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Originally published in: Overdose, Apr. 1975

The Rekord Report: Third Card

Kevin Ayers: The Confessions of Dr. Dream. This is structured somewhat like Meddle, Pink Floyd's great turkey album, with an overimposing artistic masterpiece on one side and a lot of delightful throwaways on the other. Only it's ain't no turkey. The title track is intricate and richly textured and well worth a good listen. But it's the Soft Machine-goes-R&B-and-other-weird shit side that brings one back. B plus

Jackson Browne: Late for the Sky. Browne has had such great PR it probably won't make a hoot of difference for me to tell you that Browne's a respectable writer and a decent arranger, has a serviceable voice, a nice smile and good taste in cover art. And if you've ever liked anything he's ever done, you'll probably be pleased to know he's still doing it. No more, though. B

John Cale: Fear. Even to approximate one's apperception of a John Cale work is a hopeless task. No one has done more to disrupt normal hearing, to break epistemology within and without. The first viola spasms with the Velvet Underground were a warning of more than collapsing sound, how much more being merely suggested through the production of The Stooges and Nico's dreary albums, through his haunting, confounding solo albums. But these were merely isolated facets of some collective force; Fear is something of a reprise, a melding together of disparate strains. A tour de force, really, demure and enticing. But, then, when you're driven to describe the breakup to "Fear Is a Man's Best Friend" as "sublime," well, hold on to your head. A

Kevin Coyne: Marjorie Razor Blade. This one sort of grows on you, difficult to believe as that may seem on first hearing. Or, for that matter, even when it's got you. The nastiest whiskey voice I've ever heard, thin acoustic backup, lyrics that are strange and perverse and somehow manage to concoct their own special verity. Bruce Springsteen he ain't. B plus

Ducks Deluxe. Not a fancy imitation, Ducks are just a plain ol' rock 'n' roll band, circa Golden Era, whatever that means. And they hold that standard up for at least the first side remarkably well. (Second side slips a bit, but then you don't have to listen to it -- I don't anymore.) Docked a notch for wasting three minutes on a merely competent "It's All Over Now," which has been merely competent too many times. A minus

Bob Dylan: Blood on the Tracks. Dylan has finally reached his niche. He risks nothing, condenses his whole work to tried and true formula, one that could be extended just about forever. Still, a lovely album -- that itself testimony to the change Dylan hath wrought. His fans will be pleased. A minus [1]

Eno: Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy). This is probably not quite as brilliant as it seems. Cleverness has pretty much come into vogue; it betrays the sly pessimism of late bourgeois art. The elements, from the Long March to Our Man Flint and damn near everything on either side, are exotic, and in this a certain quaintness and familiarity. Nor is the totality that novel, the exploration of subterfuge and strategy, threads in enlightenment's dialectic. But it dazzles, the siren's beckon to a disgruntled epoch. A (plus, I think)

Bryan Ferry: Another Time, Another Place. The gig's up. It was all a lark. Strange. B [2]

Sarah Kernochan: Beat Around the Bush. Rumor has it Kernochan is really a film something-or-other, who indulges a little songwriting for diversion and kicks. But what can you really say about lyrics like: "Dan shoots Nan while practisin/ To be a famous assassin/ Cousin Ben, very Zen/ Is hangin from the shower head again"? Let alone the music. Not your average chick singer. C plus

Deke Leonard: Kamikaze. All the essential oils that made Leonard's Iceberg such a powerful record reappear. But whereas Iceberg showed Leonard to be one of the finer guitar innovators of late, Kamikaze may be found lacking: outrageousness, perhaps, that overstatement of innovation. Kamikaze is respectable, but I'd take outrage over somnambulance any day. B [3]

Nico: The End . . . Wherein Nico and friends -- fans of Academy in Peril, if any such beings exist, will go nuts over John Cale's production -- try to be ethereal, and pretty damn well succeed. Well worth a listen, but how many? Anyone up for grouse hunting through a cemetery sometime? B

Pretty Things: Silk Torpedo. And now, from the makers of Bad Company, some more heavy metal muzak for quaalude popping and whiling away the hours. Singapore's a nice dive. The band's OK; ten years ago they used to be good, but then so were the Kinks. B minus

The Rolling Stones: It's Only Rock 'n Roll. The "only" is scarcely incidental, a sly concession to time. As their grip on the Zeitgeist slips, they must depend more on their craftsmanship. But senile they're not -- all this they show and more. "Hope I die before I get old"? Not really. B plus

Linda Ronstadt: Heart Like a Wheel. I must admit to having some problems with women singers. Sex is no doubt the larger share of this, but it appears most evident as genre. Heart Like a Wheel is a collection of covers -- none of the material is original,nor do the arrangements show much vitality or inventiveness. The result is not a work but a product: Ronstadt's voice. And so, the arrangements never obtrude, the songs are mere vehicles. But that is the finish. Schein if you like. Beneath it lies the most painstaking care in product development. Of course, this rap could be laid on almost any record coming out today and maintain a good level of validity. But Ronstadt bags it -- look at the cover credits sometime. Even her custom made "You're No Good" was penned by a joe named Clint Ballard Jr. Yet the product is of good quality, Ronstadt's voice is strong and pleasing, and most of the songs -- especially the Hank Williams ditty -- are as good as they always were. Still, it would be interesting to have more of Ronstadt and less of the men around her, the gents who run Capitol Records, for instance. B

