Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Coasters: Thumbin' a Ride [Edsel, 1985]
Alone among the great '50s vocal groups, the Coasters didn't sing protosoul--didn't invest pop sentiment with spiritual transport. Instead, Leiber & Stoller crafted teen mini-sagas that exploited the cartoonish edge of Carl Gardner's sharp tenor and Bobby Nunn's (later Dub Jones's) broad bass. Yet performance--which for Leiber & Stoller also signified production--can carry the music when the composition isn't at its familiar peak of idiomatic brilliance. Except for the delectably prefeminist "Lady Like" and the macho-busting "Three Cool Cats," the lyrics of this arcana aren't fully worthy of the canon, but "Wait a Minute" and "Gee Golly" get by on vocal effects alone. B+