Stereo Review In Review: May 1981

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stereo Review In Review: April 1979

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stereo Review in Review: March 1978

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stereo Review In Review: February 1984

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stereo Review In Review: January 1980

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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