Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Syl Johnson: Total Explosion [Hi, 1976]
Johnson has tended to disappear in between Willie Mitchell and Al Green, but on this LP he takes his harmonica up to the microphone and stands clear as a lapsed bluesman. Good move. His voice is still shriller, and more strained than Green's, but that can be a satisfying distinction in the right context. A comparison of his unexceptionably dynamic rendition of "Take Me to the River" to Green's sublime original, however, renews one's understanding of what divine spark might be. Although I wish the folks at Hi would let him sing just one Junior Wells song, say, they've done him proud. B+