You have probably disagreed with a record review or critic yourself. After all, it’s an opinion. But sometimes they get it real wrong. Very wrong. Critics probably get more attention when writing negative reviews, but there are some I guarantee they would love to take back. Over the test of time, they have been proven just oh-so-off-the mark .
And just to prove we are not talking about some critic from some local village music paper, all of these reviews were taken from the hallowed pages of Rolling Stone Magazine. What should be the top-tier writers and reviewers. You look back at these and wonder just how they could be so wrong-sighted.
-“Are you experienced” Jimi Hendrix Experience
“..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)
Dig this Jon, In 2005, Are You Experienced was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry, which selects recordings annually that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
-“Creedence Clearwater Revival” Creedence Clearwater Revival (debut)
“On the liner notes to their album, Ralph Gleason states: “Creedence Clearwater Revival is an excellent example of the Third Generation of San Francisco bands.” Really more like Third Level – behind the Airplane, Dead, Quicksilver, Grape and all the others. The only bright spot in the group is John Fogerty, who plays lead guitar and does the vocals. He’s a better-than-average singer (really believable in Wilson Pickett’s “Ninety-Nine and a Half”), and an interesting guitarist. But there’s nothing else here.” (Barry Gifford, 7/20/68 Review)
So….who ended up lasting Barry…Moby Grape or CCR?
-“Led Zeppelin” Led Zeppelin (debut)
“…alternates between prissy Robert Plant’s howled vocals fronting an acoustic guitar and driving choruses of the band running down a four-chord progression while John Bonham smashes his cymbals on every beat.” (John Mendelsohn, 3/15/69 Review)
For reasons that are now simply head scratching, Zeppelin and the critics just never got along. Nothing else needs to be said here.
-“Abbey Road” The Beatles
“…Side two is a disaster…The slump begins with “Because,” which is a rather nothing song…the biggest bomb on the album is “Sun King,” which overflows with sixth and ninth chords and finally degenerates into a Muzak-sounding thing with Italian lyrics. It is probably the worst thing the Beatles have done since they changed drummers. This leads into the “Suite” which finishes up the side. There are six little songs, each slightly under two minutes long, all of which are so heavily overproduced that they are hard to listen to. (Ed Ward, 11/15/69 Review)
“Side two is a disaster”???? Worst thing since they changed drummers”????
Ed Ward is now the rock and roll historian for NPR’s “All Things Considered”. Ward was asked recently if he stands by his review of Abbey Road. He said” Of course not, I was just a 20 year old kid full of myself.”
-“After the Gold Rush” Neil Young
“Neil Young devotees will probably spend the next few weeks trying desperately to convince themselves that After The Gold Rush is good music. But they’ll be kidding themselves. For despite the fact that the album contains some potentially first rate material, none of the songs here rise above the uniformly dull surface. In my listening, the problem appears to be that most of this music was simply not ready to be recorded at the time of the sessions. It needed time to mature. On the album the band never really gets behind the songs and Young himself has trouble singing many of them…The song “After The Gold Rush,” for instance, reminds one of nothing so much as Mrs. Miller moaning and wheezing her way through “I’m A Lonely Little Petunia In An Onion Patch.” Apparently no one bothered to tell Neil Young that he was singing a half octave above his highest acceptable range. At that point his pathos becomes an irritating bathos. I can’t listen to it at all.” (Langdon Winner, 10/15/70 Review)
In 2003, Rolling Stone named “After The Gold Rush” the 71st greatest album of all time, his highest ranking on this list.
I do applaud Langdon for somehow using the word “bathos” in his review. Man what a wordsmith….
-“Ram” Paul McCartney
“Ram represents the nadir in the decomposition of Sixties rock thus far. For some, including myself, Self-Portrait had been secure in that position, but at least Self-Portrait was an album that you could hate, a record you could feel something over, even if it were nothing but regret. Ram is so incredibly inconsequential and so monumentally irrelevant you can’t even do that with it: it is difficult to concentrate on, let alone dislike or even hate.” (Jon Landau, 6/8/71 Review)
This album was reissued in 2012. Jon was asked if he stood by his review. He admitted he was too harsh if not basically wrong. McCartney was out of favor with reviewers at the time, it was his first real solo release and it seemed as if critics had to choose Lennon or McCartney.
They all now seem to agree that it was a shame, because this was one of McCartney’s best solo albums he ever released.
-“Imagine” John Lennon
“In its technical sloppiness and self-absorption, Imagine is John’s Self-Portrait…on the heels of “Plastic Ono Band” is only seems to reinforce the questioning of what John’s relationship to rock really is. “Imagine,” for instance, is simply the consolidation of primal awareness into a world movement. It asks that we imagine a world without religions or nations, and that such a world would mean brotherhood and peace. The singing is methodical but not really skilled, the melody undistinguished, except the bridge, which sounds nice to me.” (Ben Gerson, 10/28/71 Review)
Well, not EVERY critic chose Lennon. Some were equal opportunity haters. And besides, they were broken up. That alone pissed reviewers off….
And why do they keep throwing in poor Bob Dylan’s album “Self Portrait”? Didn’t they get enough jabs in when it first came out in 1970? Seems unfair to keep kicking at an album in a different albums review…
Rolling Stone ranked “Imagine” number 3 on its list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of all Time”, in 2004.
“Sticky fingers” The Rolling Stones
“As I listened to Sticky Fingers for the first time I thought “Brown Sugar” was good, but not that good. I certainly hoped it wasn’t the best thing on the album. As it turns out, there are a few moments that surpass it but it still sets the tone for the album perfectly: middle-level Rolling Stones competence. The lowpoints aren’t that low, but the high points, with one exception aren’t that high…
…I suppose somewhere along the line they thought of calling the album “Dead Flowers” which would have justified this cut’s presence at some level. Despite its parodistic intentions, the mere thought of the Stones doing straight country music is simply appalling. And they do it so poorly, especially the lead guitar… (Jon Landau, 6/10/71 Review)
In 2003, Sticky Fingers was listed as #63 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
This may be a good time to introduce you to Jon Landau. He was born May 14th 1947. In the mid 70’s he all but stopped writing reviews to manage and co-produce a fellow by the name of Bruce Springsteen. It looks like he was better at doing it than writing about it. But then again, he is the head of the nominating committee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which has a lot to ‘splaining to do….
-”Grace” Jeff Buckley
“The young Buckley’s vocals don’t always stand up: He doesn’t sound battered or desperate enough to carry off Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”” (Stephanie Zacharek, 11/3/94 Review)
I think we can all safely agree that Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah” is the quintessential version. The album is also on Rolling Stone’s list of Greatest Albums of All Time.
-”Black Sabbath” Debut
“The whole album is a shuck — despite the murky songtitles and some inane lyrics that sound like Vanilla Fudge paying doggerel tribute to Aleister Crowley, the album has nothing to do with spiritualism, the occult, or anything much except stiff recitations of Cream clichés that sound like the musicians learned them out of a book, grinding on and on with dogged persistence.” Lester Bangs, 2/13/70 review)
Most of this review from one of the most famous music writers of all time was comparing Cream and Black Sabbath. Why? Just…why?
-“ Barney’s favorites part one” Barney
“Almost all of the songs on Barney’s Favorites are “traditional,” and lots of them have the same words that Canadian multiculturalism freak Raffi has been using to brainwash kids for years.” (Chuck Eddy, 11/11/93 Review)
Ok…First of all, why did Rolling Stone go to the trouble of reviewing a Barney album. And number two, why be hating on poor Raffi? And I can only imagine what they had to say about “Barney’s Favorites part two”!