Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Archie Shepp

  • A Sea of Faces [Black Saint, 1975] B+
  • Steam [Inner City, 1978] A-
  • Little Red Moon [Soul Note, 1986] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

A Sea of Faces [Black Saint, 1975]
On a Milanese label distributed stateside by the good folk of Record People (66 Greene Street), this combines more of Shepp's chronic poetry-with-jazz with a nice boppish number on one side while the sax-solo-over-Latin-riff of your dreams flows over some 26 minutes on the other. Simple to execute, but I'm glad somebody bothered. It's danceable, too--but does it have disco potential? B+

Steam [Inner City, 1978]
You'd think records on which world-class saxophonists think on their feet in an inspired rush for 20 minutes a side would be as plentiful as John Coltrane reissues, but they're not, and this is one of them. Drummer Beaver Harris has a lot to do with how powerfully things flow. A-

Little Red Moon [Soul Note, 1986]
If you happen to be Archie Shepp, this is how easy it is to make an album you can live with. Visit your label in Milan and take on an expatriate rhythm section and a couple of European sidemen, one of them top-drawer. Go 18 minutes on a vamp and pick up another publishing credit with a little something called "Impromptu." Add Trane to Benny Golson to "Sweet Georgia Brown" on the B. Take three days, don't push it. Have fun. B+