Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Anne Murray

  • Snowbird [Capitol, 1970] B-
  • Annie [Capitol, 1972] B
  • Danny's Song [Capitol, 1973] C+
  • Love Song [Capitol, 1974] B
  • Country [Capitol, 1974] B
  • Highly Prized Possession [Capitol, 1974] B+
  • Together [Capitol, 1975] C
  • I'll Always Love You [Capitol, 1979] B-
  • Greatest Hits [Capitol, 1980] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Snowbird [Capitol, 1970]
An honest if rather clumsy pop country album from the Canadian who had a well-deserved hit with the title song. Her corny and superfluous "Get Together" is more than made up for by (believe it or not) the best cover version of "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" I know, and if "Running" is a little stiff, you tell me how many other pop country artists sing the praises of draft dodging. B-

Annie [Capitol, 1972]
Since her first hit Murray has personified pop at its most unaffected, nice in all the obvious ways--intelligent, cheerful, warm, even wholesome. The strongest of her five albums offers ten realistic, deeply felt songs, including "You Made My Life a Song," the most unpained come-back-if-you-break-up-with-your-new-love I've ever heard. I like every cut. Just wish I loved one. B

Danny's Song [Capitol, 1973]
Murray's kind of pop must flirt with blandness if it is to be seductive at all, and this time she Goes Too Far. Conventional material is a big problem--even the title tune has been defined elsewhere, and by Kenny Loggins. In fact, there are a couple of live tracks here that have been defined elsewhere by Murray herself. C+

Love Song [Capitol, 1974]
I worry that my former second-favorite clean-cut female singer will do a Helen Reddy and begin reminding me of Doris Day, but if anything this is a move toward La Vern Baker--"Just One Look" and "You Won't See Me" rock with expected grit. She should have left Kenny Loggins when the leaving was good, and I wish more of her MOR packed as much domestic drama and fresh-air sincerity as "Another Pot 'o Tea" or "Real Emotion," but this is her best to date. B

Country [Capitol, 1974]
Say what you like about countrypolitan, Murray has a lot more roots than Olivia Newton-John--is Hank Snow from Melbourne or Nova Scotia? And say what you like about strings, Brian Ahern's are a lot more thoughtful than Billy Sherrill's--is a cliché only authentic when it becomes a habit? But though the country audience deserves credit for giving Murray a hearing, this compilation proves that it doesn't bring out the very best in her. Wish somebody could figure out what does. B

Highly Prized Possession [Capitol, 1974]
This is a hair and a half form capturing her amused, husky sweetness and square-jawed sex appeal, and I'll settle. Ballads, message songs, and medium-tempo heart-tuggers have all been slightly upgraded, and the reggaefied Bobby Darin and her latest Beatles cover rock as good as Ronstadt. B+

Together [Capitol, 1975]
Tom Smucker, who should know, says the difference between the departed Brian Ahern and Tom Catalano, the producer Murray has inherited from Helen Reddy, is the difference between Revisionist Anti Schlock and Assumed Schlock. If Schlock is "materialism in a Dionysian mode"--innocent, like Las Vegas as Tom Wolfe explains it--then Assumed Schlock "takes consumption for granted as consumption turns into smug middle-class accumulation." In other words, all the Canadian songwriters in the world can't overcome the extravagant dullness of these arrangements: the rock 'n' roll cut could be Giselle MacKenzie in 1956. Say it ain't so, Annie. C

I'll Always Love You [Capitol, 1979]
Murray's third album with Jim Ed Norman continues her gradual revitalization. Norman does clean, honest, Nashville-quality work, Murray gives forth with the old sensible spunk, and the singles break country and cross over just like they're supposed to. But the potential a few of us perceived in her five years ago is gone. Then Murray seemed to have a shot at women's pop, in the honorific way that term was used after Warhol and the Beatles--a Canadian gym teacher who could rock and roll, a militantly ordinary audience with a lesbian fringe. Now she's just quality MOR, singing the El Lay songbook (only two Canadian composers here, one of whom is Jesse Winchester) like a down-to-earth Emmylou, or Linda without charisma. Which means that exactly how good her records come out no longer matters. B-

Greatest Hits [Capitol, 1980]
Following "Snowbird" with "Danny's Song" with "A Love Song" with "You Won't See Me," the first side is all any curiosity-seeker need own or even know of the singing gym teacher from Nova Scotia. Only a boho bigot could deny these middle-American apotheoses; they bridge cultures as resolutely as C.P. Snow. They also show off Brian Ahern's Nashville country-rock, with Jim Ed Norman's side-closing "You Needed Me" improved by the association. Second side's all Norman, and though most of it is equally tuneful and confident, it's complacent calculation is why we need boho bigotry. All told, as neat a demonstration of aesthetic principle as Metal Machine Music. B+

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