Lou Christie
Enlightnin'ment – The Best of Lou Christie
(Rhino 70246)

Rhino was the first label to have the perspicacity to put Lou Christie on CD, and their anthology (released in 1988) remains the most coherent collection of Lou's classic years, when Lou mania swept the nation and you couldn't turn on the radio without quivering at the sound of that almost demonic falsetto.

All the big 60s hits are here: "Lightnin' Strikes," "Two Faces Have I," "Rhapsody In The Rain," "The Gypsy Cried," "I'm Gonna Make You Mine," along with lesser-known but even better tunes like "Self Expression (The Kids on the Street Will Never Give In)" and "If My Car Could Only Talk."

If there's a drawback to the disc, it is simply that it comes off more as an oldies collection than a dynamic portrait of the artist. But that's reaching too far, seeing as the disc is maniacally enjoyable overall.

Lou's voice is so great that it makes comparatively forgettable songs like "Summer Snow" and the Dion-with-falsetto "Mr. Tenor Man" almost capable of inspiring the frenzy of "Lightnin' Strikes." The real treasures of this set are "Self Expression" (probably the best single released in 1967, featuring some of the best pop drumming ever), "Back to the Days of the Romans" (a totally absorbing semi-protest song featuring some of Lou's greatest vocals), and the frighteningly good "Trapeze."

Supposedly there are tons of unreleased sides from this period sitting in the vaults of Columbia Records, and if Lou's chart singles are any indication, this was one of his truly fruitful periods. In fact, Lou's development as an artist from the early doo-wop-flavored stuff through the Brian Wilson-level of creativity of Paint America Love is staggering. Why is he so unacknowledged?!

Providing a ton of enjoyment, also, are Lou's backup group The Tammys, who can pull off a background line like "Sha-poo-pah, oh, DuRonda" with aplomb, and make barking noises and grunts on "Cryin' in the Streets" like that's the usual girl-group thing to do. I'd love to hear the Supremes try some of this wacked-out stuff. Utterly original … this music will help you overcome your desensitization to oldies music.

If I had to pick my lesser favorites, they'd be "Shy Boy" and "Watch Your Heart After Dark," but that would be like trying to pick my least favorite part of Jerry Orbach or my least favorite breath mint. Folly, I tell you! It is, proverbially, all good. People, people – it is time to paint America Lou!

Review by Bowser Vindaloo