Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Sugar and Poison [Virgin, 1996]
Two CDs of David Toop-selected musical foreplay that bear the same relation to the quiet-storm makeout comps where labels now recycle late-soul also-rans that Toop's Ocean of Sound does to ambient house--the come-ons are edgier in the psychological sense, beset by an anxiety smoover grooves muffle, and thus a good deal sexier for many of us than the smarm of Peabo Bryson or the hortatory sincerity of Otis Redding. The locus is soul as Northern pop, a '70s sensibility whose roots in gospel and country are twice-removed, although the material stretches into the '80s (Loose Ends, Meli'sa Morgan, Tashan's drum 'n' bass-ish 1986 "Chasin' a Dream") and even '90s. Whether it's stuff you love (Sly's "Just Like a Baby," Bootsy's "Vanish in My Sleep," Chic's climactically inevitable "At Last I Am Free") or artists, even songs, you don't care for (O.V. Wright, "Southern Nights"), you've never heard them like this before. Only my wife has ever made me a better mix tape. A