Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Peter Stampfel

  • You Must Remember This [Gert Town, 1995] A
  • Dook of the Beatniks [Piety Street Files & Archaic, 2010] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

You Must Remember This [Gert Town, 1995]
Stampfel has never known the meaning of the word respect, which is OK because he's never known the meaning of the word disrespect either. And if this made him a misfit among folkies, that was OK too--he was a misfit everywhere else. For his entire three-decade "career," the last half of which has had a distinctly not-for-profit aura, his own lyrics have celebrated the normality of his misfit life while his intense, eccentric, comic, loud, sincere vocal interpretations imparted to the widest range of pop songs ever negotiated by a single performer the beauty and wonder he originally discerned in Charlie Poole, Charlie Patton, and other icons of authenticity. Stampfel's enthusiasm is so unquenchable you figure he's got to be making fun of such understandably forgotten copyrights as "Haunted Heart" and "Cry of the Wild Goose," and for sure he's not above it. But he is above belittling a song--any fun he may fashion from one is just another facet of its mystery. Stampfel the inveterate fakebook collector says he loves the chords of the impossible favorites he resuscitates here, and I believe him. I also believe he's such a sucker for music that once he falls for a progression he wants to tie the knot for life. A

Dook of the Beatniks [Piety Street Files & Archaic, 2010]
Having caught half these songs on the fly at gigs, I was so eager for the 1999 recordings to reach the marketplace that I volunteered to help Stampfel clean up his liner notes. Run through the excitable yelp that's mellowed and roughened only slightly in the ex-rounder's hi-NRG dotage, the lyrics get better still when you're able to dial back and make sure that that's what he just said. Two big sloppy marital love songs flank two outbursts of wordplay to kick-start the proceedings at a high that trails off for nine relatively mortal tracks. But the last four songs are zoom zoom zoom zoom, climaxing with a New Year's Eve rewrite of Little Richard's "Keep a Knockin'" and a morning-after rewrite of what those notes call "the wackest and most amazing gospel song" Stampfel's ever heard. Its sole remaining original line: "Holy terror's gonna blow you up for Jesus." A-

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