A lost masterpiece
Brutus | Indonesia | 05/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like the reviewers below, I consider this to be a masterpiece. When it came out in 1992, I rated it the best album of its year (not the best Americana, or the best singer-songwriter, or the best in a specific category - it simply rated as the best album in any category of music that I heard that year - and I listen to lots).
Yet it sank without trace. I saw just one (pathetic) review of it, and it never made any critical lists or best albums of the year summaries that I ever saw. In fact, I have only ever seen two copies of it (one at a friend's, and one in the shop, which is the one I bought). Why? It is not as if T-Bone is an unknown quantity.
But let me put this album in perspective. There are folk songs on here that Bob Dylan wishes he could have written - and I am a big Dylan fan. Any fan of guitar based singer-songwriting simply needs to hear this album. And above all, this album has what far too many singer-songwriter albums do not - it is profoundly exciting. Not just bombastic histrionics on the guitar, but the excitement that comes from soulful engagement and revelation.
As the songs lift sequentially from one level to the next, and as the soul of the material is progressively revealed, the effect is totally mesmerising. I find the sequencing of songs to be as strong as any that I have ever heard. And I still play the songs regularly, in sequence, 14 years later. For in addition to being a set of great songs, this also a great production - minimalist, sometimes piercing, sometimes reflective, but never banal.
Maybe its time has finally come. T-Bone is about to release the follow-up, and we will see what he has been keeping under his hat for the last decade. And hopefully he will now take his rightful place in the pantheon of American singer-songwriters, as the soulful master that he is. But if you like edge, wit and sensitivity, informed by American folk and country idioms, do not overlook this one."
A stunning album
DirkL | Sydney, NSW Australia | 10/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I already know the world is collectively mad, so it comes as absolutely no surprise that not one person appears to have ever heard this excellent album (apologies to both reviewers who obviously have heard and thoroughly enjoyed it). T-Bone does not have the voice of a siren (thank God) but it's hardly neccessary with these songs as they are full of sharp insight and thoughtful observation, delivered with pathos and wit. The music itself on each and every song is oustanding, the musicianship impeccable and apart from encouraging you to taste and enjoy this for yourself, I can only say that I will be buying the very next T-Bone steak available. Rumour has it that there is a new album in the pipeline."
A Defibrillator To The Chest
Michael Neiss | Princeton, NJ United States | 05/29/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having been casually aware of T. Bone Burnett's work through his film scoring and frequent collaborations with Elvis Costello, "Criminal" was an easy used record store grab - a four dollar experiment with literally no downside.
Nothing short of a defibrillator to the chest could have preprared me for the scope and power of Burnett's virtuoso stroll through whatever it is that he took a virtuoso stroll through - alternately wrapping his tales of corroded love and pervasive delusion in the visage of Ziggy Stardust, Warren Zevon or Iggy Pop with no hint of conceit or mimicry. Burnett goes light years beyond the Bayou authoring a vision that is a steely-eyed synthesis of folk, power pop and glam-punk all fused into a singular, sneering body slam against the social and self-created idiocracy that we all live with day-to-day.
Consistent with his reputation, "Criminal" is a sonic masterwork forgiving no hint of production flaws of any kind. As many reviewers have said, it is beyond comprehension why this record came and went like a wraith with no critical notice whatsoever. It is as moving, powerful and unexpected as any cd in recent memory.
I would suspect that the absence of critical notice stems from the lack of tidiness that a work so broadly challenging represents. There is no greater sin within an industry so rigidly boxed by format and genre than to have an artist offering no boundaries or convention beyond the goal of sheer excellence. One for the ages... good luck finding a copy!