Stereo Review In Review: December 1980

It wasn’t done on purpose, but I think this is the fifth time this year I picked an issue with a review of a George Benson album; the best has been saved for last. And I suppose it’s only fair that since Garfunkel has gotten two Best of the Month nods recently that Simon receives some positive recognition. Onward–let’s see what else is in this issue from forty-one years ago.

Article
Music for Christmas, by Richard Thompson and James Goodfriend
It’s a little late for this year, I realize, but the titles recommended include recordings by the Boston Camerata, the Boston Pops, the Carpenters, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, John Denver & the Muppets, Percy Faith, Johnny Mathis, and Andy Williams. One wonders what they might have selected forty years later…

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Irv Cohn, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.

Best of the Month
–George Benson, Give Me the Night (PG) “Instead of succumbing to the strident and repetitious excesses of pop funk (in the manner of, say, Herbie Hancock), he has applied his own standard of excellence to popular music, bringing it up to his artistic level.”
Cornelia Street: The Songwriters Exchange (NC) “But (folkie singer-songwriters) are still out there, those troubadours with their simple acoustic backing, and Stash Records has made a beautiful little album with some of them…” Coppage cites Rod MacDonald as the best of this bunch. The name was new to me, but he went to become one of the founders of the long-running Greenwich Village Folk Festival. The one artist appearing on the disk that I’ve heard of is Lucy Kaplansky.
–Paul Simon, One-Trick Pony (PR) “One song after another demonstrates Simon’s gift for seizing and holding up to the light those almost reflexive emotional conclusions about a person, a time, a place, or a relationship that any poetry, even on the pop level, must offer if it is going to communicate anything at all.”

Recordings of Special Merit
–Herb Alpert, Beyond (PR) “This is not an album for purists or musical weight-watchers, but it’s a lot of fun for us self-indulgent types.”
–Dexter Gordon, Landslide (CA) “…most intriguing because they are demonstrations of the influence the immediate musical environment can have on a seasoned player.”
–David Grisman, Quintet ’80 (NC) “A small, extremely agile combo using bluegrass instruments…plays little tunes that take the dangdest turns and jumps you ever heard.”
Honeysuckle Rose Soundtrack (NC) “…Nelson does dominate it, and he doesn’t just throw his reputation out there—he performs.”
–Ben E. King, Music Trance (PG) “Ben E. King is like a shot of aged bourbon; mellow in bouquet but still packing a mighty punch.”
–Donald Lambert, Harlem Stride Classics (CA) “The program is straight out of the repertoires of Fats Waller and James P. Johnson, two masters Lambert greatly admired…”
–Junie Morrison, Bread Alone (PG) “Morrison’s musical style is tastefully eclectic, with a cupful of funk, a jigger of pop, and just a dash of rhythmic and harmonic experimentation. At his best, he vaguely reminds me of the early Sly Stone…”
–John Otway, Deep Thought (SS) “It’s not for all tastes, to be sure, but if you’re the kind of weirdo who thought the Bonzo Dog Band was just too commercial, Otway may be your man.”
–Teddy Pendergrass, TP (PG) “Not since the days of the late Otis Redding has a male singer been capable of dredging up such delightfully uncontrollable gut responses.”
–Minnie Riperton, Love Lives Forever (PG) “…a bittersweet reminder of the treasure we lost with Riperton’s death.”
–Sam Rivers, Contrasts (CA) “This set will not disappoint the venturesome, but you don’t have to be that to enjoy it. It is a stunning rainbow of musical inclinations.”

Featured Reviews
–The B-52’s, Wild Planet (SS) “No, the punk theoreticians are right: America’s glory, her true Culture, is what we throw away, and so, to look for Significance in Wild Planet, to try to make either more or less than what it is, is completely to miss the point—which is, of course, simply ‘Which way to the drive-in?’”
–Chevy Chase, S/T (SS) “…this disc is unlikely to catch on with the Cheech and Chong crowd. But if there’s any justice, it will at least wind up as a cult favorite.”
–The Charlie Daniels Band, Full Moon (NC). “Since chauvinism seems to be as inevitable as death and politics, I guess we’re lucky to have a fellow as nice as Charlie working it into songs.”
–Cecil McBee, Compassion (CA) “The music is adventurous enough to satisfy any aural daredevil who has not completely lost his or her sense of beauty, yet all the basic jazz values have been preserved with due reverence.”
–Mabel Mercer, Echoes of My Life (William Livingstone) “The twenty-five songs included here are so well matched to her very special interpretative gifts that they sound as though she had written them herself, recollecting in tranquility some of the events from a rich and varied past.”
–Split Enz, True Colours (JV) “Their songs will etch themselves in your memory with or without laser technology.” (The vinyl contained laser-etched patterns.)
–Al Stewart, 24 Carrots (NC) “But all the songs here bear repeated listening, and, like Brueghel paintings, keep showing you little things you didn’t notice before.”
Times Square Soundtrack (SS) “Even if the soundtrack sells, it’s unlikely to be influential for the simple reason that it’s not a particularly exciting package; mainstream rock seems quite interesting by comparison.”

