Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Little Steven

  • Voice of America [EMI America, 1984] C+
  • Freedom No Compromise [Manhattan, 1987] C

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Voice of America [EMI America, 1984]
I deeply respect Steven Van Zandt's brave translation of rock and roll libertarianism into internationalist antiwar propaganda, and I don't think he's done badly by the songwriting--somebody cover "Fear," or "Justice," or "Among the Believers." But please, please, please don't make me listen to him sing them anymore. His voice is devoid of dynamic or dramatic zip. When he's not bellowing, he's plodding. And he's got a band to match. C+

Freedom No Compromise [Manhattan, 1987]
There are good singers who moan and good singers who whine, but this doomed soul is neither. He's just a guy who longs to let all the love and pain and ambition inside him out, and who isn't even any good at imitating those who know how. Civic virtue, rhythmic responsibility, sartorial overkill--none of them will gain him an ounce more popular credibility than he's already gained on the coattails of this icon or that issue. As usual, it's only as a writer of protest songs that he shows any knack--Rubén Blades could probably lift "Bitter Fruit" the way Black Uhuru did "Solidarity," and without Steven's phony accent. One hell of an expensive demo. C

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