Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Iceman Cometh/Ice on Ice
Collectors' Choice

Before the dawn of Philly Soul, these albums put production greats Gamble and Huff on the map

Recorded before the production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff remade black pop and presaged disco on their Columbia-backed Philadelphia International imprint, these 1968 and 1969 albums are probably their finest. One-time Impression and future Chicago alderman Jerry Butler, who'd already put his brand on "Moon River," "For Your Precious Love" and many others, was the only true songwriter they ever worked with. Not all of these twenty-two songs, precisely three of which exceed three minutes, take the strong-verse/dynamite-chorus formula up to heaven. But the lyrical trifles that do -- "What's the Use of Breaking Up?" or "Hey, Western Union Man" -- register as classics, and the second-drawer stuff stands as proof of a style that is more Butler's than Gamble-Huff's. Butler was the Iceman because he epitomized supercool. Rather than stick with gospel melodrama, he learned to cultivate a rough, talky melisma that evoked both an intimate murmur and a more intimate moan, which served to cut Gamble-Huff's lusher tendencies. Onthe transported "A Brand New Me," he achieved something approaching eternal life just by falling in love.

Rolling Stone, May 31, 2007