AllMusic Review: Stand! is the pinnacle of Sly & the Family Stone’s early work, a record that represents a culmination of the group’s musical vision and accomplishment. Life hinted at this record’s boundless enthusiasm and blurred stylistic boundaries, yet everything simply gels here, resulting in no separation between the astounding funk, effervescent irresistible melodies, psychedelicized guitars, and deep rhythms. Add to this a sharpened sense of pop songcraft, elastic band interplay, and a flowering of Sly’s social consciousness, and the result is utterly stunning. Yes, the jams (“Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey,” “Sex Machine”) wind up meandering ever so slightly, but they’re surrounded by utter brilliance, from the rousing call to arms of “Stand!” to the unification anthem “Everyday People” to the unstoppable “I Want to Take You Higher.” All of it sounds like the Family Stone, thanks not just to the communal lead vocals but to the brilliant interplay, but each track is distinct, emphasizing a different side of their musical personality. As a result, Stand! winds up infectious and informative, invigorating and thought-provoking — stimulating in every sense of the word. Few records of its time touched it, and Sly topped it only by offering its opposite the next time out. — usa mobile casino bonus explained by
AllMusic Review: Walker dropped out of the British Top Ten with his fourth album, but the result was probably his finest ’60s LP. While the tension between the bloated production and his introspective, ambitious lyrics remains, much of the over-the-top bombast of the orchestral arrangements has been reined in, leaving a relatively stripped-down approach that complements his songs rather than smothering them. This is the first Walker album to feature entirely original material, and his songwriting is more lucid and cutting. Several of the tracks stand among his finest. “The Seventh Seal,” based upon the classic film by Ingmar Bergman, features remarkably ambitious (and relatively successful) lyrics set against a haunting Ennio Morricone-style arrangement. “The Old Man’s Back Again” also echoes Morricone, and tackles no less ambitious a lyrical palette; “dedicated to the neo-Stalinist regime,” the “old man” of this song was supposedly Josef Stalin. “Hero of the War” is also one of Walker’s better vignettes, serenading his war hero with a cryptic mix of tribute and irony. Other songs show engaging folk, country, and soul influences that were largely buried on his previous solo albums. — Richie Unterberger
“The Seventh Seal”
“On Your Own Again”
“The World’s Strongest Man”
“Angels of Ashes”
“Hero of the War”
“The Old Man’s Back Again (Dedicated to the Neo-Stalinist Regime)”
AllMusic Review: Without question, this follow-up to Quicksilver Messenger Service’s self-titled debut release is the most accurate in portraying the band on vinyl in the same light as the group’s critically and enthusiastically acclaimed live performances. The album is essentially centered around the extended reworkings of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” and “Mona,” as well as the lesser lauded — yet no less intense — contribution of Gary Duncan’s (guitar/vocals) “Calvary.” This album is the last to feature the original quartet incarnation of QMS. The collective efforts of John Cipollina (guitar/vocals), Greg Elmore (percussion), David Freiberg (bass/vocals), and the aforementioned Duncan retain the uncanny ability to perform with a psychedelic looseness of spirit, without becoming boring or in the least bit pretentious. The side-long epic “Who Do You Love?” suite is split into an ensemble introduction and coda as well as four distinct sections for the respective bandmembers. The perpetually inventive chops of QMS are what is truly on display here. The musicians’ unmitigated instrumental prowess and practically psychic interaction allow them to seamlessly weave into and back out of the main theme. Yet all the while, each player takes center stage for uncompromising solos. “Mona” and its companion, “Calvary,” continue in much the same fashion. Here the members of QMS play off each other to form a cohesive unit. This track also contains some of Cipollina’s finest and most memorable fretwork. He is able to summon sonic spirits from his guitar in a way that is unlike any of his Bay Area contemporaries. A prime example of his individuality is the frenetic “Maiden of the Cancer Moon” — ascending from the remnants of “Mona.” The angst and energy in Cipollina’s guitar work and line upon line of technical phrasing could easily be considered the equal of a Frank Zappa guitar solo. The brief title track, a cover of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans’ “Happy Trails,” seems almost insignificant in the wake of such virtuoso playing. It clears the sonic palette and also bids adieu to this particular fab foursome of psychedelia. — Lindsay Planer
AllMusic Review: “Basket of Light” is a tender selection of 9 folk tunes from the British band Pentangle showcasing those jazz-influenced vocals by Jacqui McShee and the baroque [almost harpsichord sounding] guitar strums, with an appearance of the banjo, glockenspiel, and sitar [on “Once I Had a Sweetheart” is a great example]. The music is very calming and peaceful, like a sunny springtime hippy day, [“Trees and grass and bushes green again; The sky so blue, I don’t remember when the cold days of winter took the sun away;”]. The liner notes share that “Springtime Promises” was composed “after a ride on a number 74 bus from Gloucester Road to Greencroft Gardens on an early spring day”. This third album highlights the pinnacle of the group’s commercial success thanks to the opening track which was used as the theme music for a BBC TV Series, “Take Three Girls”. The followup, “Cruel Sister” was a total flop. The band still acquired a large following, with their first public concert selling out at Royal Festival Hall in 1967 [and this is where the album cover shot is from]. We probably won’t hear from them again.
