Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • The Concept [Cotillion, 1978] B
  • Stone Jam [Cotillion, 1980] B-
  • Show Time [Cotillion, 1981] A-
  • Visions of the Lite [Cotillion, 1982] B-
  • Best of Slave [Cotillion, 1985] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Concept [Cotillion, 1978]
While pioneering funk groups like Funkadelic and the Commodores, manned by veteran musicians, clearly evolved out of existing black-music formats, the younger ones often resemble third-generation rock groups in concept and spirit. Unless you prefer Kansas to the J.B.'s, this is not a compliment; profound thoughts like "Now will always be forever" might well grace the back of a Starcastle album. This is a Starcastle kind of band, too, right down to its general derivativeness and pretensions to content. But it doesn't make Starcastle music. Despite moderate tempos, the first side of the band's third and best LP chugs by smartly without once pausing to pose--it's fun, and it's interesting, too. Lesson: if the play of rhythms, textures, studio tricks, and vocal techniques constitutes the real content of your music, black is as beautiful as ever. B

Stone Jam [Cotillion, 1980]
"No no no," an A&R man to remain nameless exclaimed to Steve Washington last year. "Not funk. Funk's not the future. It's disco, disco." Whereupon Washington, unaware that by the time his album appeared the same a&r man would either have declared disco dead or been declared dead himself, bought some string programs, taught the boys to sing those backups high, and made room for Starleana Young. Sure there's still a fair amount of thump and wah-wah-wah. But with Starleana singing over their shoulders, they're embarrassed to get too dirty about it. B-

Show Time [Cotillion, 1981]
For those as can take their funk straight, this is the brawny beast in all its callipygean glory, complete with jokes (could use more) and slow one (could use fewer). The "Snap Shot"/"Funken Town" twelve-inch does boil it down conveniently to kickoff and touchdown, but the ball keeps moving throughout. Leading ground-gainer: Mark L. Adams, who in real life plays . . . (starts with B, ends with S, and ain't bongos). A-

Visions of the Lite [Cotillion, 1982]
Each side kicks off with a small bang and proceeds pleasantly enough, but Mark L. Adams's half of the band spells it like the beer for a reason--not enough body to make you rub your belly after the brew has gone down. B-

Best of Slave [Cotillion, 1985]
If pop best-ofs showcase hooks, funk best-ofs showcase beats--cowbell grace note here, JB-plus guitar there--and side one is Slave's movingest ever. But assuming Mark Adams's bass and ignoring the disco hook of "Just a Touch of Love," what makes side two listenable is two tracks from their movingest album ever, Show Time, which also contributes "Wait for Me" to side one. One of these LPs you could probably use. B+

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]