Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Roger McGuinn

  • Roger McGuinn [Columbia, 1973] B
  • Peace on You [Columbia, 1974] C+
  • Roger McGuinn & Band [Columbia, 1975] C
  • Cardiff Rose [Columbia, 1976] B-
  • Thunderbyrd [Columbia, 1977] B
  • Live From Mars [Hollywood, 1997] Dud

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Roger McGuinn [Columbia, 1973]
From L.A. session men to Charles Lloyd eight-miles-high to Bruce Johnston ooh-ooh to Clark, Clarke, Crosby, Hillman & McGuinn, Roger's solo debut sounds more coherent than any Byrds album since Sweetheart of the Rodeo, which must prove he's an auteur. Jacques Levy plays the Gram Parsons catalyst, but since Levy only writes lyrics the chemistry is a good deal less powerful. And it does worry me that Levy worked on all the good cuts: the ones about highjacking, love in Vietnam and "my new woman," and especially "I"m So Restless," the best state-of-the-music song since "All the Young Dudes." B

Peace on You [Columbia, 1974]
McGuinn seems to have done a whole album about breaking up with his wife or somebody. Which is fine, no law against it. But real country singers have more of a knack for such things. When Charlie Rich sings "God ain't gonna love you" (in the title tune, which Rich wrote), the blasphemy comes as a shock. McGuinn just sounds churlish. C+

Roger McGuinn & Band [Columbia, 1975]
And band's songs. C

Cardiff Rose [Columbia, 1976]
I'd written him off before Rolling Thunder, too, but this record, produced by fellow Roller Ronson and featuring various tour buddies, rocks wilder than anything he ever did with the Byrds. Unfortunately, it's more confusing than astonishing. The factitious folk songs about piracy and the Holy Grail make fewer contemporary connections than the real folk song "Pretty Polly." Ditto the previously unrecorded donations from fellow Rollers Mitchell and Dylan. Imagining how Dylan might sing "Up to Me," which sounds like a forerunner of "Simple Twist of Fate," you begin to miss the quavery McGuinn or yore. And the song that's actually about Rolling Thunder is pretty sickening. B-

Thunderbyrd [Columbia, 1977]
I hate the name-dropping title, but this is McGuinn's best since his solo debut, including a tongue-in-cheek version of Dylan's mystical-romantic "Golden Loom," a psychedelic reminiscence, and good-to-great covers from George Jones, Tom Petty, and--the conceptual triumph--Peter Frampton. B

Live From Mars [Hollywood, 1997] Dud