Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The black diva remains a distant figure for the pop audience her hits touch. With geniuses like Aretha Franklin and crossover queens like Whitney Houston exceptional by definition, the norm is Patti LaBelles, Chaka Khans, or Toni Braxton, whose spectacular voices and skills the black audience reveres with an intensity that baffles casual white fans. Keyed to Houston's starring role in the film and showcasing all of the above-named, younger stars like TLC, SWV, Mary J. Blige, and Brandy, and some excellent newcomers, the Waiting To Exhale soundtrack (Arista) celebrates the past and future of a rich sensibility. Premier writer-producer "Babyface" Edmonds provides material that both suits and challenges the personas he melds together. The result is a stronger and more varied album than most of them could manage on their own, a chance to luxuriate in a music too gorgeous to live without.
Jo Carol Pierce is a songwriting actress who would probably be called a performance artist if she lived in New York or L.A. But she's from Austin, so just call her a displaced country singer with patter. The thing is, the patter has been worked up into a full-fledged theatre piece, and for all the raconteuring wit of songs like You Bother Me and Does God Have Us by the Twat or What?, it's the patter that makes Bad Girls Upset by the Truth (Monkey Hill) such an inspiring exploration of what it might mean to serve Jesus by taking a new man to bed every week. Of course, if no bed is available, the back seat of your car will do just fine. Even her back yard if need be.

Hey, folks--Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Al Green just released his first purely secular album in over 15 years: Your Heart's in Good Hands (MCA). In case you have doubts, it's worthy of him. And not only that, an augmented Greatest Hits (The Right Stuff/Hi) is finally CD-available. Need I say more? I hope not.

Playboy, Jan. 1996

Oct. 1995 Feb. 1996