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Billie Joe Becoat: Reflections from a Cracked Mirror (Fantasy). Billie Joe Becoat is a black singer, harp player and guitarist who writes songs like Bob Dylan (the old, "political" Bob Dylan). Four years ago this might have been a blockbuster. Today it's a solid and entertaining job -- and I've played it over and over. (September 1969).

Bettye Swann: The Soul View Now! (Capital). There are a very few master soul singers -- Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin are perhaps the best -- but Bettye Swann sounds like she could become one of them. There are some good performances here but she mimics Otis Redding too much for my taste. Maybe there'll be more fire next time. (September 1969)

Chuck Berry: Concerto in B Goode (Mercury). Mercury continues its assault on Chuck Berry with the release of this "concerto." The other side, though, is strong blues and the best things he'd done for the label; buy only this side. (September 1969)

Linda Ronstadt: Hand Sown...Home Grown (Capital). Linda Ronstadt, formerly lead singer of the Stone Poneys, is in the Judy Collins bag, but stronger. All the tunes are hummable. (September 1969)

Jerry Jeff Walker: Driftin' Way of Life (Vanguard). Jerry Jeff Walker -- singer, guitarist and songwriter -- is one of the best of the new crop of folk-rockers. The album was recorded in Nashville, nacherly. (September 1969)

Carolyn Franklin: Baby Dynamite (RCA Victor). RCA often acts on the prinnciple that nothing succeeds like an imitation of success. This time it's Aretha you-know-who's youngest sister Carolyn. Tne album is overly smooth and lacks bite, but for a debut it's ok. (September, 1969)

Lena Horne and Gabor Szabo: Lena & Gabor (Skye). Gary McFarland's extraordinary musician-oriented record company goes its merry way. This is the best Lena Horne set in years. "Rocky Raccoon" is marvelous. So's the rest. (August 1970)

Otis Spann: The Biggest Thing Since Colossus (Blue Horizon). If this recording of Spann, backed by Fleetwood Mac, the British group, leads people to discover the great Chicago blues pianist, then it will be worth it. Only Peter Green, the guitarist, is really in Spann's class. (August 1970)

Country Coalition: Time to Get It Together (Bluesway). By mixing several contemporary influences (among them, I think, the Band, Edison Electric, RCA-type Nashville), Country Coalition comes up with a nice sound of its own. (August 1970)

Ray Stevens: Everything Is Beautiful (Barnaby). Ray Stevens, a former c&w novelty song performer (remember "Ahab the Arab"?), is Andy Williams' summer fill-in on the tube. The last five songs on side 2 of this album demonstrate he is as good as anybody in the Joe South/Glen Campbell school of pop singing. May God grant him the humility to hire a producer other than himself. (August 1970)

Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsies (Capital). Jimi Hendrix with a newly-formed trio at the Fillmore East last January 1. The guitar work is fantastic, the rest of it mediocre. For Hendrix freaks. (August 1970)

Melanie: Melanie (Buddah). Another Melanie album that in no way demonstrates her considerable talent as a singer and songwriter. Her first album is still her best. (August 1970)

Poco: Poco (Epic). This is the second album by the band formed by Richie Furay, the third important member of the defunct Buffalo Springfield. A good country-rock band and another reminder of what we lost. (August 1970)



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