Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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George Strait

  • Strait Country [MCA, 1981] B+
  • Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind [MCA, 1984] B+
  • Greatest Hits [MCA, 1985] A-
  • Something Special [MCA, 1985] A-
  • #7 [MCA, 1986] C+
  • Greatest Hits, Volume Two [MCA, 1987] B
  • Ten Strait Hits [MCA, 1991] Neither
  • 50 Number Ones [MCA Nashville, 2004]  
  • Somewhere Down in Texas [MCA Nashville, 2005] Choice Cuts
  • Troubadour [MCA Nashville, 2008] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Strait Country [MCA, 1981]
This isn't so much hard country as quiet honky tonk, which I don't hold against Strait, a handsome and discerning fellow whose pleasant baritone, though not designed to swallow whole cans of corn (cf. John Anderson, Ricky Skaggs), boasts a subtle, built-in catch. But he's so unassuming I'm afraid he's destined to remain a minor pleasure--one more lonely tiller in fields left fallow by Billy Sherrill. B+

Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind [MCA, 1984]
As an unreconstructed rock-and-roller, I prefer my country music out on the edge--if not zany or wild-ass then at least (and often as best: Jones, Frizzell, Wynette) deeply soulful. Despite his regard for the zany, wild-ass, and deeply soulful verities, what I get from Strait is a convincing show of honesty. And what I get from his best album and song selection to date is a convincing, tuneful show of honesty. B+

Greatest Hits [MCA, 1985]
Strait isn't a phony, and that isn't faint praise. With holdout authentics like Willie Nelson and Ricky Skaggs choking on their own auras, those who still look to country for the simple things treasure the matter-of-fact commitment of the man, who could have been named by a press agent but wasn't. And in the great country tradition, the best-of reduces cliché density by a crucial quantum: no surprises, just catchier and cleverer ways of dealing with the endless contradictions of sexual fidelity. Inspirational Titles: "Let's Fall to Pieces Together" and "If You're Thinking You Want a Stranger (There's One Coming Home)." A-

Something Special [MCA, 1985]
Heretofore the man in the white hat has been a little too bland to open up the honky tonks or bring off any but the most perfect extended metaphors. This time he sings with such an ache that it was five plays before I noticed that one song equated "redneck" and "hillbilly" and the next was lifted from How to Pick Up Girls. No such peccadilloes sully the tearjerking glory of "Haven't You Heard" or "I've Seen That Look on Me (A Thousand Times)." And thus George earns "Lefty's Gone." A-

#7 [MCA, 1986]
Nothing if not modest, less interpreter than pure medium, Strait lives and dies with his material. On this album "Nobody in His Right Mind Would've Left Her" passes for a witticism, and while I know it's not saying much to observe that the Western swing "White Christmas" on his brand-new Merry Christmas Strait to You cuts anything here, would you believe "Frosty the Snowman"? C+

Greatest Hits, Volume Two [MCA, 1987]
The lackluster professionalism seems like the fulfillment of his always modest gifts and ambitions, with Something Special a blip. Not counting "The Chair," which is on both records, there are five songs on that album that top anything besides "All My Ex's Live in Texas" on this one. "You're Something Special to Me," which is also on both records, isn't among them. Instead it exemplifies the factory-certified hookiness of his current singles strategy, though its plain sentimentality is a little extreme--better the mild overstatement of "Ocean Front Property" or even the mild whoop-de-do of "The Fireman." No tuneouts, that's the ticket. Just blandouts. B

Ten Strait Hits [MCA, 1991] Neither

50 Number Ones [MCA Nashville, 2004]
Few long-running pros have front-loaded their books like George Strait, whose no-frills approach started fresh and turned ticket to hackdom in under five years. The keepers presumably scattered across the second disc are hard to locate as you shake off the cobwebs induced by the first; conceivably the 51st track, the non-No. 1 "I Hate Everything," only stands out because it's placed first. [Recyclables]  

Somewhere Down in Texas [MCA Nashville, 2005]
"She Let Herself Go," "Good News, Bad News" Choice Cuts

Troubadour [MCA Nashville, 2008] Dud

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