Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Poor Jazzie B. The brains behind Soul II Soul is a pop hustler who convinced the world--first the excitable dance world, then the hip black-pop world, then the insecure crossover world--that he was a humanist visionary. So now he's stuck with the impossible task of whipping up a fake revolution every time out. No wonder Vol II--1990: A New Decade (Virgin) is selling like stale granola. All it is is a stylistically consistent improvement on last year's likable but overrated smash, Keep On Movin'--without a dance-defining signature groove like that album's title track. No matter that this year's title track is the smoothest, happiest world-lite rip ever, or that against your better judgment you'll be singing the kiddie chorus's "What's the meaning, what's the meaning of life?" third time you hear it. Disco is fickle--pop is fickle--and if what's important to you is keeping up, you'll seek your humanist dance music elsewhere in 1990. But if you gave Keep On Movin' the credit it deserved and could fancy its next phase, you'll buck the crowd.

And if it's actual humanist visionaries you hanker for, try the Deighton Family's Mama Was Right (Philo). The Deightons are from Bronte country rather than London, but that doesn't make them Anglo-Saxons like Papa Dave, oldtime British busker into blues and bluegrass as well as native-grown stuff. South Moluccan Josie plays guitar (and bodhran) with an Indonesian accent, and their five kids are just, well, Deightons. They play fiddle, mandolin, electric guitar, flute; they play Cotton Eyed Joe, Castle Kelly, When You're Smilin', even (on their first album) All Shook Up, with the best tracks here written by Eric Clapton and obscure folkie Billy Marlowe. Maybe Angelina, who looks about seven on the cover, will take up the synthesizer. Loosen them up a little.

Playboy, July 1990


June 1990 Aug. 1990