Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Playboy Music

George Strait, Greatest Hits (MCA): Strait isn't a phony, and that isn't faint praise. With the country-music mainstream rerouted directly to Vegas and such holdout authentics as Willie Nelson and Ricky Skaggs choking on their own auras, those who still look to country for the simple things treasure the matter-of-fact commitment of the man, who could have been named by a press agent but wasn't. His other albums are OK, but in country music, hit compilations do reduce cliche density by a crucial quantum: no thematic surprises, just more tuneful and clever ways of grappling with the endless countradictions of sexual fidelity. Pithiest titles: "Let's Fall to Pieces Together," "If You're Thinking You want a Stranger (There's One Coming Home)." And if in the end he's not quite as exciting as you'd hope, well, those are the wages of straight.

Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Army Arrangement (Celluloid): American listeners are put off when African records don't pack the pronounced beat of domestic dance product. That is only because African music is about rhythm, which means Africans don't need the pulse spelled out for them. But such rationalizations won't help its creators get over in this country, while Bill Laswell's judicious remix on Nigeria's most dangerous pop rebel just may. Augmenting and clarifying the powerful groove are three distinct rhythmic voices--P-Funk keyboard master Bernie Worrell, Senegalese percussionist Aiyb Dieng and the great Jamaican drummer Sly Dunbar. The vocals also come through loud and clear, so when you run out of breath dancing, pick up the crib sheet and follow along. Amnesty International thinks Fela's big mouth is the reason Nigeria's latest rulers have slammed him in jail for five years--not the currency violations he was hit with when embarking upon a long-overdue U.S. tour last September.

Playboy, Sept. 1985


Aug. 1985 Oct. 1985