Thursday, 5 November 2009

Rock Albums of the '70s: A Critical Guide

By Robert Christgau

Christgau on James Brown: "When he modulates to the bridge it's like the Spirit of God moving upon the face of the waters. After that he could describe his cars for three [LP] sides and get away with it." Christgau on Carly Simon: "If a horse could sing in a monotone, the horse would sound like Carly Simon, only a horse wouldn't rhyme 'yacht,' 'apricot,' and 'gavotte.'" Christgau on Van Morrison: "This is a man who gets stoned on a drink of water and urges us to turn our radios all the way into the mystic. Visionary hooks his specialty." Christgau on Lou Reed: "Reed sounds like he's imitating his worst enemy, himself." (Lou Reed on Robert Christgau: "What a moron! Studying rock and roll. I can't believe it!")

Robert Christgau: the man who has listened to more rock records than anyone else in the country, the record reviewer for The Village Voice for almost 20 years, probably the most influential rock critic in America. Christgau's Rock Albums of the '70s: the definitive guide to nearly 3,000 albums of the decade that brought us progressive rock, country rock, glam rock, funk, disco, punk, heavy metal, and new wave. An indispensable book.


Phil Ochs: Greatest Hits (A&M '70). Sporting his gold lame suit and boasting that "50 Phil Ochs fans can't be wrong!," the Singing Yippie bids for pop power once again on this prematurely entitled work of art. Van Dyke Park's classy, countrified production suits Phil's strange lyricism a lot better than the baroque excesses of Pleasures of the Harbor, but in the end Ochs's compulsive sweetness does him in anyway. It's always been one of the prime paradoxes of folkiedom that our most astringent protester should come on like Richard Dyer-Bennett gone Nashville, and the sad truth is that the lone protest number is the weakest cut on the disappointing second side. But even the first side, as strong as any pop Ochs has written to date, works in spite of his voice. Fond as I am of "James Dean of Indiana," I think it would be even more haunting done deadpan, by Arlo Guthrie or Tom T. Hall. B-

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