Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide (10)

I suspect Iíll stop doing the CG when I start running out of things to say up here, a chore that definitely taxes my ingenuity. Look, you know, this is one demigodís opinion, thassall, everything down to B plus highly recommended. That makes eight records this time. I really am the dupe of the record industry. I grow fond of so many of the records they lay on me that I forget despite myself that you poor people have to buy the fuckers. So in the interests of clarity I will reiterate again my basic prejudice in favor of tight, funky rock and, as a bonus, estimate my relative within-grade rankings of this weekís cop-out B plusses, to wit: Flying Burritos, Hollies, McCartney, Russell, CSNY. Does that take all the fun out? Yeah, I know. Well, letís get to it.

THE ASYLUM CHOIR: Look Inside The Asylum Choir (Smash) This year-old effort by Leon Russell and Marc Benno, now re-released, got a lot of nice reviews and no sales first time around, which is more or less what it deserved. A nice record to write reviews about: strong studio work with a heavy Zappa flavor, quality of satire ditto. B

GINGER BAKERíS AIR FORCE (Atco) I am admittedly prejudiced against Baker, but any double LP is a rip off almost by definition (except for Live/Dead of course) and this one is considerably worse than most, with a lacklustre performance from Stevie Winwood and terrible engineering. D [Later: D+]

CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG: Dťjŗ Vu (Atlantic) Tight. Uptight, even. B PLUS [Later: B-]


THE FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS: Burrito Deluxe (A&M) The Burritosí first, The Gilded Palace of Sin, remains for me one of the finest records of 1969. Despite two or three great cuts (notably "Older Guys") and an otherwise unrecorded Jagger-Richard composition, this one isnít up to that standard, though it is worth noting that Gram Parsons has broadened the groupís musical base to include more rock, less country. B PLUS [Later]

FRESH: Fresh Out of Borstal (RCA Victor) This competent studio quasi-hype bears about as much relation to the prison homosexuality alluded to in the ads as an aspirin "dramatization" does to open heart surgery. In other words, lest my rhetoric confuse you: this is not a record about bugger-rape. D PLUS [Later]

CHARLIE HADEN: Liberation Music Orchestra (Impulse) Haden is a man of great personal courage and political insight, and he has played some of the best jazz bass Iíve ever heard, but this record--despite all those nice reviews and ads--is competent Jazz Composerís Orchestra style ensemble jazz, full of nice dissonances and not much more. Iíve listened to it many times, always giving it one more chance, but I doubt Iíll ever play it again, and no one Iíve ever played it for has come back to request it. C PLUS

THE HOLLIES: He Ainít Heavy, Heís My Brother (Epic) Despite one soupy instrumental on the title side and a general air of unrelieved banality, this is a slick-to-excellent commercial harmonic rock record by our old commercial harmonic rock friends minus one, and it gets better with repeated listening. B PLUS [Later: B]

KAY HUNTINGTON: Whatís Happening To Our World? (United Artists) This is either a hilarious takeoff on sensitive circa-1964 folk music or (more likely, unbelievable as it seems) one of the most atrocious records ever made. Perfectly awful, right down to the cover art and liner notes. Listen to "Right to Poverty." E MINUS/A PLUS [Later: E]

THE INSECT TRUST: Hoboken Saturday Night (Atco) Easily the most charming and inventive record of the year. Jazz-based, well-sung and well-played, full of experiments that work. Best use of horns in a rock band. Wonderful songs. Joyous. A [Later]

THE JAGGERZ: We Went to Different Schools Together (Kama Sutra) Because of my naÔve belief in the beauty of schlock singles--a great one in this case, "The Rapper"--I listened to this a few more times than was necessary, so believe me when I say itís awful. Back to the Guess Who, AM fans. D PLUS [Later: C-]

THE MANDRAKE MEMORIAL: Puzzle (Poppy) Produced in the great Moody Blues tradition, this is one of those Complete Works that couldnít possibly be worse than any of its parts. D [Later]

PAUL MCCARTNEY: McCartney (Apple) When I first heard this record, I felt insulted. I thought Paulie was placing his self-indulgence on the market, just like Two Virgins or Life With the Lions, only disguised as popular music. Well, that was silly--Paul is too gifted a composer, I suspect, to do anything really bad. But this is very lightweight, and the instrumental tracks are awkward and draggy. Letís hope Linda takes up the drums. She couldnít do any worse. B PLUS [Later: B]

CARL OGLESBY (Vanguard) Overwritten, overmusicked, not much fun, not much enlightenment. C [Later: C+]

