Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Nitpicking Issues With the Lists

Each year come Pazz & Jop time Robert Christgau creates an ordered list of what he deems the best records of the year. Each decade he reorders those lists as he compiles another Consumer Guide anthology. These lists are generally (i.e., not always) consistent with the Consumer Guide grading scheme, which means that in any given year you'll probably find the A+ graded records at the top of the list, followed by the A records, followed by the A- records, with the B+ and lower records beyond the list.

Every now and then, we get queries about discrepancies in the inexorable logic of these lists. Sometimes these issues are plain errors in compiling the books, and at least some of these have been fixed and noted in the corrigenda for the books. Others are still pending. The following notes cover both corrections and pending issues.

These notes do not include typographic errors or errors in record counts, which are noted in the corrigenda files.

1970's A Lists

1970
  • Leon Thomas: The Leon Thomas Album (Flying Dutchman); The Tony Williams Lifetime: Emergency! (Polydor): Graded A, missing from book and list.
1971
  • Leonard Cohen: Live Songs (Columbia): Graded B+, released in 1973. Slot probably belongs to Cohen's Songs of Love and Hate (Columbia), graded A-, released in 1971.
  • James Brown: Hot Pants (Polydor): Graded A-, missing from list.
1972
  • James Brown: Soul Classics (Polydor); The Best of George Jones, Vol. 1 (RCA Victor); Bette Midler: The Divine Miss M (Atlantic); Bob Weir: Ace (Warner Bros.): Graded A-, missing from list.
  • John Fahey: Of Rivers and Religion (Reprise): Graded A, missing from book and list.
1973
  • The Best of B.B. King (ABC): Graded A-, missing from list.
1974
  • Nilsson: Pussy Cats (RCA Victor): Graded A-, missing from list.
  • The Best of George Jones, Vol. 1 (Epic): In list, but no record. Title matches RCA Victor 1972 release (missing from 1972 list); also reviewed is The Best of George Jones (Epic), but graded B+ in 1975, so not a candidate here.
1975
  • Parliament: Mothership Connection (Casablanca): Graded A-, wrong year, move to 1976 list.
  • Sonny Rollins: Nucleus (Milestone); Hank Williams Jr. and Friends (MGM): Graded A-, missing from list.
1976
  • Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life (Tamla): Graded A, missing from list. (Restored at #12.)
  • Parliament: Mothership Connection (Casablanca): Graded A-, missing from list (included in 1975 list).
  • Iggy Pop: The Idiot (RCA Victor): Graded A-, missing from list (included in 1977 list).
1977
  • David Johansen (Blue Sky): Graded A-, missing from list (included in 1978 list).
  • Iggy Pop: The Idiot (RCA Victor): Graded A-, wrong year, move to 1976 list.
1978
  • Al Green: Truth n' Time (Hi): Graded B+, drop from list?

The 1970s book was more explicitly targeted to rock albums than subsequent volumes (note subtitle: Rock Albums of the '70s). Consequently, a number of non-rock consumer guides were omitted from the book. A- and better graded records omitted from the book are noted above.

Unlike subsequent volumes, the CG 1970's book does not consider imports. Some imports, if considered, would certainly (based on Christgau comments elsewhere) rate in these lists, including: Big Youth, Screaming Target (1973, Trojan); Alex Chilton, The Singer Not the Song (1977, Ork EP); The Clash (1977, CBS); Heartbreakers, L.A.M.F. (1977, Track); Plastic People of the Universe, Egon Bondy's Lonely Hearts Club Banned (1978, Invisible); X-Ray Spex, Germ Free Adolescents (1978, Blue Plate). Some '70s imports were reviewed later, including: Burning Spear, Social Living (1978, One Stop), Culture, Two Sevens Clash (1978).

The 1980 list published in the 1970s book was superseded in the 1980s book, so has not been reviewed here.

