Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Christgau Consumer Guide

Queen: Queen II (Elektra). Wimpoid royaloid heavyoid android void. C MINUS

Elton John: Caribou (MCA). I give up. Of course he's a machine, but haven't you ever loved a machine so much that it took on personality? I was reminded of my first car, a '50 Plymouth. Then I decided Elton was more like a brand-new Impala I once rented on a magazine's money. Then I remembered that I ended up paying for that Impala myself. Yes, I hate the way he says "don't diszgard me," but "The Bitch Is Back" is my most favorite song. B PLUS

Phoebe Snow (Shelter). This woman's languorous, swaying folk-jazz fusion is striking enough to suggest that her debut LP will become some sort of cult item. And it's better than most cult items. But her groove does not quite carry cuts as protracted as "It Must Be Sunday," and the most commercial lyric on a verbally distinguished album, "Poetry Man," is also the most fatuous, not an encouraging sign. The plus is for encouragement, and for the graceful way her voice combines nasality and smoothness. B PLUS

Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids: There's No Face Like Chrome (Epic). Unlike Sha Na Na, which is forced to rediscover how great oldies are every time it records an original, this is not a copy band. And despite their unnecessarily stupid appearance, duh guys do not revert to the 50s solely for hard grit and axle grease. Focusing on the sweet and funny part of pre-Beatles rock and roll, distinctly minor but completely realized. B PLUS [Later: B]

Weather Report: Mysterious Traveller (Columbia). I've been listening to these heady jazz conjurors for four albums now and this is the first time I've ever been moved viscerally enough to recommend them. Any description would be more general than they deserve, but I will suggest that you beware of the astral voices and rejoice in Alphonso Johnson, who plays the electric bass as if it has six strings. B PLUS [Later: B]

Bad Company: Bad Co. (Swan Song). Since a strong singer (Paul Rodgers) usually dominates a strong guitarist (Mick Ralphs), this is less Mott the Hopple without pretensions (which are missed) than Free simplified (which isn't quite as hard to listen to as it is to imagine). C PLUS [Later: B-]

Deke Leonard: Iceberg (United Artists). One of those records that kicks around my play piles interminably, too good to get rid of but not quite good enough to get the hots for. English metal, Dave Edmunds influence, not as ponderous as the concert heavies, replete with bottleneck and echoes. Side one is unmistakable, yet somehow anonymous. Maybe he should tour, or go on the radio, or something. B

John Denver: Back Home Again (RCA Victor). Singer-songwriter folk fault Denver for his simple-minded escapism, implying a preference for subtle escapism in the manner of James and Carly. But if escapism is the context, maybe Denver's transparency is a (small) virtue. Good wholesome product, no falser (or truer) than the run of the competition, tuneful and chaste with flatness for that common touch. Maybe the folk are offended because he's sold four million albums in six months. C PLUS

Daryl Hall/John Oates: Abandoned Luncheonette (Atlantic). This comes down to a nice equation of folk duo and soul falsetto group with the proper increment of vocal and production pyrotechnics, carried through just precisely enough to sound like an exercise. Clever and sometimes compelling musically, but with one exception each way ("Had I Known You Better" positive, "Laughing Boy" negative) the lyrics are competent variations on the usual. B MINUS

Bob Dylan/The Band: Before the Flood (Asylum). Without qualification, this is the craziest and strongest rock and roll ever recorded. All analogous live albums fall flat. The Rolling Stones are mechanical dolls by comparison, the Faces merely sloppy, the Dead positively quiet. The MC-5 achieved something similar by ignoring musicianship altogether. But while the Band sounds undisciplined, threatening to destroy their headlong momentum by throwing out one foot or elbow too many, they never abandon their enormous technical ability. In this they follow the boss. When he sounded thin, so did they. Now his voice settles in at a rich bellow, running over more than one of his old songs like a truck. Such a sacrilege. Uncle Bob purveying to the sports arena masses. We may never even be sure that this is a masterpiece. A PLUS [Later: A]

Ducks Deluxe (RCA Victor). Can an English band that loves America by phonograph tell us as much about ourselves in 1974 as a similar band could in 1964? Not this one. Skillful, affectionate, raunchy and sometimes inspired--a lick here, a yell there--but not what you could call necessary. B [Later: B+]

Kiki Dee: Lovin' & Free (Rocket). Nice, even promising, but so wholesome it will take some getting used to. I mean, Elton John sounds demented by comparison. Pleasant surprise: Jackson Browne's "Song for Adam." C PLUS

Grateful Dead: From the Mars Hotel (Grateful Dead). I realize by now that nobody who can read believes me, but this band really is as great as its word-of-mouth, and although it embarrasses me to mention it, there are as many memorable originals on this album as there were on American Beauty. The meaningfulness of that achievement, however, is admittedly debatable. Robert Hunter has settled back into his old groove instead of digging a new one, and a Weir/Barlow song about money, predictably enough, turns out to be one more Marin rich hippie way to put down women. Nevertheless, the album gives me a happy jolt whenever it drops onto my turntable. B PLUS [Later: B-]

The Hues Corporation: Freedom for the Stallion (RCA Victor). There's no way "Rock the Boat" could possibly prepare you for the studied lameness of this LP unless you believe, as I do, that ersatz gospel liveliness doesn't make the hit of 1974 any more than ersatz gospel beautifulness made the hit of 1969. (That's a quiz.) Exception: "The Family," a saga that studies hard. (Answer to quiz: "Oh Happy Day.") C

Becky Hobbs (MCA). White slavery lives. The voices of Diana Ross and Brenda Lee contained in the soul of Bonnie Bramlett, all held in thrall by an overbooked producer and a lead guitarist (old man?) who writes songs. Unfortunately, Becky writes songs herself as well. The voice of Bonnie Bramlett in the soul of Brenda Lee? C MINUS

Dr. John: Desitively Bonnaroo (Atco). One self-righteous Allen Toussaint song--refrain: "Your days are filled with money matters/My days are filled with song"; yeah, sure--pisses me off so much that I don't even feel guilty about doing this pale-faced weirdo another possible disservice. This is very clever (too bad there's no fonky way to spell clever) but I get the feeling I've heard it before. B [Later: B+]

The Mighty Clouds of Joy: It's Time (Dunhill). You'd figure the showiest of all gospel groups to sell out with some flair, but the vocal transfigurations--that old Wilson Pickett unhh born again--aren't the only reason this is one of the best LP's ever to come out of Philadelphia. For once, the songs--mostly from producer Dave Crawford, whose spirit must be moving--include virtually no filler, not even (especially not even) the one that takes off from the group's name. A MINUS

Terry Melcher (Reprise). It's alright, ma, I'm only watching. In which Terry insists, with the requisite show of wealth and taste, that he is only a spectator--why, he wouldn't even know about the hand jive if it weren't for Soul Train. B [Later: B-]

Lee Michaels: Tailface (Columbia). A cross between "Louie Louie" and "Do You Know What I Mean?" that takes up an entire album? All reet! This is a joke so dumb it took me four months to get it. B PLUS

The Kinks: Preservation Act II (RCA Victor). Many are impressed by the fact that Davies' characters (yes, folks, another dramatic work here) have taken on an extra dimension, but I say that only makes two. He's finally figured out a way to integrate the horns and the girlies--sloppy Weill and sloppy madrigal on top of the sloppy rock and roll, all very loveable--but that's not enough. B MINUS

Creem, October 1974


Sept. 12, 1974 Oct. 24, 1974