CLARENCE REID: Danciní With Nobody but You Babe (Atco) A sleeper for anyone with a taste for Deep South soul, with a convincing version of "Get Back," some pleasant if predictable standards, and a good helping of catchy originals. Nice and solid. B

LEON RUSSELL (Shelter) This is weirder than what youíd expect of Russell from his work with Cocker and Delaney & Bonnie, though its weirdness doesnít approach that of the Asylum Choir. I suspect I would like it better with someone else singing. Russell has all of Mick Jaggerís whine and none of his power--distinctive, and valid, but it grates a little. B PLUS [Later]

ED SANDERS: Sandersí Truck Stop (Reprise) Much as I hesitate to criticize a man who is not only a saint and a genius but who says hello to me at the post office, I have to admit that thereís nothing about this record, which (like the first Flying Burrito Brothers) is literally a country-western take-off--not so much a parody as a departure--that makes me listen. The lyrics range from amusing to brilliant (in that ersatz red-shoes way Sanders has) but Sandersí country voice, a not-quite-realized yodeling twang, has a confused direction. Too bad. C PLUS [Later: B]

SIR DOUGLAS QUINTET: Together After Five (Smash) There ought to be hundreds of groups like this one--warm, competent, steady rocking--but there probably arenít more than 20. This is not especially original, but itís good, and Iíll bet theyíre a stone happy gas live. B [Later: B+]

SOUTHWIND: Ready to Ride (Blue Thumb) There ought to be hundreds of groups like this one--warm, competent, unpretentiously eclectic--but there probably arenít more than 20. This is not especially original, but itís damned good, and Iíll bet theyíre a stone happy gas live. B [Later: C]

IKE & TINA TURNER: Come Together (Liberty) Maybe Iím merely succumbing to I&TTís vogue--one friend who has been into them for a long time, for instance, dissents from my judgment--but I think this is the best LP theyíve ever done, better even than Phil Spectorís on A&M. Produced sharply and cleanly enough so that Tinaís gutty growl and Ikeís incisive guitar both come through with a force that is comparable, though of course not identical, to their live impact. Even Ikeís songs, which are usually repetitive, sound good. A [Later: A-]

Additional Consumer News

Whatever the filmís deficiencies, I think that soundtrack to Zabriskie Point is the best and most original use of rock music I can recall in any dramatic film, including Easy Rider. But now Mike Curb, the newest president of MGM records, has come up with a surprise, and Iíll let him tell it like it is. "Roy and I wrote the Love Theme from ZABRISKI POINT called `SO YOUNG.í We made a record of it and put into the Antonioni Picture that will be showing in your neighborhood shortly. I hope you have heard the record and like it. I believe it is a hit! I feel sure the public will too when they hear it." Thatís a direct quote, right down to the bad punctuation. My own suspicion is that Curb had about as much to do with `So Youngí as Alan Freed, who claimed a similar credit, did with "Maybelline," but never mind. Friends who have seen the movie at the nabes tell me the song, which incidentally has a promo folder with some sort of bleak New England scene that has nothing to do with the filmís Southwestern locale, is easily the worst thing in the movie, which means it must go some. While weíre on the subject, it is also worth noting that Allen Ginsberg searched all over San Francisco and the Village for his own wonderful William Blake record and couldnít find it. MGM strikes again.

Having taken on the moribund, I will now tackle the lively. This column could often pass as a paid ad for Warnerís-Reprise, but that esteemed corporationís most recent release--Savage Grace, Hard Meat, Essra Mohawk, Paul Williams--is about as nondescript as the usual offering from Dot or Liberty/UA. Getting fat out there, fellows? Watch it.

I occasionally hear some well-meaning person refer in positive tones to the Toronto Peace Festival, so let me add my voice to the clamor. John Brower, who is still trying to pull this one off despite John Lennonís withdrawal, is just another promoter--well, maybe a touch more avaricious. He is proud of his relations with the police and the last time I had anything to do with him--at the Toronto Rock & Roll Revival--I was alternately impressed and appalled by the tightness of the security. Forget it.

Also on the subject of promoters, let me recommend Howard Steinís latest project, the Capitol Theatre in Portchester. Needless to say, itís easier to run a good-vibes place in Westchester County on Second Avenue, but those with the wherewithal to get up there shouldnít let that stop them.

Finally, a real consumer note: the last time I was in the Gramophone of St. Markís Place, The Insect Trust, which I really do recommend heartily even though a few people are turned off by it, was selling for $1.89.

Village Voice, May 28, 1970

Apr. 23, 1970 June 18, 1970