Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Trammps

  • Trammps [Golden Fleece, 1975] B+
  • The Legendary Zing Album Featuring the Fabulous Trammps [Buddah, 1975] B+
  • Where the Happy People Go [Atlantic, 1976] B+
  • Disco Inferno [Atlantic, 1977] B
  • Disco Champs [Philadelphia International, 1977] B
  • The Best of the Trammps [Atlantic, 1978] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Trammps [Golden Fleece, 1975]
You know what they mean by calling this a disco group? They mean that all the fast songs sound pretty good and all the slow ones don't. Which means that Jimmy Ellis's gritty tenor isn't anything to dwell on but gets the job done. Thank Ron Baker, Norman Harris, and (drummer and occasional bass singer) Earl Young for giving Jimmy and the band eight quickies. And recommend their methods to other Philadelphians. B+

The Legendary Zing Album Featuring the Fabulous Trammps [Buddah, 1975]
Among the attractions of this compilation of disco hits going back to 1972 are three snappy originals, Mr. Bass Man, a rock and roll version of "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart," and a disco version of "Sixty Minute Man" that divides him in two. Among the drawbacks are three soggy originals, all of them orchestral intros disguised as songs. B+

Where the Happy People Go [Atlantic, 1976]
The five-minute version of Wilson Pickett's "Ninety-Nine and a Half" is the key to this album. Jimmy Ellis can't match the depth of the original, and neither can the rhythm arrangement, which is light, festooned with horn licks, fanciful if you like it and just fancy if you don't. But if you like it it's not only fanciful but functional--that is, danceable. As are the other six cuts on this album, the two forgettable ones as well as the four catchy ones. I'm not especially happy in the disco sense of the term, but I like it OK myself. B+

Disco Inferno [Atlantic, 1977]
I hum the title track and admire three of the remaining five, but at a distance. One sharp figure of speech per song--next to "burn baby burn" my favorite occurs in "Body Contact Contract," where the "party of the first part" parties--doesn't make up for how forced they sound when they're bad--or admirable. B

Disco Champs [Philadelphia International, 1977]
In theory I'm glad their ex-corporation has repackaged Trammps as a pure disco album. In practice I get distracted during the breaks and don't find the new dance cuts any more appealing than the old ballads. B

The Best of the Trammps [Atlantic, 1978]
In a time when real soul groups, especially of the uptempo persuasion, have become as rare as snail darters, the Trammps fill a gap. On album their tricks have worn thin, and "Seasons for Girls" is one more proof that they should never slowitdownalittle, but this compilation is the best of both their worlds--two extended dance tracks, including the undeniable "Disco Inferno," and radio-length versions of seven other songs. No meaningful lyrics here unless you count "Soul Searchin' Time" (I might), and Jimmy Ellis is a narrow singer enslaved by great precedents. But for rough-and-easy black pop, catchy top and bottom, this is it. A-