Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Anita Baker

  • The Songstress [Beverly Glen, 1983] B+
  • Rapture [Elektra, 1986] B-
  • Giving You the Best That I Got [Elektra, 1988] C+
  • Compositions [Elektra, 1990] Dud
  • Rhythm of Love [Elektra, 1994] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Songstress [Beverly Glen, 1983]
In a time when the only black people with the guts to go for the soul are Mississippi recidivists and moldy oldies, this L.A. sophisticate has the audacity to pretend she can make pop music out of the shit. The violin and woodwind touches hark back to when soul had something to sell out with, the jazzy guitar comps look forward to when it'll storm the big rooms, the funky bottom bespeaks commitment, the hooky songwriting bespeaks smarts, and the voice sings. B+

Rapture [Elektra, 1986]
Having listened far more than natural inclination dictated, I've become actively annoyed with this vocal watershed. From its strong lounge-jazz beat to its conscious avoidance of distracting lyrical detail, it's all husky, burnished mood, the fulfillment of the quiet-storm format black radio devised to lure staider customers away from white-bread temptations like soft rock and easy listening. God knows it's more soulful, and sexier, too, but that's all it is--a reification of the human voice as vehicle of an expression purer than expression ever ought to be. B-

Giving You the Best That I Got [Elektra, 1988]
Where five years ago Baker was a soul singer who honored the traditional soul audience's lounge leanings, now she's an arena-lounge singer manufacturing generalized intimacy for 26-to-45s. Rid of funky minor-label producer-songwriter Patrick Moten, she composed two tracks for Rapture and worked on a third. Here she's down to two collaborations as the credits edge toward El Lay--if Britten-Lyle and the Perris have anted up, can Carole Bayer Sager and Toto be far behind? She's not a total loss yet--despite the universal lyrics and inflated choruses, three tracks make something of her established standards. But unless she suffers reverses I wouldn't wish on Frank Sinatra, she'll never risk an interesting album again. C+

Compositions [Elektra, 1990] Dud

Rhythm of Love [Elektra, 1994] Dud