Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Del Shannon: This Is . . . Del Shannon [Music Club, 1997]
The first artist ever to chart Stateside with a Lennon-McCartney song, Shannon is suspended forever in that boy-becomes-man moment when teen-romance tropes unload their frightening burden of existential anxiety. He achieves release with his sole trick, in which minor-key verse gives way to major-key refrain topped by a brief escape into a falsetto that never hints at the feminine. This pop-rock apotheosis he achieved precisely 11 times, which here takes us from "Runaway" to "Stranger in Town." All are also on Rhino's slightly pricier 20-song comp. But where the Rhino filler is all carbon-copy follow-ups and failed experiments, the five bonuses here vary the formula without abandoning it, most memorably on--note title--"I Wish I Wasn't Me Tonight." Despite Nashville forays and a mysteriously forgotten 1968 concept album called The Further Adventures of Charles Westover, he never matured. When he shot himself in 1990 at 55, he was still claiming five years less, just as he had 30 years before. He left no note. Did he have to? A-