Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Dreamboat Annie [Mushroom, 1976] C+
  • Dog and Butterfly [Portrait, 1978] C
  • Bebe Le Strange [Epic, 1980] B+
  • Greatest Hits/Live [Epic, 1980] C+
  • Bad Animals [Capitol, 1987] C

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Dreamboat Annie [Mushroom, 1976]
As apparently spontaneous pop phenomena go, a hardish folk-rock group led by two women is a moderately interesting one, especially when their composing beats that of the twixt-Balin Starplane, whom they otherwise recall. I said moderately. C+

Dog and Butterfly [Portrait, 1978]
Georgia Christgau: "Robert Plant understands his place as second-string guitar posing as lead singer. He should--he thought it up. But this idea is belittling to Ann Wilson. `I have a great voice!' her songs seem to say, and so she may--but what is it doing preening here among all these seamy heavy metal types?" C

Bebe Le Strange [Epic, 1980]
So Nancy Wilson breaks up with her fella, soundman Mike Fisher, who naturally departs the band, along with his brother Roger, who happens to be the guitarist. And whether it's the absence of pomp-rockish Roger, stripping to a five-piece, or what hell hath no fury like, suddenly they're lean and mean and playing to the sisters--title cut's a fan letter to the female Johnny B. Goode, who I guess is Nancy, now playing a lot of lead. Take note, fellas--as Zep rips go, this one is something special, and not just for its sexual politics. Unfortunately, things go gushy at the end with an Ann-penned love song. Men--who needs 'em? B+

Greatest Hits/Live [Epic, 1980]
Even their hits were never all that great beyond Bebe Le Strange and the usual coupla others--without "Barracuda" and "Crazy on You," they would never have gotten to wear stupid expensive clothes on the back cover or joke around in the studio for a couple hours and boil the results down into a tape collage called "Hit Single" ha ha ha. And with most of the hits all the way studio, the live stuff is long on covers, permitting Ann to run her suboperatic chops smack into "Unchained Melody" and "Tell It Like It Is." But the live "Bebe Le Strange" and the distaff "Rock and Roll" make them sound like contenders we need nevertheless. C+

Bad Animals [Capitol, 1987]
You'd never know Ann Wilson was riding the catchy intricacies of hired songwriting unless you listened more carefully than the resulting trifles deserve or her relentless overkill permits. And although the camp follower in me is sometimes tickled by the mismatch, it was the professional in me who noticed it. Only in the title cut, where a failed opera singer throws down the gauntlet for the heavy metal boors she's sworn to defend, does the end justify the means. C

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]