Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Joe Higgs

  • Triumph [Alligator, 1985] A-
  • Family [Shanachie, 1988] B+

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Triumph [Alligator, 1985]
The ska pioneer and fourth Wailer is one of reggae's most respected writers of songs and singers of harmonies. He's been around too long to have much use for millenarian cant, and he's too honest to play the romantic stud--he sings about love because he needs it soul and body in the ghetto where he figures to spend the rest of his days, and at forty-five he feels like he's got a lot of days ahead of him. His weathered voice and reassuringly deep and unpredictable backup also articulate the way he understands the world. I know of no Jamaican whose sensibility is more accessible to ordinary American music lovers of a certain age. A-

Family [Shanachie, 1988]
In a chronically undifferentiated music, subtlety can be a curse, and though I've gotten to know every song here and have no trouble admiring most, I wish Higgs had rehired the musicians who backed Triumph three years ago. It's my guess--and with subtlety you have to guess some--that the likes of Chinna Smith, Wire Lindo, and Augustus Pablo made the difference between an acknowledged classic and an obscure near thing. B+