Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Laura Lee

  • Women's Love Rights [Hot Wax, 1972] B
  • Laura Lee [Hot Wax, 1972] B+
  • Love More Than Pride [Chess, 1972] C+
  • The Best of Laura Lee [Hot Wax, 1973] A-
  • I Can't Make It Alone [Invictus, 1974] B-
  • Greatest Hits [HDH, 1990] ***

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Women's Love Rights [Hot Wax, 1972]
The title hit actually mentions "women's liberators and men sympathizers," a black-music first, and unlike "Respect," say, it lays out a critical analysis as well as asserting a prerogative. But the underlying if-you-can't-beat-'em passivity of this analysis comes clear in an amazing eight-minute version of "Since I Fell for You" ("You made me leave my happy home" and so forth) that says a lot more about Lee's real power than "Wedlock Is a Padlock." It's also worth noting that many of her most militant songs were written by one William Weatherspoon. How about a chorus of "You Don't Own Me," Ms. Lee? B

Laura Lee [Hot Wax, 1972]
The original title was Two Sides of Laura Lee, which went the way of the "Empty Bed Blues" promised on the jacket but still sums up the idea: soften up that man-hating persona. It succeeds, too, with songs from the Honey Cone's production team that give Lee, a gritty singer who can't match the power of a Millie Jackson or the spunk of an Ann Peebles, a chance to show off the recitatives at which she excels--I'm especially fond of "At Last," where Lee falls for a nice boy. But the prize is on the "other" side--"Rip Off," the real follow-up to "Women's Love Rights," which I'll bet was boycotted by male program directors because it was about property as well as sex. B+

Love More Than Pride [Chess, 1972]
The title of this belated but opportune package from Lee's old label says it all--in her previous incarnation, she was a not-quite-great voice without a gimmick, just like so many of her sisters. For some reason, two minor hits from 1967--"Wanted: Lover, No Experience Necessary" and "Up Tight Good Man"--aren't included. Might give it a little more flair. Might push it over thirty minutes, too. C+

The Best of Laura Lee [Hot Wax, 1973]
Millie Jackson is touted as Lady Funk, but as of now she hasn't come up with an album nearly as satisfying as this unorthodox compilation, constructed on short notice from just two LPs, the second of which never charted. Lee's voice isn't as big as Jackson's, but she's got comparable breadth emotionally and timbrally as well as stronger material. Hard-assed on one side, winsome on the other, and let's hope she doesn't fall through the cracks. A-

I Can't Make It Alone [Invictus, 1974]
Lee shows a lot of singing skills here--without downplaying her natural rasp she achieves a gratifying fullness (even softness), and she knows how to put her range at the service of a song's drama. Now if only these songs had some drama--the best moment is a whispered ad lib in which Lee describes a seduction play-by-play. And the title concept is a disgrace--180 degrees is too damn far to turn even if that is the way life comes out sometimes. B-

Greatest Hits [HDH, 1990]
Yo-Yo's mama ("Rip Off," "Wedlock Is a Padlock," "Women's Love Rights," "Since I Fell for You") ***