Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge [extended]

  • Kristofferson [Monument, 1970] C
  • Rita Coolidge [A&M, 1971] C+
  • The Silver Tongued Devil and I [Monument, 1971] C-
  • The Lady's Not for Sale [A&M, 1972] C
  • Breakaway [Monument, 1974] B-
  • Anytime . . . Anywhere [A&M, 1977] C
  • Songs of Kristofferson [Columbia, 1977] C
  • A Star Is Born [Columbia, 1977] D+
  • Natural Act [A&M, 1979] B
  • The Winning Hand [Monument, 1982] B-
  • This Old Road [New West, 2006] Dud
  • Closer to the Bone [New West, 2009] Choice Cuts

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Kris Kristofferson: Kristofferson [Monument, 1970]
"Me and Bobby McGee" is only the beginning--this former Rhodes scholar is as deft and common as any songwriter in Nashville, though he's better off keeping it personal with a heartbreak song like "For the Good Times" than justifying his scruffy appearance with penny-ante satire like "Blame It on the Stones." But he's the worst singer I've ever heard. It's not that he's off key--he has no relation to key. He also has no phrasing, no dynamics, no energy, no authority, no dramatic ability, and no control of the top two-thirds of his six-note range. Recommended to demo collectors. C

Rita Coolidge: Rita Coolidge [A&M, 1971]
Despite sage advice from my female advisers, I cherished hopes that Coolidge's thick voice--which is grainy rather than gritty, like the Bramlett voice without the bravura--would grow on me the way Tracy Nelson's did. She does get more out of "Seven Bridges Road" than Tracy does by underplaying the overstatement just a little, and it's nice to hear "The Happy Song" as praise for a househusband. But in the end this is so solid that it never sparkles once. C+

Kris Kristofferson: The Silver Tongued Devil and I [Monument, 1971]
People say Kris is ruined by producer Fred Foster. Note, however, that the ruin isn't commercial but artistic--the man sells a lot better than Randy Newman. That's because Kris's pet paradox--hobo intellectual as Music Row hit man--almost demands extraneous strings. Ungainly, not to say dishonest. C-

Rita Coolidge: The Lady's Not for Sale [A&M, 1972]
Cute title, but my best information is that you're still expected to pay for this in stores. And even if you weren't it would just clutter the house--from a great female hope she's developed into someone who sings "Fever" with all of the heat (and none of the charm) of Keith doin "98.6." C

Breakaway [Monument, 1974]
The least embarrassing LP either had made in years is a testament of what just might be a fairly interesting marriage. The way you can tell is that the love songs about separation and temptation and compulsion and good-timing work out, while the ode to romantic serenity (could it be by the same Sherman brothers who occasionally soundtrack a Disney movie?) sound like it was recorded at gunpoint. B-

Rita Coolidge: Anytime . . . Anywhere [A&M, 1977]
This was gonna be her annual sultry cornpone, unobjectionable except for the Neil Sedaka tune and not without its soulful moments, when A&M prexy Jerry Moss told Rita how to become worthy of Kris. You'll get more sales, Jerry opined, if people Recognize Your Material. Try a Motown revival, one of Boz's lesser songs, a Bee Gees number, maybe that wonderful Sam Cooke classic the Stones did once--and who can lose with "Higher and Higher"? It seems to have worked, too, except that those of us with fond memories can still hear the originals. Rita is now halfway to becoming Andy Williams with cleavage. It takes a very special kind of stupidity to slow "Higher and Higher" into a down. C

Kris Kristofferson: Songs of Kristofferson [Columbia, 1977]
Over the years, Kristofferson has learned enough about acting to challenge George Burns as a crooner, although the veteran is stronger in the rebop department. It's conceivable he might even do somewhat better now on some of his great early songs. But not on this glorified repackage. C

Streisand/Kristofferson: A Star Is Born [Columbia, 1977]
Due largely to Kristofferson, whose recording career will soon be as vestigial as George Segal's, the movie isn't quite the ripoff you'd figure, but the album, which lists as a pricey $8.98, most certainly is. As with all soundtracks, you get the stars' voices but not their chests, and Rupert Holmes and Paul Williams have ended up with the kind of rock and roll cliches that real rockers assume. What else could I expect? Neither Barbra nor Kris has made a listenable album, much less a stellar one, in the history of Consumer Guide. D+

Kris & Rita: Natural Act [A&M, 1979]
Before the days of Oscar nominations and Jackie Wilson atrocities, when these married hippies were striving to gain acceptance as a mainstream country duo, they actually went out of their way to be boring--the material on Full Moon was so damn acceptable you almost didn't notice it was there. So I guess Breakaway was "transitional," because this time the outlaw superstar duo work with much sharper songs, including three from T-Bone Burnett and two (good ones) from Billy Swan. Unfortunately, K&R don't go out of their way to be interesting, and when you're as somnambulant as this pair, sharp songs aren't enough. B

Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Brenda Lee: The Winning Hand [Monument, 1982]
This twenty-song mix-and-match isn't even monumental in theory, because two of these "kings and queens of country music" haven't earned their crowns--BL is a rock and roll princess who never really graduated, KK a frog ditto. But BL is also a pleasing bedroom-voiced journeywoman who turns in half of a surprisingly definitive "You're Gonna Love Yourself in the Morning." The other half comes from WN, who's on nine cuts and sounds like he's thinking even when he also sounds like he's asleep. DP teams with WN on a surprisingly definitive "Everything's Beautiful in Its Own Way," but sounds more at home on the album's two utter unlistenables--"Ping Pong," in which DP at her cutesiest is outdone by KK at his klutziest, and "Put It Off Until Tomorrow," in which DP kisses KK's warty little head and he croaks back. B-

Kris Kristofferson: This Old Road [New West, 2006] Dud

Kris Kristofferson: Closer to the Bone [New West, 2009]
"When You Set Me Free" Choice Cuts