1980's A Lists

1982
  • The Pop-O-Pies: White EP (415 EP); The Speedboys: That's What I Like (I Like Mike): Graded A-, missing from list.
1983
  • Pamelo Mounk'a: Propulsion! (Sonics): In list, but no CG entry on file. Discussed in Subjects for Further Research.
  • Randy Newman: Trouble in Paradise (Reprise); NRBQ: Tapdancin' Bats (Rounder/Red Rooster): Graded A-, missing from list.
1984
  • Sonny Rollins: Sunny Days, Starry Nights (Milestone): Graded A, missing from book and list.
  • Birdsongs of the Mesozoic: Magnetic Flip (Ace of Hearts): Graded A-, missing from book and list. (Discussed in Subjects for Further Research. Note that 1990s book had several records in A lists where the CG had been dropped in favor of a SFFR entry.)
  • Jerry Butler: Only the Strong Survive (Mercury); Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition: Album Album (ECM); David Murray: Morning Song (Black Saint): Graded A-, missing from book and list.
  • Jason & the Scorchers: Fervor (EMI America); Reggae Greats: Steel Pulse (Mango): Graded A-, missing from list.
1986
  • Black Flag: Wasted Again (SST): In list, but record date listed in book is 1988. Most sources list this record as 1987, which is the only date given on the jacket. Move to 1987 list.
  • Papa Wemba: L'Esclave (Gitta): In list, missing from book. Discussed in Subjects for Further Research.
  • The Don Pullen-George Adams Quartet: Breakthrough (Blue Note): Graded A, missing from book and list.
  • The Leaders: Mudfoot (BlackHawk); World Saxophoe Quartet: Plays Ellington (Nonesuch): Graded A-, missing form book and list.
  • The Pogues: Poguetry in Motion (MCA EP): Graded A-, missing from list.
  • They Might Be Giants (Bar/None): Graded A, in list but down in A- territory.
1987
  • Black Flag: Wasted Again (SST): Graded A, missing from list (included in 1986 list).
  • Reba McEntire: The Best of Reba McEntire (MCA): McEntire's 1987 MCA "best of" was called Greatest Hits. This would just be a typo, except that there was a record called The Best of Reba McEntire (Mercury, 1985), graded B+.
1988
  • Donner Party: Donner Party (Pitch-a-Tent); Hairspray (MCA): Graded A-, not in list.
  • Mose Allison: Greatest Hits (Prestige). Graded A-, not in list. Reviewed after book was published.
1989
  • Tabu Ley Rochereau: Babeti Soukous (Real World): In list, but graded B+ in book.

1990's A Lists

Note here that the number of reissues not collected in the CG '90s book goes way up (although some reissues were collected).