Other Discs Reviewed
–Pat Benatar, Crimes of Passion (NC) “Pat Benatar is more than just one kind of singer, however, even if this album repeatedly suggests she has more as a vocalist than she shows.”
–Rick James, Garden of Love (IC) “There’s a lot in these high-stepping cuts to please his established fans and plenty of very accessible music to appeal to new ones.”
–Ramsey Lewis, Routes (PR) “If Ramsey Lewis weren’t as gifted an instrumentalist as he is…he’d be hard put to survive the flashy chaos of this album.”
–Bob Marley and the Wailers, Uprising (PG) “…though everything on this new album sounds rather familiar, it is no less a pleasure to hear.”
–Martha and the Muffins, Metro Music (SS) “…what results when you take a bunch of bright, likable kids and lock them in a room with Roxy Music records for the duration of their adolescence.”
–The Statler Brothers, 10th Anniversary (NC) “It has a sort of retrospective quality despite its all-new material, for it puts together various examples of what the Statlers do.”
–Barbra Streisand, Guilty (PR) “Her Majesty is feeling playful this month and has decided it would be nice for subjects to hear her in a lighter mood than is her usual wont.”

Love the title track to this album, and this cut has much of the same joyous feel.
I need to go back and give 24 Carrots more attention.
Coppage called this Rod MacDonald track “the best new song I’ve heard in many moons.”
Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack helped finish this track after Riperton’s death.

Over the last two years I’ve examined in varying degrees twenty-four of the 143 issues of SR between November 1976 and September 1988. Strolling through my past in this fashion is immensely enjoyable—I’ve even bought a couple of issues off eBay for old times’ sake. There are plans to keep thumbing through the archives over at worldradiohistory.com, but my guess right now is that SRIR will become more of an occasional, rather than monthly, feature here going forward.

Later this week: we jump forward twelve months in time to begin a tour of three year-end charts from forty years ago.

Stereo Review In Review: November 1976

Hmmm…I wonder where they got the idea for repeating Linda’s name?

Perhaps my earliest clear memory associated with SR comes from this issue (the cover does ring a bell, but that’s not it). It’s likely the main reason I scooped a copy off of eBay back in the spring.

Articles
Neil Sedaka Comes Back, by Robert Windeler
Essentially a career-to-date overview in the span of two pages. Alas, Sedaka’s resurgence was practically over by the time the article went to press.

Linda Ronstadt Linda Ronstadt, by Noel Coppage
Coppage caught up with Ronstadt in Asheville, NC, prior to a show, and she talks at length about the benefits of getting older (“I’m more assertive, people don’t take advantage as much as they used to…and I have a much better sense of what I’m worth now. I mean as a person, not musically or successwise…), her take on other music (reggae is great, disco is not), and one pitfall of success (“…you’ve sort of priced yourself out of range for a relationship with most anybody, except for other people who as famous as you are and are equally neurotic, and you don’t want to have anything to do with them.”) Coppage is impressed: “She is one of the least guarded, least defensive persons, celebrated or not, I’ve talked with lately.”

He also reviews her latest, Hasten Down the Wind. “If one aspect of the recording does stand out, it’s the growth (she) is showing as a vocalist. Her phrasing is slowly but surely becoming exquisite, and the ornamentation she uses is less and less likely to be overdone…”

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Noel Coppage, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, and Joel Vance. Steve Simels wouldn’t appear as a reviewer until the March 1977 issue, but he’d been penning a monthly column for a few years by this time. The Pop Beat discusses at length Live at CBGB’s, a 2-LP showcase for hopeful up-and-comers that had played shows at the influential club over one weekend in June. In particular, Simels lifts up Mink DeVille, the Shirts, the Miamis, and the Laughing Dogs as acts to watch.

Best of the Month
–Carly Simon, Another Passenger (PR) I’m guessing I started rifling through Dad’s collection of SRs sometime in the second half of 1977. Fortunately, he hadn’t tossed older issues (immediately, anyway), so I got to examine issues that went back at least to this one. A paragraph from the review of Another Passenger made a deep impression, even if I didn’t fully understand it.

“This ability to deal honestly and directly with emotional life has always been one of Carly’s major strengths, and it permeates all her songs here.”
Vaudeville: Songs of the Great Ladies of the Musical Stage (PK) “Miss (Joan) Morris’ singing is, as I have suggested, perfection itself, and Mr. (William) Bolcom’s accompaniments flutter flatteringly around her like moths around a flame.”
–Doc Watson, Doc and the Boys (NC) “There’s not a lot of flashy flat-picking here, nor is the full-band sound cluttered. Watson has a good feel for balance…a good feel, in fact, for just about everything related to music.”

Recordings of Special Merit
Rock/Pop/Country/Soul:
–Tony Bennett, Ten Rodgers and Hart Songs (PR) “Tony Bennett’s expertly nonchalant recital here, beautifully produced and recorded, full of the ease and the assurance and the audible pleasure of an Old Pro reveling in his kind of material, is a fine tribute to the authentic immortals of the American theater.”
–Country Gazette, Live (NC) “These are not the hottest soloists you can find in old-time music…but they were playing off one another when these tapes were made, and the song selection is just goofy enough to work.”
–Flamin’ Groovies, Shake Some Action (JV) “The reconstituted group dresses a la mode 1964, in sedate suits, and their music reflects the same period…A lot of bands have attempted this approach, but few have done it so unselfconsciously and entertainingly.”
–Hickory Wind, Fresh Produce (NC) “…an impressive regional band now apparently attempting to go national, is from West (by God) Virginia…It’s all right with me if they go national, and it won’t hurt the nation, although I think this album could’ve been even better than it is.”
–Bobby Short, My Personal Property (PR) “He sings everything here with his customary perfect diction, his usual chic-beyond-chic phrasing, and his own obvious rapture at doing what he does so very, very well.”
–The Stills-Young Band, S/T (NC) “…all promises to be well if Stills and Young really can get along in the ego-testing job of co-fronting a band. They’ve aged and wised up some, of course, and they project such different personalities that you wonder if they won’t turn out to be complementary.”

