Currently, I am taking part in a poll documenting the 100 best records of the 1970’s as part of a music group I belong to in Facebook. Once the poll is closed and the records are selected, the 100 top records each receive a capsule review extolling its virtues.
I am writing a few of these and it got me thinking about the art of writing capsule reviews. Saying everything you want in four or five lines or even less. You have to find a hook, a stand-out detail of each record in order to pare it down like this. A very good example of this is Robert Christgau even if I only agree with about half his opinions. His record guide books of the 70’s and 80’s are all capsule reviews.
I tried to make a list of my favorite records of all time but it got very sloppy http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2011/08/my-top-500-records-of-all-time-100.html I had to post an addendum as well
What I think might be better is if I slowly post capsule reviews for my favorite records of the 70’s – five each time. I will also do for the 60’s and the 80’s. In the case of the 80’s, I may need to split up into two parts 100 best of 1980 to 1984 and 100 best 1985 to 1989. When I am done who knows maybe I will come up with a better more organized best records lists but this time do it by decade.
Here’s the first five:
ENTERTAINMENT by Gang of Four (1979) An anti-capitalist message, feedback laden guitar, and a funky rhythm section seem like an impossible combination but it works here, oh does it work, Composed of equal parts head and heart and perhaps the greatest rhythm section of all time, this swings.
THE NEW YORK DOLLS by The New York Dolls (1973) While attempting to mimic The Rolling Stones, David Johanson and Co. come up with a completely new form of music. The future is Johnny Thunders' guitar and it barrels forward like a subway train as big as Frankenstein.
PARANOID by Black Sabbath (1970) The problem with Black Sabbath’s records was consistency. This was their most consistent record and we see Ozzy’s Osbourne’s wailing, Tony Iommi’s juggernaut riffs, Geezer Butler’s sludge bass, and the underrated Bill Ward, a faster John Bonham, lock into something that can only be called heavy.
ELECTRIC WARRIOR by T Rex (1971) The true father of glam sets down the template – kitchen sink arrangements, ridiculous lyrics, breathy overblown vocals, the result is grand, majestic, something out of the heavens. Often emulated, never equaled.
REAL LIFE by Magazine (1978) Howard Devoto’s obtuse vision finds the right musical accompaniment on Magazine’s debut. Over busy keyboards alternating electronics and piano, strafing guitars and Barry Adamson’s bubbling bass, Devoto spins his surreal lyrics like the anti-Dylan and their music hangs on his every word like the Band’s.