1990
  • Jerry Lee Lewis: Rockin' My Life Away (Tomato): Graded A-, in list, but same record (almost the same CG) was previously dated 1989 (the most plausible date) and included in CG '80s book and 1989 list.
  • T.P. OK Jazz: Somo! (Sonodisc): Graded A-, missing from list.
  • Carlos Paredes: Guitarra Portugesa (Elektra/Nonesuch): Graded A-, missing from book and list.
  • Unlisted reissues: Bo Diddley: The Chess Box (Chess); My Blue Heaven--The Best of Fats Domino (EMI); David Bowie: Changesbowie (Rykodisc); Johnny Cash: The Sun Years (Rhino); The Chantels: The Best of the Chantels (Rhino); The Best of Delaney and Bonnie (Rhino); Billie Holiday: Classic Live Recordings (Telstar); Jerry Lee Lewis: Rare Tracks (Rhino); The Best of Van Morrison (Mercury); The Best of Merle Travis (Rhino); Groove 'n Grind: '50s and '60s Dance Hits (Rhino); Guitar Player Presents Legends of Guitar--Electric Blues Vol. 1 (Rhino); The Best of Gary U.S. Bonds (Rhino); Woody Guthrie: Struggle (Smithsonian/Folkways); Merle Haggard: Capitol Collectors Series (Capitol); Merle Haggard: More of the Best (Rhino); Gregory Isaacs: My Number One (Heartbeat); Wanda Jackson: Rockin' in the Country (Rhino); The Best of KC and the Sunshine Band (Rhino); The Classic Aaron Neville (Rounder).
1991
  • The Descendents: Somery (SST): Graded A-, missing from list. Azagas and Archibogs (Original Music); John Lee Hooker: The Ultimate Collection (1948-1990) (Rhino): Graded A-, missing from list (included in 1992 list).
  • Pavement: (Slay Tracks: 1933-1969) (Treble Kicker): Graded A-, missing from book and list.
  • Unlisted reissues: The Best of Lefty Frizzell (Rhino); Operators Manual: Buzzcocks Best (I.R.S.); The Clovers: Down in the Alley (Atlantic); The Best of B.B. King Volume One (Flair); Little Richard: The Georgia Peach (Specialty); Willie Nelson: Nite Life: Greatest Hits and Rare Tracks (Rhino); Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys: Anthology 1935-1973 (Rhino); Rock This Town: Rockabilly Hits Vol. 1 (Rhino); James Brown: Soul Syndrome (Rhino); Chairmen of the Board: Greatest Hits (HDH); Elmore James: Let's Cut It (Flair/Virgin); The Best of George Jones (1955-1967) (Rhino); Proud Mary--The Best of Ike and Tina Turner (Sue); The Best of Delroy Wilson (Heartbeat).
1992
  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo: Greatest Hits (Shanachie): Title wrong, should be The Best of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
  • T.P. OK Jazz: Somo! (TMS): Graded A-, wrong year, move to 1990 list.
  • Azagas and Archibogs (Original Music); John Lee Hooker: The Ultimate Collection (1948-1990) (Rhino); Graded A-, wrong year, move to 1991 list.
  • Tarika Sammy: Fanafody (Xenophile); Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri Rain Forest (Smithsonian/Folkways): Graded A-, missing from book and list (for Tarika Sammy, see Subjects for Further Research).
  • Unlisted reissues: The Coasters: 50 Coastin' Classics (Rhino); Louis Jordan: Five Guys Named Moe: Original Decca Recordings Vol. 2 (MCA); Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions: The Anthology 1961-1977 (MCA); The Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983 (Columbia); The Best of Chic Volume 2 (Rhino); Loretta Lynn: Country Music Hall of Fame (MCA); Kitty Wells: Country Music Hall of Fame (MCA); Billboard Top Hits--1984 (Rhino); Rockin' Steady: The Best of Desmond Dekker (Rhino); George Jones & Tammy Wynette: Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (Epic); Percy Mayfield: Poet of the Blues (Specialty); Ernest Tubb: Country Music Hall of Fame (MCA); Washboard Sam: Rockin' My Blues Away (Bluebird); Muddy Waters: Blues Sky (Columbia).
1993
