Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Richard Pryor

  • That Nigger's Crazy [Partee, 1974] A
  • . . . Is It Something I Said? [Reprise, 1975] A
  • Wanted [Warner Bros., 1979] A-
  • . . . And It's Deep, Too! The Complete Warner Brothers Recordings [Rhino, 2000] A+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

That Nigger's Crazy [Partee, 1974]
Whether a white Voice writer has the right to enjoy a black comic mocking the desperate inadequacies of black junkies, chickenshits, and comedy fans ("You can't land here, nigger--this is Mr. Kramer's property") is a troublesome question. Meanwhile, I bust my gut. There hasn't been a stand up comedian funnier since you-know-who, and Pryor is funnier, if less solid. A

. . . Is It Something I Said? [Reprise, 1975]
All comedy albums have flat bits--which probably vary from listener to listener--and there are moments here when you get the feeling Pryor is making nasty not to shock but to fulfill expectations, like the guys in the fourth year of Hair waving their cocks at the tourists. But his long tale about Mudbone (stupidly edited between two sides) is so breathtakingly wise and weird that--and I never say this--it's worth the price of the record. A lot of the rest is pretty funny, too. Maybe you and your friends can chip in. A

Wanted [Warner Bros., 1979]
Believe it or not, Pryor has mellowed--he does stuff about kids and pets that's like Bill Cosby with trenchmouth, and he finally seems to have gotten the message about women's liberation. Though the fourth side drags and nothing on the first three is as visionary as the title cut on Bicentennial Nigger, there are a lot fewer nightclub quips and sight gags, and Pryor's warmth has heat. Next best thing to the movie. A-

. . . And It's Deep, Too! The Complete Warner Brothers Recordings [Rhino, 2000]
Not music. Nine original-package CDs that could squeeze onto six. Lists for $80. Yet while I'll note that Pryor's outrages are synergistic with hip-hop's--each naturalizes, enriches, and critiques the other--I'd be recommending this luxury item over my own dead principles even if they weren't. His woman problems can vex, but not only hasn't he dated, he's gained stature. These albums comprise a great body of performed literature, their only drawback their lack of videos. So bargain hunt. I located it at non-union-busting (if nonunion) CDNow for $56. A+