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John Morthland

John Morthland

John Morthland began in music journalism as a record reviewer for Rolling Stone in San Francisco in the summer of 1969, and became an associate editor there later that year through late 1970. In 1974-5, he was editor of Creem in Detroit. For most of the 1970s and '80s he was a freelance writer who contributed to the full range of music magazines as well as to various other daily, weekly and monthly publications. His critical history The Best of Country Music was published by Doubleday/Dolphin in 1984. In the 1990s, his writing expanded to such other areas as food, travel, baseball and pop and regional culture. Since 1984 he has lived in Austin, Texas, where he is a writer at large for Texas Monthly and contributes freelance to a variety of other print and online publications. He is the editor of Mainlines, Blood Feasts and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader, published by Random House/Anchor in 2004.

Pic: Wyatt McSpadden

rockcritics.com interview with John Morthland

List of articles in the library by artist

Asleep at the Wheel, Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys: The Texas Playboys, Asleep at the Wheel: Panther Hall, Fort Worth, Texas

Live Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, August 1977

"THIS ONE goes back to 1936," Leon McAuliffe grinned. "Bob told me, 'Leon, just hit a chord and then I'll say something,' and so I ...

Archie Bell and the Drells Still Dance All Night

Profile and Interview by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, April 1976

NEW YORK – Archie Bell interrupts his rushed, businesslike replies for a moment and works up the faintest trace of a smile: "I didn't know ...

Elvin Bishop: The Elvin Bishop Band: Hometown Boy Makes Good! (Capricorn)

Review by John Morthland, Creem, March 1977

IT TOOK ELVIN Bishop years to hit his groove, years in which he played every role from overbearing ham to dependable sideman to journeyman pro ...

Blind Faith: Blind Faith (Atco)

Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, September 1969

THE YEAR 1969 has not been a very good one for rock and roll. Outside of Tommy and the Band's decision to go on tour, ...

Kurtis Blow Raps His Way To The Top

Report and Interview by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, March 1981

The sound of the streets hits the heartland ...

Brinsley Schwarz: Despite It All

Review by John Morthland, Creem, October 1971

THE TITLE apparently refers to the incredible hype this group received when they first played Fillmore East and their management blew $120,000 to fly over ...

Johnny Winter, Roy Buchanan: Johnny Winter: Saints and Sinners/Roy Buchanan: That's What I Am Here For

Review by John Morthland, Phonograph Record, April 1974

IT'S A SAD DAY indeed for guitar freaks when two of the best in the business turn out the spottiest albums of their careers. But ...

Burning Spear: Man in the Hills (Island ILPS-9412)

Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, September 1976

THANKS TO this summer's marketing blitz, virtually the entire spectrum of reggae is now available in America, although not in any depth. ...

Captain Beefheart

Interview by John Morthland, Music & Sound Output, May 1981

IN 12 ALBUMS SPREAD out over 13 years, Captain Beefheart has created a body of work that breaks most every rule in American music and ...

Captain Beefheart: The Number One Weirdo Comes Back To Earth

Interview by John Morthland, Gig, February 1978

ON PAPER, IT probably sounds like just another Captain Beefheart comeback. Lord knows he's had his share. Yet for his fans, it's a most welcome ...

David Cassidy, Mick Ronson: Mick Ronson and David Cassidy: Will The Odd Couple Come Out?

Interview by John Morthland, Creem, February 1977

WHAT A difference a month makes. About 30 days ago as I write this, I interviewed Mick Ronson in his Manhattan apartment. I had never ...

Ray Charles: Pure Genius – The Complete Atlantic Recordings, 1952-1959 (Atlantic/Rhino)

Review by John Morthland, No Depression, January 2006

LIKE THE TITLE SAYS, here's everything Ray Charles recorded for Atlantic — six CDs containing 119 tracks (including one LP he produced for his tenor ...

Jimmy Cliff, Toots & The Maytals: Jimmy Cliff: Follow My Mind (Island)/Toots And The Maytals: Funky Kingston (Island)

Review by John Morthland, Creem, January 1976

SINCE HE ELECTRIFIED audiences In The Harder They Come, Jimmy Cliff has been his own worst enemy. His songs in that film bristled with passion, ...

