Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Tracy Nelson [extended]

  • Make a Joyful Noise [Mercury, 1969] A
  • Mother Earth Presents Tracy Nelson Country [Mercury, 1970] A
  • Satisfied [Mercury, 1970] A-
  • Bring Me Home [Reprise, 1971] B+
  • Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth [Reprise, 1972] B
  • Poor Man's Paradise [Columbia, 1973] C+
  • Tracy Nelson [Atlantic, 1974] C-
  • Sing It! [Rounder, 1998] Dud

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Mother Earth: Make a Joyful Noise [Mercury, 1969]
Another excellent album from this underrated group. The "city" side is like much of "Living with the Animals" and the "country" side is almost what it says, including two superb songs by R. P. St. John. It is even better, on the whole, than . . . [Mother Earth Presents Tracy Nelson Country] A

Mother Earth Presents Tracy Nelson Country [Mercury, 1970]
Country specialists don't approve of this--seem to feel it's cheating to step lively with such undeniable material. But only an inspired cheat would feature songs by Crudup, Willis, Scaggs, and T. Nelson on her country album. And only a paragon would sing them so sweet, direct, and strong. Nor would the mix of musicians--led by original Elvis guitarist Scotty Moore--occur to your everyday Nashvillian. Country, rock, who cares--eleven beautiful songs beautifully rendered. A

Mother Earth: Satisfied [Mercury, 1970]
Tracy Nelson doesn't touch everyone, but once she does, she carries you away. She can be sexual and spiritual not successively but on the same note and breath; she seems to suffer and to transcend suffering simultaneously. Vocally, Mother Earth is now Tracy Nelson, and although in theory I miss the male voices--especially Robert St. John's, whose songwriting always added something too--I'm not really complaining. Yet this record is a slight disappointment. I love it, but I know that my prejudices are strong and that only once--on her own composition, "Andy's Song"--does Tracy burst calmly into free space as she does so often on the two previous Mother Earth lps and on Tracy Nelson Country. Recommended unequivocally to her cadre and equivocally to the benighted. A-

Mother Earth: Bring Me Home [Reprise, 1971]
On the face of it this is a slight improvement, introducing three major songs--the Eric Kaz side-openers and Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road." And if the powerful, arresting arrangement of Kaz's "Temptation Took Control of Me and I Fell" isn't as far out as what the original band used to try in San Francisco, it's certainly played with more assurance. Still, when you've boiled it down to backing up a singer and the songs, both had better be special all the time. And they ain't. B+

Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth: Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth [Reprise, 1972]
Living with the animals is turning this band bovine. The big development--not counting the new billing--is a goodly helping of gospel piano, which like everything else is quite pleasant without counteracting the inevitable drags. Praise the Lord for one thing: they do admit to the "Tennessee Blues." B

Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth: Poor Man's Paradise [Columbia, 1973]
Jack Lee's three songs include one about how California was too hectic for him, and the only tune better than that comes from Willie Dixon, a specialist in the blues music a band of more or less the same name once played. C+

Tracy Nelson [Atlantic, 1974]
Even at her peak, Nelson risked sluggishness: you wondered whether that was placidity or metabolic malfunction. Now her voice has thickened, its seriousness become leaden. It takes her a minute longer to finish "Down So Low" than it did six years ago. Literally tedious: "tiresome because of slowness, continuance, or prolixity." C-

Marcia Ball/Tracy Nelson/Irma Thomas: Sing It! [Rounder, 1998] Dud