Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Playboy Music

The Force M.D.s are rappers who harmonize, harmonizers who rap, like that. They're also young and cute, and Warner Bros., looking out the corner of its corporate eye at MCA's New Edition, has signed up Tommy Boy Records just to get a piece of them. But although there's a nice admixture of the fresh and the classic in these kids, neither their Jackson 5 impression nor their number on the Fat Boys is top of the line, which also goes for the material their Svengali, Robin Halpin, has provided on their second album, Chillin' (Tommy Boy). Prognosis: There's money to be made here. But not the untold millions everybody has in mind.

Loudon Wainwright III is a One Man Guy whose Career Moves tend to acerbic songs about "unhappy love," and when interviewers demand How Old Are You?, he'd like to paste them one. Then he answers 39. The Richard Thompson-produced I'm Alright (Rounder) is Wainwright's first album in almost ten years that's more than a a bitter, skillful and (of course) funny joke collection. The self-knowledge of the proud poppa who's gone through Kate McGarrigle and Suzzy Roche may not be universally useful, but it's recommended therapy for guys with one too many wives behind them.

For a few months in 1967, Aaron Neville did the work God made him for--preached the Gospel of love to everyone who owned a radio. But the transcendent "Tell It Like It Is" was his one and only smash, and as the Delfonics and the Stylistics rose to new falsetto heights, Aaron kept the faith with his brothers in New Orleans. The six Fifties covers on Orchid in the Storm (Passport) are proof of his steadfastness. He sings the sublimely silly "Ten Commandments of Love" as if taking dictation from Mount Sinai and turns onetime teen dreams from Johnny Ace and the Penguins into the essence of timeless romance. If you let him, he'll make a believer of you.

Playboy, June 1986


May 1986 July 1986