Jazz:
–Anthony Braxton, Creative Orchestra Music 1976 (CA) “…confirms my belief that Anthony Braxton is one of the most important creators on the American music scene today.”
–James Dapogny, Piano Music of Ferdinand ‘Jelly Roll’ Morton (CA) “There is, of course, nothing like the real thing, but this comes closer than any previous attempt.”
–Earl Hines, Live at Buffalo (JV) “Like all Hines recordings, this album is an Event.”
–Sam Rivers/Dave Holland, S/T (CA) “This album, being on a small label, probably will not get as wide a distribution as Rivers’ previous releases, but it his best work to date: two masterly pieces of impressionistic playing by two uncompromising musicians.”

Featured Reviews
–Arista Re-releases of Jazz on the Savoy Label (CA) Eight double-LPs, from (among others) Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Erroll Garner, Cannonball Adderley, and John Coltrane/Wilbur Harrison. “All in all, this is a good set of releases containing some exceptionally fine performances. The mastering of the Forties material could have been better, and more thought could have gone into the planning…As it is, they are all certainly worth your attention.”
–John Denver, Spirit (William Anderson) “The Rule of Cool is very simple—Thou shalt not be moved, delighted, shocked, surprised, or, above all, enthusiastic, and if thou art thou shalt not show it—but John Denver behaves (far out!) as if he had never even heard of it.”
–Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, S/T (Paulette Weiss) “My feet and I agree: (this) is by far the most satisfying disco album we’ve heard yet. It may even acquire Best-Ever status if the world does indeed end shortly…At least I won’t go out with a whimper, but with a boom-chicka-boom.”
–Jane Olivor, First Night (James Goodfriend) “There are some gorgeous performances on this record, and no real duds, and what the performances reveal is that she isn’t limited to one kind of song or one kind of singing.”
Put the Hammer Down! (NC) A compilation of CB- and trucker-related tunes. “…I have no intention of buying a CB radio—in fact, I’d be happier if my local Radio Shack store had sold at least one fewer of those, the one that keeps broadcasting through my stereo equipment—but…I’ve been having a good time listening to this and imagining speed limits being broken and Smokey Bears worn to a frazzle all over the place…”

Other Disks Reviewed
–Aerosmith, Rocks (JV) “My friends, hear what I say. This album is/No more substantial than the hiss of fizz/Atop a gin and tonic. Listen to it;/You’ll agree that Aerosmith have blew it.”
–Alice Cooper, Alice Cooper Goes to Hell (PR) “There’s nothing much here for you unless you dig one-note showmanship and a threadbare idea.”
–Jon Anderson, Olias of Sunhillow (NC) “I don’t know whether to blame Herman Hesse or Stanley Kubrick for influencing these young men—most of whom seem to be associated with the rock group Yes—to do things like this, but there are two groups you can’t blame: musicians and English teachers.”
–George Benson, Breezin’ (JV) “(Benson) has a light touch and an airy, delicate way of playing that would be considerably more impressive, I suspect, if it weren’t compromised by the ‘pop-jazz’ settings of this album.”
–David Bowie, Changesonebowie (PR) “The world of cinema seems to have discovered in him the male equivalent of Hedy Lamarr, a glamorous sleepwalker, but Bowie on records is too often only a figment of some producer-promotor’s overwrought imagination.”
–Chicago, Chicago X (PR) “Just how long the public intends to keep on buying the same mild-mannered Muzak rock, release after release, is even more a puzzle than why Chicago keeps on recording it.”
–Nick Drake, Five Leaves Left (NC) “I can’t seem to find the atmosphere—time of day, proportion of shade to light, whatever—in which to drift with it. And I don’t know what else you’d do with it.”
–Jack Elliott, The Essential Jack Elliott (PK) “With a strong, true baritone, overflowing energy, and good humor in the face of even the grimmest material, Elliott carries on a worthy tradition…projecting everything he does with a zest and forthrightness that are enormously appealing.”
–Grateful Dead, Steal Your Face (NC) “Here, ironically, the live audience apparently influences the musicians to play the music rather than meander about refining it and generally being esoteric.”
–The Kinks, The Kinks’ Greatest Celluloid Heroes (PR) “Somehow the Seventies have made a lot of pop irreverence seem more like sour brattiness than healthy fun.”
–Steve Miller Band, Fly Like an Eagle (NC) “The thing about Steve Miller is, his hits drive me up the wall…’Take the Money and Run’ has me tearing hair I can’t afford to lose and ‘Rock’n Me’ sent me on a run to the Yellow Pages to look for a product to decontaminate one’s entire auditory system.”
–The Monkees, Greatest Hits (NC) “Anyway, you can use this record to make your hi-fi set sound like a little transistor radio. Or you can use it to strike matches as I’m doing.”
–Orleans, Waking and Dreaming (NC) “The songs here…are pretty good as pop songs go these days, and there are no serious technical flaws in the vocals or instrumentals, but juices are missing somewhere.”
–Graham Parker, Howlin’ Wind (JV) “Parker is so busy being a bluesman (even down to the dark glasses) that the fine musicians behind him almost have to sneak in their licks where they can—whenever he leaves room.”
–Cliff Richard, I’m Nearly Famous (PR) “…an album that finds him sounding pretty much the same as he always did—like a careful, well-rehearsed performer working ‘in the rock style’.”
–Esther Satterfield, The Need to Be (PR) “Problem is, like most young performers she pushes too hard and too long at the dramatically effective.”
–Peter Tosh, Legalize It (JV) “Music that is subservient to such narrow socio-political purposes is no more ‘music’ than are advertising ditties for margarine, automobiles, or toothpaste.”
–Jerry Jeff Walker, It’s a Good Night for Singing (NC) “Walker’s spontaneity is a blessing, but a lot more discipline could be activated without jeopardizing that.”

