from the Critical List August 14, 1987
    Carmaig de Forest: I Shall Be Released (Good Foot). We see a lot of people as we wander through this world. Some of us see more people than others of us do, depending on the amount of time we spend cowering under the covers, or taking showers, or talking on the telephone to Mom. But most of us see a lot of people as we wander through the world. And we make decisions about the people we see. We form opinions, based on whatever information we're able to obtain from whatever contact we have, be it with the supermarket checker, the woman on the corner, the creep in front of us in line, or the creep testifying on television. Last night, for example, I was out at the opening of a supposedly posh new dance club -- I am not often out at openings of supposedly posh new dance clubs, but somebody was nice enough to invite me to this one, and I was interested enough, for purely scientific reasons, to attend. And let me tell you, I was forming opinions right and left. I was making decisions about practically everybody there. People way across the room I could hardly see I was making decisions about. I was making great sweeping judgments without reservation. I was Solomon, St. Peter and Judge Roy Bean, the Law West of the Pecos, all rolled into one -- it was, in three words, business as usual.
    The thing about these judgments is that they are almost always essentially wrong, or at the very least (necessarily) incomplete. The more attention we pay, of course, the more background we have, the more profoundly we are rewarded (or disappointed, sure), but the initial, superficial "take" often discourages further exploration. You get something or someone slotted away, and it's bye bye, buster, and on to the next bit of input. There's probably some psychological circuit breaker involved in all this -- nobody's got the time or capacity to get seriously involved with everything. This is certainly manifest in what I do. Fourteen thousand LPs arrive at this office every hour -- at Christmas we have to put on extra help -- and if I were to give each the attention all sincere human endeavor deserves, I wouldn't have enough time left over to make a peanut butter sandwich (a peanut butter sandwich made of time -- you think about that), let alone to write about the few elpees that seriously catch my ear. And so I've missed the boat on some good things, simply because I wasn't listening right, or because I allowed first impressions to cancel the possibility of further revelations.
    Up until yesterday, when I finally got around to playing his record, I'd always regarded the flat-topped, ukulele-playing Carmaig de Forest as simply a willfully geeky out-of-town novelty act to be endured on the way to whomever I'd actually come to see, usually at McCabe's. I'd made that more-or-less snap decision, and once made it was easy enough to keep. I just never listened particularly hard when I'd see him play. But a shift in context can make all the perceptual difference in the world, and having been through I Shall Be Released, which finds the Tiny Tim-wrinkle his stage show presents ironed out by the support of a crack real band, led by producer Alex Chilton, whose guitar work throughout is, as we say in the trade, "an utter joy," almost shockingly good, more disciplined and aggressive and expressive than on his own last couple of EPs.....

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