Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Tony Williams Lifetime

  • Emergency! [Polydor, 1969] A
  • Turn It Over [Polydor, 1970] B+

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Emergency! [Polydor, 1969]
Williams is probably the best drummer in the world. He worked with Miles Davis for many years, and then split off to form a group of his own. This music is basically jazz, but heavily influenced by the electronic distortions of rock. I hope to write about Williams some more sometime. Meanwhile, this double-lp is a stunner. A

Turn It Over [Polydor, 1970]
I'm being complimentary when I say that though Led Zeppelin II is infinitely more cumbrous and stupid it packs the same sheer clamoring rock presence. Of course, drummer John Bonham insists on breaking the mood with a solo, while drummer Williams improvises continually on a steadier beat than is ordinarily acceptable among jazz devotees--when he, Larry Young, John McLaughlin, and Jack Bruce all play together it's impossible to distinguish front and back or melody and rhythm. "Right On," two orgasmic minutes of raveup energy and master chops, almost makes me believe in his quavering, enigmatic vocal lines. Unfortunately, though, it doesn't make me want to listen to them, perhaps because he uses his voice to pronounce words. B+

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