Sunday, January 01, 2006


The following are some reviews I'd written and published on Amazon a while back.

Paul Simon: Graceland (Warner Bros., 1986). I've gone both ways with Simon. Too often his efforts are at best sophomoric (see Hearts and Bones) and unworthy of his talent. Then there are times when his reach equals his grasp - Paul Simon. This is hardly the world music album his fans think it is, but it does, nonetheless, appropriate superbly those things world music albums are supposed to have, namely a great R&B band. He is what he is, a profound pop artist, who knows a thing or two about making hits, as You Can Call Me Al, will surely attest. Not even Sun City scab Linda Ronstadt can dampen the moment. A

Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run (Columbia, 1975). Springsteen is that rarest of characters. He's scared but hopeful, indignant but steadfast. How else to explain contradictions like "maybe we ain't that young anymore" with "we gotta get out while we're young" or "you ain't a beauty but hey you're alright." He can't reconcile these contradictions, but in the grand tradition of rock-n-roll that doesn't stop him from trying. And it is the trying that we see the angst of his soul. From the title track to Jungle Land the album reeks of a confused man in search of answers, who can't stand still long enough to find them. Like most rebels with a cause, his mission is righteous. Here's hoping when he solves the riddles he still has something significant to say. A

Aerosmith: Rocks (Columbia, 1976). In a genre that now boasts as its mainstays the likes of Boston, Styx, and Blue Oyster Cult, and with the Stones apparently taking some time off for bad behavior, this psuedo gem leaps off the page and begs attention. Where Toys in the Attic made use of the every predictable rock riff possible, this album is tighter, more sparse, more rock-n-roll. Listen to Back in the Saddle and compare it to, say Sweet Emotion and decide for yourself. While the fact that they are now the defacto premier American rock band of the '70s is more an indictment of the industry in general than a recommendation of talent, disqualifying them would be equally unjust. I say sit back and enjoy the show. A-

Elvis Costello: Blood and Chocolate (Columbia, 1986). Never one to shy away from his emotions - particularly those devoted to anger - Elvis the C. comes up with what is easily his most raucous and consistent effort since This Year's Model. His flirtation with ballads and blues on King of America - a poor man's Trust - notwithstanding, and with three failed attempts before that staring back at him from the abyss, he finally decides to do what all great artists do: he wings it. Credit Nick Lowe who channels Costello's rage into a controlled implosion. Tokyo Storm Warning and Uncomplicated are the best six-plus minute songs since Hey Jude hit the charts. And if I Hope You're Happy Now still reminds you of the sniveling runt he's always sounded like, then at least on I Want You, he finally gets up the nerve to give his girl a piece of his mind. Maybe he is Woody Allen after all. A

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