Originally published in: Overdose, Apr. 1975

The Rekord Report: First Card

Richard Betts: Highway Call. Dicky Betts has established a formidable and generally well-deserved reputation with the Allman Bros. Band. The inevitable result, given that reputation -- a commodity of no mean value today -- and the ego that it feeds and feeds upon, is a "solo" album. This one, like all inevitable events, is basically a drag. C minus

David Bowie: Diamond Dogs. How can any record with one song titled "1984" and another "Big Brother" be any good? That level of cliché is a mighty heavy load even for someone of Bowie's talent to bear, and this effort doesn't quite make the grade. But clichés are not the problem: they have always been the stock-in-trade of popular music, an expedient condensation of impending force. Much worse, Diamond Dogs borders on self-parody: it is a concession of Bowie's stringency to his image, cheapening both. Good songs, though, the two above mentioned included: hooks and riffs aplenty. In fact, as degenerations have been going, together The Man Who Sold the World and Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust and Alladin Sane, a degeneration nonetheless. B plus [1]

Eric Clapton: 461 Ocean Boulevard. This is competent and schlocky, an ideal summertime commodity. In fact, Clapton's so laid back it's almost as if he's embarrassed. He should be. C [2]

Vassar Clements, David Bromberg, et al.: Hillbilly Jazz Back to the roots is an understatement. This is a decent collection of Western Swing/Hillbilly Jazz classics, which would be enlightening to hard core rockers and enjoyable to damn near everyone else. The musicianship is technically superb -- there is none of the roughness of "archive" recordings -- but the vocals are bland, almost without feeling. Intended both as a documentary of the origins of modern popular music and as a tribute to those sources, it falls a bit flat. Worthwhile nonetheless. B

Ry Cooder: Paradise and Lunch. The only principle Cooder seems to be operating under is that he can sing anything and make it sound like Ry Cooder. The choice of material is taking Cooder ever further from the depression-era song collector of Ry Cooder and Into the Purple Valley. Each song bears well his stamp, and is good enough but, one is coming to think, a bit hollow and pointless. B minus

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young: So Far. Ahem. Ho hum. Aaaaaah. Yecchhh. C minus

Rick Derringer: All American Boy. Dumb, dumb rock, and oh so competent. Which is OK by me, but it shelters such pretensions. Certainly The Stooges would never get caught publishing lyrics like these on the back cover. B

Eagles: On the Border. There is one paean here to Gram Parsons, and one to James Dean. This is typical of the contradictions of Eagles, with one foot in countryrock and the other in Glyn Johns' immaculately slick/rough production. The result is some bastard hybrid, a non-radical individualistic ethos wrapped in the accoutrements of a romanticized past, yet fashionably disrespectful of whatever roots it might have tendered. No commitments here, just a string of well made hit records. B

Eno: Here Come the Warm Jets. What Roxy Music accomplished was to demonstrate the hegemony of rock over all other aesthetic forms, enabling people lacking rock's social and historic roots to embrace its as a concept. The result is cold, calculated and powerfully cerebral -- which Eno's post-Roxy work strongly underlines. The question of intellectuality in rock is a tough one to nail down. It seems that much of rock's strength lies in not having to think about it, in a spontaneous epistemology, but the case can be made that thinking is precisely what is needed now. Here Come the Warm Jets engages hearing in a new and challenging way. But like all other things, whether it is liberating or not depends on what we do with it. A

The Flying Burrito Brothers: Close Up the Honky Tonks. Sort of a history/anthology comprising some of the best tracks off The Gilded Palace of Sin, one of the classic albums of the past decade, and a lot of good/interesting/fair outtakes and some stuff that only record company accountants seem to fully appreciate. But the Burrito Bros. are really the classic expression of countryrock, and this is a more than welcome reminder. B

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Second Helping. After a great first album, the "second helping" comes up short. The material is weaker, not nearly as well worked out. Haste shows, success spoils, and development there is none. It's difficult to tell whether they'll come up with any new ideas or just continue to flog a good thing to death. B minus

Mott the Hoople: Rock and Roll Queen. Mott has developed into one of the finest, most intelligent groups today, but they weren't always like that -- as Atlantic Records has decided to show us in this, one of the worst of this year's crop of cash-in/rip-off specials. Drawn from Mott's first four albums, the only point seems to be to show how loud a band can be that doesn't know what it's doing, nor why it's doing it. D plus

