Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Christgau Consumer Guide

Stephen Ambrose: Gypsy Moth (Elektra). Inspirational Verse: "Mary's arms reach out for me/We're sorry to leave you, mama/But this poor wanderin' boy/Is about to settle my karma." D PLUS

Delaney Bramlett: Some Things Coming (Columbia). Either he's mad with grief or he switched to Columbia so that James William Guercio could do his horn arrangements. Too bad he didn't get him. D PLUS

James Brown: Get On the Good Foot (Polydor). I don't really know whether this is a good James Brown album, because it's the first one I've listened to carefully in about four years. I have a feeling they're all just about interchangeable. This one is a double. Lines repeat from song to song ("The long-haired hippies on the Afro blacks/All get together off behind the tracks/And they party"). So do riffs--the hook on the 12-minute version of "Please, Please" is repeated 148 (and a halt) times. But I love that riff, and I even kind of like the line, and I don't even mind that don't-call-me-Jim campaigned for The President. A lot of waste here, and a lot of laziness, and I know I'll be playing it anyway. B PLUS [Later: B-]

Bulldog (Decca). Anyone who misses the old Rascals, as I sometimes do, should try this substitute. Singer Billy Hocher has a little more energy and a lot less loving subtlety than Felix Cavaliere, but this is probably something like what the Rascals might have become if they'd moved toward heavy music instead of jazz. Featuring Dino Danelli on drums and Gene Cornish on guitar, and including an A plus single that may never get over the top: "No." B PLUS [Later: B-]

Neil Diamond: Hot August Night (MCA). From the first guitar riff, it's obvious that this man is some sort of genius rock entertainer, but for the most part the great entertainer is striving for bad art and not even achieving it. The humor here is almost as sententious as the phony canta libre and the country-western parodies might get a poorer, drunker man lynched. D PLUS

The Jackson Five: Lookin' Through the Windows (Motown). There are waste cuts here, of course--"Doctor My Eyes," a specifically late-adolescent song, is an unfortunate choice--but this is mostly the usual marvelous Motown multiplex. Recommended ballad: "If I Could Move A Mountain." Michael, what will we do when your voice changes? B PLUS [Later: B]

Marvin Gaye: Trouble Man (Tamla). Unless you like soundtrack albums. This ain't no Super Fly shit. C

Eric Justin Kaz: If You're Lonely (Atlantic). James Taylor without panache. D

Curtis Mayfield: Super Fly (Curtom). I hate soundtrack albums, and I haven't liked anything Mayfield has done for about four years, but this was a number one album, and so far it's spawned two great singles, so I gave it another try. Now I even like the string parts. A MINUS

Joni Mitchell: For the Roses (Asylum). I hated this when it arrived, and I'm not positive what I think of it now, but I am sure of this--for sheer aesthetic bravado, it is the year's coup. Mitchell has integrated the strange shifts of her voice into an almost "classical" sounding music that lacks the attractiveness of goodtiming romps like "All I Want" but becomes hypnotic when you give it a chance to work. Lyrically, she is mature and reflective, but very insular, which means that after awhile she may sound thin or shrill. Meanwhile, a remarkable work. A

The Partridge Family: The Partridge Family Notebook (Bell). Since the Osmonds are energetic enough to be worth criticizing, it ought to be mentioned that this group is not. All David Cassidy has is prime time and nice nipples, and the producer, Wes Farrell, has been giving commercialism a bad name for close to a decade now. Expert glop. D PLUS

Raspberries: Fresh (Capitol). These guys are supposed to reincarnate the halcyon days of the pre-psychedelic mid-60s, when rock was simple, happy music sung by harmonizing foursomes in mod clothes. Only thing is, the good part of that music had irresistible mnemonic appeal, and after listening to the new single (a little) and a remarkable Beach Boys takeoff that has tape decks in it. Whatever happened to Gerry and the Pacemakers, anyway? C [Later: B-]

Roxy Music (Reprise). From the drag queen on the cover to the, fop finery in the centerfold, to the polished ugliness of the music on the record, this celebrates the kind of artifice that could come to seem as unhealthy as the sheen on a piece of rotten meat, but right now it's decorated with enough weird hooks to earn an A for side one. Side two leans a little too heavily on the synthesizer (played by a balding, long-haired eunuch lookalike called Eno) without the saving grace of drums and bassline. B PLUS

Alice Stuart and Snake: Believing (Fantasy). I loved this woman's first LP, which didn't do it much good--I know two people who looked all over New York for a copy and couldn't find one. This time, the winning combination of tiny voice and tough lyrics is washed out by the lyrics, and the melodies don't exactly triumph, either. When the two best songs on a singer-songwriter's album are written by others, you know something's wrong. B MINUS [Later: C+]

James Taylor: One Man Dog (Warner Bros.). James Taylor with panache. C PLUS

Ten Years After: Rock & Roll Music to the World (Columbia). I remember when this was a promising group--that Alvin Lee, he sure could sing and play the guitar, and those other guys sure did get it together behind him. But in more than four years, all they've done is get it together some more. This is their most accomplished album yet, coherent and full and economical, and the next time I feel like hearing Ten Years After--I figure that'll be in about eight months--I'll play it again. On the other hand, maybe I'll just put on Undead. It's pretty crude, but you know about old times sake. B

Peter Townshend: Who Came First (Track). Predictably, Townshend is nowhere near as offensive as other musical guru-mongerers, but unless you believe that Meher Baba is the Chosen One--which would mean that you think "You always were, you always are, and always will be" is both a profound sentiment and a snappy way to close a concept album--this is not recommended. The best music here was originally recorded by Jim Reeves. B [Later: A-]

Uriah Heep: The Magician's Birthday (Mercury). Third-hand heavy metal fantasies, like Led Zep only more literal, hooked to some clean, powerful arrangements and a good melody or two. Okay stuff. B MINUS

Paul Winter/Winter Consort: Icarus (Epic). Kind of a classical/jazz mix but with none of the stiffness that suggests--inquisitive, contemplative, eclectic, peaceful. And eloquent, much more eloquent than my description, which does more for the music than the lyrics that obstruct a couple of cuts. B PLUS

Stevie Wonder: Talking Book (Tamla). Synthesized. A MINUS [Later: A]

Creem, March 1973


December 1972 April 1973