Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Christgau Consumer Guide

A man came up to me the other day and said, "Did you know you had a banana in your ear?"

"I can't hear you," I responded. "I'm trying to find an A record."

The Atlanta Rhythm Section: Back Up Against the Wall (Decca). A rather ordinary white Southern boogie band, if that's ordinary these days, except that this one has so much studio experience it tends to be tight and slick, a small boon. I hope somebody on Capricorn covers "Wrong." C PLUS

Bachman-Turner Overdrive (Mercury). Here's one that gave me a buzz--for about three days I kept playing the first cut, "Give Me Your Money Please." Then I noticed all the usual heavy metal moves. Oh well. B [Later: B+]

Bloodstone: Natural High (London). Any record that includes both a hit harmony ballad and "Bo Diddley" is worth a second listen, but believe me, the 10th is a dubious investment. B MINUS [Later: C+]

Blue Ash: No More, No Less (Mercury). Magic for new nostalgiacs--the spirit of '66 materializes before your very ears, including "Any Time at All," a good previously unrecorded Dylan song, and an original called "Smash My Guitar." Shazam, if that's your idea of a good time. B PLUS [Later: B]

Chicago: Chicago VI (Columbia). Any horn band that's reduced to writing songs about rock critics and copping (unsuccessfully) from both Motown and America must be running out of--how you say eet?--good charts. C

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen: Country Casanova (Paramount). Good bar music. Docked a notch for time: 27.36. B MINUS

Roger Daltrey: Daltrey (Track). By anybody else, this would be one more dumb concept album, and it still is. C

Detroit Emeralds: I'm in Love With You (Westbound). You probably wouldn't play this one again except for "Whatcha Gonna Wear Tomorrow," but you do, and it grows on you, and you hum it sometimes, so you play it some more, and then you get tired of it and put it away and don't expect you'll ever play it again. B

Bo Diddley: The London Bo Diddley Sessions (Chess). This is the one the company will push, and it's his worst--give or take a joke or two, readymade throughout. Buy: Got My Own Bag of Tricks. D PLUS

Ned Doheny (Asylum). Pretty boy. C

George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Apple). If you call this living. Harrison sings as if he's doing sitar impressions, and four different people, including a little man in my head who I never noticed before, have expressed intense gratitude when I turned the damned thing off during "Be Here Now." Inspirational Verse: "We all making out/Like we own this whole world/While the leaders of nations/They're acting like big girls." C

Michael Jackson: Music and Me (Motown). Having finally gotten it through my head that Michael isn't the black Donny Osmond--not only does he have natural rhythm, but he's a singer, not a marionette--I listened hard and decided that he's not yet a very good singer. Genuinely sexy and genuinely clean, when Motown provides the material. But if he's a real interpreter, I'm too old to understand where the interpretations are coming from. B MINUS

Carole King: Fantasy (Ode). She really could use a lyricist, but this does turn out to be easily her best since Tapestry. Not only does she acknowledge the paradoxes of her own success, but she achieves something like total musical integration--great melodies that seem all of a piece. B PLUS [Later: B]

Curtis Mayfield: Back to the World (Curtom). It grieves me to report that I've listened to this 10 times and can't remember a riff--except for the one that goes soo-perfly, I mean few-churshock. C

Country Joe McDonald: Paris Sessions (Vanguard). Amazing. The man (repeat: man) has written feminist songs that are both catchy and sensible. Despite the real/honest prison poem and the silly, outdated record fan routines, his best in about five years. B PLUS

Roger McGuinn (Columbia). With help from songwriting partner Jacques Levy, McGuinn has managed to save his best stuff for the solo album--he hasn't been associated with anything this good since Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Includes the best state-of-the-music song since "All the Young Dudes" and a women's song that cuts Country Joe's. If side two equaled side one, or if I believed that McGuinn was more than a reflective elder statesman, I'd give this an A. B PLUS [Later: B]

Nilsson: A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night (RCA Victor). The "Schm" is for schmaltz, to which this is a tribute--the selections, none of which were written after 1958, include "For Me and My Gal" and "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now." Theoretically, this is a charming idea--who among us is better equipped to bring such music back to life? Actually, it's soporific--devoid of humor or irony but without any rediscovery of the whole-hearted emotion on which the old songs are predicated. Nilsson doesn't sing with much power and Gordon Jenkins's charts don't even qualify as period pieces. I know, I'm just a dumb rock and roll fan, so go waste your money. I wouldn't give my extra copy to my mother. C MINUS

Seals & Croft: Diamond Girl (Reprise). In the classic folk-schlock manner, female contributors to this album (predictable exception: Bobbye Hall, here designated Miss rather than Ms.) are listed by their first name. Only these women aren't groupies--they're wives, and the album is dedicated to them. Well, I'm sure it sounds better on a pedestal than on a turntable. C MINUS

Judee Sill: Heart Food (Asylum). Whew. I thought I was about to do something rash just because this is both beautiful and different, even though the difference consists in songs about marrying Jesus. Then she bailed me out with a few kyrie eleisons at the climax. Close call. B PLUS

Sly and the Family Stone: Fresh (Epic). Eureka! I have found it! A [Later]

Creem, October 1973

August 1973 November 1973