Stereo Review In Review: October 1982

I don’t intentionally pick issues that feature the same artists over and again, but nonetheless there are several repeat appearances here from just the last few installments in this series, including Gary U.S. Bonds, Fleetwood Mac, Susannah McCorkle, and August Darnell (he’ll be back next month, too). C’est la vie.

This is one of the first SRs to come out after I went off to college. I have no specific memories of leafing through it, though I likely would have done so by the time of my first Thanksgiving break. It’s pretty heavy on reviews, so perhaps we should just dig in.

Article
A Guide to Hi-Fi Furniture, by Carl W. Spencer
An overview of the latest/greatest in consoles and cabinets of various sizes, shapes, and materials, from full-wall to modular to standalone, from solid oak to acrylic. The article starts on page 71; the pictures are definitely fun.

Our reviewers this month are a typical bunch: Chris Albertson, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Mark Peel, Peter Reilly , Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.

Best of the Month
–Sippie Wallace, Sippie (JV) “It is rare today for a major label to release good—no, make that great—old-fashioned jazz lovingly performed in high style and recorded with excellent sound.” Wallace, eighty-three at the time of this recording, began singing professionally before World War I. Bonnie Raitt, who appears on Sippie, had been hanging with Wallace for about a decade at this point.
–Original Broadway Cast, Merrily We Roll Along (PR)  “…Sondheim’s music and lyrics again demonstrate his cool detachment from his characters, his generally dark and sorrowful view of the unsatisfying messes people can make of their lives.”

Recordings of Special Merit
Pop/Rock/R&B/Country:
–Gary U.S. Bonds, On the Line (JV) “The success of the Bonds/Springsteen association is based on their common experience as entertainers with years of boondocks one-nighters behind them.”
–The Gap Band, IV (PG) “The Gap Band promises to become the best vocal-instrumental group in Souldom since the Commodores were at their peak.”
–Genesis, Three Sides Live (MP) “Most of the songs are even more convincing here than in their original versions.”
–Juice Newton, Quiet Lies (NC) “She’s presented here roughly the same way that (Emmylou) Harris is, with vaguely country songs set to vaguely L.A.-rock arrangements, with evidence of good taste in both areas.”

Jazz:
–Dave Brubeck/Paul Desmond, S/T (CA) “…no serious lover of modern jazz should be without these historic sides.”
–Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, and Tony Williams, Third Plane (PG) “…a brilliant distillation of the music that these men, now recognized as among the main transmitters of the jazz tradition, once played as young Turks of the Sixties.”
–Al Cohn/Scott Hamilton/Buddy Tate, Tour de Force (JV) “The Tokyo crowd is enthusiastic, and understandably so. I hope this album sells as well as Toyotas do.”
–Earl Hines, Paris Session (JV) “…the greatest pianist in the history of jazz, bar none.”
–Thelonious Monk, The Thelonious Monk Memorial Album (CA) “…it is as much a parade of brilliant sidemen as it is a distillation of Monk’s own creativity during an important period in this career.”
–The New York-Montreux Connection, S/T (CA) “…offers lots of big names playing fine, even exciting jazz at the 1981 Montreux and Kool New York jazz festivals.”
–Muggsy Spanier, At Club Hangover, Volume 2 (JV) “Spanier was no genius, but he was surely special, gifted, and true to his own muse.”
–Phil Woods, Birds of a Feather (CA) “I have learned to expect fine things from the horn and imagination of Phil Woods, and…fine things are just what this album offers.”

Featured Reviews
–Rosemary Clooney, Sings the Music of Cole Porter (PR) “Rosemary Clooney, who has been demonstrating just how good a pop-jazz singer she is…now proves herself to be an elegant, easy stylist as well.”
–Randy Crawford, Windsong (PG) “For those who have been fortunate to follow her progress through the years, it should bring the warm glow of a promise fulfilled.”
–Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Wise Guy (CA) “This is urbanized island music full of sophisticated, thoroughly musical subtleties.”
–Epic’s Lost Soul, Volumes 1-3 (PG) “While this set does not satisfy the need for a comprehensive reissue of historic r-&-b recordings, it does serve to demonstrate how very much is lost each time a promising record is ignored.”
–Susannah McCorkle, The Music of Harry Warren (CA) “…McCorkle delivers the Warren material with tender loving care and respect.”

