Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Christgau Consumer Guide

The Allman Brothers: Brothers and Sisters (Capricorn). Simplicity can be a virtue--the nice thing about the Allmans is that when they put two five-year-olds on the cover we know they're not cornholing the kids on the side. Gregg Allman is a predictable singer who never has an unpredictable lyric to work with anyway, and the jams do roll on, but at their best--"Ramblin' Man," a miraculous revitalization of rock's weariest conceit--they just may be the best. A MINUS

Asleep at the Wheel: Comin' Right at Ya (United Artists). It sounds flat the first five times you hear it, but that's the secret. Highly recommended to those with a high regard for the unexpected--in this case, fetching western swing with a '70s accent. A MINUS

Chuck Berry: Bio (Chess). Willie Mays was the greatest baseball player who ever lived, and he reminds me more of Chuck Berry every time out. D PLUS

Bonnie Bramlett: Sweet Bonnie Bramlett (Columbia). She tries to come on sweet, granted, but she sounds desperate. Enough to make me hope she finds peace, as if I needed another Jesus freak. C PLUS

Elephant's Memory (Apple). I've been trying to figure out why this group doesn't quite make it for six months, and I've finally hit on it--they don't write good songs. Also, Stan Bronstein sings as if the Establishment was stepping on his foot. B MINUS

John Entwistle: John Entwistle's Rigor Mortis Sets In (Track). If only he could get back to writing one change-of-pace on each Who album. C PLUS

John Fahey: After the Ball (Reprise). I'm a rock and roll fan, too, and I'd rather listen to this collection of standards and acoustic blues and rag inventions than any rock record this side of the Allmans and the New York Dolls. Conditionally guaranteed. A MINUS

Aretha Franklin: Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky) (Atlantic). Empty Head Blues No. 1. She's a genius and so what? Note title, note cover. Oo-ee-oo won't do. C PLUS [Later: B-]

David Frye: Richard Nixon: A Fantasy (Buddah). Buddah isn't just hedging when it disclaims any "special or political" intent on this one. Unfortunately, the label forgot to mention humorous intent. All the good jokes are available on the radio ad. D

Garland Jeffreys (Atlantic). A classy singer-songwriter with staying power--his lyrics are as elusive and haunting as his white-on-black vocals. Gourmet production from Michael Cuscuna. B PLUS

Van Morrison: Hard Nose the Highway (Warner Bros.). Empty Head Blues No. 2. He's a genius and so what? Note title, note cover. Unhh won't do, either. C PLUS [Later: B-]

Johnny Nash: My Merry-Go-Round (Epic). Buried beneath three-and-a-half acres of violins are a couple of passable reggae songs and a mediocre-minus album. D PLUS

Alan Price: O Lucky Man! (Warner Bros.). How does an acerbic, good-humored music journeyman like Price (find: This Price is Right, on Parrot) fall in with a pompous, overfed con man like Lindsay Anderson? By playing the Acerbic, Good-Humoured Music Journeyman Symbol in a pompous, overfed movie. Two or three deft political songs do not redeem an LP that runs under 25 minutes despite filler. It figures--the movie is an hour (or three hours) too long. Docked a notch for time: 24.43. C PLUS [Later: B-]

Jerry Reed: Lord, Mr. Ford (RCA Victor). As a country singer, Reed sustains three identities: crazy, picker, soap idol. He's a great crazy, as the title song demonstrates. And he's an all right picker, if you like pickers. But he couldn't sell soap to a hippie's mother. RCA should ban the ballad. I can imagine an A record called The Crazy Jerry Reed, but this one is docked a notch for time: 27.35. C MINUS

Babe Ruth: First Base (Harvest). This team socks pretty hard, but since it's English I'd better explain what I mean by calling it a fungo outfit. That means it's only likely to get a hit if it throws the ball up itself. B MINUS [Later: C+]

Carlos Santana/Mahavishnu John McLaughlin: Love Devotion Surrender (Columbia). On the back cover is a photograph of three men. Two of them are dressed in white and have their hands folded--one grinning like Alfred E. Neuman, the other looking more like one of those Speedy Gonzales types who get Supreme Court cases named after them: solemn, his wrists ready for the cuffs. In between, a man in an orange ski jacket and red pants with one white sock showing seems to have caught his tongue on his lower lip. He looks like the yoga coach at a fashionable lunatic asylum. Guess which one is Sri Chinmoy. I don't even trust McLaughlin when he's brilliant and bracing, and this is simply ridiculous. B MINUS

Space Opera (Epic). Not a great group, but a lot better than their horrible name. Add space as in open to space as in outer and you get yet another version of the Byrds. Space as in opera yields "Guitar Suite," which is at least as bad as their horrible name. C PLUS

Spinners (Atlantic). I never adored "I'll Be Around," a dereliction which probably merits some apology, but I don't adore this either and I'm not really sorry. Producer/arranger/conductor Thorn Bell, the secret weapon of Gamble-Huff and mentor of the Stylistics, makes everything smooth as a silk suit, which may be the problem. B [Later: A-]

The Sweet (Bell). Is heavy bubblegum bazooka-rock? B [Later: B-]

Ike Turner: Bad Dreams (United Artists). Suddenly Ike is more interesting than Tina--after 20 years of raking in money from the shadows, he's finally figured out a way to sing rock and roll himself. Echoes of the Band and Dr. John, some brilliant minor r&b mixed in with the dumb stuff. Great cover pushes it over the borderline. B PLUS [Later: B]

Creem, November 1973


October 1973 December 1973