Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bad Pop Reviews

Now here is something fun: a blogger is going to great effort to collect the worst reviews (worst as in poorly written or just mistaken) of pop albums from the pages of Rolling Stone. Let's sample a few:

On Jimi Hendrix' first album:
""Purple Haze" is the perfect beginning for this album because the intro is a perfect expression of Jimi's charismatic style. In words it seems to be saying, "Now, dig this."...Only on "Hey Joe" and "The Wind Cries Mary" does Jimi play in a more conventional style and on these cuts he gives us a brief taste of his melodic sense – on the solos, which in both cases is perfect. On the latter he uses the eclectic (sic) perfectly... 

...Everything else is insane and simply a matter of either you dig it or you don't. Basically I don't for several reasons. Despite Jimi's musical brilliance and the group's total precision, the poor quality of the songs, and the inanity of the lyrics, too often get in the way. Jimi is very much into state-of-mind type lyrics, but even so, lines like "Manic depression is a frustrating mess," just don't make it. It is one thing for Jimi to talk arrogantly, and without any pretense at artistry; it's another to write lyrics in this fashion." (Jon Landau, 11/9/67 Review) 
On Leonard Cohen's first album:
"The record as a whole is another matter - I don't think I could ever tolerate all of it. There are three brilliant songs, one good one, three qualified bummers, and three are the flaming shits." (Arthur Schmidt, 3/9/68 Review)  
 On Janis Joplin:
"Well, it's a real disappointment. After all the hoopla of signing with Columbia, using one of the best producers in the business and the well-spread reviews of dozens of limp-limbed and sweaty-brow reviewers who have seen Big Brother and Holding Company in performance, one would expect slightly more than what we have gotten...What this record is not is 1) a well-produced, good rock and roll recording; 2) Janis Joplin at her highest and most intense moments; 3) better than the Mainstream record issued last year. The record is a good representation of Big Brother and the Holding Company, as good as one as could have been expected and as good a one as there ever will be." (John Hardin, 9/14/68 Review) 
On Cream, Wheels of Fire:
"Cream is good at a number of things; unfortunately song-writing and recording are not among them...The set begins with a Jack Bruce original, "White Room," which is practically an exact duplication of "Tales of Brave Ulysses" from their Disraeli Gears album, including the exact same lines for guitar, bass and drums. The lyrics are not much to speak of and it's very difficult to imagine why they would want to do this again, unless of course, they had forgotten that they had done it before. The Sonny Bono-ish production job adds little." (Jann Wenner, 7/20/68 Review) 
On The Incredible String Band:
"L.A. sipping from a liquid cigarette with my favorite straw a thread from the radio blowing started tickling my ear sound of a pixie voice tiptoeing over the strings of a golden guitar and the dawn comes creeping up when it thinks I'm not looking lil row your boats of notes on a silver flute growly voice in the background like pooh humming about hunney the floor started to bounce along in time smiles walking all over our faces merry devils conjured clicking their heels in our eyes jigging irish welsh far away green song dances mist wind moving gentle frosting eyelashes and rolling up pearl rainbow tear tickles the radio stopped took another swallow blew smoke out left ear announcer said incredible string band no sleep blues robing williamson guitar (flutegimbristarrattleoudmandolinbass) & mike heron guitar (leadrhythmharmonicavoice) i said Wow ! ! ! ! ! ! pass that cigarette..." (J. Thompson, 5/25/68 Review) 
On Bob Dylan, "John Wesley Harding":
"The music is again a brilliant electronic adaptation of rural blues and country and western sounds...With all the spiced crispness of the Elizabethan verse of some Samuel Daniel, Dylan expresses in this early morning incidente, "As I Went Out One Morning," all the beauty of a different concept of Love: in his knowing, he can only refuse the hand of his "fairest damsel," as he must. This Sad-eyed Lady, reaching out for another answer, finds only rejection...Perhaps the most important track on the album is "Frankie Lee and Judas Priest." This too real, even surrealistic, dialogue between two opposed parties attains a steam-hammer urgency. (It recalls the "Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" in its intensity.)..."Drifter's Escape" is a weird Kafkaesque judgment. Here is the nation, as its own jury and judge, and the Trial has commenced. The Vietnam war, symbolized in the court and its process, has a personal and national level: "help me in my weakness" for "my time it isn't long." The choice is there. The consequences of no rational answer to the whole problem were made only too clear in Peter Watkins' The War Game. The choice is Black and White...As to the usual message and meaning, anybody can feel the return to a cooler, more hip, almost shrugged-shoulder awareness of the whole scene revolving around here." (Gordon Mills, 2/24/68 Review) 
One gets the distinct impression that Rolling Stone may not have actually had an editor at this point. Or if they did he/she was just as stoned or hungover as the writers. Frank Zappa had a point when he said that "Most rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read."

Let's listen to a little of that Janis Joplin album:

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