Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ohio Players

  • Skin Tight [Mercury, 1974] B
  • Fire [Mercury, 1974] B
  • Greatest Hits [Westbound, 1975] B
  • Honey [Mercury, 1975] B+
  • Contradiction [Mercury, 1976] B-
  • Gold [Mercury, 1976] A-
  • The Best of the Early Years Volume 1 [Westbound, 1977] B-
  • Everybody Up [Arista, 1979] C+
  • The Millenium Collection: The Best of Ohio Players [Polygram, 2000] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Skin Tight [Mercury, 1974]
Alternate title: Shoogity-Boogity. B

Fire [Mercury, 1974]
The makers of Shoogity-Boogity bring you: More Shoogity-Boogity. B

Greatest Hits [Westbound, 1975]
On Mercury the Players are a funk factory, turning out delightful but very similar hits and surrounding them with functional filler. On Westbound they were experimentalists whether copying Funkadelic or Cactus. Not that all the experiments were interesting, much less successful, or that a hit format displays them at their best--I'd welcome a second long jam in addition to the two-part "Pain." Which is one of the three successful as opposed to interesting songs on this compilation. The others are "Ecstasy," after the manner of George Clinton, and "Funky Worm," impersonated by Junie Morrison. B

Honey [Mercury, 1975]
A/k/a Boogity-Shoogity, and I don't mean to be mean--I quite like these guys in limited doses. There are even good slow ones here. What's more, it's their funniest album ever, and that's no typo. Only I can't quite convince myself that artistic development is even a category for a group that is clearly pure Act if not pure Product. What I can do, however, is be glad that they make Earth, Wind & Fire sound like the Herbie Mann Singers. B+

Contradiction [Mercury, 1976]
"Contradiction" and "Far East Mississippi" are in such a no-bullshit mode that they can get away with change-of-pace woo-pitchers, although they've done better than these. But, like Gerald Ford, they can't get away with "Bi-Centennial." B-

Gold [Mercury, 1976]
OK, I don't approve of their album covers, although this one is relatively innocent--instead of casting the bald naked woman in molten metal they put wings on her and let her deliver a gold record, like an angel, or a carrier pigeon. But the visuals don't turn me off the aurals, which at their best fuse the body heat of funk with the mind games of the novelty single--that is, unite rhythmic and conceptual eccentricity. The not-on-any-album cuts are wasted--"Feel the Heat (Everybody Disco)" works just well enough to prove how mistaken they were to soften their attack for a subtitle. But four or five of these tracks are unmitigated miracles of commerce, and all of them are of a piece. A-

The Best of the Early Years Volume 1 [Westbound, 1977]
A misnomer--should be Early Year. To be precise, 1972, when they released both Pain and Pleasure. Suggested retitle: Half Pain and Half Pleasure. B-

Everybody Up [Arista, 1979]
Let's see, how did that thang go? Boogity-sheboppity? No, that's not it. Was it shoobity-boobity? Boobity! Shit. Hey, maybe that's it--shittiby-bittiby. Nah. Er . . . C+

The Millenium Collection: The Best of Ohio Players [Polygram, 2000]
A snazzier gleaning would include "Far East Mississippi" and some Westbound hits. But as competing UniMoth entries by the Gap Band, Trick James, and LTD make clear, this Dayton crew got the funk. What seemed like novelty ad infinitum in the '70s was in fact kompletely kinky, and not in the sense of honey-covered cover girls or (too bad) fresh interpretations of "Lola" and "You Really Got Me"--just wound-tight bass and drums and three horny men following turn for turn. Topping all was Leroy Bonner's falsetto etc., as toon-town as Bootsy yet, like Bootsy, soulful to the nth when it chose. Remember the 1974 ballad "I Want to Be Free"? No? Well, rent Spike Lee's Kings of Comedy, where a whole arena in Charlotte knows every word. A