Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Lovin' Spoonful

  • The Best . . . [Kama Sutra, 1976]  
  • Anthology [Rhino, 1990]  
  • Greatest Hits [Buddha, 2000] A-
  • Do You Believe in Magic [Buddha/BMG Heritage, 2002] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Best . . . [Kama Sutra, 1976]
[CG70s: A Basic Record Library]  

Anthology [Rhino, 1990]
[CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]  

Greatest Hits [Buddha, 2000]
So what happened to John Sebastian, anyway? Was it the drug busts, the drugs themselves, group hassles, mob-based management? All these and more, but listening back to this slight improvement on Rhino's Anthology, I infer something more fundamental. Figure the reason no one was better at translating the flowery optimism of the middle '60s into folk-flavored pop song--"Do You Believe in Magic," "You Didn't Have to Be So Nice," "Daydream," "Summer in the City," "Rain on the Roof," just look at those titles--was as much spirit as talent. Figure he was so eager, so well-meaning, so fun-loving, so warmhearted, such a simpleton, that when the times demanded cynicism this John--unlike natural-born reprobate Phillips or designated reality principle Lennon--didn't have it in him. The three-four-five dogs among this album's 26 selections barely slow down its historical mission of evoking the balmy upsurge to the Summer of Love like no other body of music. A-

Do You Believe in Magic [Buddha/BMG Heritage, 2002]
The great originals--keynoted by the title song, which commenced their 1965-66 run of seven straight top 10 singles--are all on the best-of. But on their debut album the filler was prime too, because unlike the Dylan-chiming Byrds, their folk-rock revved a jug-band strain that was plenty lively to begin with. Their "Blues in the Bottle" owed the Holy Modal Rounders and contended with them. And on the best bonus track, Will Shade sneaks away from Beale Street to mastermind the Hollywood Argyles. A-