Other Disks Reviewed
–Air Supply, Now and Forever (PK) “…the music conveys a certain Outback innocence, even in its more urbane moments, that is rather appealing.”
–Blondie, The Hunter (NC) “It’s not always good, but at least it isn’t conservative.”
–Rosanne Cash, Somewhere in the Stars (NC) “There aren’t many veterans of three albums who have committed to vinyl as few clunkers as Rosanne Cash.”
–The Dukes of Hazzard (NC) “My kids—who have, thank God, just about outgrown the show—think the album is a bad joke. Much of it is.”
–Roberta Flack, I’m the One (CA) “This is Flack at her heavy-hearted best.”
–Fleetwood Mac, Mirage (SS) “I hasten to add, however, that this album’s lapses are not cases of the usual superstar indulgence. Fleetwood Mac remains of the few ensembles currently selling records in large quantities that doesn’t insult your intelligence…”
–Heart, Private Audition (JV) “The principal defect of the new album is their vocal stridency on the hard rockers; they sound like they’re having a tantrum.”
–Kansas, Vinyl Confessions (NC) “Most of this album is tuneless, inarticulate, repetitive, and boring. Apart from that…”
–Chuck Mangione, Love Notes (PK) “The sturdy, good-humored playing, full of repetition, is sometimes more numbing than entertaining.”
–Men At Work, Business As Usual (MP) “Men at Work would do well to take a vacation from the burden of ‘art’ and relax a bit.”
–The Steve Miller Band, Abracadabra (JV) “There’s no substance to it, but it is cleverly crafted pop…”
–The Alan Parsons Project, Eye in the Sky (NC) “…seems more than ever a poor man’s Pink Floyd. The style is grandiose, but the more you listen, the less you hear…”
–Queen, Hot Space (MP) “…apparently supposed to be Queen’s ‘funk’ album, but I don’t think that’s an adequate excuse for this whack over the head.”
–Kenny Rogers, Love Will Turn You Around (NC) “Since Rogers already had the middle of the performing road covered…I don’t see what’s to be gained by his taking up with middle-of-the-road material.”
–Patrice Rushen, Straight from the Heart (PG) “…makes it clear that Patrice Rushen’s real range is much greater than she has yet displayed.”
–Richard Simmons, Reach (PR) “I know that I’d have to become as huge as Orson Welles before I would even vaguely consider listening to Simmons’s hysteria-flecked whimsey again.”
–Donna Summer, S/T (Irv Cohn) “Three of the songs rank just behind her classics—a small percentage, perhaps, compared with her hit-packed albums of the past, but nothing to sneeze at.”
–Survivor, Eye of the Tiger (JV) “There’s nothing wrong with Survivor except that you’ve heard all their stuff before…”
–Thompson Twins, In the Name of Love (SS) “Nowhere on this album is there a detectable trace of emotion, sweat, or any human quality whatsoever.”
–X, Under the Big Black Sun (SS) “This band enjoys being miserable far too much for their own good, which makes them spiritually closer to the Eagles than to the Jefferson Airplane, and at least in my house that’s not a compliment.”

Stereo Review In Review: September 1986

SR’s last connection to the 1960s, at least on the popular side, fades away. Peter Reilly is on the masthead of reviewers, but there aren’t any contributions from him; after an almost twenty-year run, this is the final issue in which his name appears. Reilly came on board with the January 1967 issue, and the first review of his you’d have encountered was a rave of Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. (As it happens, Rex Reed also joined SR with that issue, though he lasted but a few years. I tweeted about Reed’s jaw-dropping Jan 67 take on Revolver last night.)

Article
The Basic Repertoire on Compact Disc, Part 1
The CD era was mature enough at this point to begin curating the best of what was out there, though this is strictly a classical affair. Going alphabetically by composer, Part 1 takes the reader from Bach through Mendelssohn. The second half appears in the October issue.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, and Steve Simels, with a future regular contributing a little.

Best of the Month
–Steve Earle, Guitar Town (SS) “His songs deal, in part, with traditional country themes—faithless lovers, the continuity of family life, poverty and hard times—but from a remarkably sophisticated and modern perspective, and he can be mordantly funny in a way that would never have occurred to, say, Ernest Tubb.”
–Tonio K., Romeo Unchained (SS) “…the kind of album that will sound good on MTV and make you think anyway.” Simels also references what had become an inside joke: he crowns each of K.’s releases as ‘the greatest album ever recorded.’ That habit continued through January 1999, SR’s final issue, where Simels gets to proclaim the same about Rodent Weekend ’76-’96 (Approximately).

