Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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From rock and pop to second-line neoclassicism and cocktail funk, the Neville Brothers have made lots of commendable albums since 1977, when the four of them invested their collective 80-plus years of professional experience in a single group. But only Yellow Moon (A&M) has accomplished their cherished goal of taking New Orleans into the future. Though gumbo purists will claim that producer Daniel Lanois, a longtime associate of new Nevilles sideman Brian Eno, isn't greasy enough, the old beats are there in all their sweet, swaying syncopation. And if Lanois downplays trap drums in favor of subtler percussion devices, getting a coolly sublime sound that's sophisticated without ever whispering lounge, the material thrives under the treatment: from black history lessons like "My Blood" and "Sister Rosa" to New Orleans neoclassics like "Voo Doo" and "Wild Injuns," these are the group's most articulate songs ever. And then there are the voices. It's no surprise that brother Aaron sings the shit out of "With God on Our Side"--this man has sung the shit out of the Mickey Mouse Club theme. But wait till you hear what brother Art, aided by a cunning bottleneck guitar, does with "The Ballad of Hollis Brown."

Fine Young Cannibals' The Raw and the Cooked (I.R.S.) isn't sublime, or ridiculous either. Slight, maybe--entertaining. Fronted by the cutting vocal attack of Sammy and Rosie Get Laid sex symbol Roland Gift and completed by onetime English Beat bass-and-guitar David Steele and Andy Cox, the Cannibals have turned from bastard ska to the undeniable pop English Beat mastermind David Wakeling has jawed about since he broke up the band. The techno rhythms evoke both Hot Chocolate (remember You Sexy Thing?) and up-to-the-minute dance music, and Gift's affectations are affecting. With She Drives Me Crazy mounting the charts as I write, this one could make somebody rich. Enjoy.

Playboy, Mar. 1989


Feb. 1989 Apr. 1989