Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Band: Northern Lights--Southern Cross [Capitol, 1975]
I've always been put off by the sprung quality of the Band's music--the sense that if someone were to undo the catch its works would be propelled forth in all directions. Instead of energizing the impulse to piece together the lyrics--in the manner of the Stones, not to mention Bob Dylan--the sound of albums like Music From Big Pink and Stage Fright (though not The Band or The Basement Tapes) tends to reinforce their own metaphorical impenetrability. So the pure comeliness of every melody on this album led to an immediate infatuation. As I listened to the words, however, infatuation turned to mild affection, for the best of these songs is sentimental, and the worst (the two that are set in the city) are grossly sentimental. Only Garth Hudson, who has turned into a synthesizer natural, saves things in the end, and just barely. B+