George Clinton: Putting On The Atomic Dog

Interview by John Morthland, Creem, July 1983

GEORGE CLINTON hunkers down into the couch in the conference room of Capitol's Manhattan offices, pours himself a tall noontime glass of orange juice, and ...

Ry Cooder: Chicken Skin Music

Review by John Morthland, Creem, November 1976

BY NOW, Ry Cooder has established his niche so conclusively that you already know whether you like him or not. His curiously pinched vocals. His ...

Country Joe & The Fish: Here We Are Again

Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, August 1969

BERKELEY HAS ALWAYS BEEN the Freak Capital of the Western world. The university of California has long been noted for its political militants, and the ...

Country Joe & The Fish, Jefferson Airplane: Kent Aftermath: Teen Turmoil Poison At B.O.

Report and Interview by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, June 1970

SAN FRANCISCO — Lou Rhode, a student at San Francisco City College, is a clerk at Tower Records, and wears an "Out Now" peace button ...

Steve Cropper: With A Little Help From My Friends/Steve Cropper, Pop Staples, Albert King: Jammed Together (Stax)

Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, August 1969

LOOK AT THE picture of Steve Cropper on his new album cover and you see what appears to be a quiet, reserved, young man – ...

Johnny Winter, Rick Derringer: Johnny Winter: On Music, Hype and Happiness

Interview by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, October 1970

FOR TOO long there, it seemed to Johnny Winter like he would never be known for his music as much as he would be known ...

Dr. Feelgood: Malpractice

Review by John Morthland, Creem, July 1976

DR. FEELGOOD is building on a fine and noble tradition. Their music is rooted in Chicago rhythm and blues, but while they may have gone ...

Electric Flag: Intimations of the Electric Flag

Interview by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, April 1970

SAN FRANCISCO: The Electric Flag is back – sometimes. The rest of the time, they go by the name "Mike Bloomfield and Friends". ...

Elmore James: How Elmore James Invented Metal

Retrospective by John Morthland, Wondering Sound, January 2013

ELMORE JAMES is often demeaned as a one-trick pony — or, in his case, a one lick pony. That would be the swooping, stinging slide ...

The Faces, Rod Stewart: Rod Stewart: In Conversation

Interview by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, December 1970

"I was very pleased with it when we finished, and I still am," Rod Stewart said of his first solo LP. With good reason. ...

Fleetwood Mac: Then Play On (Reprise)

Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, December 1969

Nowadays Fleetwood Mac is stepping out on its own. Tired of being another British blues band, the group has said goodbye to Elmore James and ...

J. Geils Band: Howlin' At The Moon

Live Review by John Morthland, Creem, February 1975

J. Geils Band: Cobo Hall, Detroit ...

Grand Funk Railroad: Caught In The Act (Capitol)

Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, November 1975

IF GRAND FUNK was once a publicist’s tool, this new live album shows the extent to which they have become a producer’s tool. If once ...

Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard: Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn: Louisiana Woman – Mississippi Man; Merle Haggard: I Love Dixie Blues...

Review by John Morthland, Creem, November 1973

THE SEARCH for the most commercial mating of country and rock continues unabated, and it's working both ways. In the wake of Kristofferson, the Young ...

Tim Hardin: Hang On To A Dream: The Verve Recordings

Review by John Morthland, No Depression, Summer 2006

THE PAIN was palpable in nearly every word Tim Hardin sang, and the pleasure didn't feel all that much better. ...

Hawkwind: Hawkwind (United Artists)

Review by John Morthland, Creem, November 1971

THE COVER, IN BRILLIANT colors, shows these creatures that seem to be part reptile, part human, and part falling leaves. The songs have titles like ...

Jimi Hendrix: A Funeral In His Home Town

Report by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, October 1970

Seattle, Washington – It had been very hot and sunny the last few days in Seattle, most unusual for this time of year. But on ...

Millie Jackson: Still Caught Up

Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, September 1975

AND STILL GETTIN' it while the get-tin' is still good. Those who enjoyed Caught Up, Millie Jackson's last song cycle, won't be disappointed by this ...

