essay Archive

Gordon Lightfoot: 80 Years Strong

In some ways a reaction to the hard rock and psychedelic excesses of late 1960s pop music, the early 1970s ushered in the era of the singer-songwriter. Led by a raft of supremely talented artists who composed their own material, the scene featured acts like Carole King, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Leonard Cohen,

The Whispers: A Half Century of Smooth

Smooth R&B vocal group the Whispers have been a fixture of the music landscape for a half century. With a sound that draws from vocal greats like the Temptations, the Whispers apply a soothing approach that keeps the focus on the vocals. But the enduring act has applied a solid slow-jam dance groove to its

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