Other Disks Reviewed (* = featured review)
–Anita Baker, Rapture (PG) “…possesses not only a remarkably lustrous voice but also the kind of taste and intelligence that mark her as one of the finest vocal interpreters to emerge in quite some time.”
–*Tony Bennett, The Art of Excellence (Roy Hemming) “…shows that Bennett…is still musically and expressively at the top of his form…”
–*Chuck Berry, Rock ‘n’ Roll Rarities (SS) “…brings together previously unreleased alternate takes and stereo remixes of some of the most familiar tunes in rock history and allows us to hear them as if they were spanking new.”
–The Blow Monkeys, Animal Magic (SS) “Here’s yet another act purveying the effete, post-disco British r-&-b that is all the rage these days, a music inhabiting a space somewhere between bad Culture Club and bad Spandau Ballet (the latter admittedly a redundancy).”
–George Clinton, R&B Skeletons in the Closet (MP) “…his manifesto against the evils of crossover—commercial tendencies that dilute, homogenize, and otherwise bleach funk of its essential nastiness.”
–Ornette Coleman and Pat Metheny, Song X (CA) “…the two principals exhibit a mutual rapport that simply begs for further collaboration.”
–The Forester Sisters, Perfume, Ribbons and Pearls (AN) “…neither as progressive as the Judds nor as traditional as the Whites. They are also not nearly as interesting nor as overtly talented…”
–*Peter Gabriel, So (MP) “But it’s not for lack of effort that the album comes up short. Rather, it’s the dimming of Gabriel’s white-hot vision.”
–Howard Jones, Action Replay (MP) “I keep waiting for Jones to come up with a worthy successor to Human’s Lib…”
–Journey, Raised on Radio (SS) “I remain convinced that Journey is the most inexplicable band in America. It’s not that they’re bad…it’s more as if they’re utterly and irredeemably lacking in personality, brains, body odor, or any other recognizably human characteristic.”
–Nicolette Larson, Rose of My Heart (AN) “…the only real complaint I have about her is that she obviously has a severely limited emotional range…”
–Susannah McCorkle, How Do You Keep the Music Playing? (CA) “Simply put, McCorkle is the finest interpreter of sophisticated songs we have today.”
–Bobby McFerrin, Spontaneous Inventions (CA) “McFerrin is often at his best when he’s teamed up with an instrumentalist…a very successful and creative album.”
–Pet Shop Boys, Please (MP) “Like Wham!, the Pets are the kind of group that drives frustrated audiophiles to mutter, ‘I could do that.’”
–Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, Like a Rock (SS) ‘…longer on good intentions than inspiration. A lot longer.”
–Jane Siberry, The Speckless Sky (MP) “The arrangements…work at being free-wheeling and innovative, but while there’s lots going on, none of it is much fun or very interesting.”
–The Style Council, Home and Abroad (MP) ‘…succumbs to just about every pitfall that can ruin a concert recording.”
–Randy Travis, Storms of Life (AN) “…proves that he is a serious and worthwhile suitor for the same audience that reveres (George) Jones, Merle Haggard, and George Strait.”
–Van Halen, 5150 (MP) “…Hagar is clearly intent on proving he’s a worthy successor to the King of Raunch-and-Roll. But where Roth could be legitimately funny about his rampaging promiscuity…the best Hagar can manage is a dull, passé crudeness.”
–Wax, Magnetic Heaven (SS) “Everything is cheerful, well produced, and well crafted, but neither Gold nor Gouldman is a particularly interesting singer, and more to the point, their melodic gifts seem to have deserted them.”

Stereo Review In Review: August 1981

No articles this month, though Paul Kresh did fold a chat with George Rose, who starred as Major-General Stanley, into his review of The Pirates of Penzance soundtrack below. The reviewers were pretty liberal about granting the Recording of Special Merit designation this time around; I don’t know if this was a particularly good month, or if they collectively were deciding to use it more frequently.

Hard for me to say how many SR reviews really planted themselves in my head over the years–maybe 20? 30?–but one of them, that of Hard Promises, is in this issue.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Irv Cohn, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.

Best of the Month
–Leo Kottke, Guitar Music (JV) “…reveals him as once again confident, assured, and at the top of his form as both artist and producer.”
–Carole Bayer Sager, Sometimes Late at Night (PR) “What is startlingly apparent in this collection of Sager’s songs is that she has not only discovered her own identity, personally and artistically, but in the process has arrived at what amounts to a summation of the attitudes of the young women of her generation, a kind of rulebook for making life in the Eighties congenial.”

Recordings of Special Merit
Pop/Rock/Soul/Country:
–Terri Gibbs, Somebody’s Knocking (PR) “…all the tracks indicate an interesting performer with innate style.”
–Dan Hartman, It Hurts to Be in Love (IC) “These songs are elaborate productions…(t)hrough all that, though, something extraordinarily likable shines.”
–Junie, Junie 5 (PG) “It is good to hear an album in which the artist seems to be stretching some of the old formats to create fresh sounds.”
–Ben E. King, Street Tough (PG) “He sounds as good today as he ever did, his voice as rich and mellow as a fine cognac, and he handles phrasing like a master.”
–Mass Production, Turn Up the Music (IC) “As the name implies, Mass Production’s productions are big. They are also quirky, funky, and fun.”
–Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio, A Woman Needs Love (PG) “The careful mix of uptempo dance music with slower selections makes this an excellent party album.”
–Brenda Russell, Love Life (PG) “Her performance here is sweet and sassy, and the songs…are a fascinating amalgam of soul and rock with just enough barefoot-folk flavor from the Sixties to lend them an air of distinction.”
–Split Enz, S/T (JV) “All of the vocal material deals with the ups and downs of courtship—specifically, the fear of not being wanted or of not trusting the beloved—and it is an impressive display of writing craftsmanship.”
–Three Degrees, Three D (IC) “…the trio sings with power and grace, and Moroder provides balanced, energetic support.”
–Muddy Waters, King Bee (JV) “Waters, now in his sixties, has a combination of calm authority and frisky charm that makes you believe almost anything he says in his songs.”
–Robert Winters, Magic Man (CA) “…delivers his songs in a voice that is at times reminiscent of both Ray Charles and Al Green but has a wider range than either.”

