Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Pointer Sisters

  • The Pointer Sisters [Blue Thumb, 1973] B
  • The Best of the Pointer Sisters [ABC/Blue Thumb, 1976] B+
  • Energy [Planet, 1978] B-
  • Pointer Sisters' Greatest Hits [Planet, 1982] B-
  • Break Out [Planet, 1984] B+
  • Greatest Hits [RCA, 1989] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Pointer Sisters [Blue Thumb, 1973]
"All this rock and roll you hear don't mean a thing to me," they admit, although in other respects they seem like young women of superior intelligence. Really, sisters, we let rock and rollers redo Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and sing Barbara Mauritz songs (good ones, anyway) and mention Volvos. Not to mention cover Lee Dorsey. Although encouraging the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils to play "Wang Dang Doodle" for seven minutes is a no-no. B

The Best of the Pointer Sisters [ABC/Blue Thumb, 1976]
I realize in retrospect that I didn't like how they sounded mostly because I didn't like what they portended--camp-elegant escapist nostalgia--less liberating than Bette or Dr. Buzzard, but less reactionary than Manhattan Transfer or whoever's breaking out of the boites this month. Church roots help, and not just vocally--their superb taste (from Dizzy Gillespie to Allen Toussaint) has a moral center expressed in songs of their own like "Jada," a generation-gap lyric that ranks with "Handbags and Gladrags," and "Shakey Flat," about moving to the country from an actual city. What's more, someone seems to know when they're good--with David Rubinson putting his twenty grand in, they've committed a lot of excesses and banalities, but not too many survive on this compilation. B+

Energy [Planet, 1978]
With Richard Perry at the helm and the hyperactivity of sister Bonnie channeled into a socially useful project, they reappear here as Linda Ronstadt, in triplicate and with a beat. In other words, these are excellent songs rockingly performed. But there's something overly temperate about the music, and most of the songs have been interpreted more smartly by artists who care as much about words as they do about notes. B-

Pointer Sisters' Greatest Hits [Planet, 1982]
In the four years since Richard Perry aimed these former eccentrics (see MCA's reretro Retrospect, 1981) at the middle of the radio, they've had three top-ten hits, three top-five hits, three you remember: "Fire," "Slow Hand," "He's So Shy." With a couple of minor exceptions, which are also the two remaining top-thirty entries (would markets were always so efficient), everything else has been El Lay assembly-line crapola. Everything Perry included on this kiss-off to Elektra distribution, anyway. B-

Break Out [Planet, 1984]
It's supposed to be tragic that these long-running pros have walked away from America's rich musical heritage in pursuit of the pop buck, but as someone who's always had his doubts about their historical depth, I think the electrodance they settle on here suits them fine. Certainly Richard Perry has assigned songs that throw the new style in your face--titles like "Automatic" and "Neutron Dance" and "Dance Electric" may offend those who wish they still dressed like the Savoy. All jobs well done, I say. B+

Greatest Hits [RCA, 1989]
What a strange story. First they abandon retro chic for the Richard Perry mainstream, with three gems and much dreck to show for it--only the gems save the premature best-of that marked the departure of Perry's Elektra-distributed Planet label for RCA. After one ground-breaking hit, the only decent regular-release album of their lengthy career adds three more classics to their oeuvre, all in the perfervid robot-disco style of "I'm So Excited." And then--and here's the really weird part--it's over. Five years after Break Out, with scads of failed group and solo projects behind and a Motown contract ahead, this postmature best-of lives and dies with the same four robot-disco classics (remixed, though at least not newly remixed) and the same three mainstream gems. I hate to think what they spent their money on. A-

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]