Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Robt Sarazin Blake [extended]

  • Put It All Down in a Letter [Same Room, 2011] A-
  • Recitative [Same Room, 2017] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Robert Sarazin Blake With Jefferson Hamer and the Powderkegs: Put It All Down in a Letter [Same Room, 2011]
This poetry-with-rock as poetry-with-jazz leads with the associative 17-minute narrative "I Didn't Call You From Philadelphia," over a quarter of the CD's full length, and if you shrug and decide Blake's tour of West Philadelphia eating and music spots w/ Luddite assessment of telephonemetry could just be worth the price of admission by itself, you may well be making a rational economic decision. Inexhaustibly, it cuts everything else here, including the unmailed 16-minute love letter "Magic Hour on Baltimore Ave." But not by as much as everything else here cuts the doleful recorded-in-Belfast (apparently in the same year, 2011) A Long Series of Memorable Nights Forgotten. Partly it's the band, and partly too Anaïs Mitchell's Child ballad helpmeet Hamer, because they groove, inducing Blake to bop like Lawrence Ferlinghetti with the funk rather than moan like Bob Geldof with catarrh. But mostly it's the songs. If the weary realism of "Planned Parenthood Waiting Room," "The Little Disappointments We Swallow," and the sexually explicit "We Can Roll Down Tonite" don't live up to the lead track, that's just more evidence of what a stroke that shaggy dog song is. A-

Recitative [Same Room, 2017]
In a vibrato-shaded baritone that recalls a French chansonnier more than an Americana guitar guy, the first singer-songwriter in history to linger on the word "gerrymander" enlists a limber band colored decisively by horn man Thomas Deakin to array sixteen talky songs lasting a mere hour and a half over two CDs. Chants that riff on the titles "Work," "Couples," and "Single Women" ("Haven't been laid in years," "Are always late," "Get to work on time," "Got lucky last night") are as instantly indelible as the Springsteen, Weill, Reed, and Van Morrison lifts woven in, and the disc-openers do equal justice to "The Other Side of Fck It" and "Rock & Roll Dream." But after you've had your fill of the easy stuff, focus on the sequence that begins with the three apparently unrelated verses entitled "Sgt. Manning" and sandwiches "Own House, Own Guns" and "19 Shots" around the essential relief of "On the Corner of Saturday Night." A-