All tracks are written by Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Danny Thompson, Terry Cox and Jacqui McShee, except as noted.
AllMusic Review: It’s little wonder why Drake felt frustrated at the lack of commercial success his music initially gathered, considering the help he had on his debut record. Besides fine production from Joe Boyd and assistance from folks like Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson and his unrelated bass counterpart from Pentangle, Danny Thompson, Drake also recruited school friend Robert Kirby to create most of the just-right string and wind arrangements. His own performance itself steered a careful balance between too-easy accessibility and maudlin self-reflection, combining the best of both worlds while avoiding the pitfalls on either side. The result was a fantastic debut appearance, and if the cult of Drake consistently reads more into his work than is perhaps deserved, Five Leaves Left is still a most successful effort. Having grown out of the amiable but derivative styles captured on the long-circulating series of bootleg home recordings, Drake imbues his tunes with just enough drama — world-weariness in the vocals, carefully paced playing, and more — to make it all work. His lyrics capture a subtle poetry of emotion, as on the pastoral semi-fantasia of “The Thoughts of Mary Jane,” which his soft, articulate singing brings even more to the full. Sometimes he projects a little more clearly, as on the astonishing voice-and-strings combination “Way to Blue,” while elsewhere he’s not so clear, suggesting rather than outlining the mood. Understatement is the key to his songs and performances’ general success, which makes the combination of his vocals and Rocky Dzidzornu’s congas on “Three Hours” and the lovely “‘Cello Song,” to name two instances, so effective. Danny Thompson is the most regular side performer on the album, his bass work providing subtle heft while never standing in the way of the song — kudos well deserved for Boyd’s production as well. — Ned Raggett
AllMusic Review: Neil Young’s second solo album, released only four months after his first, was nearly a total rejection of that polished effort. Though a couple of songs, “Round Round (It Won’t Be Long)” and “The Losing End (When You’re On),” shared that album’s country-folk style, they were altogether livelier and more assured. The difference was that, while Neil Young was a solo effort, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere marked the beginning of Young’s recording association with Crazy Horse, the trio of Danny Whitten (guitar), Ralph Molina (drums), and Billy Talbot (bass) that Young had drawn from the struggling local Los Angeles group the Rockets. With them, Young quickly cut a set of loose, guitar-heavy rock songs — “Cinnamon Girl,” “Down by the River,” and “Cowgirl in the Sand” — that redefined him as a rock & roll artist. The songs were deliberately underwritten and sketchy as compositions, their lyrics more suggestive than complete, but that made them useful as frames on which to hang the extended improvisations (“River” and “Cowgirl” were each in the nine-to-ten-minute range) Young played with Crazy Horse and to reflect the ominous tone of his singing. Young lowered his voice from the near-falsetto employed on his debut to a more expressive range, and he sang with greater confidence, accompanied by Whitten and, on “Round Round,” by Robin Lane. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere was breathtakingly different when it appeared in May 1969, both for Young and for rock in general, and it reversed his commercial fortunes, becoming a moderate hit. (Young’s joining Crosby, Stills & Nash the month after its release didn’t hurt his profile, of course.) A year and a half after its release, it became a gold album, and it has since gone platinum. And it set a musical pattern Young and his many musical descendants have followed ever since; almost 30 years later, he was still playing this sort of music with Crazy Horse, and a lot of contemporary bands were playing music clearly influenced by it. — William Ruhlmann
AllMusic Review: Listening to Miles Davis’ originally released version of In a Silent Way in light of the complete sessions released by Sony in 2001 (Columbia Legacy 65362) reveals just how strategic and dramatic a studio construction it was. If one listens to Joe Zawinul’s original version of “In a Silent Way,” it comes across as almost a folk song with a very pronounced melody. The version Miles Davis and Teo Macero assembled from the recording session in July of 1968 is anything but. There is no melody, not even a melodic frame. There are only vamps and solos, grooves layered on top of other grooves spiraling toward space but ending in silence. But even these don’t begin until almost ten minutes into the piece. It’s Miles and McLaughlin, sparely breathing and wending their way through a series of seemingly disconnected phrases until the groove monster kicks in. The solos are extended, digging deep into the heart of the ethereal groove, which was dark, smoky, and ashen. McLaughlin and Hancock are particularly brilliant, but Corea’s solo on the Fender Rhodes is one of his most articulate and spiraling on the instrument ever. The A-side of the album, “Shhh/Peaceful,” is even more so. With Tony Williams shimmering away on the cymbals in double time, Miles comes out slippery and slowly, playing over the top of the vamp, playing ostinato and moving off into more mysterious territory a moment at a time. With Zawinul’s organ in the background offering the occasional swell of darkness and dimension, Miles could continue indefinitely. But McLaughlin is hovering, easing in, moving up against the organ and the trills by Hancock and Corea; Wayne Shorter