Jazz:
–Count Basie, Kansas City Five (CA) “I hope the session here is representative of what is to follow and that we can expect the addition of a sympatico horn now and then.”
–Milt Jackson, Night Mist (CA) “The solos are good and plentiful…”
–Ellis Larkins, S/T (CA) “…provides lessons in subtlety, good taste, timing, and dynamics.”
–Jeff Lorber Fusion, Galaxian (IC) “For Lorber fans, the augmented orchestral sound of most of the album may take some getting used to, but this time more is simply more.”
–Modern Jazz Quartet, More from the Last Concert (CA) “…as fine a representation of the group’s artistry as you are likely to find.”
–Art Tatum, Solo Masterpieces, Vol. 10 (CA) “I would be hard put to recommend a better musical value.”

Featured Reviews
–Gary U.S. Bonds, Dedication (SS) “Its music is as heartfelt and spontaneous-sounding as you remember it from its first go-around, but it is also wise and knowing in a way it could not have been in 1961.”
–Brian Eno and David Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts/Public Image Ltd., The Flowers of Romance (SS) “…it’s no surprise to me that both (albums) are archetypal hippie albums, vintage Sixties psychedelia from start to finish, or that both have been received as avant-garde.”
–Gilbert and Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance (PK) “…even though all of the fun of the energetic and inventive staging doesn’t come through on discs, the show sounds better on the album than it ever did in Central Park or it does at the Uris.”
–The Grateful Dead, Reckoning, Volume One (NC) This was the acoustic half of a two-part release from a concert at Radio City Music Hall. “Even if you have all the previous Grateful Dead albums, you don’t have these same songs played this way.”
–Shot in the Dark, S/T (NC) “I wouldn’t think you frivolous if you called it an Anglo-American answer to ABBA; it has that kind of lightweight charm and zest for melody and harmony.”
–Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Reach Up and Touch the Sky (JV) “This is one of those rare live albums that justify the genre: there’s something here that could never have been captured in the studio.” One of two acts that never really clicked nationally whose work I remember seeing trumpeted over and again in the pages of SR during my junior high and high school years–the other was Mink DeVille.
–Fats Waller, The Complete Fats Waller, Volume II, 1935 (CA) “There is simply no way to convey adequately in writing the wit and musicianship that oozes out at every turn of these records.”
–Glenn Yarbrough, Just a Little Love (PK) “When Glenn Yarbrough sings, every word comes through loud and clear, and every note glows with life.”

Other Disks Reviewed
–Jefferson Starship, Modern Times (NC) “It does no good to overrate the past, but if this album is a reflection of what the years have done to us—and it probably is—we really should be in a hurry to on to more interesting times.”
–Robin Lane and the Chartbusters, Imitation Life (JV) “The Chartbusters are sturdy musicians and Lane has a good voice, but the band tends to play safe and Lane tends to lecture.”
–Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Hard Promises (SS) “…though this is clearly his weakest album, at least it’s an honest failure; he’s not pandering to anyone.”
–Santana, Zebop! (JV) “…the younger Santana was entertaining; the older one just seems to pound away trying to be ingratiating.”
–Sylvia, Drifter (NC) “…seems to opt for a style somewhere between cowgirl and countrypolitan…but the instrumentals do have a certain zing to them…Her voice is good enough to warrant careful handling.”
–Sarah Vaughan, Copacabana (PR) “The wonderful Vaughan sound, butterscotch mellow already, overpowers the bittersweet, delicate moods of the songs.”
–Joe Walsh, There Goes the Neighborhood (NC) “The instrumentals in general, a few guitar licks aside, get the same low-energy, lick-and-promise treatment as the songwriting.”
–Yellow Magic Orchestra, BGM (IC) “…too busy pushing at the frontiers of electronic rock to worry about accessibility.”

Stereo Review in Review: July 1979

While there’s no doubt I leafed through this issue at the time, there probably wasn’t much that stood out. I was still deep in my AT40 phase, and among all the albums examined in the Best of the Month/Recording of Special Merit/Featured Review categories, only one–from George Benson–produced a single that Casey spun (and at that, I didn’t realize how good his cover of “Love Ballad” was). That said, had I been more savvy and worldly-wise at age 15, I would have appreciated much more what was on offer.

Article
Requiem for the Seventies, by Noel Coppage
Coppage surveys the musical landscape of the previous twenty years and notes parallels between the state of things in the late 50s and late 70s (and it’s not a pretty sight in his view). Music from the latter half of the 60s was too successful in disseminating its ideas of equality: “Art itself may argue in favor of egalitarianism, but the making of it is not an egalitarian activity. Neither is the intellectual way of analyzing it.” That said, Coppage anticipates that “the artsy minority will crawl out of the ashes and start to act up again” in the coming decade.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Edward Buxbaum, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.

Best of the Month
–Flash and the Pan, S/T (SS) “…imagine Sixties soul influences filtered through a synthesizer sound that verges on Eurodisco, with some tacky New Wave organ misterioso and Phil Spectorish dynamics, the whole thing mated to frankly melodramatic lyrics declaimed (in the verses) more often than sung…”
The reviewers at SR certainly had their favorites. Coppage loved Gordon Lightfoot, and I’ve already picked two issues (the Junes of 1977 and 1982) when NC tagged Gord’s most recent effort with BotM status. This issue marks the second time this year we’ve seen the next two artists in this space.
–Art Garfunkel, Fate for Breakfast (PR) “Garfunkel doesn’t patronize his material; he merely pokes some gentle, affectionate fun at our sentimental weaknesses, at the same time paying super-professional homage to the pop-music genre itself.”
–The Roches, S/T (NC) “…suggests that the Roches are genuinely bent and are promulgating, among other things, non-specific satire, various attitude fresheners, and a use of the popular song that’s cerebral without being ‘intellectual.’”

