Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Gather Me [Neighborhood, 1971] B+
  • Four Sides of Melanie [Buddah, 1972] B-
  • Photograph [Atlantic, 1976] C+
  • The Best of Melanie [Buddah, 1977] C-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Gather Me [Neighborhood, 1971]
Unlike my straightlaced friends, I've always dug the idea of Melanie--Edith Piaf as Brooklyn waif, preaching the hippie gospel in that absurdly flexible and resonant alto. But I've found the reality cloying. Here she grows up just enough. "Brand New Key" is one of those impossible celebrations of teen libido that renew one's faith in AM radio. "Steppin'" is the best breakup song since "It's Too Late," and though side two slips badly toward the end, she's rarely a simp this time out. B+

Four Sides of Melanie [Buddah, 1972]
Two of which you can skip: the formless formative stuff (she's eternally callow so who needs it, though "I Really Loved Harold" and "Somebody Loves Me" are nice) and the unspeakable contemporary covers (Dylan, Taylor, and Jagger as Blake, Keats, and Coleridge). But even without "Brand New Key" her hits have their charms--"What Have They Done to My Song Ma" and "Nickel Song" on one theme and "Lay Down" and "Peace Will Come" on the other. And except for the labored "Psychotherapy" the weird stuff is quite amusing. She ought to ask herself, though, why the two best cuts on her best-of are the aforementioned tune, and "Christopher Robin," by A.A. Milne. B-

Photograph [Atlantic, 1976]
When she was a twenty-four-year-old child-woman she got points for her changeable voice and naive candor. But as she pushes thirty the voice is a given and the naivete an embarrassment. C+

The Best of Melanie [Buddah, 1977]
In which Arista buys Buddah and perpetrates a literal corporate ripoff, yanking ten songs from Buddah's thoughtful if flawed twenty-three-cut Melanie compilation--including her epochal misreadings of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Ruby Tuesday." Title recognition, you know. C-