Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Elmore James: The Sky Is Crying: The History of Elmore James [Rhino, 1993]
Robert Palmer (the important one, I mean) raided the vaults of eight mostly deceased labels to assemble this compiler's tour de force, designed to prove that his man belongs on Mount Bluesmore with Muddy, Wolf, and Sonny Boy II. And though that can't be done in a mere 21 songs (much less 14 on cassette), especially with the more predictable Virgin Flair and Capricorn Fire collections out there proving James's mortality, he rewrites history anyway. As a devotee who considered James a creature of "Dust My Broom," I now know him for the visionary bandleader and galvanic guitarist Palmer and his many previously uncollecteds champion. His voice vying with the harsh distortions he gets out of his amplifier, James would play any kind of blues as long as he could make a lot of noise, and he made "It Hurts Me Too" famous after he was dead. What more do you want? How about his scariest sexual rival, "The 12 Year Old Boy"? A+