CHRISTGAU CONSUMER GUIDE - 50th Anniversary Round Up Part I

AL GREEN:
“CALL ME”  [Hi, 1973]

No other album documents Green’s genius for the daring nuance so thrillingly. “Stand Up” is the subtlest black identity song ever, “Jesus Is Waiting” is a profession of faith you can believe in, and “Here I Am” is an up-tempo vehicle that sneaks up from in front of you. The interpretations of country weepers by Hank Williams and Willie Nelson are definitive. The vocals are tougher than on the two “classic” Green LPs that preceded it. And the rhythms are irresistible. Al Jackson’s (and Henry Grimes’s) thick third-beat 4/4 kicks in with all kinds of extra surprises, and as always, it’s only a frame for a music that moves as one sinuous body, with Green dodging and weaving at the head. A+

PINK FLOYD:
“DARK SIDE OF THE MOON”
[Harvest, 1973]

With its technological mastery and its conventional wisdom once-removed, this is a kitsch masterpiece — taken too seriously by definition, but not without charm. It may sell on sheer aural sensationalism, but the studio effects do transmute David Gilmour’s guitar solos into something more than they were when he played them. Its taped speech fragments may be old hat, but for once they cohere musically. And if its pessimism is received, that doesn’t make the ideas untrue — there are even times, especially when Dick Parry’s saxophone undercuts the electronic pomp, when this record brings its clichés to life, which is what pop is supposed to do, even the kind with delusions of grandeur. B

PAUL MCCARTNEY:
“BAND ON THE RUN”
[Apple, 1973]

I originally underrated what many consider McCartney’s definitive post-Beatle statement, but not as much as its admirers overrate it. Pop masterpiece? This? Sure it’s a relief after the vagaries of Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway, and most of side one passes tunefully enough — “Let Me Roll It” might be an answer to “I Want You (She’s So Heavy” and “Jet” is indeed more “fun” than “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” But beyond those two the high points are the title track, about the oppression of rock musicians by cannabis-crazed bureaucrats, and the Afro-soul intro to “Mamunia,” appropriate from relatives of the Nigerian children who posed for the inner sleeve with Sah and helpmates. C+

RAMONES:
  “RAMONES”
[Sire, 1976]

I love this record — love it — even though I know these boys flirt with images of brutality (Nazi especially) in much the same way “Midnight Rambler” flirts with rape. You couldn’t say they condone any nasties, natch — they merely suggest that the power of their music has some fairly ominous sources and tap those sources even as they offer the suggestion. This makes me uneasy. But my theory has always been that good rock and roll should damn well make you uneasy, and the sheer pleasure of this stuff — which of course elicits howls of pain from the good old rock and roll crowd — is undeniable. For me, it blows everything else off the radio: it’s clean the way the Dolls never were, and just plain listenable the way Black Sabbath never was. And I hear it cost $6400 to put on plastic. A

BOSTON:
“BOSTON”
[Epic, 1976]

When informed that someone has achieved an American synthesis of Led Zeppelin and Yes, all I can do is hold my ears and say gosh. C

MUDDY WATERS:
“HARD AGAIN”
[Blue Sky, 1977]

Since the heyday of Chicago blues was midcentury, most of the classic blues LPs ore collections of cuts; except for B.B. King’s Live at the Regal and Otis Spann’s Walking the Blues (oh, there must be others, but let me go on) I can’t recall a better blues album than this. The songs run the length of live performances — four of the nine over five minutes — without any loss of intensity, because their intensity depends not on the compression of the three-minute format but on the natural enthusiasm of an inspired collaboration. Waters sings as though his life depended on it, Johnny Winter proves with every note how right he was to want to produce this, and James Cotton — well, James Cotton doesn’t open his mouth except to make room for the harmonica, which sounds just great. A-

BOOTSY COLLINS:
“AHH … THE NAME IS BOOTSY, BABY!”
[Warner Bros., 1977]

Although Bootsy’s comic consciousness takes a certain toll in tightness and drive, this record does about 90 percent of what a good funk album does while offering priceless insight into obscene phone calls and cannabis cunnilingus. Free your ass and your mind can come along for a giggle. B+

FOREIGNER:
“DOUBLE VISION”
[Atlantic, 1978]

I like rock and roll so much that I catch myself getting off on “Hot Blooded,” a typical piece of cock-rock nookie-hating carried along on a riff-with-chord-change that’s pure (gad) second-generation Bad Company. Fortunately, nothing else here threatens their status as world’s dullest group. C-

BLONDIE:
“PARALLEL LINES”
[Chrysalis, 1978]

As unlikely as it seemed three years ago, they’ve actually achieved their synthesis of the Dixie Cups and the Electric Prunes — their third is as close to God as pop-rock albums ever get, or got. Closer, actually — even on side two every song generates its own unique, scintillating glitz. What seems at first like a big bright box of hard candy turns out to have guts, feeling, a chewy center, and Deborah Harry’s vocal gloss reveals nooks of compassion and sheer physical give that makes the protagonists of these too-too modern fragments seem as tragic (or untragic) as those of any other epoch. Plus, the band really New Yawks it up — try the chorus of “Just Go Away.” A

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