Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Playboy Music

Crunched by the early Eighties, record companies learned what you and I already knew--that music doesn't die the week it falls off the charts. Now compact discs and digital remastering have put an upscale twist on such proven commercial strategies as mid-line pricing and recompiling.

Heading the audiophile sweepstakes are The Rolling Stones, whose post-Sticky Fingers catalog has been laserized by CBS, while Abkco/London has remastered the early Stones. MCA is reissuing old Chess albums whole, with The Blues: Volume One, Bo Diddley and Howlin' Wolf's Moanin' in the Moonlight early prizes. Even little Rhino has done some noncomputerized remastering on its extensive oldies list for a Golden Archives Series that stars The Everly Brothers, Ritchie Valens and Love.

Richer sound also enhances an EMI America oldies program topped by five skillful R&B-label anthologies: It Will Stand, for Allen Toussaint's New Orleans-based Minit, has to be good if it beats out the Sue, Imperial, Aladdin and Liberty collections. EMI's Break-A-Way does for New Orleans' charming yet gutsy Irma Thomas what Atlantic's Set Me Free does for Houston's tractable yet acerbic Esther Phillips--rescues a strong woman from rock's male-chauvinist history. Rhino's Treacherous: The History of the Neville Brothers salvages another lost New Orleans sound, while Claude Jeter's falsetto on Get Right With the Swan Silvertones (Rhino) could make a heathen believe in angels.

Playboy, May 1987

Apr. 1987 June 1987