Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

American Pop: An Audio History from Minstrel to Mojo on Record, 1893-1946 [West Hill, 1998]
Nine CDs spanning 1893-1946, it'll set you back a hundred bucks, and it's not really what it says it is, cheating Tin Pan Alley, John Philip Sousa, George M. Cohan, Ruth Etting, Broadway, Northerners, Ukulele Ike, Gene Austin, humor, Hollywood, Fred Astaire, Glen Gray, Glenn Miller, the Andrews Sisters, and anybody who doesn't sing-a de English, among others. Nevertheless, it's an endless delight, almost 11 hours where Harry Smith's Anthology is four-something, and a powerful illustration of the antibiz aesthetic in which the best popular music derives from and is aimed back at subcultural audiences the artist can smell and touch. Play any disc and you'll soon be rummaging around for the first booklet, where all the track listings are. So that's James Reese Europe! Ella Mae Morse! Geeshie Wiley! Only isn't it "Geechie"? And who the hell are Polk Miller and His Old South Quartette? A