Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Kate & Anna McGarrigle: Tell My Sister [Nonesuch, 2011]
Since these "demos and unreleased recordings 1971-1974" are part of a superbly designed and moderately priced little box that also includes their extraordinary Warner Bros. albums of 1976 and 1977, I should specify that my grade is for the bonus disc, which although it includes only five titles unavailable in later versions is one of the most useful I know. Much as I love the debut, its intelligent gloss is no longer needed to put the music across; on the demos, spare piano highlights voices we now know to be delectable without the subtlest sweetening. Proudly selling herself, Kate especially is more forthright and less cunning--and also, poignantly, younger. In a few cases--I'd name "Kiss & Say Goodbye," "Tell My Sister," and "Blues in E"--the demos are even preferable. Special thanks too for Chaim Tannenbaum's unheard "Annie." And then there's the great prize: Kate's newly unearthed "Saratoga Summer Song," a fond, funny, ruefully dissolute chronicle of a hippie summer that casually epitomizes both concepts--not just "hippie," but "summer." A