Millie Jackson: Gettin' Her Piece

Interview by John Morthland, Black Music, November 1975

MILLIE JACKSON raps. That's what her fans come to see her for, she figures, and she'll rap about anything—though, nowadays, she raps most often about ...

Etta James

Interview by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, August 1978

IT IS A cruel irony that had she not been a junkie for thirteen of her forty years, Etta James would probably still be working ...

Waylon Jennings: Waylon Live

Review by John Morthland, Creem, April 1977

It wasn't until late 1974 that the Waylon Jennings mystique took hold for me. This is partly because to my mind that's when his sound ...

George Jones: The Rock: Stone Cold Country 2001 (Bandit)

Review by John Morthland, No Depression, November 2001

IN MOST WAYS, this is a textbook follow-up to George Jones' eerie, surprisingly substantial 1999 album Cold Hard Truth – same basic song ideas only ...

Speedy Keen: Y'Know Wot I Mean?

Review by John Morthland, Creem, May 1976

SPEEDY KEEN'S basically comical persona is good enough by me: the inebriated ex-Mod, a tad daft, struggling for equilibrium in a world whose quirks don't ...

King Crimson: In the Court of the Crimson King

Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, December 1969

THERE ARE CERTAIN problems to be encountered by any band that is consciously avant-garde. In attempting to sound "farout" the musicians inevitably impose on themselves ...

The Legendary Stardust Cowboy: The Tears of a Clown: The Lives and Loves of the Legendary Stardust Cowboy

Profile and Interview by John Morthland, New York Rocker, January 1982

"THIS NEXT one is called 'Arise'. It's a Western song; not a country song, a Western song. Okay, hit it, boys," commands Norman Odam, a/k/a ...

Jerry Lee Lewis: The Killer Staggers On

Report by John Morthland, Creem, March 1974

THE MAN from Mercury is nervous, very nervous. You can see it easily enough as he paces around Steve Cropper's TMI Studios in Memphis. Up ...

Little Feat: The Valley Of The Punks

Profile and Interview by John Morthland, Creem, September 1975

IT HAPPENS TO Little Feat most everywhere they go in Europe, and sometimes even in the States. People just naturally assume they are from Texas, ...

Little Feat: The Continuing Saga Of Little Feat

Interview by John Morthland, Creem, March 1973

DESPITE REPORTS published in nearly every existing music paper that Little Feat has broken up, it ain't so. Understandably, Lowell George is mightily pissed off. ...

Delbert McClinton: Second Wind (Capricorn)

Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, May 1978

DELBERT McClinton’s music reminds me of a frenzied 1972 R&B nonhit called 'Stoop Down Baby', on which singer Chick Willis runs down many verses of ...

George McCrae: George McCrae (TK)

Review by John Morthland, Creem, October 1975

GEORGE McCRAE and the TK studio hands don't sell songs on his albums, they sell a mood, an ambience. ...

Steve Miller: Grand Designs For The Future

Interview by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, September 1970

STEVE MILLER sits at his kitchen table, bent over a series of diagrams and flow charts he's drawing that outline the business side of a ...

Steve Miller: The Steve Miller Band: Brave New World (Capitol)

Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, July 1969

IF YOU WERE hoping for some new music from the new Steve Miller Band – organist Jim Peterman and guitarist Boz Scaggs have left, and ...

Them, Van Morrison: Van Morrison: A Period Of Transition and The Story Of Them

Review by John Morthland, Creem, August 1977

A Period of Transition is a disappointing album, and at first I thought it was mainly because after his nearly three years absence, I expected ...

Mountain Is One Loud Mother

Interview by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, April 1970

SAN FRANCISCO – When Mountain plays, the walls shake and the audience goes crazy. The band born in a recording studio when Felix Pappalardi produced ...

NRBQ: Grooves In Orbit (Bearsville)

Review by John Morthland, Creem, August 1983

AS THE perennial Little Bar Band That Could, NRBQ occupies a special niche. After all, they've existed in basically this form and with basically this ...

Johnny Otis: Doin' That Hand Jive With His Feet

Interview by John Morthland, Creem, November 1971

When the Johnny Otis Show appears on stage, it brings years and years of rhythm and blues history with it. ...

