Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Andy Fairweather Low

  • Spider Jiving [A&M, 1974] A
  • La Booga Rooga [A&M, 1975] A-
  • Be Bop 'n' Holla [A&M, 1977] A
  • Mega-Shebang [Warner Bros., 1980] B+
  • Sweet Soulful Music [Proper American, 2006] ***

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Spider Jiving [A&M, 1974]
In which the voice of (ta-ra) the Amen Corner rocks more convincingly than he ever did as an English-r&b teen throb and still somehow sounds laid-back. The secret is a rough-hewn spontaneity in which the guitar and bass that meet the Memphis Horns over an insistent but very unfunky 4/4 are both acoustic, in which Charlie McCoy plays hornpipe harp over oompah drums. The lean, direct, catchy, introspective lyrics work the same way; their substance--that is, their obsessive but unassuming speculation about man's fate--is bound up in their free use of verbatim borrowings from a common language. Apotheosis: the slyly hermeneutic "Dancing in the Dark," in which a discreet fatalism is shaped by courtly music-hall tune and elegant soft-shoe timing. A

La Booga Rooga [A&M, 1975]
Low may be wide-eyed and legless, but I wouldn't compete with him over the long haul--he's got staying power. What he sees is often connected to the downs and ups of the biz, but because his metaphors are vernacular and his attack allusive his songs sound like the outcries of anyone who's ever felt outclassed, outcast, outranked, or outraged by the money boys. And although he's half-way to everything, he never whines or comes on as a misunderstood artist--just swallows it all but his pride. And then jumps up and turns around. A-

Be Bop 'n' Holla [A&M, 1977]
Andy's up to his old tricks. With the help of some lilting Caribbean-style percussion, as infectious as Victoria II, he abandons the attack that's always put a hard edge on his cheerful rock and roll. The result is a tuneful, sexy album, and oh so frivolous--"Lighten Up" sounds like a theme song. But frivolity turns desperate when you listen hard: in the theme song, for instance, Andy identifies himself as a stranger, a slave, and a prisoner to his lonely grave. Such a joker, this boy--makes it sound like Rocky Raccoon had it coming to him. A

Mega-Shebang [Warner Bros., 1980]
When I heard the funky force-beat of "Night Time DJukeing" I was delighted--sounded like the man had invented DOR all on his own, and in Wales yet. But as I perused the lyrics I began to suspect that his heart--a concept that in Low always includes the mind--wasn't entirely committed. Good fun from an artist who's capable of the best. B+

Sweet Soulful Music [Proper American, 2006]
"Born to be the who I am," "secondary modern boy" pushes 60 ("One More Rocket," "Zazzy"). ***

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