hesitantly winds in and out of the mix on his soprano, filling space until it’s his turn to solo. But John McLaughlin, playing solos and fills throughout (the piece is like one long dreamy solo for the guitarist), is what gives it its open quality, like a piece of music with no borders as he turns in and through the commingling keyboards as Holland paces everything along. When the first round of solos ends, Zawinul and McLaughlin and Williams usher it back in with painterly decoration and illumination from Corea and Hancock. Miles picks up on another riff created by Corea and slips in to bring back the ostinato “theme” of the work. He plays glissando right near the very end, which is the only place where the band swells and the tune moves above a whisper before Zawinul’s organ fades it into silence. This disc holds up, and perhaps is even stronger because of the issue of the complete sessions. It is, along with Jack Johnson and Bitches Brew, a signature Miles Davis session from the electric era. — Thom Jurek
“Shhh” – 6:14
“Peaceful” – 5:42
“Shhh” – 6:20
“In a Silent Way”/”It’s About That Time”
Joe Zawinul (“In a Silent Way”), Davis (“It’s About That Time”)
AllMusic Review: Rather than try to capture their legendary on-stage energy in a studio, MC5 opted to record their first album during a live concert at their home base, Detroit’s Grande Ballroom, and while some folks who were there have quibbled that Kick Out the Jams isn’t the most accurate representation of the band’s sound, it’s certainly the best of the band’s three original albums, and easily beats the many semiauthorized live recordings of MC5 that have emerged in recent years, if only for the clarity of Bruce Botnick’s recording. From Brother J.C. Crawford’s rabble-rousing introduction to the final wash on feedback on “Starship,” Kick Out the Jams is one of the most powerfully energetic live albums ever made; Wayne Kramer and Fred “Sonic” Smith were a lethal combination on tightly interlocked guitars, bassist Michael Davis and drummer Dennis Thompson were as strong a rhythm section as Detroit ever produced, and Rob Tyner’s vocals could actually match the soulful firepower of the musicians, no small accomplishment. Even on the relatively subdued numbers (such as the blues workout “Motor City Is Burning”), the band sound like they’re locked in tight and cooking with gas, while the full-blown rockers (pretty much all of side one) are as gloriously thunderous as anything ever committed to tape; this is an album that refuses to be played quietly. For many years, Detroit was considered the High Energy Rock & Roll Capital of the World, and Kick Out the Jams provided all the evidence anyone might need for the city to hold onto the title. — Richie Unterberger
All tracks are written by MC5 (Rob Tyner, Wayne Kramer, Fred “Sonic” Smith, Michael Davis, Dennis Thompson), except as noted.
AllMusic Review: Leonard Cohen’s first album was an unqualified triumph which announced the arrival of a bold and singular talent, and many who heard it must have wondered what Cohen could do for an encore. By comparison, Cohen’s second album, 1969’s Songs from a Room, was something of a letdown. While it’s a fine LP, it ultimately feels neither as striking nor as assured as Songs of Leonard Cohen. Bob Johnston stepped in as producer for Songs from a Room, and his arrangements are simpler than those John Simon crafted for the debut, but they’re also full of puzzling accents, such as the jew’s harp that punctuates several tracks, the churchy organ line in “The Old Revolution,” and the harsh synthesizer flourishes on “A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes.” Johnston also had trouble coaxing strong vocal performances from Cohen; his singing here sounds tentative and his meter is uncertain, which regardless of how one feels about Cohen’s much-debated vocal prowess is not the case with his other work. And finally, the quality of the songs on Songs from a Room is less consistent than on Songs of Leonard Cohen; as fine as “Bird on a Wire,” “You Know Who I Am,” “The Story of Isaac” and “Seems So Long Ago, Nancy” may be, “The Butcher” and “A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes” simply aren’t up to his usual standards. Despite the album’s flaws, Songs from a Room’s strongest moments convey a naked intimacy and fearless emotional honesty that’s every bit as powerful as the debut, and it left no doubt that Cohen was a major creative force in contemporary songwriting. — Mark Deming
AllMusic Review: Recorded quickly during Led Zeppelin’s first American tours, Led Zeppelin II provided the blueprint for all the heavy metal bands that followed it. Since the group could only enter the studio for brief amounts of time, most of the songs that compose II are reworked blues and rock & roll standards that the band was performing on-stage at the time. Not only did the short amount of time result in a lack of original material, it made the sound more direct. Jimmy Page still provided layers of guitar overdubs, but the overall sound of the album is heavy and hard, brutal and direct. “Whole Lotta Love,” “The Lemon Song,” and “Bring It on Home” are all based on classic blues songs — only, the riffs are simpler and louder and each song has an extended section for instrumental solos. Of the remaining six songs, two sport light acoustic touches (“Thank You,” “Ramble On”), but the other four are straight-ahead heavy rock that follows the formula of the revamped blues songs. While Led Zeppelin II doesn’t have the eclecticism of the group’s debut, it’s arguably more influential. After all, nearly every one of the hundreds of Zeppelin imitators used this record, with its lack of dynamics and its pummeling riffs, as a blueprint. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine