New Perfume Review Parfums Jazmin Sarai Nar and Mare- Arabic not Oriental

I remember meeting independent perfumer Dana El Masri at one of the Elements Showcase events in New York City in the early 2010’s. We sat next to each other in the lounge area and began to talk. There are moments when I meet people who exude passion for perfume; this was one of them. Our conversation ricocheted through many subjects. It was so interesting that we had forgotten to say what we were doing there. I introduced myself as a blogger for CaFleureBon. She told me she was an independent perfumer looking to make connections. I thought to myself if she can channel her passion into a perfume it will be something great. Her brand Jazmin Sarai made its debut in 2014. The perfumes she has released have lived up to my expectations. I received her latest two releases, Nar and Mare, with anticipation.

Dana El Masri

When it comes to independent perfumery Ms. El Masri carries a couple different perspectives into her fragrances. One is formal training. She graduated from the Grasse Institute of Perfumery in 2010. The second is she is one of only a few Arabic women making perfume I am aware of. This is critical to these two new perfumes which she calls The Tarab Duet. When this part of the world is interpreted by Western perfume brands it is through the eyes of travelers to produce Oriental type perfumes. When Ms. El Masri works on an Arabic perfume it is inspired by her genetics. Pair that with perfume training to produce something authentically Arabic.

All Jazmin Sarai releases are based on musical themes. For Nar it is the music of Ms. El Masri’s grandparents’ wedding day. On that occasion the bride requested of singer Abdel Halim Hafez to sing Hobak Nar (Your Love is Fire). She works only with five ingredients to capture the call and response of this type of Arabic singing. The call throughout its development is an ever diminishing “burning embers” accord. The response is formed in three different stanzas.

Nar opens with a swirl of smoke. This is where the training of Ms. El Masri shines brightly. Many independent perfumers when they add a smoke effect it comes off like sitting next to a campfire when the wind shifts in your direction. This is a smoke accord of diffusion. The first time it calls out, the woody herbal-ness of coriander responds. The second call finds a clean woody riposte of cedar and guaiac. The final iteration finds a warm amber complementing the cooling embers. It is the kind of simple construction which belies its complexity because of Ms. El Masri’s skill.

For Mare the inspiration is one of the most famous Arabic singers Fairuz. She is also a favorite of Ms. El Masri’s father. The song is Shayef El Bahr Shoo Kbeer (See the Sea). It refers to the strand in Beirut, Lebanion. This is an oceanside which has mountains running right up to the beach. It is still a Mediterranean style of perfume just one from the Arabic side of the Sea.

Mare opens with a classic Mediterranean accord of lemon and neroli. To this she sends a strong sea accord breeze. This is where it is different. It is more expansive as the sea breeze rides up the nearby slopes to curl back down with a bit of chilliness. The other touch of the Beirut mise-en-scene is the licorice booziness of the Lebanese ouzo analog, Arak. It provides a tiny bit of bite to the airiness of the top accord. Fig returns Mare to a more traditional Mediterranean construction before finishing with the cedar tree in the center of the Lebanese flag.

Both perfumes have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

One of the beautiful things about independent perfumery is it allows each artist to explore their influences. Ms. El Masri is emblematic of that. For Nar and Mare she allows us to experience Arabic perfume not Oriental.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Jazmin Sarai.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Summer Cologne- The Joy of Cologne

When did cologne became a bad word? It is like the dirty secret of fragrance. There are perfume brands that turn up their nose at making a “cologne”. There are consumers that don’t want to buy a “cologne”. There are bloggers who won’t write about “cologne”. I suspect one reason is our male family members and friends wore too much perfume in the 1970’s and 80’s. The unfortunate part was anything a man wore in those days was called “cologne”. There are still some vestiges of that attitude floating around which has manifested in the I don’t make/buy/cover “cologne” constituency. Its too bad for them because especially over the past five or six years we have seen the humble cologne formulation be dramatically altered while still remaining true to being a cologne, without the quotes. Unfortunately, many independent perfumers shy away from cologne.Because of this most of the innovation has happened in a few specific brands. Selfishly I want some of my favorite small brands to take a shot at a cologne; DSH Perfumes Summer Cologne does that.

The very origin of cologne comes from an Alpine walk of the creator Jean Marie Farina. He wanted something he could splash on which would be as refreshing as a walk through a mountain meadow. The very simple formula of citrus, floral, and herbal components has been a staple of perfumery. Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, who is also a lover of perfume history, has made Summer Cologne a perfume of summer activity, as well. Except she isn’t going for a walk in the Rockies around her Boulder, Colorado studio. She is working in the garden with her tomato plants. She uses tomato leaf as the keynote around which she builds her version of cologne.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

It opens with a traditional citrus trio of bergamot, lemon, and bitter orange. This is a time-tested top accord. Ms. Hurwitz adds a bit of ambrette seed for a bit of muskiness underneath; it picks up on the clean sweat ideal of working in the garden. The tomato leaf steps forward in place of the typical herbal part of the traditional cologne recipe. It still carries a greenness along with a tart acerbic quality. She uses judicious quantities of vetiver and blackcurrant bud to buoy up the tomato leaf. The orange blossom which has become synonymous with cologne provides the floral part. This is also supported with a nice neroli to provide a thread of green to connect back to the tomato leaf. The final part is to stake all of this into an earthy patchouli in the base.

Summer Cologne has 6-8 hour longevity and low sillage.

Summer Cologne remedies that bugaboo of filling up a room with your fragrance; it is a real skin scent. It was my personal perfume on the summer days I wore it. It was the ideal companion in the heat, refreshing without being overwhelming. If you are one of the people who are not interested in “cologne” give Summer Cologne a try you might find some joy in an unexpected place.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Very, Very, Late Summer of 2018 Playlist

Ever since I started writing The Sunday Magazine I wanted to keep a reminder of my favorite songs of the summer as it was happening. What that has meant is usually early in June I share my current playlist that is on repeat rotation. I’m not sure what happened this year, but it only occurred to me recently I hadn’t done the 2018 version. My problem is at this stage of the summer I’m down to two or three songs as I start dropping songs until I have only the prime earworms cued up. With all of that intro this is going to be a very short playlist, but it is the three songs by which I will indelibly remember the summer of 2018.

If there is one theme to the three songs it was that I had heard them well before the start of the summer.

It was in a Target commercial during the Super Bowl that the collaboration between country singer Maren Morris with Electronic Dance Music (EDM) duo Grey and producer Zedd which produced the song “The Middle”. In a 90-second commercial the song was an earworm which hibernated until the weather warmed up. It doesn’t matter what I seem to be doing this summer but whatever it is I’m meeting it in the middle.

The second song which has lasted all the way through the summer came from watching “American Idol”. Singer Bebe Rexha sang a duet early in the competition and then on finale night joined the three finalists in a rendition of the song “Meant to Be”. The recorded version replaces the amateurs with country pair Florida-Georgia Line. That version has more of a country twang to it, which I usually dislike. For this summer it is the lyrics “if it’s meant to be it’ll be” which have become the warm weather mantra I needed.

When I didn’t know the title or who did the song I kept asking for the John Wayne song. The fact that every DJ I asked knew what I was talking about shows why High Horse by Kacey Musgraves is my third song. The sad thing is I would have known who did the song if I had paid attention a few weeks earlier when Ms. Musgraves performed it on Saturday Night Live. But she was a country singer and I walked out of the room. One of the DJ’s even told me it was Kacey Musgraves and I thought I hadn’t heard him correctly. This is not country music it is almost a 70’s throwback which could’ve packed the dance floor then like it does today. High Horse is all beat suffused with lyrical attitude; that’s good enough to make a summer staple for me.

Those who know me, and my musical taste will have to smile that my three songs feature country music artists in all of them. Not sure what to make of it except my damn playlist keeps recommending the kind of country music I don’t want to hear because of it. That these songs are worth suffering through that is why they make up my very, very late summer of 2018 playlist.

Mark Behnke

Independent Perfumery 2018

When I was really starting my descent into perfumed obsession in the early years of the 2000’s it started with the discovery of niche perfumes. What that meant to me were small brands with distinctive artistic aesthetics. Those early years of this century saw the rapid expansion of this style of perfume. Presenting themselves as an alternative to what was available at the mall. It was, and remains, part of the reason I enjoy perfume.

Then in 2006 on the blogs I follow there was mention of this new perfume from Switzerland. A young artist by the name of Andy Tauer had released a perfume called L’Air du Desert Marocain. My perfume world changed again. I discovered there was another world of fragrance makers who worked on their own; independent perfumers. It would be the acclaim for L’Air du Desert Marocain that pointed those who love perfume to a new place.

Every year I am struck by how vital this community is. What spurred me to write this column was my editorial calendar for the next week. One of many important lessons I learned from my Editor-in-Chief at CaFleureBon, Michelyn Camen, is the importance of keeping an editorial calendar. That means I have all the different days subjects planned out in advance. Sometime when I look at my white board I can see patterns which arise out of the list. Looking over next week’s list I saw six wonderful perfumes from six different established independent perfumers. It made me think about where we are now.

One of the things I write about a lot is the concept of a brand aesthetic. It should be easier when an independent perfumer is the only voice in the room. From experience I can tell you it is not. I try a dozen or so new independent brands a year. I provide private feedback which is just between the perfumer and I. One of the more common sentences I write is, “What are you trying to achieve besides smelling good?” The brands which have succeeded have almost always had a personal answer to that. The ones who ask me “What do you mean?” is probably a reason why they don’t succeed.

Proof this has succeeded is there is a part of Hr. Tauer’s perfumes which has been dubbed a “Tauer-ade”. There is a scented fingerprint which says where this perfume came from. The same can be said for Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Co. or Maria McElroy of Aroma M. I feel if I was handed any of these, and others, perfumes they are identifiable because of this. Independent perfumers can refine a personal vision over every release.

Mandy Aftel

Another more fractious aspect of independent perfumery is very few of them have any formal training. Like all artistic efforts there are the precocious few who are blessed with innate talent. For those the years spent making their perfumes provides its own kind of training; learning through trial and error. That same effort is also rewarded for those who learn entirely from that. Time can be a great leveler. Some of the early founders have become the teachers for those who are drawn to make their own perfume. Mandy Aftel has produced great perfume, under he Aftelier Perfumes label, and a wave of students from her California studio. AbdesSalaam Attar does the same in Europe.

One of the most important aspects of the current state of independent perfumery is the ability of the perfumers to use small batches of amazing ingredients. Particularly over the last few years there have been releases which are made from materials that have been gone from mainstream and niche perfumery due to the difficulty of sourcing enough to produce hundreds of bottles. The independent perfumer can produce tens of bottles if they desire. A good example are the perfumes of Russian Adam under his Areej Le Dore brand. He can source actual musk from the animal through a license he has. Other independent perfumers create their own tinctures, botanical hydrosols, co-distillates, or enfleurage. Each of these create magic. The botanicals sourced by Yasuyuki Shinohara from his home island of Hokkaido, Japan for his Di Ser line are what makes those perfumes unique.

The final thing which has made independent perfumery so important is it lives outside the geography of France, the US, Italy or Great Britain. For over 100 years that was where the perfume we knew came from. Independent perfumery takes place everywhere with the influences of location finding its way into the bottle. All four of the countries where modern perfume was born have their share of independent perfumers who have things to say about that history in their new perfumes. The perspective that comes from elsewhere is invaluable.

If you need the best argument for the importance of independent perfumer in 2018 follow along next week as the perfumes speak for themselves.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Imitation Woman and Imitation Man- Two Bites of The Big Apple in the 1970’s

I made my first trips to New York City in the 1970’s. I experienced a very different Big Apple. There was uptown and there was downtown. In between was the insanity of Times Square which was crammed with sex shops and porn theatres. You didn’t stop to take pictures bathed in neon back then. If you moved uptown there were the museums and upscale shopping. Downtown was the grungy counterpoint. The beginnings of punk rock were emerging in a place which embraced it. Moving between them was like traveling between two worlds. Anyone who experienced this carries an inward smile at how this has all been tamed with retconned history. While at the same time being turned into another roadside attraction. This was my experience as a young man.

Christopher Chong

The two new perfumes from Amouage, Imitation Woman and Imitation Man, are based on Creative Director Christopher Chong’s visit to New York City in the same time. It was the first time he would see snow. He observed the cultural melting pot as his family moved from uptown to downtown. In the press materials he says, “Imitation is a personal account of how one moment and one experience can alter a child’s perception of the world.” Working with perfumer Pierre Negrin for Imitation Woman and Leslie Girard for Imitation Man it fells like they encapsulate Mr. Chong’s reminiscence with two very different bites from The Big Apple circa the 1970’s

One thing about both perfumes is they function as a pair which felt to me as Uptown and Downtown. Except quite cleverly the perfumers made sure to put a little of the other in each. If Imitation Woman takes you to the Upper East Side it makes sure to thread a bit of the Bowery through it. The converse is true for Imitation Man.

Pierre Negrin

Imitation Woman opens on a blast of hairspray aldehydes over a floral trio of rose, orange blossom, and jasmine. It is the scent of perfectly coiffed society woman. Then M. Negrin sneaks in a bit of the Battery with a duet of licorice and blackcurrant bud. The latter is amplified to its sticky urine-like level while the licorice acts like a punk walking on Madison Avenue. It all returns to the wood paneled safety of sandalwood and patchouli.

There was a cocooned decadence which defined Uptown NYC in the 1970’s. It was over-the-top with no risk. Imitation Woman gets that as the exuberance is on display but within there is a reminder it isn’t as safe as you think.

Leslie Girard

Imitation Man is rough around the edges right away. Black pepper and nutmeg create a piquant reminder you aren’t Uptown anymore. You shrug your shoulders into your black leather jacket. Mme Girard infuses it with castoreum to make it seem like the snarl from any Punk waiting for a show in the Bowery. Then some of those Upper East Side “tourists” come slumming, trailing their floral smells of rose and powdery orris; trying to live life on the wild side for a night. The real scents of the area return with vetiver and patchouli leading the charge. Underneath it all is a simmering myrrh, a resinous bit of rebellion in progress.

At this point the Punks were just finding their footing as Downtown was about to put its Doc Martens footprint on the music scene. Imitation Man captures the burgeoning scene just before it is discovered.

I like both versions of Imitation, there is an authenticity which tracks with my memory of NYC in the 1970’s.

Disclosure: this review is based on press samples provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Essential Parfums Orange X Santal- Simple Summer

We are now at the point of the summer where my fragrance desires regress to simplicity. It is ironic as my mailbox fills up with new fall releases which are not simple. When I received my sample set of the debut collection of Essential Parfums I was happy to find a brand which embraces simplicity.

Essential Parfums is a new brand where the creative direction is given over to the perfumer partnered with. They are choosing well with whom they asked to deliver a perfume to make their first impression. The only “rule” they asked of the perfumer was to rely on sustainable ingredients. What has resulted is a nice coherent collection which focuses on that. The perfumes are simple constructs allowing for the keynotes to shine individually. The one which fit my summer need of a cool linen suit, in perfume form, was Orange X Santal.

Nathalie Gracia-Cetto

Perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto states that she wanted to realize what is on the label; a cross of bitter orange and sustainable Australian Sandalwood.  If it was just that it wouldn’t be so interesting but Mme Gracia-Cetto adds in a refreshing suite of three green ingredients to form a chypre-ish tonic.

