Osborne on piano and Voss on guitar (she does 80-90% of the singing, too). After one listen, I’d say Get to the Heart is the better album; how much you like either of them depends largely on how Voss’s voice strikes you. It’s entertaining stuff, but I think she over-stylizes at times, more often on Pullin’ Through. I don’t regret the purchases, however.

Featured Reviews
–Ian Anderson, Walk into Light (MP) “…rates as the musical shock of the year so far: Ian Anderson’s return from hysteria, brain intact.”
–Dick Hyman, Kitten on the Keys: The Music of Zez Confrey (JV) “(Hyman) plays the pieces with respect and good-natured understanding. Neither overly serious nor excessively frisky, he interprets Zez Confrey as a fully formed musician, which is what he was.”
–John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Milk and Honey and Heart Play: Unfinished Dialogue (MP) “The picture of Lennon that emerges is that of…a cowed husband sitting around in his pajamas, chin propped sadly into his palm, stirring his coffee and sighing into the late afternoon…Yoko Ono’s contributions are far more interesting, probably because…you don’t expect too much.”
–The Pointer Sisters, Break Out (PG) “The sound is enhanced by synthesizers and electronic everything, but the music overrides the gimmickry thanks to the songs’ captivating immediacy.”
–Larry Willoughby, Building Bridges (AN) Cousin Rodney Crowell produced this. “Willoughby is not nearly the poetic writer that Crowell is, but unlike so many others who operate in the mainstream of country music, he never allows his work to veer into cloying sentimentality.”
–PolyGram Re-releases Jazz Classics (CA) Albertson looks at albums from Holiday, Basie/Fitzgerald, and Gillespie, as well as an all-star affair recorded live at the Hollywood Bowl. All were originally released on the Verve label.

Other Disks Reviewed
–Irene Cara, What a Feelin’ (PG) “The best thing about this album is the cover photo of Cara, who is much lovelier than anything she sings here.”
–Duran Duran, Seven and the Ragged Tiger (CA) “Not only does one track sound like the next, but the whole album sounds like something you’ve heard before.”
–Echo and the Bunnymen, S/T (SS) “Only the truly superlative modern production clues you that you’re not listening to your big brother’s scratchy old Iron Butterfly records.”
–Larry Elgart, Hooked on Swing (PR) “Elgart still plays masterly saxophone…but I would prefer to hear him employ his talents without needless retro trappings.”
–Moby Grape, S/T (SS) “This album is a collection of extremely uninspired Seventies country-rock…could just as easily be Firefall or the Little River Band or any number of similar nonentities.”
–38 Special, Tour de Force (MP) “…further indication of its assimilation into the AOR mainstream…there’s a sameness, a generic quality…that caters to the unadventurous ear.”
–Utopia, Oblivion (JV) “…(Rundgren’s) humor here is, for the most part, so self-absorbed and morose that it’s not effective even as a black joke.”
–Luther Vandross, Busy Body (PG) “The trouble with this album, as with his two previous releases, is that he has relied too heavily on the least of his gifts (composing). It reaches true creative heights only when he is singing songs written by others.”

Video Reviews
–Elton John, Visions (LM) “…I’m happy to report that Elton’s goony charm remains intact throughout, but the songs simply do not support all the production gloss.”
Jazz in America (CA) [Featured Review] A look at somewhat recent releases from Dizzy Gilespie, Gerry Mulligan, and Max Roach.
Making Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ (LM) [Recording of Special Merit] “… this is an exciting release. For one thing, it doesn’t take itself particularly seriously. More important, Jackson comes off less as a performer than a force of nature..”
–The Men of Chippendales, Muscle Motion (LM) “Ostensibly, this is just another one of those workout programs…but it could turn out to the sleeper comedy video of the year.”
–Rod Stewart, Tonight He’s Yours (LM) “…doesn’t even have much to recommend it on the technical level. Stewart’s not in good voice, the shooting is routine or worse, and the sound suggests an unmixed off-the-board feed.”

Here are three of the tracks from Two Hearts. This is not Glen’s daughter, who spells her name Debby. Campbell passed away from cancer in early 2004. Could be another eBay purchase soon.

The Parachute Club lasted for a couple more albums before parting ways. This was a top 10 hit in Canada in the middle of 1983.

The story goes that Confrey was inspired by a literal kitten skittering across the piano.
One of the true highlights from Learning to Crawl. Bracing television performance here–wish I’d seen Chrissy in concert way back when.

Stereo Review In Review: March 1985

The usual lag between records landing in reviewers’ laps and magazines getting published and stuffed in subscribers’ mailboxes means that this time they’re looking at a number of releases from late in the previous year. Also, it’s our first peek at a feature that turned out to be not terribly long-lived.

