Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Lloyd Price

  • Greatest Hits [MCA, 1994] A-
  • Specialty Profiles [Specialty, 2006] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Greatest Hits [MCA, 1994]
There's nothing like this Rock and Roll Hall of Famer from the Big Easy. Now 80 and pushing an autobiography and a Broadway musical based on same, he knows how to take care of business--he's a rough hombre who owned a nightclub and a label in Manhattan before he was 40. But he doesn't sing like a rough hombre. He sings like he's taking care of business, which is why he followed 1959's chart-topping "Stagger Lee" with two lyrics so insipid they could do battle with Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell: "Personality" and "I'm Gonna Get Married." And never was he more cheerfully pragmatic than in the 2:25 "Stagger Lee" itself, which remains a fairly grisly murder tale, but one in which the femme chorus that's been chanting "Go Stagger Lee" since 0:45 continues to cheer Stack on as he fetches his .44 and shoots Billy so bad he breaks the bartender's glass. Call me a cynic, but I think it's one of the funniest records in rock and roll. It leads this hard-to-find 18-track package. It also leads the now standard 12-track, 28-minute The Best of Lloyd Price: The Millennium Collection, where I miss, among other things, "That's Love," a/k/a "I Got Married and Liked It," and "Three Little Pigs," designed for what he thinks marriage was designed for, and I don't mean conjugal ecstasy. I mean kids. A-

Specialty Profiles [Specialty, 2006]
Price was the biggest, roughest shouter in New Orleans r&b, and gumbo aficionados will tell you it was a tragedy when those bad Northerners stole him away. Price didn't agree, and I know what he means. Even honed down to 14 tracks in 36 minutes over Dave Bartholomew's ace band, his Specialty material is so unthinkingly generic that few of the songs distinguish themselves even as novelties. In addition to Price's signature "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," which I like no less and also no more in this lowdown version than as the sub-two-minute rocker ABC-Paramount made of it, my best candidate would be the accurately entitled "Oo-Ee Baby," which no one has ever heard of because it ain't all that novel. Nevertheless, this is pretty entertaining for a historical document, and it's augmented by the label's generic 26-minute bonus disc, which you'll probably play more: 10 r&b classics that include Roy Milton's "R.M. Blues," Joe Liggins's "Pink Champagne," Guitar Slim's "The Things That I Used to Do," Don & Dewey's "Leavin' It All Up to You," and Larry Williams's "Dizzy, Miss Lizzy." B+