  • Unlisted reissues: A Man and a Half: The Best of Wilson Pickett (Rhino/Atlantic); The Essential Roy Acuff 1936-1949 (Columbia/Legacy); Louis Armstrong: 16 Most Requested Songs (Columbia/Legacy); Firesign Theatre: Shoes for Industry! (Columbia/Legacy); The Buddy Holly Collection (MCA); The Marvelettes: Deliver: The Singles 1961-1971 (Motown); The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson (Chess); The Best of Ace Records--The R&B Hits (Scotti Brothers); Willis Jackson: Call of the Gators (Delmark); The Essential Etta James (Chess); Joy of Cooking: American Originals (Capitol); Sixty Minute Man: The Best of Billy Ward & His Dominoes (Rhino); Express Yourself: The Best of Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band (Warner Archives); Funky Stuff: The Best of Funk Essentials (Mercury).
1994
  • Steve Goodman: No Big Surprise: The Anthology (Red Pajamas): Graded A-, missing from list.
  • Unlisted reissues: Louis Armstrong: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 1923-1934 (Columbia/Legacy); The Very Best of the Shirelles (Rhino); Fred Astaire: Top Hat: Hits From Hollywood (Columbia/Legacy); Back in the Day: The Best of Bootsy Collins (Sire/Warner Archives); Monkey Hips and Rice: The "5" Royales Anthology (Rhino); Slim Gaillard: Laughing in Rhythm: The Best of the Verve Years (Verve); 'Fess: The Professor Longhair Anthology (Rhino); Donna Summer: Endless Summer (Mercury); The Fugs First Album (Fantasy); Bloodshot Eyes: The Best of Wynonie Harris (Rhino); I Like Ike! The Best of Ike Turner (Rhino); Barry White: All-Time Greatest Hits (Mercury).
1995
  • Super Sweet Talks International: The Lords Prayer (Stern's): Listed twice. Where does it really belong?
  • Unlisted reissues: The Who: The Who Sell Out (MCA); The Very Best of the Drifters (Rhino); Al Green: Greatest Hits (Right Stuff); Musical Depreciation Revue: The Spike Jones Anthology (Rhino); Personal Best: The Harry Nilsson Anthology (RCA); The Temptations: Anthology (Motown); The Very Best of Jackie Wilson (Rhino); Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention: We're Only in It for the Money (Rkyodisc); Hillbilly Fever! Vol. I: Legends of Western Swing (Rhino); Joe Franklin Presents . . . The Roaring '20s Roar Again (Legacy); Spirit in the Sky: The Best of Norman Greenbaum (Varèse Sarabande); Spotlight on . . . Betty Hutton (Capitol); Bumble Bee: The Essential Recordings of Memphis Minnie (Indigo); Love Train: The Best of the O'Jays (Epic Associated/Legacy); Paul Revere & the Raiders: The Essential Ride '63-'67 (Columbia/Legacy); Smokey Robinson & the Miracles: Anthology (Motown); Howard Tate: Get It While You Can: The Legendary Sessions (Mercury).
1996
  • Toots and the Maytals: Time Tough: The Anthology (Island); Jazz Satellites, Vol. 1: Electrification (Virgin): Both graded A-, missing from list (included in 1997 list).
  • Sugar and Poison (Virgin). Graded A, yet listed #62, whereas the highest A- record is listed #18 (Imperial Teen, Seasick), and the only other A record below #17 is #26 (George Clinton, Greatest Funkin' Hits).
  • Unlisted reissues: Charlie Parker: The Legendary Dial Masters (Jazz Classics); Sonny Rollins: Silver City (Milestone); Count Basie: The Best of Early Basie (Decca); Lee Dorsey: Wheelin' and Dealin': The Definitive Collection (Arista); Duke Ellington: The Best of Early Ellington (MCA); This Is the Everly Brothers (Music Club); Ella Fitzgerald: Love Songs: Best of the Verver Song Books (Verve); Etta James: Her Best (MCA); The Louvin Brothers: Tragic Songs of Life (Capitol); The Best of Dorothy Love-Coates & the Gospel Harmonettes (Rap-a-Lot); Yardbird Suite: The Ultimate Charlie Parker Collection (Rhino); The Very Best of Joe Tex (Rhino); The Screaming End: The Best of Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps (Razor & Tie); Dance Hall Divas: The '70s (Rhino); Masters of Jazz: Bebop's Greatest Hits (Rhino); Roller Disco: Boogie From the Skating Rinks (K-Tel); Mississippi John Hurt: Avalon Blues: The Complete 1928 Okeh Recordings (Epic/Legacy); The Meters Anthology (Rhino); The Best of the Shangri-Las (Mercury).
