Is It Still Good to Ya?
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Is It Still Good to Ya? : Fifty Years of Rock Criticism, 1967-2017

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Is It Still Good to Ya? sums up the career of longtime Village Voice stalwart Robert Christgau, who for half a century has been America's most widely respected rock critic, honoring a music he argues is only more enduring because it's sometimes simple or silly. While compiling historical overviews going back to Dionysus and the gramophone along with artist analyses that range from Louis Armstrong to M.I.A., this definitive collection also explores pop's African roots, response to 9/11, and evolution from the teen music of the '50s to an art form compelled to confront mortality as its heroes pass on. A final section combines searching obituaries of David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen with awed farewells to Bob Marley and Ornette Coleman.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 456 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 22.86mm | 612g
  • North Carolina, United States
  • English
  • 1478000228
  • 9781478000228
  • 543,066

Table of contents

Introduction. Robert Christgau's Greatest Hits: Volume UUU 1
Prologue. Good to Ya, Not for Ya: Rock Criticism vs. the Guilty Pleasure 9
I. History in the Making
Ten-Step Program for Growing Better Ears 19
Dionysus in Theory and Practice 19
B.E.: A Dozen Moments in the Prehistory of Rock and Roll 27
Let's Get Busy in Hawaiian: A Hundred Years of Ragged Beats and Cheap Tunes 34
Rock Lyrics Are Poetry (Maybe) 42
"We Have to Deal With It": Punk England Report 48
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster: The Music Biz on a Joyride 65
Not My Fault, Not My Problem: Classic Rock 76
A Weekend in Paradise: Woodstock '94 81
Staying Alive: Postclassic Disco 96
Harry Smith Makes History: Anthology of American Folk Music 103
Getting Their Hands Dirty: Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life 107
A Month on the Town 111
U.S. and Them: Are American Pop (and Semi-Pop) Still Exceptional? And by the Way, Does That Make Them Better? 120
What I Listen for in Music 130
II. A Great Tradition
Pops as Pop: Louis Armstrong 135
Not So Misterioso: Thelonious Monk 140
First Lady of Song: Billie Holiday 149
Folksinger, Wordslinger, Start Me a Song: Woody Guthrie 154
Caring the Hard Way: Frank Sinatra: 1915-1998 159
Like Ringing a Bell: Chuck Berry: 1926-2017 161
Unnaturals: The Coasters with No Strings Attached 165
Black Elvis: Same Cooke 172
Tough Love: Etta James 176
The Excitement! The Terror!: Miles Davis's '70s 181
Sister, Oh Sister: Kate and Anna McGarrigle 185
Two Pieces About the Ramones: 190
1. Ramone
2. Road to Ruin
Nevermore: Nirvana 196
A Long Short Story: The Go-Betweens 200
Generation Gaps: The Spice Girls 204
Ooh, That Sound: The Backstreet Boys 206
Tear the Sky Off the Mother: 'N Sync 207
The World Is His Boudoir: Prince 208
Two Pieces About Aretha Franklin: 209
1. Queen of Pop
2. Familiar and Fabulous
Two Pieces About Bob Dylan: 214
1. Dylan Back: World Goes On
2. Secrets of the Sphinx
Ain't Dead Yet: Holy Modal Rounders 220
How to Survive on an Apple Pie Diet: John Prine 221
The Unflashiest: Willie Nelson 225
III. Millennium
Music from a Desert Storm 231
Ghost Dance 238
The Moldy Peaches Slip You a Roofie 241
Attack of the Chickenshits: Steve Earle 245
Facing Mecca: Youssou N'Dour 249
Three Pieces About M.I.A
1. Burning Bright
2. Quotations from Charmin M.I.A.
3. Right, the Record
IV. From Which All Blessings Flow
Full Immersion with Suspect Tendencies: Paul Simon's Graceland 259
Fela and His Lessers 267
Vendant l'Afrique 270
Dakar in Gear 275
A God After Midnight: Youssou N'Dour 278
Franco d Mi Amor 279
Forty Years of History, Thirty Seconds of Joy 285
Tribulations of St. Joseph: Ladysmith Black Mambazo 289
Music from a Desert War 292
V. Postmodern Times
Growing by Degrees: Kanye West 301
The Slim Shady Essay: Eminem 303
Career Opportunity: The Perceptionists 314
Good Morning Little School Girl: R. Kelly 316
Master and Sacrament: Buddy Guy 319
The Commoner Queen: Mary J. Blige 321
A Hot Little Weirdo: Shakira 323
What's Not to Like?: Norah Jones 326
No-Hope Radio: Radiohead 330
Rather Exhilarating: Sonic Youth 334
Adult Contemporary: Grant McLennan: 1958-2006 337
Titan. Polymath. Naturalist: Ray Charles: 1930-2004 338
He Got Us: James Brown: 1933-2006 339
Old Master: Bob Dylan 342
Estudando Tom Ze 343
Gypsy Is His Autopilot: Gogol Bordello 349
Triumph of the Id: Lil Wayne 353
Brag Like That: Jay-Z 357
Paisley's Progress: Brad Paisley 362
Smart and Smarter: Vampire Weekend 367
The Many Reasons to Love Wussy 372
Hearing Her Pain: Fiona Apple 377
Firestarter: Miranda Lambert 381
Monster Anthems: Lady Gaga 384
Dancing on Her Own: Robyn 388
Three More Pieces About M.I.A.: 393
1. Spread out, Reach High: M.I.A.'s Kala
2. Illygirl Steppin Up
3. Spelled Backwards It's "Aim"
The Unassumingest: Lori McKenna 400
VI. Got to Be Driftin' Along
Who Knows It Feels It: Bob Marley 407
Shape Shifter: David Bowie: 1947-2016 411
The Most Gifted Artist of the Rock Era: Prince: 1958-2016 414
Forever Old: Leonard Cohen: 1933-2016 416
Sticking It in Their Ear: Bob Dylan 419
Don't Worry About Nothing: Ornette Coleman 420
Sensualistic, Polytheistic: New York Dolls 421
Index 425
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Review quote

