The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on November 30, 1980 · 324
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · 324

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Los Angeles, California
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Sunday, November 30, 1980
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324
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CALENDAR POP RECORDS LENNON, ONO IN YESTERYEAR BY STEVE POND "DOUBLE FANTASY." John Lennon Yoko Ono. Geffen GHS 2001 (Warner Bros.). With three rings from a presumably magic bell, "(Just Like) Starting Over" kicks off John Lennon's first album of new material in six years. And as Lennon's familiar voice sings about going back to "the early days," listeners too are transported back in time back not to his penetrating ear-ly-'70s heyday, but to about 1974, when he was making his weakest albums. By lying low for the past five years, Lennon refueled his own myth, a myth that had almost evaporated after his solo recording career limped to a halt with the uneventful "Mind Games" and "Walls and Bridges" and his lackluster oldies album. Those expecting the return of the mythical Lennon a man with an insightful, brilliant mind and a biting wit DIAMOND ALBUM THAT GLITTERS BY PAUL GREIN "THE JAZZ SINGER (ORIGINAL SONGS FROM THE MOTION PICTURE)." Neil Diamond. Capitol SWA V-12120. The best thing about Neil Diamond's score to his forthcoming film debut is that many of its songs recapture the punchy energy and drive of his early hits. When Diamond burst on the record scene in 1966, it was with engaging, uptempo pop fare like "Solitary Man" and "You Got to Me," songs that fairly bristled with pop hooks. Then Diamond went and did a terrible thing. He started writing belabored, oh-so-serious ballads like "Be" and "If You Know What I Mean" ( four years later, I still don't). Oh sure, there was an occasional single that harked back to the lilting buoyancy of his earlier material. But for every "Longfellow Serenade" or "Beautiful Noise" there was a song like "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," which, when you take away the Streisand-Diamond star chemistry, is rather stilted and melodramatic. On "The Jazz Singer" Diamond ups the tempo and has some fun. "America," which both opens and closes the album, features a soaring string inlro similar to "Skybird" from Diamond's one prior sound-track effort, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull." The song also ends with a highly cinematic expression! Diamond cries out the opening lines of "Of Thee I Sing" in a passionate call-and-response segment with the assembled crowd. "On the Robert E. Lee" is the album's most filmic and stylized cut and easily its most charming. The tune has a New Orleans Dixieland flavor laced with a hint of vaudeville, suggesting a big production number from the golden era of MGM musicals. "You Baby" recalls the manic energy of Diamond's '60s hits, down to the handclaps, "baby baby" lyrics and rocking uptempo rhythm. will be sorely disillusioned by "Double Fantasy." "(Just Like) Starting Over" begins things on a positive note, aided by a grandiose Phil Spector-style production. Elsewhere, Lennon reprises "Imagine's" rolling piano for "Watching the Wheels" and sings convincingly of old wounds in the brooding "I'm Losing You." In a sprightlier vein, Ono's "Kiss Kiss Kiss" is a bubbly B-52's-type dance tune. But isolated instances of strong music can't redeem an album whose emotional core is as vapid as this one's. The "mixed emotions" Lennon sings about in one song are nowhere in evidence he's simply giddy throughout the album, composing little love ditties to Yoko and In "The Jazz Singer," Neil Diamond recaptures the energy of his earlier hits. The album's few ballads vary in effectiveness. The most appealing, "Summer-love," is a soft, gently swaying samba which shows Diamond's flair with light, jazzy rhythms. "Love on the Rocks," the album's Top 10 single, features a virile vocal performance in which Diamond fairly spits out the words. But ultimately it seems rather overblown and heavy-handed. And "Hello Again" is a plodding tune with lyrics, it would seem, from a Hallmark card: "Hello my friend, hellolit good to need you toId good to love you POPPOURRI 82 