Mott the Hoople: The Hoople. This album is everything Rock and Roll Queen isn't: interesting, sophisticated, sly and ominous. The arrangements are tight as a drum, very visual, almost operatic. The backing vocals are not in harmony but in opposition to the lead, giving the effect of a Chorus interrogating some Protagonist (e.g., in "Marionette"). The lyrics -- among the densest rock has to offer -- tend to trip over one another in deliberate confusion ("detonator, jailbaiter, a radar radiator"). Thematically they are cynical and derogatory, rock an droll as saving grace in a society of decadence and decay, shining through brightest in "Marionette": "He wanna play chords to the kids on the street/ He wanna play words to a world that doesn't speak/ He wanna play people who play hide 'n' seek when they talk." The Marionette is doomed, "now I've lost my will to fight," and so somehow is Mott. A fine if flawed album, short of 1973's brilliant Mott, but still one of the few efforts from well established groups this eyar to show any real development at all. And one song, "Pearl 'n' Roy (England)" may well be the best I've heard this year. A minus

Lou Reed: Rock 'n' Roll Animal. I should probably pass reviewing this one by, sine I have reached the point where I so love Reed's music I can't offer rational explanations anymore. There are no new songs here -- just the classics, "Sweet Jane," "Heroin," "White Light/White Heat," "Lady Day," "Rock and Roll," served up fantastically. Play it, and play it loud. There's nothing else like it. A

Leon Russell: Stop All That Jazz. While the Crooner snores a mysterious secret hero inches forth from the shadows. Liberace, I think. D plus

The Souther Hillman Furay Band. Probably the most boring supergroup of the year. It's more like three solo acts pooling their backup performers, but the back-up is much better than the leads. Maybe we can look forward to the debut of the Gordon Perkins Harris Band. Or maybe they'll just go away. Faint hopes. C

T. Rex: Light of Love. I sort of like T. Rex, and there's a song on the new album, a little ditty called "Teenage Dream," that'll go down with their best. But their best was always more nice than earthshaking, and this album is about ten-to-one dreck-to-nice. D

10cc: Sheet Music. "Norman Mailer waits to nail her/ He's under the bed/ And he's waiting for her to be dead." Very clever. "It's one thing to know it but another to admit/ We're the worst band in the world/ But we don't give a." Neither do I. C plus

Velvet Underground: 1969 Live. According to my vigures this makes four albums for the Velvets and four postmortems for their record companies. In the latter category this is probably the best, delivering 103 minutes of Lou Reed's fine, fine music. The sound is not the best, and the liner notes are stupid (what else is new?), but the Velvet Underground was, methinks, the one truly great group of the 1966-70 period -- and nothing, not even Reed's solo work, has come close to replacing them since. This live set is a minor piece, it fills in some holes: valuable for the records and pretty good just to listen to. B plus

West, Bruce and Laing: Live 'n' Kickin'. If you dig endless, ego-tripping bass solos, this may well be the album you've always been waiting for. E plus


1. Or, quoth the original as published review, "This ain't no Rock 'n' Roll -- this is genocide." Bowie's technique is to get hold of an idea and workit out in a medium capable even of overstating its complexity: music. Diamonds Dogs is less a social concern than the articulation of a cliché, the destruction of human social relations. But the cliché is not irreal, and in its articulation Bowie does strike real ground. The result is, once again, a fine piece of work, as the genocide of cliché is rolled back faced to rock and roll. And even below the concept, "Rebel Rebel" is an instant rock and roll classic. Neither is adequate, nor can I divine something that would be. Bowie has never held so much power as now, never has he been so well heeled to pursue his fantasies. Diamond Dogs is an indulgence, whereas Ziggy Stardust was rigorous and ascetic. Another lacking approximation: those who dismiss Bowie, either in toto or of late, are missing something. Evidently, so am I.

2. Cf. also the old Micky Todoroff review, reprinted hereabouts.

Archaeological notes, May 11, 2002

The first set of Record Reports was published in Student Life (Washington Unviersity's student-published rag) on Oct. 4, 1974. These were presumably revised above.

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