Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Christgau Consumer Guide

Clarence Carter: Sixty Minutes With Clarence Carter (Fame). The title doesn't describe the record--it's yet another play of this soul survivor's back-door routine. But thanks to Rick Hall's confident cop of the Duane Allman high lick and an unusual things-ain't-getting-better lyric from George Jackson, this isn't all routine. More listenable than his best-of. B PLUS

Harry Chapin: Short Stories (Elektra). Harry had a problem. He wanted to write a song about a deejay, kind of a follow-up to "Taxi," just to prove it wasn't a fluke. Harry doesn't meet many real people, so cabbies and deejays provide that touch of social realism. He wanted to set the song in Boise, Idaho, not because he had anything to say about Boise, but because, "Idaho" rhymed with "late night talk show." Unfortunately, call letters that far west start with K, rather than W, which fucked up his rhythm. Akron, Ohio? Wrong rhythm again. Denver, Colorado? Nope. So he called it "WOLD" and hoped no one would notice. Note: this analysis is nowhere near as long-winded as Harry's stories. D PLUS

Billy Cobham: Spectrum (Atlantic). In which Mahavishnu's muscular weak link gets good reviews all for hisself. Despite a few tough minutes, this is basically slick, gimmicky, one-dimensional--in a word, undemanding. All of which may make the man a star. C PLUS

Alice Cooper: Muscle of Love (Warner Bros.). They tooled out the ugliness long enough to pick up their share of chrome, but though it must pain them to realize it, they're not machines. And if they are, we can steal a couple of notes from David Doll: "Break-down." C

Jim Croce: I Got a Name (ABC). He was an engaging, rather repetitious minor artist when he was alive, and still is. C PLUS

The J. Geils Band: Ladies Invited (Atlantic). So much better than Bloodshot that for a while I thought it was something special. It ain't. But a lot of the phony macho funk has disappeared from the lyrics, and Peter Wolf's singing has picked up several levels of nuance. Someone should give him a complete set of Al Green records. B

AI Green: Livin' for You (Hi). Stop fighting it. Green is the best soul singer since Otis. His material is narrow, although not as unprogressive as is imagined, and he lacks the emotional openness of Redding or Cooke. But his coy come-on makes his phrasing a delight--he's sexy in a new way. Anyone who can't understand that "Let's Get Married" is as much a masterpiece as "Everybody Is a Star" or "Dock of the Bay" doesn't deserve it. A

Grin: Gone Crazy (A&M). Didn't "Beggar's Day" sound better on Crazy Horse, and haven't we heard those girl-world boy-toy rhymes before? You bet. This is where Nils Lofgren starts to repeat himself. Not only does the lack of a moderately interesting new lyric close off a source of pleasure, it also leaves Lofgren with nothing to sing about. Let's hope this was a rush job for his new label and warn him not to rush the next. B MINUS

Millie Jackson: It Hurts So Good (Spring). On stage, the dress, demeanor and delivery of this woman communicate a street toughness that is braver and more imaginative than the show toughness of Tina Turner or Laura Lee. On record, however, she remains one more funkier-than-average mama. B MINUS [Later: B]

Keith Jarrett: Fort Yawuh (Impulse). This first acoustic jazz record I've made an effort to like in years, and it was worth it. Side two is easy--Paul Motian draws you into "De Drums," and Jarrett's "Still Life Still Life" is instant pretty and gets better. But side one sounds like the usual new jumble for at least ten plays until suddenly, Dewey Redman establishes himself as heir to Ornette, just like the highbrows say he is. Redman's Ear of the Behearer is my next project. A MINUS

The Kinks: Preservation Act 1 (RCA Victor). Ray Davies is a sensitive artist, but he's never had an idea worth reducing to prose in his life. When he tosses off music towards no grand purpose, as on his last two albums, his satire takes on a charity that justifies its shallowness. But when he gets serious he always skirts the edge of small-mindedness. This time he falls in. C PLUS

The Mahavishnu Orchestra: Between Nothingness and Eternity (Columbia). The last rave-up is a ballbuster. A MINUS [Later: B+]

Paul McCartney: Band on the Run (Apple). The title, track is about the oppression of rock musicians by cannabis-crazed bureaucrats. After that (?) the only spark of originality is the Afro-soul intro to "Mamunia," probably provided by relatives of the Nigerian pickaninnies who posed for the inner sleeve with Boss and helpmates. The wit and wisdom of Paul McCartney, circa 1973: "Down in the jungle living in a tent/You don't use money you don't pay rent/You don't even know the time/But you don't mind." Sure you don't mean "de jungle," sah? C MINUS [Later: C+]

Jackie Moore: Sweet Charlie Babe (Atlantic). An unusual female voice, simultaneously rough and sweet, works out on 10 lilting soul songs, including the title hit and "Precious Precious," from a couple of years back. Real nice, but without that extra something. B [Later: B+]

Burt Reynolds: Ask Me What I Am (Mercury). The plus is because the title lets everyone make up his or her own joke. E PLUS

Santana: Welcome (Columbia). I concede that this guru stuff can catalyze joy and energy, but only as I insist that it can also dissolve into wet-behind-the-ears escapism. Alternate title: Love, Devotion and Palaver. B [Later: B+]

Bruce Springsteen: The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle (Columbia). The size and style of Springsteen's talent is suggested by the title, which I like, and this is very good in spurts, but it never coalesces. The kind of album that will be fun to go back to if he ever gets it together enough to make us care. The plus is for encouragement. B PLUS [Later: A-]

Stealers Wheel: Ferguslie Park (A&M). What a clever notion, or should I say concept--a whole album about the vicissitudes of rock groupdom. On the evidence, however, Egan & Rafferty don't know much more about that than anyone else, especially the rock part. If only they'd had the guts to transform their meager experiences into an album that explored male friendship, instead of flirting with it the way this one does, there might be real reason to listen. B MINUS [Later: C+]

Johnnie Taylor: Taylored in Silk (Stax). Eight songs stretched over 33 minutes--one soul-wringer hit, one novelty hit, and filler. Gloopy strings by Wade Marcus, indifferent singing by Taylor himself. In other words, the usual waste. C [Later: B-]

Barry White: Stone Gon' (20th Century). White's hustle is to unite Isaac Hayes's power with Al Green's niceness, and in his way, he does. He is as humorless as Hayes, but with none of Hayes's grandeur, which is 90 per cent phony anyway. And he is as mendacious as Green, but with none of Green's sexy charm, which at least keeps its promise for a night or two. It so happens that I love the single--the man puts down powerful tracks--but the single isn't eight minutes long. C MINUS

Creem, April 1974


March 1974 May 1974