Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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21 Singles 1984-1998
(Warner Bros./Rhino)

Inspired by Lost in Translation, whose low-rent soundtrack album needn't concern us further, I've finally achieved closure with the venal The Best of Roxy Music (Virgin), which traces Bryan Ferry's evolution in perverse reverse--faux faux lounge lizard turning back the years into fine young dandy. For the reptile, try Avalon, where the Bill Murray moment "More Than This" originated, then Manifesto; for the secret striver, your flawed best shot is probably the smooshed-together Early Years, which unlike Atlantic's good old Greatest Hits (although not Best of) counts "Love Is the Drug" outside its purview. In contrast, the Jesus and Mary Chain, whose "Just Like Honey" caps the film (and makes the S/T), ground down the same track to the bitter end, not to mention the bottom line. By including later titles the naive might mistake for Jan and Dean and Joan Jett covers, 21 Singles 1984-1998 does their tuneful murk as much justice as their formerly definitive debut. Not more, however.

Platinum and Gold Collection
RCA/BMG Heritage

(1) Lists for less than Greatest Hits. (2) Doesn't pretend they "advanced" from their debut. (3) So much better than Duran Duran. (4) Includes bonus photos of their haircuts.


Blues Kingpins
(Virgin/The Right Stuff)

Proof that Fats Domino isn't a bluesman: Blues Kingpins, a concept so original it's untenable. Proof that Chuck Berry isn't either: Blues (MCA), dedicated to student musicologist Martin Scorsese. Proof that Martin Scorsese isn't a musicologist: Feel Like Going Home (Columbia/Legacy), with assists from Otha "It's All Blues Except When It Isn't" Turner and Ali Farka "There Are No Black Americans Just Ask KRS-One" Toure. Proof that Clint Eastwood has better ears than Martin Scorsese: his Piano Blues soundtrack, where Monk yields to Big Joe Turner and Art Tatum jumps off (hmm, why isn't this on Blues Kingpins?) "The Fat Man." Proof that unoriginal has its uses: Lightnin' Hopkins's Blues Kingpins, just solid Aladdin-Modern-RPM, 1946-1954.

Village Voice, Nov. 11, 2003

Dec. 16, 2003 Dec. 16, 2003