Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Christgau Consumer Guide

The Beach Boys: Holland (Brother). Meandering towards oblivion to be reborn--it's their, er, dharma, right?--only don't bet on it. The question this time: Why did they transport a whole sound system to the Netherlands just to make this album when they could have flown some redwood mountain streams to the starving in India instead? C

Jimmy Cliff: The Harder They Come (Mango). Imagine that it is 1960. You live in an isolated town that never plays anything more lively than Pat Boone on the radio. One summer a cousin from the city brings you an LP featuring songs by Elvis Presley, plus two from Chuck Berry and one each from Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Coasters. Think you'd play it a lot? Well, what that album might have been to rock and roll is what this one really is to reggae, the Jamaican music which has flourished on the island for five or six years. Every song from the movie soundtrack is great and about eight of them are masterpieces. A

Congress of Wonders: Sophmoric (Fantasy). This ought to be marked with a sic. They probably spell it humour, too, just like the phlegm in medieval medicine. E PLUS

Bill Cosby: Inside the Mind of Bill Cosby (Uni). Hip, schmip--Cosby is a genius. Whether he is creating legends about growing up in the Philadelphia ghetto or embroidering his own ordinary experiences as a parent or working for the Electric Company, Cosby has one great subject--the minds of children. Asking him to become a satirist would be like asking Charley Pride to sing the blues. His ability to delve the fantastic convolutions of the non-adult imagination has no parallel. Like so many of the most widely popular artists, Cosby is blessed with a style of sentiment that is never dishonest--Will Rogers must have had a similar gift. His albums don't sell the way they used to, but they're still very funny and this is recommended. A MINUS

Ray D'Ariano: Are You on Something? (Kama Sutra). Second generation hip comedy. The third time I listened to this record, the first side destroyed the two comedy albums I'd just heard--it includes the best ever Woodstock, Cheech & Chong and FM radio bits. It's very subtle, though, no yock-yocks. Potential. B PLUS

Dion and the Belmonts: Reunion (Warner Bros.). Unlike almost all rock and roll revivals, this one, recorded live at Madison Square Garden last June, sounds even more spirited than the original. Maybe that is because Dion is doing it because he wanted to, not just refurbishing a sagging career and maybe because he was always pretty great anyway. B PLUS

Imus in the Morning: One Sacred Chicken to Go (RCA Victor). Souvenir with a difference. As WNBC radio's morning man, Imus is attuned to a kind of off-the-wall ear comedy that translates well to record. As a deejay, he is genuinely outrageous--he recently announced the time an hour later than it was for an entire show--and the tapes that capture his on-the-air bravado work best here. Other bits seem designed only to prove that he can use naughty words when he's not broadcasting. B MINUS

Robert Klein: Child of the 50's (Brut). In person, Klein is quick, energetic, nasty, compassionate--very New York. This record captures about half of that, which isn't bad, and I bet the next one is better. B

Jerry Lee Lewis: The Session (Mercury). The best Lewis album in many years, and the best London-meets-the-legend promotion since Howlin' Wolf, but something's definitely missing. Considering his productivity, Lewis is as consistent as anyone in the music business and his patented arrogant hick cool always provides its satisfactions, but this no-gaffes two-record rock collection accentuates his limitations--he communicates both compassion and pain only on the shallowest level, and for such a wildman he's very contained. At the price (this lists at $9.98) I still recommend Together. B PLUS

Charles Lloyd: Waves (A&M). The usual vaguely cosmic jazz enlivened by some sensual percussion and the best Beach Boys chorale since Sunflower. It's called "TM," and I insist it stands for Terry Morgan because I'm afraid it stands for The Maharishi. Unfortunately, Mike Love reprises with a recitation, completing the eternal circle with a resonant zzzzzzzzzz. B

The Move: Split Ends (UA). "Do Ya" has been called the best single of the year by all the critics, who seem to be the only ones who have heard it, but it does deserve high praise. This album, however, is a hodge-podge. The Move's "Do Ya" phase so far comprises only four songs. The other cuts here are from Message From the Country, now a Capitol cut-out which is excellent in a this-year way. The two styles grate badly. B PLUS [Later: A-]

Gilbert O'Sullivan: Back to Front (MAM). He certainly hasn't turned into a major annoyance yet--the best more-or-less easy-listening record since the second Helen Reddy. B PLUS

Gram Parsons: GP (Warner Bros.). Good solid country record. B [Later: B+]

Roger Powell: Cosmic Furnace (Atlantic). Untutored as I am, some tutor could probably convince me that this synthesizer record is excess hardware, but for now I know what I like--the best pop electronicism since Terry Riley's A Rainbow in Curved Air. B PLUS

Doug Sahm and Band (Atlantic). He is not a genius, he's a talent, and he doesn't live up to it here. Despite (or including) the new Dylan song, humdrum-plus. B MINUS

Slade: Slayed (Polydor). Finally, an LP just as brutal and overpowering as this group has been reported to be. No frills. A MINUS

Stories: About Us (Kama Sutra). This group tests our male-timbre chauvinism--Ian Lloyd sounds disconcertingly like a goil. Too bad he voices the same old male sentiments--don't let me down, push me 'round, or complain when I leave at the dawning--because the music is special: dense, clean, kinetic, almost mid-Beatles in spirit, but contemporary. If only there were one lyric as breathtaking as most of Michael Brown's melodies or as strong and as flexible as Lloyd's voice turns out to be, this would rate an A. B PLUS

Toni & Terry: Cross Country (Capitol). In which the spirit and guts of Joy of Cooking, together for maybe the last time--Toni has left the group to record solo for another label--go Nashville for some of the usual country-fried stuff. I suspect the only reason this wasn't recorded in some rustic studio in California was to spare the feelings of the rest of the group; they should have spared us the change instead. Good, but disappointing. Wonderful exception: "Midnight Blues." B

Creem, June 1973


April 1973 August 1973