Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Steve Cropper: Dedicated: A Salute to the 5 Royales [429, 2011]
This tribute record isn't designed for nostalgic old folks or curious young folks. The 5 Royales never attracted many of either. Yet without once cracking the top 40, they recorded more first-rate songs than any of their rivals except the Coasters, and unlike the Coasters they wrote their own. That is, Lowman Pauling did, and remarkably for a '50s vocal group, Pauling was primarily a guitarist. So here paying his respects comes the guitarist who co-invented Stax-Volt and co-wrote "Knock on Wood" and "In the Midnight Hour." Short on context for decades now, he proves Pauling's book is deeper than his own with assistance from such serial oversingers as Steve Winwood, Bettye LaVette, Delbert McClinton, John Popper, and Sharon Jones. Lucinda Williams takes "Dedicated to the One I Love" with Dan Penn manning the bridge. Cropper has the hubris and common sense to transform what you thought was James Brown's "Think" into an instrumental. A-