Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Men Are Like Streetcars . . . Women Blues Singers 1928-1969 [MCA, 1999]
All but seven of these 46 choices are from the Decca, Chess, and Duke catalogs MCA controls, and that's a shame. No Bessie Smith or Ma Rainey, OK--they cut albums' worth of classics on their own. But the absent Lil Green always deserves a plug and, come on, Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues" is the archetypal seminal one-shot--a debut single she never equalled that sparked every other side collected here. Still, sometimes a tasty mouthful is all these singers had in them (see my unpublished monograph Big Mama Thornton: Who Owes Who?), and on the first disc especially, folkie lifer Mary Katherine Aldin's picks rarely lag. Maybe they'll inspire you to seek out more Memphis Minnie, Victoria Spivey, and Rosetta Tharpe, or maybe you'll just say thank-you-ma'am to the lost sin songs of Georgia White, Blue Lu Barker, Rosetta Howard. Second disc is easier to lose track of, so let me direct your attention to the Margie Day feature. Aldin seems a little embarrassed by this "quirky ditty." Me, my day was made by a song that begins "Take out you false teeth daddy, your mommy wants to scratch your gums." And with such lip-smacking gusto, too. A-