Article
The Art of Tape Recording, by Ian G. Masters
My equipment was never good enough (nor were the cassettes) to be that concerned when I put together mix tapes, but, having made a few tapes down at WTLX while it was off the air, I have a definite appreciation for Masters’ advice on back-cueing when transferring from vinyl. Bonus points for including a paragraph on recording from the nascent Compact Disk medium.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Louis Meredith (see below), Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, Peter Reilly, and Steve Simels.

Best of the Month
–Earl Thomas Conley, Treadin’ Water (AN) “…about as perfect a modern country record as I ever expect to hear…if there were a Record of the Decade award, this one would get my vote.” I’ve listened to (parts of) the three #1 country songs on this album, and I’ll confess this just isn’t my style. What I thought was the best of the bunch is at the end of the post.
–Rickie Lee Jones, The Magazine (MP) “…a return to the kind of mean-street, juke-box world she created on Pirates, but with an important difference. The focus now is not on the denizens of some observed world, but on Rickie Lee Jones herself…” Picked up a cassette of this on the cheap about three years later. Absolutely adore “The Real End,” her last charting song (it peaked unjustly at #83 in October of 1984).

Other Disks Reviewed (* = featured review)
–Ashford and Simpson, Solid (CA) “…it is their best in a long time—and, considering their record, that’s high praise.”
–Philip Bailey, Chinese Wall (CA) “A little falsetto goes a long way with me, and I soon found my attention straying from the vocals to the back-up: faceless stuff that neither offends nor titillates.”
–Rosemary Clooney, The Music of Irving Berlin (CA) “…a graceful, articulate set that brings out the best in the ten Berlin tunes she caresses.”
–Culture Club, Waking Up with the House on Fire (MP) “…while it sports a somewhat richer, more elaborately arranged and polished quality, (it) lacks the strong songwriting and crisp energy of its predecessors.”
Electric Dreams soundtrack (MP) “This music is as false as the boy-girl-computer love triangle that’s the absurd premise of (the movie).”
Give My Regards to Broad Street soundtrack (SS) “To add insult to injury, (McCartney’s) remakes of Beatles tunes…have all the energy, conviction, and authority of a matinee performance of Beatlemania.”
–Al Jarreau, High Crime (PG) “The instrumentation is heavy on metallic synthesizer gimmicks and lean on melody, with no improvisation, and a raucous high-decibel wall of sound is hurled at the listener, so that most of the time Jarreau’s singing seems merely incidental.”
–*The Judds, Why Not Me (AN) “A singer of surprising maturity, (Wynonna) knows how to caress a sculptured melody, arouse a sleepy lyric, and belt one out when the need arises…one of the strongest country albums of the year.”
–Chaka Khan, I Feel for You (CA) “Kahn could be better presented, but (Arif) Mardin at least has her on the right track, especially in the title song…”
–The Kinks, Word of Mouth (SS) “It’s partially redeemed by Davies’s always inimitable singing but not by much else.”
–Anne Murray, Heart over Mind (PR) “Murray has chosen the broad mainstream of pop-vocal music as her performing arena, and within it she is one of its best practitioners.”
–REO Speedwagon, Wheels Are Turnin’ (MP) “REO Speedwagon is to rock what Southern Comfort is to drink—a little too sweet, a little too slick, a little too safe.”
–Romeo Void, Instincts (MP) “Instincts, a Stephen King novel on vinyl, comes as close to finding a musical voice for this macabre generation as any record in recent memory.”
–Sparks, Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat (SS) “…the tick-tock rhythms and synthesizer textures sound a lot less interesting than they did in the early Seventies when the Maels invented them (to give these guys their due, they’ve been an enormous unacknowledged influence on a lot of the New Wave), and at times the cutesy-poo stuff gets a tad out of hand.”
–Richard Thompson, Small Town Romance and Strict Tempo (SS) “Miss either of these at your peril.”
–UB-40, Geffery Morgan (MP) “…surely the angriest expression of this politically and socially concerned band yet released in this country.”
–Wham!, Make It Big (SS) “…the music here has a certain insincerity to it that undercuts the charm they seem to be striving for. Not a bad album, mind you, but I’d stick with the singles.”
–XTC, The Big Express (SS) “Too often they’re so concerned with getting the right odd sounds, with fragmenting meter and line, and with being ‘surprising’ that the songs—the reason we’re listening, after all—get lost.”
–*Frank Zappa, Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger and Them or Us (MP) “It may say less about Frank Zappa’s stature as a composer than about the state of modern music, but The Perfect Stranger is as inventive and intelligent a collection of contemporary chamber music as those of any currently active ‘serious’ composer…Them or Us is a vintage Zappa burlesque, a rude variety show during which the dirty old man casts his leering judgments over a rather predictable assortment of cultural icons and institutions…”

