Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 1974-12-23


John Coltrane: Interstellar Space (Impulse, 1974) These duets between Coltrane on tenor (and bells) and Rashied Ali on drums sound like an annoyance until you concentrate on them, at which point the interactions take on pace and shape, with metaphorical overtones that have little to do with the musical ideas being explored. European, Oriental, African--I don't know. But amazing. A-

Barry Manilow: Manilow II (Bell, 1974) Manilow arouses all the distrust that a man who achieved affluence making advertising music deserves: even if he is as sentimental sometimes, as his hit would indicate, he has no right to be. Nevertheless, a couple of songs written with someone named Enoch Anderson, who must deserve better, stick with me. The jingle strikes again? C

McCoy Tyner: Sama Layuca (Milestone, 1974) After much listening, I am not convinced that Tyner is the total pianist. True, there are more ideas per minute on his simultaneously released solo album, Echoes of a Friend, than on Keith Jarrett's Solo Concerts. But the mystical empty spaces that Jarrett explores or exploits do have an irreducible validity that a bad idea does not, and unfortunately, Tyner is not above bad ideas, especially those Tatumesque flourishes with which jazz buffs satisfy their craving for soppy romance. (Why is the rock an droll fan listening to solo piano albums at all? The rock and roll fan is not always sure himself.) But Tyner's failings, which aren't major anyway, are less egregious in an ensemble setting like this one. At its best, this music breathes with a lushness and lyricism that never cloys: the melodies and harmonies and polyrhythms are sensuous without coming on about it. Strength that never offends. B+

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