Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Christgau Consumer Guide

David Bromberg: Wanted Dead or Alive (Columbia). Any Jewish boy with glasses who makes his living doing Blind Willie McTell imitations had better remember his place. Hence, this key line: "When I got up this morning I had Someone Else's Blues." He always could play, and now that he no longer takes his voice seriously the fact that it sounds funny is an extra added attraction. B PLUS

Toni Brown: Good for You, Too (MCA). In which the former co-auteur of Joy of Cooking finds happiness and loses her music. C MINUS

Larry Coryell: The 11th House (Vanguard). Another attempt at real jazz-rock by the man a lot of people think is the best guitarist in the world. Thin and contrived at times, but more often multi-layered and hard, with no mystical bullshit. B PLUS

The Credibility Gap: A Great Gift Idea (Reprise). The best writing on any comedy record since Don't Crush That Dwarf, sometimes flattened by inadequate acting. But the 15-minute Johnny Carson spoof is perfect, the ultimate expose of a subject you thought didn't need it. A MINUS

Bob Dylan: Planet Waves (Asylum). In a time when all the most prestigious music, even what passes for funk, is coated with silicone grease, Dylan is telling us to take that grease and jam it. Sure he's domestic, but his version of conjugal love is anything but smug, and this comes through in both the lyrics and the sound of the record itself. Blissful, sometimes, but sometimes it sounds like stray cat music--scrawny, cocky and yowling up the stairs. A [Later: A-]

The First Choice: Armed and Extremely Dangerous (Philly Groove). The only musicians not named on the back cover are the three women depicted on the front, the ones with the voices, including a satiny lead who shouldn't do songs about lovable polio victims and suicidal feelings--at least not these songs. I don't expect feminist anthems against the girl-group undertow, and these people have a lot more spunk than the Three Degrees of Love Unlimited. But I do insist on high-quality schlock, and the level here is well below that of "Soldier Boy." So if they're not the Shirelles or even the Chiffons, will you settle for warmed over Honey Cone? B MINUS [Later: B]

Augie Meyers: You Ain't Rollin' Your Roll Rite (Paramount). Doug Sahm's new one (Texas Tornado, on Atlantic) is an improvement, but the next time I feel like some Tex-Mex I bet I play this. Doug's once and future organist has a rather shallow voice, but his songs are nice enough, and he retains the winning straightforwardness Doug lost on his way to legendhood. B

Joni Mitchell: Court and Spark (Asylum). The first album she's ever made that doesn't sound startlingly different from the one before also lacks a certain verbal daring--it's more personal, more literal--although maybe that's only noticeable because the music gives us time to think. But its relative smoothness is a respite rather than a cop-out, the jazz and rock and roll suggest a brave future, and she's better at what she does than anyone in the music. A

Graham Nash: Wild Tales (Atlantic). The title is as phony as the rest of the album, which despite the paid-for goodies--harmony here, intro there, even a song somewhere or other--is a tame collection of reshuffled platitudes. Especially annoying: "Oh! Camil," in which Graham lets us know that he is morally superior to a doubt-ridden Vietnam vet. C MINUS

Mike Oldfield: Tubular Bells (Virgin). Entrusted to the relatively ambitious technical imagination of a Terry Riley or a Roger Powell, solo studio music usually deserves jokey adjectives like "mysterious" or "majestic." The best I can come up with for this stuff is "catchy." C PLUS

Gram Parsons: Grievous Angel (Reprise). Parsons was an uneven artist, but at his best he was the greatest of the country-rockers, and this is his best since his peak, the first Flying Burritos. It's as if he finally learned to convey all that irony and mystery in narrative rather than metaphor. Shit, why'd he have to die? A MINUS [Later: A]

Elvis Presley: A Legendary Performer (RCA Victor). I am told this is his best in years, but I'm put off by the name on the spine: Elvis, Volume 1. Sure a lot of this is great; a lot of it is available on two or three previous collections, too. And don't all the "later unreleased" tracks qualify as stuff that didn't make the first TV-special LP? Also, the interviews are all right, but you can't dance to them. Collectors only. B MINUS [Later: B]

Carly Simon: Hotcakes (Elektra). "You're So Vain" left such a nice afterglow that I developed hopes for this album. But except for a startling new version of "Mockingbird" (buy the 45) the most interesting moment here occurs when Simon whistles. Need I add that her whistling is flat in both senses of the term? C

Soft Machine: 7 (Columbia). See Mike Oldfield, replacing "solo" with "four-man" and asking yourself why their previous albums were numbered one through six. C [Later: C+]

Rod Stewart/Faces: Live: Coast to Coast/Overture and Beginners (Mercury). I ignore in-concert albums, unless they're by artists whose keepsakes I crave, because live rock translates poorly to vinyl. I mention this one because it is much worse than most. On the studio versions of these songs, the sloppiness is a fringe benefit, but this is so raggedy it falls apart. Do you really want to spend five bucks for a tacky guitar solo and a second-rate version of "Jealous Guy"? C MINUS

Sylvia: Pillow Talk (Vibration). Let's Get It On without production values. Call it underdeveloped if you want; I'll mention that it's fresh. Including the best peace lyric heard lately, entitled "Had Any Lately?" Recommended if you liked the single. B

The Temptations: 1990 (Gordy). Not only isn't this good Motown, it isn't even good Motown psychedelic. D PLUS [Later: C-]

Muddy Waters: Can't Get No Grindin' (Chess). Unlike Howlin' Wolf, Waters is more an interpreter than a presence. He needs good songs. Two new ones here--the title cut and "Garbage Man"--and too bad there aren't a couple more. B [Later: B+]

Al Wilson: Show and Tell (Bell). So many of the LPs that spin off soul singles are vacuous that it may be a plus that this one is positively offensive, but its offenses are so vacuous that I doubt it. Look what he's done to "Look What They've Done to My Song, Ma"--copped it--and ask your schoolteacher friends whether show-and-tell isn't considered a white cultural imposition in ghetto schools. What can it all mean? D

Howlin' Wolf: The Back Door Wolf (Chess). There's more art, as it is called, in this 63-year-old man's large intestine than is likely to pass through Sunset Sound Studios in a month. I mean, can you imagine Steve Stills or one of those guys coming up with a title as bold as "Coon on the Moon"? This time, the Wolf is in good bellow, a welcome change, and the result is his best since London Sessions. Suggestion to Chess: Get rid of that electric piano player. B PLUS [Later: A-]

Creem, May 1974


April 1974 June 1974