Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Roots of Rock 'n' Roll 1946-1954 [Hip-O, 2004]
One could question the utility of this triple-CD, and in fact it doesn't play as strong as Golden Era of Rock 'n' Roll 1954-1963, the starter kit for 12-year-olds released alongside it. But when I try to think of essential artists passed by, I get only one: Elmore James ("Dust My Broom," No. 9 r&b, 1952). There's never been anything like this: three hours of rock and roll from before rock and roll, long on boogie-beat jump blues with helpings of regular blues, honky-tonk from before honky-tonk, doowop from before doowop, and other stuff. Included are such foundational texts as "Rocket 88," "Cry," and "Crazy, Man, Crazy," early versions of "That's All Right, Mama," "Hound Dog," "Kansas City," and "Sh-Boom," and a few gems I don't recall hearing before: "Rock This Joint," "Cupid's Boogie," "Little Richard's Boogie." Arranged chronologically by year, it has a nice drape even if every track isn't a perfect fit. Afterward you can locate best-ofs, starting with Louis Jordan and Professor Longhair. A