Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Thomas Jefferson Kaye: First Grade [ABC/Dunhill, 1974]
Like the Triumvirate album he produced for John Hammond, Mike Bloomfield, and Dr. John, Kaye's debut was sensually laid-back, with a sly intelligence he hoped to pass off as an active relationship with his environment. But this one stands beside Eric Clapton's 461 Ocean Boulevard as a critique of the laid-back mode. The secret is the covers, which I bet producer Gary Katz (also of Steely Dan) had something to do with--especially since the whole album centers around Fagen & Becker's bitter, poignant farewell to the counterculture, "American Lovers." Together with Loudon Wainwright's painful "Say That You Love Me" and natural boogies from Link Wray and Dr. John, it puts such Kaye titles as "Northern California" and "Easy Kind of Feeling" into the ironic perspective the artist intends. Maybe this is Katz rather than Kaye--but when you hear Kaye describe a "new religion/Called everything's gonna be all right," you won't think so. A