1997
  • The Dismemberment Plan: The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified (DeSoto): Graded A-, missing from list in book, but included in source file.
  • Toots and the Maytals: Time Tough: The Anthology (Island); Jazz Satellites--Volume 1: Electrification (Virgin): : Both records dated 1996 in CG reviews, missing in 1996 list, included in 1997 list.
  • Sublime (Gasoline Alley/MCA): Record dated 1996 in CG review, included both in 1996 and 1997 lists. Should be dropped from 1997 list.
  • Unlisted reissues: Lefty Frizzell: Look What Thoughts Will Do (Columbia/Legacy); Roots of Jazz Funk Volume One (MVP); Louis Armstrong & Friends: What a Wonderful Christmas (Hip-O); Woody Guthrie: This Land Is Your Land: The Asch Recordings Vol. 1 (Smithsonian/Folkways); The Moonglows: Their Greatest Hits (MCA); The Essential Jimmie Rodgers (RCA); Bill Withers: Live at Carnegie Hall (Columbia/Legacy); Roots of Jazz Funk Volume Two (MVP); Woody Guthrie: Early Masters (Tradition); Totally Unrestricted! The Millie Jackson Anthology (Rhino); George Jones & Melba Montgomery: Vintage Collections (Capitol); Jimmy McGriff: Greatest Hits (Blue Note); The Mills Brothers: All Time Greatest Hits (MCA); The Best of Esther Phillips (1962-1970) (Rhino/Atlantic); The Psychedelic Furs: Lest God Forget: A Retrospective (Columbia); This Is . . . Del Shannon (Music Club); The Power of the Trinity: Great Moments in Reggae Harmony (Shanachie).
1998
  • Baobab: N'Wolof (Dakar Sound): Graded A-, missing from list (included in 1999 list).
  • Unlisted reissues: Mississippi John Hurt: Rediscovered (Vanguard); Louis Armstrong: An American Icon (Hip-O); Bobby Bland: Greatest Hits Volume One: The Duke Recordings (MCA); The Mamas and the Papas: Greatest Hits (MCA); This Is . . . Huey "Piano" Smith (Music Club); The Very Best of Big Joe Turner (Rhino); Millennium Funk Party (Rhino); Over in Glory: Favorites From Classic Gospel Groups (MCA); The Andrews Sisters: Greatest Hits: 60th Anniversary Collection (MCA); Bobby Bland: Greatest Hits Volume Two: The ABC-Dunhill/MCA Recordings (MCA); The Very Best of Solomon Burke (Rhino); Somethin' Else: The Fine Lookin' Hits of Eddie Cochran (Razor & Tie); Woody Guthrie: Hard Travelin': The Asch Recordings, Vol. 3 (Smithsonian/Folkways); Skip James: Blues from the Delta (Vanguard); Jim Kweskin: Acoustic Swing & Jug (Vanguard); Johnny Mathis: The Ultimate Hits Collection (Columbia); Greatest Hits (The Best of Teddy Pendergrass) (The Right Stuff); The Very Best of Percy Sledge (Rhino); The Very Best of Dusty Springfield (Mercury); The Best of Billy Swan (Epic/Legacy); Big Joe Turner: Joe Turner's Blues (Topaz); The Zombies: Odyssey and Oracle: 30th Anniversary Edition (Big Beat).
1999
  • Uptown Lounge (The Right Stuff): Record is listed twice. (Kept second listing.)
  • African Ambience (Shanachie): Graded A, in book, missing from list.
  • Sway & King Tech: This or That (Interscope); The Sidewalks of New York (Winter & Winter): Graded A-, missing from book and list. (Reviewed after book published.)
  • Baobab: N'Wolof (Dakar Sound): Graded A-, wrong year, move to 1998 list.
  • Unlisted reissues: Captain Beefheart: The Dust Blows Forward: An Anthology (Rhino); The Best of Bing Crosby: The Millennium Collection (MCA); Miles Davis: Love Songs (Columbia/Legacy); Shalamar: Greatest Hits (Right Stuff/Solar); Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers: Deluxe Edition (Alligator); The Best of Mary Wells: The Millennium Collection (Motown); Pop Music: The Early Years 1890-1950 (Columbia/Legacy); Lone Star: The Best of Freddy Fender (Music Club); Firesign Theatre: Boom Dot Bust (Rhino); The Best of Bill Haley & His Comets: The Millenium Collection (MCA); It's Your Thing: The Story of the Isley Brothers (Epic/Legacy/T-Neck); Roy Orbison: 16 Biggest Hits (Monument/Legacy).

