Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 1979-00-00


The Bottles: The Bottles (MCA, 1979) All that's new wave (much less punk) about this aspiring El Lay songwriting duo is their name and their promo. Now they need a hit single so they can be remembered as a flash in the pan. C-

Jack DeJohnette: New Directions (ECM, 1978) Because this date by the former Miles Davis drummer features the protean Lester Bowie in a relatively muted frame of mind, comparisons are made to In a Silent Way. But guitarist John Abercrombie is more like an anti-intellectual Bill Evans (bassist Eddie Gomez's mentor, by the way) than like John McLaughlin. And DeJohnette's heads don't match Davis's and Zawinul's on Silent Way any more than DeJohnette himself matches Tony Williams. For all that, a lot warmer than most of what this label seems to think is jazz, especially on side two. B+

The Dodgers: Love on the Rebound (Polydor, 1978) These California-dreaming Englishmen play it straight and tight enough to establish their professionalism and even bore people a little. More lively than Beatlemania, that's for sure, but these days you can't win the big ones with the same old plays. C+

Tommy Flanagan: Something Borrowed, Something Blue (Galaxy, 1978) Decorative flourishes and all, Flanagan's cocktail piano is as intelligent as easy-listening music ever gets--bebop as a received style. I prefer this to the classic Flanagan trio record--Eclypso, on Inner City--because I prefer the tunes (especially Monk's "Friday the 13th"). Also because the less auspicious rhythm section--Smith (Jimmie) ain't Jones (Elvin)--merits fewer solos and breaks. And despite--tsk, tsk--the electric piano on the title cut. B+

Jackie McLean: New Wine in Old Bottles (Inner City, 1979) The first side of Monuments, the funk record RCA has put out with McLean, is more than passable--although the tunes are ordinary and the groove is a little dead, McLean puts out and the groove isn't that dead. But Monument has jazzbos up in arms, and this record is why--the best McLean album in over a decade and it's not on a "major" label. The saxophonist's work here surpasses that on his European SteepleChase outings because the rhythm section of Hank Jones, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams encourages him to think as fast as he can play, which is plenty fast. He thinks just fine when he slows down, too, although Joe Raposo's "Bein' Green" is unworthy of him. Yet another reason Charlie Parker played bebop. A-

Jay McShann: The Big Apple Bash (Atlantic, 1979) Those who want blues from the 12th Street and Vine will enjoy McShann's album with T-Bone Walker (on Classic Jazz). This is something else--Kansas City jazz rendered by an instrumental ensemble that never gets bigger than the mid-'70s Rolling Stones. And although I'm no aficionado of the horn chart, I enjoy the interplay of instrumental colors on standards by Waller, Basie, Ellington, and McShann. B+

Richard Pryor: Wanted (Warner Bros., 1979) Believe it or not, Pryor has mellowed--he does stuff about kids and pets that's like Bill Cosby with trenchmouth, and he finally seems to have gotten the message about women's liberation. Though the fourth side drags and nothing on the first three is as visionary as the title cut on Bicentennial Nigger, there are a lot fewer nightclub quips and sight gags, and Pryor's warmth has heat. Next best thing to the movie. A-

Sneakers: In the Red (Car EP, 1978) This specially priced 33-rpm 12-incher contains six songs and three fragments totaling 19 minutes, but it's not an album, exactly. Might be if mastermind Chris Stamey (Alex Chilton vet whose group is now called the dB's) would add the best songs from his various seven-inchers (including the six-song 33-rpm one) my faves are "The Summer Sun" and "If and When". On the other hand, "What I Dig" and "Decline and Fall," which lead off the two sides here, would make a terrific single. Sprung harmony fans, Big Star cultists and other '60s revisionists can make further inquiries. B-

Tipica Ideal: Out of This World (Coco, 1979) Although I'm told this is an excellent charanga record, I can't swear it's true, because I don't remember ever listening to another. But I know this is the first salsa album I've ever played--and I dutifully put on every one I get--that I turned over as soon as the first side was through. I like its directness--for me, the jazz admixture in most salsa distracts from its basic rhythmic thrust. I also like the way the timbales explode against the steady fiddle line. I even like the flutes. A-

Propaganda (A&M, 1979) A new wave (it avoids that term but that doesn't fool me) sampler on which the most exciting cut is Joe Jackson's live Chuck Berry remake (Chuck Berry?). Also commendable are two English singles from Charlie Gillett's Oval label, especially Bobby Henry's "Head Case." Negatives include a live exclusive from the Granati Brothers (who?), less-than-prime cuts from Squeeze and the Reds, and the second version of the Police's "Next to You" featured on an A&M new wave (see first parenthesis) sampler. C+

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