Video Reviews
Last year I looked at issues from February 1984 and August 1985, completely bypassing the fifteen-month period SR included a look at the burgeoning home video scene. Louis Meredith was brought on staff and contributed a few reviews each month, abetted by Albertson and Nash.
–Band Aid, Do They Know It’s Christmas? (LM) “This video is a straightforward documentary account of the recording sessions. The results, well intentioned as they may be, are only moderately entertaining. There’s an annoying air of self-congratulation about the whole business, reminiscent of what you used to see on the Jerry Lewis telethons…”
–Jefferson Starship, S/T (LM) “New depths of perfunctoriness are plumbed in the obligatory halfhearted rendering of the former classic ‘Somebody to Love,’ but even the band’s more recent material sounds, overall, either undernourished…or undernourished and petulant.”
–*Rock and Roll, The Early Days (LM) “Put together by some of the people who earlier gave us the Complete Beatles and Girl Groups videos, the program…gives you a real feeling for the sort of bolt-out-of-the-blue excitement that people experienced when rock-and-roll exploded the complacency of the Fifties.”
–The Rolling Stones, Video Rewind (LM) “Jet-set excess and middle age notwithstanding, this is a band not yet past its prime.”

Stereo Review In Review: February 1983

This was SR’s 25th anniversary issue. The monthly column from Editor-in-Chief William Livingstone traces changes in the magazine’s name (originally HiFi & Music Review, soon HiFi/Stereo Review, it finally shortened to simply Stereo Review in November 1969). He also anticipates the 50th anniversary issue in 2008; alas, just sixteen years later SR morphed into Sound & Vision.

Article
2008: A Sonic Odyssey, by Alan Lofft
Speaking of looks twenty-five years into the future, Lofft chats with some folks in the A/V development biz to get their takes on the evolution of how we will consume media. The opening quote, from an assistant GM at Matsushita, is a doozy: “We’ll have a small digital player with no moving parts and little plug-in memory modules, each with several hours of music stored in solid-state memory circuits. You could take the module in to a record dealer who would slip the cartridge into a machine, punch a code into the console, and thirty seconds later hand it back to you. You’d pay your bill and away you’d go. Furthermore, the original musical information would not be in the retail outlet; it would likely be down-linked by satellite from a central data bank.”

There are also quotes from execs on the Compact Disc (“At this point, it’s at least 50 per cent more expensive than a conventional disc…While it certainly has some advantages, it’s not clear to us in the industry that the large population of record buyers will necessarily see them.”) and HDTV (“Talk of HDTV seems to suggest that the present standard can’t permit a really good picture, and that is absolutely wrong. I bristle at the attention given HDTV when one is comparing it with what is a poor use of the current standard.”) Sounds like there’s some turf protection being attempted here…

If it’s a February issue, it must be time for SR’s:

Records of the Year
Cats (Original London Cast)
Marshall Crenshaw, S/T
Lena Horne, The Lady and Her Music
Wynton Marsalis, S/T
The Police, Ghost in the Machine
Richard and Linda Thompson, Shoot Out the Lights

and…

Honorable Mentions
Gary U.S. Bonds, On the Line
Aretha Franklin, Jump To It
The Griffith Park Collection, S/T
Billy Joel, The Nylon Curtain
Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Wise Guy
King Crimson, Beat
Cleo Laine and Dudley Moore, Smilin’ Through
Susannah McCorkle, The Music of Harry Warren
Merrily We Roll Along (Original Broadway Cast)
Mark Murphy, Bop for Kerouac
Dolly Parton, Heartbreak Express
Claudia Schmidt, Midwestern Heart
Sippie Wallace, Sippie

For almost the past decade, Stereo Review had also handed out a Certificate of Merit to a leading light in American music. This year’s award went to Eugene Ormandy.

Our reviewers are the usual suspects: Chris Albertson, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Mark Peel, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.

This is the penultimate appearance for Coppage, who’d actually passed away at the tender age of 44 in December 1982. I’ve found no mention of his untimely death in the SRs of early 1983; Alanna Nash simply took over his beat beginning with the April issue. Coppage is buried in his native Ohio County, Kentucky (which is neither near Ohio nor on the Ohio River; it is, however, adjacent to Muhlenberg County, home of the Everlys and a little mining town called Paradise). He’d spent his later years in New Hampshire; there’s a nice tribute to him in the January 1983 newsletter of the Monadnock Folklore Society.

