Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-07-15


Grin: The Very Best of Grin Featuring Nils Lofgren (Spindizzy/Epic Associated/Legacy, 1999) Lofgren is an even better argument than Buddy Holly himself for the historically dubious proposition that rock and roll is the proper province of inspired striplings, because he didn't die. Instead he turned pro, grinding out dozens of overstated, unfulfilled albums before and after Bruce Springsteen provided a use for an enthusiasm that got pretty grotesque as his spontaneity vanished with his chronological youth. Consisting entirely of material selected from or contemporary with the three albums he released before he was 22, these 19 songs are dazzling evidence of the grace and spritz with which the kid fused teen spirit and prodigious virtuosity--an evolved rock and roll that articulates the romantic lyricism left implicit by Holly. Nothing wrong with implication. But you can feel it rising up in such unnecessarily obscure titles as "Slippery Fingers" and "Everybody's Missin' the Sun." A

Rave On Buddy Holly (Fantasy, 2011) High-profile film-music supervisor Randall Poster assembled quite the high-profile cast to revive these 19 ancient titles. The Black Keys! Cee-Lo Green! Florence + the Machine! My Morning Jacket! She & Him! A whole bunch of rather dull yet commercially viable succès d'estimes! But lo, handed the gift of Buddy's simple tunes and simpler lyrics, they joyfully escape the craft-by-numbers of their own compositions, leaving it to father figures Paul McCartney and Lou Reed to disrespect Holly's classics and to materfamilias Patti Smith to solemnize Holly's fluff--which they can, because they're Holly's coequals. The way his heedless old songs liberate cautious young professionals lays to rest any doubts as to whether he belongs in the same pantheon as George M. Cohan and Irving Berlin. He just bequeathed us a smaller book. A-

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