Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Bing Crosby: A Centennial Anthology of His Decca Recordings [MCA/Decca, 2003]
Three years late, I downed Gary Giddins's biography, and thus armed found it easy enough to access these 50 songs. Giddins rewrites history to make room for Crosby, an aggressively pan-ethnic everyman with a Jesuit education and a wild-oats past who had the confidence and the sense of rhythm to put his big voice to modest uses--and dominate our mass culture, movies and music both, for longer than FDR was president. Urged to be all things to all Americans by Decca's Jack Kapp, he avoided the fancy songs beboppers would soon sing changes on and the ambitious arrangers who started Frank Sinatra on the road to Art. But he never condescended to his tunes, and he picked good ones. Credit his decency and intelligence and you can comprehend the attractions of an American dream that deserves better than the exploitation to which it's still subjected by ruling-class cynics he would have seen through in a minute. A