Recordings of Special Merit
–Celi Bee, Fly Me on the Wings of Love (EB) “Disco your way through side one of this album, then sit down and listen to side two. It’s worth it.”
–Bill Evans, Crosscurrents (CA) “Evans’ influence stretches far beyond his instrument and the jazz idiom; what he plays is inevitably pretty and full of subtle sophistication, music that is at once accessible and complex.”
–Gichy Dan, Beachwood #9 (JV) “(August) Darnell is a terrific talent…but he just might be too good for disposable pop music…a brilliant exercise in phonographic theater…”
–The Raes, Dancing Up a Storm (EB) “…a happy disco album, strong on both musical and atmospheric values, and it belongs in your party library.”
–Gino Soccio, Outline (EB) “The album’s super hits—‘Dancer’ and ‘Dance to Dance’—show how well Soccio understands (Eurodisco) and demonstrate his mastery of the techniques needed to create top-drawer disco.”
–Gary Stewart, Gary (NC) “…a king of honky-tonk Angst connects it all together, and Stewart quietly proves he’s the perfect singer for such a program.”
–Dwight Twilley, S/T (NC) “…I think he has the little extra something that pulls a rocker up above the herd.”

Featured Reviews
–George Benson, Livin’ Inside Your Love (PG) “So he has chosen to make use of both his instruments by following a respected tradition of jazz-pop crossover. What is most important is that he has retained an impeccable level of musicianship even on his most commercial tracks.”
–Randy Crawford, Raw Silk (PG) “…the songs bear a special mark of excellence, with meaningful lyrics and melodic lines that can be bent and played with, and Crawford bends them and plays with them very skillfully.”
–Marilyn Scott, Dreams of Tomorrow (PR) “By her phrasing, her teasing elongation of a lyric, and her seductive intonation…Marilyn Scott is a refreshing new development in a form (vocal jazz—WRH) that has a deadly tendency to take itself much too seriously.”
–Patti Smith Group, Wave (SS) “Yes, Wave is dumb at times, but I’d rather listen to Patti and her band overreach and fall on their faces than to most mainstream rock acts deliberately pitching under my head and hitting me in the face.”
–Six old musical scores re-issued on Columbia Special Products (PK) Includes Irving Berlin’s This Is the Army, Cole Porter’s Mexican Hayride, and Hugh Martin’s, Look Ma, I’m Dancin’.

Other Disks Reviewed
–Bob Dylan, At Budokan (SS) “I’m willing to believe that Dylan staged this debacle solely to annoy his critics…”
–England Dan and John Ford Coley, Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive (NC) “Technically, of course, there’s not much to complain about; every hair is in place and every system works. The thing is, music’s supposed to be a little more than that.”
–Gloria Gaynor, Love Tracks (EB) “(‘I Will Survive’) is excellent and deserves its success on lots of levels. I wish I could say the same for the rest of this album.”
–GQ, Disco Nights (EB) “GQ is undeniably good, but they face stiff competition from a number of other talented groups with similar styles and material.”
–Herbie Hancock, Feets Don’t Fail Me Now (CA) “I don’t begrudge him commercial success, but we are hearing less of Hancock and more of his gadgets these days, and he is simply too talented to hide behind all that technical equipment.”
–Ironhorse, S/T (JV) “I know (Randy) Bachman has to pay his rent, but then again, is he still going to be doing this sort of thing when he’s forty-five?”
–Marian McPartland, From This Moment On (PR)  “What keeps me a bit distanced from McPartland’s recordings (and I have the same trouble with other fine jazz artists) is her total self-involvement with her piano and her musical ideas—often, I feel, at the expense of the song and/or the audience.”
–Lou Reed, The Bells (SS) “…another completely unfathomable installment of Lou Reed’s Master Plan.”
–The Rockets, S/T (SS) “Listen, guys, Mitch Ryder’s still around and he really needs a new back-up band, and…well, I can dream, can’t I?”
–Supertramp, Breakfast in America (JV) “Dear Mr. American Label President,…Me mum says I should write to you and enclose this sixty-four track demonstration tape which me and my mates have made…I have studied all the hits of the last ten years and written all me songs like them…Me mum says I should write a fair number of songs about alienation and the place of the anti-hero in a neurotic society because this will make the people in Los Angeles weep…”
–Tycoon, S/T (JV) “Tycoon’s impersonation of Three Dog Night is close—close, but no cigar.”
–Ron Wood, Gimme Some Neck (SS) “As a front man…he basically sounds like the Faces and the Stones reduced to formula: boozy, brash, and forgettable.”

Flash and the Pan was George Young (Angus and Malcolm’s older brother) and Harry Vanda, formerly of Australia’s Easybeats. “Hey St. Peter” debuted on the Hot 100 forty-two years ago this week, along with “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” “Cruel to Be Kind,” and “Rise.” It would peak at #76.

August Darnell had been part of the brain trust behind Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah band, and I hear a little of their “Cherchez La Femme” here. It wouldn’t be long before he transformed into Kid Creole.

Later in 1979, Crawford appeared on one Top 40 single, fronting for the Crusaders on their #36 hit “Street Life.”

McPartland was the host of NPR’s Piano Jazz series for decades, well into her 90s.

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.”