"Christgau is . . . one of America's sharper public intellectuals of the past half century, and certainly one of its most influential-not to mention one of the better stylists in that cohort. Fun is a big part of why." -- David Cantwell * The New Yorker * "If the New Journalism movement of the early '60s sought to remove the never-wholly-real concept of objectivity from news reporting, so too did Christgau and his Village voice colleagues remove it from music writing. In fact, that's why this collection is such a worthy read even for those who haven't read much Christgau over the years. You may or may not be compelled to seek out the music he writes about, or you may wholeheartedly disagree with his assessment of that music, but you will enjoy the way he writes about it. Music is personal for him-it's personal for all of us, really-and he writes like it is, only with way more erudition than a common Facebook post." -- Mark Reynolds * Popmatters * "This is complicated work, but for a dean it's plenty fun, and joy to dip into or explore in depth, both for full appreciations and single lines. Offering some tips for 'growing better ears' on the book's first page, he suggests you 'spend a week listening to James Brown's Star Time.' The ensuing pages will keep you listening and thinking for many, many more weeks besides."
-- Mark Athitakis * Critical Mass blog * "A treasure trove of the most incisive, witty pop music reviews and commentary ever committed to print." -- Ken Tucker * Fresh Air * "Though Christgau is best known for his pithy, graded Consumer Guide blurbs, this monumental tome collects his longer essays on both essential figures in popular music and his own pet favorites, at least a few of which he'll convince you deserve to be considered essential themselves. Buy two copies-one to throw angrily across the room, one as a reference." -- Keith Harris * City Pages * "Gleeful flurries of verbal shadow-boxing make this a book which can be enjoyed for the writing alone. . . . His curiosity and sass remain un diminished at the age of seventy-six and his own musical preferences acknowledge no frontiers." -- Lou Glandfield * TLS * "These pieces from a preeminent critic will reward a wide swath of music fans who will perhaps be provoked to discuss the mosaic that is popular music in the 20th and early 21st centuries." -- James Collins * Library Journal * "The self-proclaimed dean of rock criticism is now in his 70s, and his ongoing influence is felt wherever thoughtful music writing is valued. This collection of work spanning 1967-2017 highlights his omnivorous taste, showing Christgau to be just as comfortable reflecting on Woody Guthrie, Sam Cooke, and the Spice Girls as he is on Radiohead, Mary J. Blige, or Youssou N'Dour." -- Steve Futterman * Publishers Weekly * "At a moment when music criticism seems less empowered for being more fragmented, Christgau still offers an informed, authoritative perspective, self-aware regarding cultural aging and mortality, not stodgy but wry. A vital chronicler of rock's story, several decades on."
* Kirkus Reviews * "You either love Christgau or you don't, but his cantankerous, affectionate, cut-to-the chase reviews and essays over the past 50 years have defined music journalism, and this collection offers an opportunity to re-read the best of the self-proclaimed Dean of American Rock Critics." -- Henry Carrigan * No Depression *
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About Robert Christgau

Robert Christgau currently contributes a weekly record column to Noisey. In addition to four dozen Village Voice selections, Is It Still Good to Ya? collects pieces from the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Spin, Billboard, and many other venues, including a hundred-word squib from the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine. The most recent of Christgau's six previous books is the 2015 memoir Going into the City: Portrait of the Critic as a Young Man. He taught music history and writing at New York University from 2005 to 2016.
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Rating details

52 ratings
4 out of 5 stars
5 29% (15)
4 46% (24)
3 23% (12)
2 0% (0)
1 2% (1)
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