Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Hot Chocolate

  • Cicero Park [Big Tree, 1974] B+
  • Hot Chocolate [Big Tree, 1975] B+
  • Man to Man [Big Tree, 1976] A-
  • 10 Greatest Hits [Big Tree, 1977] A
  • Every 1's a Winner [Infinity, 1978] B
  • Going Through the Motions [Infinity, 1979] B+
  • Mystery [EMI America, 1982] B
  • Every 1's a Winner: The Very Best of Hot Chocolate [EMI, 1993] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Cicero Park [Big Tree, 1974]
From the black-and-white London group that originated "Brother Louie" comes an album that might sound startling in retrospect and is impressive now. At the very least, its insightful confusions over class and race locate the honest roots of one kind of black conservatism. Both Mickie Most's precise, almost formal framing (pop hard rock veering toward disco) and the elocution of singer-composers Errol Brown (hard) and Tony Wilson (soft) make for an overall detachment unbroken by the passion of individual cuts. Strange to hear soul with a British accent. B+

Hot Chocolate [Big Tree, 1975]
Not quite as substantial as Cicero Park, but more startling, thanks to "You Sexy Thing," the eccentrically wild-and-proper English-soul supersmash included hereupon. B+

Man to Man [Big Tree, 1976]
OK, I do believe in miracles. Left with a two-man job by the solo flight of Tony Wilson, Errol Brown just gets on up and does it and does it. The lyrics are transparent sexist jive from "Heaven Is in the Back Seat of My Cadillac" to "Seventeen Years of Age," but Brown's dignified, cocksure vocals are so credulous that the effect is like Bryan Ferry irony divested of self-consciousness. Maybe the mannered romanticism Ferry has striven for comes naturally to an upwardly mobile West Indian like Brown. The hooks and tempos sure do. And Brown is right--"You Sexy Thing" is good enough to cop almost note for note. A-

10 Greatest Hits [Big Tree, 1977]
Two of these excellent songs--"So You Win Again" and "Rumours"--have never been available on a U.S. album, and there's only one cop from the highly recommended A side of Cicero Park. So although this steers clear of everything that's most problematic about a group that frequently essays themes a little beyond its grasp and becomes more interesting as a result, it's also an ideal introduction. Question: Is that low-register electric timbre they hold so dear really somebody's guitar? A

Every 1's a Winner [Infinity, 1978]
Errol Brown used to pose interesting questions, mostly about race, and though his conclusions were often quizzical or incoherent, they tended to be more provocative (if no more militant) than "Love Is the Answer One More Time." There are four good songs here and no utter losers, but one of the good ones is already on 10 Greatest Hits, and only "Confetti Day," another installment in this strange group's family series, is up to the title chartbuster. Maybe that's because the question that really interests Brown these days is how to integrate synthesized percussion into English soul-pop. B

Going Through the Motions [Infinity, 1979]
For years I've resisted the idiot notion that this was a "disco" group because Errol Brown is black. So did the discos. The discos are still resisting. But I think this is the best disco parody since Silver Convention's Madhouse. Keynote: "Mindless Boogie." B+

Mystery [EMI America, 1982]
Maybe the reason Errol Brown's never broken through Stateside is the inscrutability that's always made him such a provocative pop figure--he gives you nothing to hold on to but the hook. And though his hooks have never been more abundant, I'm beginning to wish I knew why he took so much trouble. B

Every 1's a Winner: The Very Best of Hot Chocolate [EMI, 1993]
high-schlock hyperaestheticism, low-concept programming ("You Sexy Thing," "Brother Louie") **