Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Yes He Can Can

Lee Dorsey saunters onto the Palladium stage in cream-colored three-piece suit, chocolate shirt and hankie that match his skin, and low boots of lemony patent leather. This is the kind of man for whom the word dapper was invented. No more than five-six and slender, he dances with a rolling gait that's spry rather than spectacular. After all, he's 55 years old. Anyway: "I guess you heard about my motorcycle accident. I broke this leg"--indicating the left--"in four places. But I refuse to sit down."

I doubt that 10 per cent of this audience even know his name, much less his medical history, although "Holy Cow" and "Do-Re-Mi" and "Ya Ya" and "Working in a Coal Mine" and "Ride Your Pony" all ring bells. Dorsey isn't a legend like the Clash's previous openers, Bo Diddley and Sam & Dave, and if there were any justice he wouldn't need to be, because he's recorded good music right into the '70s, with two classic albums to his credit: Yes We Can (1970 Polydor cutout) and Night People (1977 ABC cutout). Dorsey hasn't appeared in New York since he and the Apollo were in their commercial prime around 1966, but he's completely at ease, lilting through his hits with occasional well-aimed shouts and uttering his "thank you very kindly"s and "heh-heh-heh"s with vaudevillian charm and esprit. Unlike most oldies acts, he's not going through the motions, probably because he's never put himself on the block as an oldies act. His band, four "funky white boys"--Dorsey's description--from New Orleans called Skor, sing way too loud and quite flat on "Holy Cow" but then settle into a pleasing, slightly rockified Meters groove, with drummer Ronnie Arcement's versions of Ziggy Modeliste's impossible accents and crossbeats especially deft. Somebody should bring Dorsey back to this city, preferably with Skor, before 1994.

I should add that the headliners were spectacular. I just figure they'd want me to give the spry its due.

Village Voice, Mar. 17, 1980