Best of the Month
–The Roches, Keep On Doing (NC) “The Roches refer mainly to a world of their own creation; they are so far beyond borrowing that they’ve forgotten how.”
–Utopia, S/T (MP) “(The fifteen songs) run the gamut from head-bangers to tear-jerkers, and all sport hummable melodies, amusing lyrics, and smart arrangements.”

Featured Reviews
–Louis Armstrong and Roy Eldridge, Jazz Masterpieces and Roy Eldridge, The Early Years (CA) “Eldridge (on the former) continues to bear traces of Armstrong’s early influence, but he developed a highly individual style in the Thirties, a style that the young Dizzy Gillespie used to emulate with confusing perfection.”
–Peter Gabriel, Security (MP) “…ambitious, original, and profound. Fusing one of man’s oldest art forms, ritual drumming, with state-of-the-art electronics, Gabriel has transposed the elemental rhythms and spirit of native African music into a modern, technological context.”
–Lionel Richie, S/T (PG) “With so much clutter, noise, and outright foolishness in popular music these days, Lionel Richie’s album debut is an event, and the record itself is one to treasure and listen to again and again.”
–Linda Ronstadt, Get Closer (NC) “Ronstadt’s eclecticism this time is more quirky than trendy, but her voice is great.”

Recordings of Special Merit
Rock/Soul/Country:
–Daryl Hall and John Oates, H2O (SS) “I miss the exhilarating sense of artists hitting their stride that characterized their last two (LPs). Yet…even the throwaways are serenely well crafted.”
–Kool and the Gang, As One (PG) “Some records are bathed in such a happy spirit that listening to them is like taking a short, revitalizing vacation…If you can’t afford to travel, play this record instead.”
–Iggy Pop, Zombie Birdhouse (MP) “I guess you could call (this) Iggy Pop’s vision of the global village: not a world united by benevolent technology but a savage place where the first law is eat or be eaten and whose natives carry on their backs not baskets but TV sets.”
–Luther Vandross, Forever, For Always, For Love (PG) “All the elements blend with inconspicuous ease. Vandross suggests rather than shouts, making music that flows with a coolly sensual grace.”

Jazz:
–Monty Alexander, Ray Brown, and Herb Ellis, Triple Treat (CA) “…prepare yourself for a good taste of bubbly swing, some marvelous interplay, and a sound as rich and creamy as the three scoops of ice cream depicted on the cover.”
–Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society, Man Dance (CA) “But this is funk with substance, and if you have but an ounce of soul you will find it entrancing.”
–Tom Scott, Desire (PG) “(Scott) has had so much practice in mixing musical styles that it is no wonder he does it so well…this time around he has gone beyond gloss to produce a set that scintillates with lively tunes and gritty performances…”
–Jimmy Smith, Off the Top (CA) “No, this is Smith of the jazz man, surrounded by an elite group of his peers, swinging through an enduring no-charts session.”
–Spyro Gyra, Incognito (MP) “Neither visceral nor cerebral, Incognito…just glides effortlessly by on its spry, crafty melodies, surehanded arrangements, and flawless production. It covers a lot of musical terrain with maddening ease…”

Other Albums Reviewed
–Toni Basil, Word of Mouth (PR) “About a minute or so into this album…I got the feeling that (Basil’s) was a visual act. It would almost have to be, given the frantic convolutions of her vocal style.”
–Neil Diamond, Heartlight (NC) “There’s an interesting contrast here between how seriously Neil Diamond takes himself and how seriously the songs take anything.”
–Dire Straits, Love Over Gold (SS) “What’s worse, the man has clearly swallowed his rave reviews and now believes he has Something to Say…Knopfler’s guitar playing remains spectacular, but, given the hot air that surrounds it, it’s impossible to care.”
Fast Times At Ridgemont High soundtrack (SS) “…if this is the music that real kids actually listen to while they’re out raising hell, then we are probably nurturing a generation of accountants…It’s all inoffensive and utterly without quirks of any kind. Frankly, I’d rather play Pac-Man.”
–Jefferson Starship, Winds of Change (NC) “Most of the lyrics are the moon/June kind of thing Tin Pan Alley hacks were writing thirty years ago, and said hacks probably would have come up with better tunes.”
–David Lindley, Win This Record! (JV) “…the songs are a mixture of good times and a specialist’s whims. Too much of the album is given over to Caribbean rhythms and to Lindley’s own material, which is obscure, faintly paranoid, and dependent on the sexual slang of his circle of friends.”
–Diana Ross, Silk Electric (MP) “…another three-ring effort…that succeeds more often than it fails.”
–Steel Breeze, S/T (NC) “Most of these songs are all hook and no substance and rely heavily on synthesizers (you know how I feel about those), but these boys have still managed to fashion a catchy little sound of their own.”

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.”