Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Norman Greenbaum

  • Petaluma [Reprise, 1972] B+
  • Spirit in the Sky: The Best of Norman Greenbaum [Varèse Sarabande, 1995] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Petaluma [Reprise, 1972]
In 1966, practicing as Dr. West, he hit with "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago." In 1969, his jug-rock album Spirit in the Sky fermented until it produced the 1970 AM longshot of the same name. So take last year's bland Back Home Again as premature product and enjoy this right-on-schedule one-of-a-kind all-acoustic project--a record about living in the country rather than escaping to it by a man who's taking his "royalties/And puttin them into this goat dairy." That's from "Grade A Barn," but rest assured that this is a singer-songwriter whose knowledge of pastorale transcends the technical--as in "I'm Campin," about how goat farmers get nature, and "Dairy Queen," about a baton-twirling miss who longs to get the hell away from Petaluma. B+

Spirit in the Sky: The Best of Norman Greenbaum [Varèse Sarabande, 1995]
Boston jughead, California dreamer, great lost hippie. He spun tales of harmless weirdness from Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band ("The Eggplant That Ate Chicago," No. 52 in '66, how quickly many forget) to his royalty-investing days as a chicken farmer and goat-milk entrepreneur, the latter recounted in homely tunes like "Petaluma" and "The Day the Well Went Dry" (although I miss the agrarian escape song "I'm Campin"). Nor was "Spirit in the Sky" anything like a one-shot, as he proves on the great lost album track "Marcy," a fond and respectful ode to a chick who takes her chances (although I miss the great lost dope synonym "Tars of India"). A-

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