Post-1990's Dean's Lists

The Dean's Lists usually don't get updated until end-of-decade when they are rolled into a new collection, at which point some records are graded up or down. In theory, CG records in the database could be regraded any time one had an inkling to, and working A-lists could be kept and modified accordingly. We could even keep a working copy of the 2000's CG book.

2000
  • Green Day: Warning (Reprise); Eminem: Fuckin Yzarc (bootleg): Graded A-, not in Dean's List.
  • Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai (Epic/Razor Sharp); Fatboy Slim: Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars (Astralwerks); De La Soul: Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump (Tommy Boy); D'Angelo: Voodoo (Virgin): Graded A-, but position in Dean's List suggests CG should be upgraded.
  • Kasey Chambers: The Captain (Warner Bros.); Pink: Can't Take Me Home (LaFace): In Dean's List, which suggests that B+ should be upgraded.
  • The Go-Betweens: The Friends of Rachel Worth (Jetset); Steely Dan: Two Against Nature (Giant): In Dean's List, but no CG/grade.
2001
  • Etta James: Blue Gardenia (Private Music); Yo-Yo Ma: Classic Yo-Yo (Sony Classical): Graded A-, not in Dean's List.
  • Pernice Brothers: The World Won't End (Ashmont): In Dean's List, which suggests that B+ should be upgraded.
  • Black Box Recorder: The Facts of Life (Jetset); Lucinda Williams: Essence (Lost Highway): In Dean's List, but no CG/grade.

Pazz & Jop Polls

Two major problems here:

  • Some of the early polls are incomplete and/or missing vote data. These have been assembled from various sources, but thus far we haven't been able to check them against original sources.
  • The Village Voice started in 1997 to publish the results on their website, which among other things has allowed them to change the results after publication. We've generally used the results as published in the paper edition.

It should be noted that the main reason for publishing the Pazz & Jop results as we've done is to provide documentation for Christgau's essay, which extensively refers to the results. Changing the results could cause problems with the essay.

1999
  • Ken Stillman has done some sleuthing and figured out that some 1998 should have been folded into the total vote for Caetano Veloso, Livro, which would boost it to #40, displacing Carlos Santana, Supernatural, from the list.

Miscellaneous/General Comments

In no particular order:

  • It would be just as easy to number the lists, in which case the counts could be dropped.
  • We've had requests that the 1970's Basic Record Library and 1980's Rock Library: Before 1980 lists be updated to account for more recent reissues.
  • It's been suggested that some records should be regraded based on Christgau comments in subsequent articles. For example, in 2001 Christgau wrote "In mourning for D. Boon, I overrated the Minutemen's 3-Way Tie for Last [A], but I underrated Double Nickels on the Dime [A-] when he was alive." While this might imply that one or both of these records should be regraded, it should be obvious that systematic, rigorous regrading of thousands of records is an impossible task.
  • Nonetheless, Joe Yanosik reports that Christgau would have made several grade changes, including: Procul Harum, A Salty Dog (A+ in 1969), "a mistake," probably B+; Neil Young, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (B+ in 1969); Fugs, Golden Filth (B+ in 1970), should be high A-; Holy Modal Rounders, Last Round (B+ in 1979), should be high A- or possibly A; Mission of Burma, Vs. (B+ in 1982), and Mission of Burma (B in 1988), should be A-; My Bloody Valentine, Isn't Anything (1988), missed, could be A.