Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ry Cooder: Ry Cooder [Reprise, 1970]
According to his own complaints, which may well be warranted, the world's favorite studio bottleneck is also the man from whom Mick and Keith stole "Let It Bleed." Now if only he could sing as good as Mick and Keith maybe he'd put his own blues synthesis across. As it stands, Cooder's singing and projection are so flat they recall the folkie fantasy in which the real blues comes from toothless old men on porches--songs by Tommy Tucker and Fats Waller and even Randy Newman (who gets a lot more out of his own narrow pipes) sound as humble as those by Sleepy John Estes and Blind Willie Johnson. Cooder has two folkie virtues, though--he remembers the Depression and he finds wonderful songs. Alfred Reed's "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times as These" is proof of both. B