Buck Owens: The Warner Bros. Recordings (Rhino Handmade)

Review by John Morthland, No Depression, July 2007

BUCK WAS ALWAYS the first to put down his Warners output, but you almost have to hear it all in one place to comprehend how ...

Jimmy Page, The Yardbirds: The Yardbirds: Live Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page

Review by John Morthland, Phonograph Record, November 1971

THE YARDBIRDS must be one of the most oft-recorded live groups. There's the 1963 set at the Marquee available on a British import (parts are ...

Gram Parsons: Sacred Hearts And Fallen Angels (Rhino)

Review by John Morthland, No Depression, May 2001

EXCEPT FOR A brief period in the early '80s, when I now believe I was trying so hard I put a clothespin over my crap ...

Johnny Paycheck: The Little Darlin' Sound Of Johnny Paycheck: The Beginning (Koch)

Review by John Morthland, No Depression, July 2004

SOMETIMES I THINK the Johnny Paycheck cultists are so enamoured of the sensational goth of stuff like '(Pardon Me) I've Got Someone To Kill' and ...

Carl Perkins' Family Affair

Interview by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, February 1979

"WELL IT'S one for the money/Two for the show/I'd dance/But I'm too old," a beaming, bouncing forty-six-year-old Carl Perkins mocked from the Bottom Line stage ...

The Persuasions: The Dying Art Of Friendly Persuasions

Interview by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, November 1977

NEW YORK – PERSUASIONS leader Jerry Lawson checked the refrigerator in his Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment one recent morning and found it nearly empty. ...

Alan Price: O Lucky Man! and This Price Is Right

Review by John Morthland, Phonograph Record, October 1973

ABOUT THE ONLY thing these two albums have in common is that they show a remarkable number of influences absorbed by Alan Price. After that, ...

Bonnie Raitt: Home Plate

Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, December 1975

DESPITE ITS UNEVENNESS, this is a vast improvement over Street Lights and accomplishes much of what that LP set out to do in the first ...

Lou Reed: Say It Again, Lou

Interview by John Morthland, Creem, December 1976

LOU REED should have a new album out by the time you read this, and unless Lou has had a change of Rock and Roll ...

R.E.M.: Murmur

Review by John Morthland, Creem, July 1983

I KEEP HEARING about the rise of the new garage bands, who draw their inspiration from the original punks, those brash, anarchistic, one-hit bands so ...

Charlie Rich: Silver Linings

Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, May 1976

GOSPEL MUSIC is certainly closer to Charlie Rich's natural milieu than anything he's done since he and Billy Sherrill hit on the ‘Behind Closed Doors’ ...

Boz Scaggs: Moments

Review by John Morthland, Creem, June 1971

BOZ SCAGGS' FIRST solo album was so close to perfect that it must be considered a tough act to follow. Still, one might have hoped ...

Bob Seger Conquers The World (And About Time!)

Interview by John Morthland, Creem, July 1977

BY ALL ACCOUNTS, Bob Seger is your archetypal Nice Guy – polite, friendly, low key, easy-going, self-effacing, able to laugh at himself with ease. Despite ...

Slade: Slade in Flame

Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, September 1975

POOR SLADE. The biggest band in England for a while and in the States they couldn't get arrested. Last time out, they toned down and ...

Sly & The Family Stone: Sly Stone & the Family Stone: There's A Riot Goin' On (Epic)

Review by John Morthland, Creem, February 1972

AS MANY HAVE noted, Sly Stone's style revolves around so many factors that it may, paradoxically enough, be as limited as it is ground-breaking. Combine ...

Gary Stewart: Steppin 'Out

Review by John Morthland, Creem, May 1976

WHAT MOST attracted rock fans to Gary Stewart's first album was his raw, exuberant singing, and the subsequent suspicion that he was really a closet ...

Gary Stewart: You're Not the Woman You Used to Be

Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, September 1975

THIS COLLECTION OF old singles was released to scoop up some of the financial overflow from country music's current hottest new item. ...

