Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Labelle: Nightbirds [Epic, 1974]
Not all pretentious records are even difficult and many fewer are worth the trouble. This is both. In the past I've found myself unmoved by Patti LaBelle's high-nosed histrionics, but Allen Toussaint grounds her (and Nona and Sarah) in a funk that's just right, more modernistic and mechanical than he usually favors. And for once there are songs. Three of Nona Hendryx's four could be called tunes, Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan's "Lady Marmalade" is great synthetic French-quarter raunch, and Toussaint's own "All Girl Band" is unautobiographical and more charming for it. A-