essay Archive

Elton John’s Well-deserved Victory Lap

It may be difficult to remember all the details after all these years, but on the occasion of what looks to be his farewell-to-touring tour, it’s worth taking a look back to recognize the cultural phenomenon that is Sir Elton John. Trained from a young age at London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Music, John (then

Deep Purple’s Long Goodbye

If Deep Purple had done nothing more than record “Smoke on the Water,” the band would have earned a place of honor in rock history. Though the riff-based classic (with a true-story lyric about a fire at a Montreux, Switzerland concert venue) has become a cliché among musicians and fans alike, there’s no mistaking its

Herb Alpert: International Man of Music

It’s only a slight overstatement to call trumpeter Herb Alpert the king of 1960s easy listening music. Alpert, of course, led the staggeringly successful Tijuana Brass; if you’ve ever been in a thrift shop, you’ve seen Whipped Cream and Other Delights, the record with that famously racy cover photo. Alpert is the rare artist who

Ice-T’s ‘Power’ at 30

When considering the work of a high-profile, successful recording artist, it’s often instructive to look at the work they did prior to their breakthrough. Important clues in regard to their creative development can often be identified, and the arc of that development can be more fully understood and appreciated. In hip-hop, one of the genre’s

Greta Van Fleet: The Sound Remains the Same

Greta Van Fleet can’t seem to catch a break. The young foursome from the faux-Bavarian town of Frankenmuth, Michigan, has sustained criticism for copping its sound from 1970s rock giants Led Zeppelin. The group’s debut track, “Highway Tune” is characterized by Josh Kiszka’s Robert Plant doppelganger wail and Jacob Kiszka’s Jimmy Page-style guitar licks; the

Los Lobos: Genre-spanning NorteAmericana Heroes

Los Lobos is an American treasure. Formed in East L.A. in the early 1970s, the band has always drawn from across the entire spectrum of American music. While the group’s Latino roots invite easy comparison to groundbreaking acts like Thee Midniters, El Chicano, Malo and Santana, the group (whose name means “the wolves”) has always

Todd Rundgren’s ‘No World Order” at 25

Todd Rundgren has long made a career out of alternatively (and sometimes simultaneously) confounding and delighting his most ardent fans. Resolutely following his muse wherever it takes him, Rundgren is remarkably unbound from commercial considerations; he makes the music he wants to make, how and when he chooses. The result is a body of work

The Fire Still Burns for the Animals’ Eric Burdon

Many of the bands considered part of the “British invasion” of the mid-sixties drew from American rhythm & blues or soul. Some, like the Beatles, filtered those influences through their own musical sensibilities, creating something completely new in the process. Others – the Rolling Stones, for example – built upon a r&b foundation, initially playing

In Memory of Tommy Keene

Every so often – and not really that often at all – I hear a song that figuratively grabs me by the lapels and shakes me. It happened with World Party’s “Put the Message in the Box.” It happened with Todd Rundgren’s “Love of the Common Man.” And if most definitely happened one day during

A Pink Floyd Anniversary

I first discovered the music of Pink Floyd in the mid 1970s. The Dark Side of the Moon had already been out a few years, and Wish You Were Here had been released, too. Animals hadn’t yet come out, so this would have been 1976. I was 11 or 12 years old, and the music