CONCERTS, CLUBS 92 FACES The unprintable Larry Gatlin. By Dennis Hunt. 95 ALBUM BRIEFS 96 WESTERN MUSIC The Texas Playboys remember Bob Wills. By Stuart Goldman. his son Sean and getting defensive about his inactivity "People say Fm lazy dreaming my life away. . . I tell them that Fm doing fine watching the shadovts on the wall"). Twice Lennon dredges up the memory of an unhappier past, but those moments are too perfunctory to have much impact. Because of the album's structure one song by John, then one by Yoko many people figured that listening would be a chore; skipping Yoko's songs would take a lot of footwork. But her contributions outclass John's. "Kiss Kiss Kiss" is the record's most ambiguous, challenging song as it obscures the line between love and violence, and "Give Me Something" and "I'm Moving On" at least question John's complacency. But those are all on I , j u V " . s like I do And to feel this way When I hear you sayHello." Still, of the 11 principal songs (there's also some incidental film music), easily eight or nine hit the mark. The result is Diamond's best album since 1976's ambitious "Beautiful Noise," which loosely documented the dying days of Tin Pan Alley. Both that concept album and this sound track have a sense of unity missing from Diamond's intervening studio albums. Diamond, it's apparent, does his best work when he asks the most of himself. 98 CABLE TV ROCK "New Wave Theater." By Jeff Spurrier. 99 STEREO NEWS Stay in your seat remote control is here. By Ivan Bergcr. 100 POP EYE Rockers vie for talk-show slots. By Patrick Goldstein. Side 1; on the second side, Ono is just as lightheaded as Lennon. Of course, Lennon and Ono have every right to enjoy lazy domesticity. But it was tempting to believe that Lennon was coming out of retirement to say something, to make art as stimulating as the best of his old work. Instead, he and Yoko have come up with the vinyl equivalent of that embarrassingly insipid "open letter" they published in newspapers a couple of years ago, in which they gave mankind their prescription for happiness: Wish, and your wishes will come true. Those sentiments are fitting for Jiminy Cricket, but not John Lennon. Even when he recorded the optimistic "Imagine," Lennon knew that imagination was the only way to live in Utopia. Now, apparently, he's forgotten that. The worst thing about most of "Double Fantasy" is that it simply makes John and Yoko look like a pair of aged, lost hippies. EARTH, WIND & FIRE FACES THE MUSIC BY DENNIS HUNT "FACES." Earth, Wind & Fire. Arc KC-2-36795 (Columbia). Vou can be sure that many critics are going to blast this two-record set. They'll probably call it ev-ei thing from "slick popR&B trash" to "R&B without guts." These days, you see, it's fashionable to rap popR&B. Hopefully, EWF leader Maurice White will ignore these snide criticisms. To me, "Faces" is the R&B album of the year. Sure it's slick and ultra-romantic, and maybe White really is more of a pop artist now. But so what? To be palatable, R&B doesn't have to be raw and hard-edged. "Faces" is expertly written, produced and performed and is considerably better than any of this year's hardcore R&B albums. Just about every song on "Faces," which is nearly all upbeat, is high quality. Its danceability rating is as high as any you'll find on an album in this post-disco era. "Sparkle" and "Turn It Into Something Good" are the best of this classy lot. Every two-record set, no matter how good, has its filler and this one is no exception. However, only one cut the title song falls into the filler category. This long instrumental is no more than peppy R&B Muzak and is completely insubstantial from start to finish. It's the album's only failure. EWF seems to have stopped testing the boundaries of R&B and settled into a groove. Its popR&B music certainly isn't as challenging as the R&Bjazz it played through most of the 70s. Still, the genre has brought out the best in EWF and has inspired the band to eliminate most of its flaws. The harmonics are much more intriguing and the falsetto vocals, once rough and shrill, are now consistently smooth and savory. Also, the EWF songs don't sound like updated Sly Stone pieces any more. New EWF beau old EWF by a wide margin. m 7. O 73 o

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