Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Freedy Johnston: The Way I Were [Bar/None, 2004]
John Lennon gets to unveil a throwaway like "Oh Yoko" as the stroke it is. But can an unknown risk such a thing? Not if he craves respect. As it turns out, there are several such strokes among these demos, all preceding or circa 1989's overworked The Trouble Tree and 1992's fine-tuned Can You Fly. Johnston would never put the multi-tracked talkathon "Happy Birthday" or the folkie rave-up "Friend in the City" on a real album, but both achieve a fun his real albums avoid with no sacrifice in ambivalence or bite. And then there are great lost outtakes like "I Do, I Do," in which the excited suitor awaiting the delivery of his mail-order bride croons, "I'm the guy you're belonging to"--not, for instance, "I'm the guy you're longing for." Get somebody else to splice on the guitar-bass-drums and that would be a Can You Fly bonus track to remember. A-