Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-08-26


Jay Z Kanye West: Watch the Throne (Roc-A-Fella, 2011) The three minutes of silence that rope off the first 12 songs signify that those songs constitute a unity and the deluxe edition's four bonus tracks are too much. Soon, as if on signal, two matched operatic choruses take the project's regal grandiosity over the top. But nowhere else does this gorgeous show of power trigger your gag reflex; in fact, the echoing grunts and swooping oohs of the Pete Rock-produced, Curtis Mayfield-keyed 16th track would have provided a hell of a regular-album finale with no loss of unity whatsoever. The only question is whether these guys' regal glory is of any intrinsic interest to those of us who regard power as something to speak truth to, and the answer is hell yeah, because it's been forever since stars of this magnitude were also so dominant artistically. Predictably, Jay's power is more interesting than Ye's, which was funnier and sicker on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Think the patron's proximity made the protegee nervous? Think the patron figured it would? I do. A-

Classic Rock Gold (Hip-O, 2005) Its 33 tracks duplicate only four acts and one song from Dazed and Confused, to which it cedes the mission of recalling a subculture while it does the dirty job of recapitulating a radio format. At first I was theoretically offended by such pop and new wave ringers as Elton John, Eddie Money, Billy Idol, and the Cars. But the only picks that don't fit are Rod Stewart's "Maggie May," because it's too good, and Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again," because it's too godawful. More than a useful compendium of name bands whose albums you may never play again, it's sonic history. Yes, children, there really was a time when whole radio stations were devoted entirely to brawny-sounding white guys bellowing, moaning, and even singing over electric guitars, electric guitars, and electric guitars. "Born to Be Wild," "American Woman," "Show Me the Way," and "Cold as Ice" you know you love. But watch out. "Hair of the Dog" could grow on you. A-

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