Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Roberta Flack

  • Quiet Fire [Atlantic, 1971] C
  • Killing Me Softly [Atlantic, 1973] C
  • The Best of Roberta Flack [Atlantic, 1981] C
  • Roberta [Atlantic, 1994] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Quiet Fire [Atlantic, 1971]
Flack is generally regarded as the most significant new black woman singer since Aretha Franklin, and at moments she sounds kind, intelligent, and very likable. But she often exhibits the gratuitous gentility you'd expect of someone who says "between you and I." Until she crackles a bit, forget about significance and listen to Ann Peebles. C

Killing Me Softly [Atlantic, 1973]
Q: Why is Roberta Flack like Jesse Colin Young? A: Because she always makes you wonder whether she's going to fall asleep before you do. C

The Best of Roberta Flack [Atlantic, 1981]
On the evidence of these hits (the early albums were marginally livelier), she has nothing whatsoever to do with rock and roll or rhythm and blues and almost nothing to do with soul. The analogy isn't Donny Hathaway (who lives on in duet after duet), much less Stevie Wonder (also represented)--it's Barry Manilow. She made "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and "Killing Me Softly With His Song," he made "Mandy" and "I Write the Songs," and who is to say which achievement will prove more durable? Flack has much better taste, I agree--that's the point. In the long run, pop lies are improved by vulgarity. C

Roberta [Atlantic, 1994]
the great black pop of middle-class dreams ("Cottage for Sale," "Let's Stay Together") **