Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Barry White

  • I've Got So Much to Give [20th Century, 1973] B
  • Stone Gon' [20th Century, 1973] C-
  • Can't Get Enough [20th Century, 1974] B-
  • Just Another Way to Say I Love You [20th Century, 1975] C+
  • Barry White's Greatest Hits [20th Century, 1975] A-
  • Barry White Sings for Someone You Love [20th Century, 1977] C+
  • Barry White the Man [20th Century-Fox, 1978] B
  • Barry White's Greatest Hits, Volume 2 [20th Century-Fox, 1981] B+
  • The Icon Is Love [A&M, 1994] *
  • All-Time Greatest Hits [Mercury, 1994] A-

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

I've Got So Much to Give [20th Century, 1973]
White's hustle is to combine Isaac Hayes's power with Al Green's niceness, and he succeeds, in his way, but the synthesis has its drawbacks--tends to compound his humorlessness and mendacity as well. But as a fait accompli he has quite a bit of silly charm, and does he lay down some powerful tracks. Nor is his style as far removed from soul music as white soul conservatives (myself included) first assumed--the bass pulse has a Latin oomph undiminished by its fat-man's pace. And is that a barrelhouse harpsichord on "Bring Back My Yesterdays"? Very, er, eclectic. B

Stone Gon' [20th Century, 1973]
White's hustle is to unite Isaac Hayes's power with Al Green's niceness, and in his way, he does. He is as humorless as Hayes, but with none of Hayes's grandeur, which is 90 per cent phony anyway. And he is as mendacious as Green, but with none of Green's sexy charm, which at least keeps its promise for a night or two. It so happens that I love the single--the man puts down powerful tracks--but the single isn't eight minutes long. C-

Can't Get Enough [20th Century, 1974]
Inspirational Clichés: "doin' our own thing," "different strokes for different folks," "rather fight than switch." Inspirational Emphases: "very important," "very very very very true," "truly truly." Inspirational Epithet: "hope-to-die woman." Inspirational Drum Sound: "thwop." B-

Just Another Way to Say I Love You [20th Century, 1975]
With product as uniform as White's, subtle differentiations take on unlikely incremental significance--I'd swear he's a shade more turgid verbally and sluggish musically. And so would several hundred thousand others, apparently--his last album went number one, while this failed to crack top ten. Statistics never lie. C+

Barry White's Greatest Hits [20th Century, 1975]
The man's commonness is as monumental as his girth, and that's no insult--Barry White may not be Good Art, but neither is Mount Rushmore. It took real creative will to shape Reader's Digest virtues and that face and body into a sex symbol. On record, the symbol has weight because White manipulates studio technology with as much originality as--no insult once again--Mitch Miller: the strings-versus-rhythm dynamics, as well as his much-maligned baritone, resonate with physical authority. It's a little early for a best-of--he proceeds at a rate of two hits per album. But as someone who considers his raps entertaining one-shots and prefers his songs at top forty length, I'm delighted anyway. And though the token rap isn't his best, it does feature his greatest line: "I don't want to see no panties." A-

Barry White Sings for Someone You Love [20th Century, 1977]
His two previous albums having slipped precipitously (last one didn't even make top hundred), White here recoups by hiring out the songwriting and acceding to such fads (in a style he damn near created) as the ticking cymbal and the tocking horn chart. Not to mention addressing his title to a male audience. Where's your integrity, man? C+

Barry White the Man [20th Century-Fox, 1978]
For those with a high giggle threshold, White's best music in years should prove a more than acceptable fuckalong. That's the A side. On the B side he essays "Just the Way You Are." B

Barry White's Greatest Hits, Volume 2 [20th Century-Fox, 1981]
The moribund big man having bolted for CBS with the abysmal "I Love to Sing the Songs I Sing," the moribund minor has no recourse but to piece together a best-of. Which is of course the best album released under the big man's name since his last best-of for the minor. He doesn't rap enough, but at least he doesn't essay any true ballads--the tag line masquerading as a ballad he damn near invented, and he's surprisingly OK on the Hollywood-Latin of "Sha La La Means I Love You" and the uptempo masculinity of "I'm Qualified to Satisfy You." Sha la la means anything you want it to mean. B+

The Icon Is Love [A&M, 1994]
"You know time has played a very important role in our relationship/It was time that first brought us together and/It's time that we separate and leave each other" ("Practice What You Preach," "Whatever We Had, We Had") *

All-Time Greatest Hits [Mercury, 1994]
White's R-rated revival was prefigured not by the latest disco boomlet, so hard to distinguish from its many predecessors, but by the jeepbeat masterminds who will certainly raid the maestro's catalogue as soon as he can get it for them wholesale. He did his share of banging back in the day, and he's always had the integrity to remain utterly lowbrow--street, as they say. Of course, the main thing White heard in the 'hood was the brandy-spiked whipped cream in his head, and with Phil Spector a living legend, nobody could know how few would share such genius. But two decades later "Love's Theme" is a milestone. And then there are his raps, as his style of romantic palaver was called, and a voice that could make Tone-Loc beg for mercy. Never an album artist, he's the stuff of camp for some, and limited for anyone who isn't his sex subject. But where 1993's box was way too much, this 20-song sampler has me hearing the deep truth in "Just the Way You Are": "I don't want clever/Conversation/I don't want to work that hard." A-