Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Louis Armstrong: An American Icon [Hip-O, 1998]
Put off my feed by a single godawful piano solo, I fretted that this post-WWII overview was too lax. Certainly he recorded many of these 60 tunes many times; in other versions, seven are on Columbia/Legacy's 16 Most Requested Songs, an utterly convincing budget-priced survey of Armstrong the Beloved, the Entertainer--the Icon. A few selections here are merely lovable and entertaining, not iconic. But having played all three discs many times--Louis is one artist the boy-group fan in the back seat will always settle for--I've yet to locate another moment I'd rather not hear. Armstrong is my favorite artist because he epitomizes what Gary Giddins's newly reissued Satchmo breaks down as the entertainer-as-artist/artist-as-entertainer: "He was as much himself rolling his eyes and mugging as he was playing the trumpet. His fans understood that, but intellectuals found the whole effect too damn complicated." A