Rod Stewart: Rod Brings It All Back Home: A Night On The Town

Review by John Morthland, Creem, September 1976

FIRST THINGS FIRST: this is as brilliant an album as any Rod Stewart has made, fully the equal of his first three solo efforts, all ...

Rod Stewart: Atlantic Crossing

Review by John Morthland, Creem, December 1975

COMING AS IT does amidst sweeping changes in Stewart's career and personal life, the unsettling nature of Atlantic Crossing isn't that much of a surprise. ...

Neil Young, Stephen Stills: Stills-Young Band: Long May You Run

Review by John Morthland, Creem, February 1977

WHAT A CURIOUS "COLLABORATION" this turns out to be. Neil Young, whose career is at a new critical peak and isn't hurting commercially either, lends ...

Swamp Dogg: Rat On! — Swamp Dogg

Review by John Morthland, Creem, June 1971

Swamp Dogg don’t fuck around. Besides writing or co-writing (many with U.S. Bonds) eight of the album’s 10 songs, he arranged produced, played piano, did ...

Swamp Dogg: 'Whistle Dixie Out Your Ass': Swamp Dogg

Report and Interview by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, October 1970

SAN FRANCISCO – Swamp Dogg had just finished taping a four-song set for a quadraphonic television show, and now everyone was up in the control ...

Billy Swan: Rock 'n' Roll Moon

Review by John Morthland, Creem, January 1976

BILLY SWAN is one of those strange Seventies mutations, a product of a time when musical boundaries are breaking down at an accelerating rate. ...

Big Mama Thornton: Stronger Than Dirt (Mercury)

Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, November 1969

ANYBODY WHO has ever seen Big Mama Thornton perform will vouch for the fact that she is a consummate entertainer. So good, in fact, that ...

Allen Toussaint: Feel Like Staying Home

Profile and Interview by John Morthland, Creem, September 1975

NEW ORLEANS, LA – Allen Toussaint has moved into the pop spotlight lately via Labelle and Paul McCartney but it's not his first time there. ...

UB40: 1980-83

Review by John Morthland, Creem, December 1983

UB40, A MULTIRACIAL reggae group whose name derives from the code on British unemployment cards, emerged from Birmingham in 1980, right around the time the ...

Hank Williams

Guide by John Morthland, Creem, April 1973

WHERE TO begin an article about Hank Williams! How about with the kind of gross overstatement that it's impossible to disprove (or prove)? To wit: ...

Hank Williams Jr.: Hank William Jr. and Friends

Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, April 1976

LAST AUGUST, on a hunting trip near the Great Divide at Missoula, Montana, the recently divorced Hank Williams Jr. fell 500 feet down a mountainside, ...

Lucinda Williams: Happy Woman Blues

Sleevenotes by John Morthland, Smithsonian Folkways, 1990

THE DAUGHTER of an English lit professor, Lucinda Williams was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and spent most of her youth moving from college town ...

Lucinda Williams: Ramblin'

Sleevenotes by John Morthland, Smithsonian Folkways, 1991

WHEN IT WAS first released in 1979, Ramblin' could not have been more out of step. Lucinda Williams, who did indeed have ramblin' on her ...

Johnny Winter: Johnny Winter And Live

Review by John Morthland, Creem, June 1971

HOW, YOU MIGHT be asking yourself, could this not be a killer album? After all, it may have taken two albums and several tours, but ...

Peter Wolf: Lights Out

Review by John Morthland, Creem, November 1984

I HAVE THIS theory about why Peter Wolf got 86'd from the J. Geils Band that was refined a couple months back by a conversation ...

Betty Wright: This Time For Real…

Interview by John Morthland, Black Music, January 1978

The "Clean Up Woman" cleans up — a report by John Morthland ...

Neil Young: Contra Costa Junior College, San Francisco

Live Review by John Morthland, Rolling Stone, April 1970

EVERYTHING about Neil Young’s approach to music has become so highly personalized that when he performs, he seems at first to be oblivious of his ...

List of genre pieces

Nashville: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (MCA)

Review by John Morthland, Creem, September 1975

EVEN MORE THAN most soundtracks, this one is totally inseparable from its film. Taken alone, it’s damn near unlistenable. ...

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