Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Louis Armstrong: 16 Most Requested Songs [Columbia/Legacy, 1994]
With his innovations long since institutionalized, Armstrong's Ambassador of Jazz period is often accused of lost spark. Four songs on this budget set from the mid-'50s had been in his repertoire so long that they're also featured in the box, and you needn't back-to-back them to hear the difference--where earlier he was exploring his gifts and establishing his rights, here he's recreating his triumphs, revving set pieces into what has come to be understood as "Dixieland," preparing effects that no one on either side of the footlights doubts will be forthcoming. And forthcome they fucking well do. No man as strong as Louis Armstrong entertains out of contempt--he lives to give pleasure, and he's so confident in his love for this material that he can do anything he wants to it. "Rockin' Chair" and "That's My Desire" are as funny as death and sex, which he knows damn well they're about. "Black and Blue" isn't funny at all. A