Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Sonny Sharrock [extended]

  • Guitar [Enemy, 1986] A
  • Seize the Rainbow [Enemy, 1987] A
  • Highlife [Enemy, 1991] A
  • Ask the Ages [Axiom, 1991] ***
  • Faith Moves [CMP, 1991] ***
  • Space Ghost: Coast to Coast [Cartoon Network, 1994] *

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Guitar [Enemy, 1986]
New thing's answer to Hendrix and McLaughlin circa 1970 and Material's embodiment of creative chaos circa 1980 sits in a studio and plays some tunes--sometimes more than one at a time, either counterpointed or strung together in a suite. Like so many jazz avant-gardists, Sharrock got his start in r&b, and you can tell--with the bullshit cut away he's both funky and beautiful. Tempos are slow to moderate, melodies simple and even lyrical, structures clear, and still he generates enough sonic danger to drive that roommate you can't stand right up the wall. A

The Sonny Sharrock Band: Seize the Rainbow [Enemy, 1987]
Despite a patch or two of signature chaos, this is as accessible as good jazz-rock gets. The beat is assured by stalwart bassist Melvin Gibbs and two drummers, jack-of-all-avant Pheeroan akLaff and sometime Benatar-Earland henchman Abe Spellman, and as he approaches fifty the most fearsome noise guitarist of the '60s is nurturing not only a taste for melody but a gift for it. Like his solo album, his group's debut is uncommonly beautiful and direct without flirting with the saccharine or the simplistic. And like his solo album, it gets even better after you put it away for a while. A

The Sonny Sharrock Band: Highlife [Enemy, 1991]
As with classic Pharoah Sanders, Sharrock's devotion to cacophony turns out to be the obverse of his devotion to tune--his thematic statements are respectfully stately, his variations more sonic than harmonic. So where Ronald Shannon Jackson is a jazz composer exploring rock colors (and sometimes rhythms), Sharrock has the priorities of a genius son of Jimi and Jimmy. An atmospheric Kate Bush tribute that eventually gains momentum is as arty as this gorgeously straightforward guitar record gets, and though no one will mistake the Sanders cover for "Eight Miles High," it's in the tradition. A

Ask the Ages [Axiom, 1991]
Bill and Elvin's excellent jazz record ("Little Rock") ***

Sonny Sharrock/Ricky Skopelitis: Faith Moves [CMP, 1991]
atmospherics for an oxygen-depleted biosphere ("Uncle Herbie's Dance," "Who Are You") ***

Space Ghost: Coast to Coast [Cartoon Network, 1994]
a little skronk, a little tune, some weird vocal overlay, and voila--cable soundtrack fusion ("Hit Single," "Ghost Planet National Anthem") *