Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Chi-Lites

  • (For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People [Brunswick, 1971] A-
  • A Lonely Man [Brunswick, 1972] B
  • Greatest Hits [Brunswick, 1972] A
  • Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 [Brunswick, 1976] B

Consumer Guide Reviews:

(For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People [Brunswick, 1971]
The politics here are imaginatively common-sensical, from "We Are Neighbors," which adduces a racist knock-knock joke before noting that we're neighbors "whether we want to be or not," to the title cut, which owes something to both Jesse Jackson and the Esquires' "Get On Up." And "Have You Seen Her," like "I Want to Pay Your Back," is Soul Music Meets the Women's Movement, warning any man who tries "to be hip" and exploit his woman that she's strong enough to reject him for it. I suppose it's only to be expected that this guy also believes "fighting's for fools," a political notion too common-sensical to suit me. But at least he seems to have put some thought into the sentiment. A-

A Lonely Man [Brunswick, 1972]
It's OK that producer-singer-songwriter Eugene Record has written an entire album for the male supplicant he created. But it's not OK that except for the folk-kitsch masterpiece "Oh Girl" (a/k/a "Oh That Harmonica") not one of these songs is going to get him what he wants--true love, a roll in the hay, a hit single, anything. Nor is it okay that he bids fair to turn into the falsetto Isaac Hayes on "A Lonely Man" (a/k/a "Have You Seen Her Yet") and "The Coldest Days of My Life" (a/k/a "The Longest Song I've Ever Written"). B

Greatest Hits [Brunswick, 1972]
The Delfonics and the Moments may have staked first claim on Eugene Record's love man, but Record demolishes the competition, if such a macho concept is permissible in this context (and it certainly is). Not only does he outwrite the other fellas, he doesn't trip over his bassman when the tempo speeds up or make a fool of himself when analyzing the dilemmas of contemporary civilization. The fifteen-song compilation includes the entire first side (plus one) of Give More Power to the People and may actually be too generous--it is possible to OD on this stuff. But everything you want is here, and what you think you don't want you might. A

Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 [Brunswick, 1976]
They're still a better-than-average harmony group, but their moment is past, and although they continue to handle brisk tempos more deftly than the competition their accommodations to disco are just that--compromises, not expansions. Eugene Record's lyrics offer more than the music, which he often farms out these days: "A Letter to Myself" is classic silly self-pity, I leave it to your to imagine how "Homely Girl" turns out, and "That's How Long" (which Record didn't write) is as graphic a song as has ever made 54 in Billboard. B

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