Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Roberta Flack: The Best of Roberta Flack [Atlantic, 1981]
On the evidence of these hits (the early albums were marginally livelier), she has nothing whatsoever to do with rock and roll or rhythm and blues and almost nothing to do with soul. The analogy isn't Donny Hathaway (who lives on in duet after duet), much less Stevie Wonder (also represented)--it's Barry Manilow. She made "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and "Killing Me Softly With His Song," he made "Mandy" and "I Write the Songs," and who is to say which achievement will prove more durable? Flack has much better taste, I agree--that's the point. In the long run, pop lies are improved by vulgarity. C