Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Freddy Fender: Lone Star: The Best of Freddy Fender [Music Club, 1999]
Fender's catalog will always be a mess--because he recorded too much, because Huey Meaux will license to anyone, because no one will ever compile his deeply felt "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window," because his "Junko Partner" has gone the way of all dope legends. Dot/MCA's The Best of Freddy Fender accesses his late-'70s country-chart phase, whereas this best, while prudently providing alternate takes of "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" and "Before the Next Teardrop Falls," lovingly samples the Meaux-produced rest. Included are a regional rock and roll hit from before his just-past-21 1960 drug bust, a creaky Johnny Ace cover, a rollicking "Fannie Mae," a circa-1980 remake of the Who's "Squeeze Box," and a "Chokin' Kind" in which Fender ignores the title apostrophe and sings "If you don't like the peaches walk on by the tree" as if Shakespeare had written it just for him. Though Fender's tenor is sharp rather than mellow, the closest analogy is Aaron Neville, who even when he was good was less innocent, who remains more spiritual if less sublime, and who doesn't break into Spanish for his supper. A-