Roxy Music: Country Life. Like the image of Angelus Novus, the logical drift of Roxy Music's progression becomes clear only as the endpoint is approached. With each new effort their past works takes on a heightened lucidity: with this their fourth album the once bewildering first album is amazingly clear. Perhaps, even, someday Country Life will make as much sense, so much as there is going on, both within the present collection and in its relationship to past and future development. But for now there's nothing much to gripe about. Roxy Music have cemented themselves in the forefront of rock, masters and innovators in the form. Stranded was arguably the best record of 1974; should anything appear this year to top Country Life, well, things might at last be looking up. A

Sparks: Propaganda. Maybe I'm growing dour in my old age, but nothing much is funny anymore. Not even the new Sparks album. Consider: "Unwitting chaperons, how come you cannot see/ A Hitler wearing heels/ A soft Simon Legree/ A Hun with honey skin/ DeSade, who makes good tea." The situation comedy so delightful in Kimono My House, and earlier in "German Girl" from A Wolfer in Tweeter's Clothing, now broadens itself to a general phobia -- fear of women -- and the tactics and ploys for saving one's ass. But in the songs as on the cover, the brothers Mael are perpetually tied in knots, being hauled off to unknown places they'd rather not see. Funny? Sort of. A minus

String Driven Thing. I found this on a $1.99 record rack and bought it not knowing jackshit about either the group of their music. As it turns out, String Driven Thing has a second album, The Machine That Cried, which is extremely fine. But this album, released way back in 1972, is the winner. Reasons there are aplenty. For one thing, though groups like Caravan and Electric Light Orchestra have fiddledar ound with incorporating strings into rock instrumentation -- as opposed to embellishments like Mitch Miller or David Bowie -- String Driven Thing has really pulled the form together. To this add the vocals of Chris Adams and Pauline Adams, a delicate lacing of perverse Merry Olde country soul, and a single called "Circus" so full of hooks and riffs it dazzles. And more, easily one of the gerat lost albums of all time. A

Tom Waits: The Heart of Saturday Night. As a mood piece this is convincing. End of the night down and outs, a good piano and washed out voice, some nice music to drink along with. B

Roy Wood's Wizard: Introducing Eddy and the Falcons. There is a weird distance to this album. Wood's approach to his material is reminiscent of nothing so much as Plato's Symposium, the Intro to "Eddy's Rock" being a case in point, or the sham title band, a ruse for rehacking late fifties/early sixties pop rock without being responsibile for the product. Or a conceptual context for the estrangement of the familiar through time's warp, its irreproducibility. Interesting. I like it, I think. B plus

Robert Wyatt: Rock Bottom. Why do I keep buying records like this? Why? C plus


Footnotes

1. Two asides: (A) The stink raised over this album is one of the poorer moments in recent rock criticism. In fact, a defining trait of rock critics seems to be their enamoration of this Robert Zimmerman. It is not odd that they should take him for their own: Dylan writes for his critics as surely as he would deny it. A more twisted detachment would be nice for once; if one could imagine Dylan laughing at Rolling Stone spending a full review section, with the services of more than a dozen top critics, picking over his bones, one might be kinder. A shyster is one thing, a demagogue another. (b) Charles Nicholaus started out his Creem review of Blood on the Tracks with the line, "Bob Dylan is pussy-whipped." I wish I had said that. The review (April, 1975) is recommended as the only thing I've read on this album in any way worth the trouble. Only I think the Woman problem is more double-edged, that it udnerlies as much Dylan's past accomplishment as his limitations. Nor is it limited to Dylan, whom all things considered I'd just as soon not argue over. At its best, as in Leon Russell's first album, it maintains self-respect ("How Can You Hate Somebody Like Me") and suggests androgyny; at its worst it denigrates man and woman alike, it fosters self-mutillation and misogyny.

2. On further consideration I probably missed the boat completely on Ferry's two albums. Another Time, Another Place is strangely understated. It bears a hard crust that shelters a soft, sentimental, almost nostalgic core. After the rude reawakenings of "These Foolish Things", Another Time, Another Place is almost apologetic. Ferry treats his songs like a hairdresser, with a peculiar combination of devotion, love and contempt, which as they appropriate him, take on his qualities, he treats unto himself. The result is more complex, more subtle, more devious than I first imagined. Still, it doesn't always work; Another Time, Another Place is weaker than its predecessor. B plus

3. Leonard has sine joined the Welsh group Man, one of the very few cases of a solo artist submitting himself to a group not necessarily a mere front (like Derek and the Domninos, for instance). In theory I approve; it may even work out in practice. Slow Motion, the new Man album, is very promising, in much the same I can't really say anything about it but I like it way as Iceberg and Kamikaze. B plus

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