It opens with the orange which early on isn’t as bitter as expected. It comes off sweeter in the first moments. That is remedied by adding in basil. The intense green of that ingredient teases out the bitterness of the orange. As it does that it overwrites the juicy quality with one of orange zest. Australian sandalwood comes next. This is a creamy smooth version of sandalwood which returns to a sweetly woody effect. Then as with the orange Mme Gracia-Cetto transforms that with cedar and oakmoss. The cedar is that fresh cut slightly mentholated version. The oakmoss is a bitingly green version. This adds a kind of green sappy quality to sandalwood as if it was harvested young and raw.  The total effect of herbal orange crossed with sappy sandalwood is lovely.

Orange x Santal has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Essential Parfums is another new brand worth seeking out especially if you want something well-made around a few ingredients. If you look through this first collection and see a list of ingredients you enjoy I’ll bet the perfume does, as well. Orange X Santal is a good example of everything this brand is doing right at the start.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Jimmy Choo Man Blue and Ralph Lauren Polo Red Rush

When it comes to flankers the name is supposed to respect the traditions which have come before. This month’s Flanker Round-Up discusses a couple which seem to have not received the memo.

Jimmy Choo Man Blue

Jimmy Choo as a brand has confounded me ever since its debut perfumes in 2011. There has been consistent creative direction paired with some of the best perfumers which has not produced a clear fragrance aesthetic. Over twenty-plus releases I can’t begin to tell you what a Jimmy Choo fragrance should smell like. Which was why when I received my sample of Jimmy Choo Man Blue I expected an aquatic. That’s what “blue” usually means in the name. Of course, it wasn’t an aquatic it was a bone-dry woody perfume. The other difference was I liked it.

When it comes to the Jimmy Choo Man collection if there is one consistent ingredient it is black pepper. Perfumer Nathalie Lorson uses that in the top as support for an herbal clary sage. It leads to a subtle leather accord which is used as underpinning for sandalwood and vetiver in the base. This is a very desiccated version of sandalwood at the end. Jimmy Choo Man Blue isn’t an aquatic but it might be a piece of dried up driftwood; if it was a piece of sandalwood.

Jimmy Choo Man has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Ralph Lauren Polo Red Rush

Ralph Lauren Polo Red debuted in 2013 and has had two previous flankers before the release of Polo Red Rush. All three of those preceding perfumes were variations on woody perfumes. I enjoyed last year’s Polo Red Extreme more than the initial two Polo Red releases. I liked it for taking a different tack. I was curious to see if that would continue in Polo Red Rush. Of course, it is an herbal citrus cologne. Despite that it hit the spot in the summer heat better than a woody version would have.

Polo Red Rush opens with a wave of citrus focused on red mandarin. This is a tarter version of orange which is sharpened by some lemon and apple in complementary roles. Mint comes along to provide a freshness. I have a hard time with mint and this one tiptoes right up to the edge of my distaste for that ingredient. It is a fresh minty citrus mélange that might remind you of utilitarian fragrance versus perfume. It does stay just on the right side of that line for me. The base is clean cedar which has a bit of lavender and musk to accompany it.

Ralph Lauren Polo Red Rush has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

This time I was happier not to find what I expected at the end of my lasso for this month’s Round-Up.

Disclosure: This review is based on sample provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jusbox Perfumes Black Powder- Rebel’s Leather

When I hear of European-only perfume distribution I must decide how much I want to try it. Which was why when I read about a new Italian brand, Jusbox Perfumes, I decided not to chase it down. The main reason; it was another collection inspired by rock and roll. This is a common well of non-creativity that too many new brands choose to lean on. Because of previous brands which have been unable to successfully capture the essence of what ever rock artist or genre they are touting; I passed. The other good thing I find is if it is better than I think it eventually finds its way to North America. This just happened for Jusbox Perfumes. That meant I finally had a sample set to try.

V Monkeys: Andrea and Chiaro Valda

The creative directors are a brother-sister team, Andrea and Chiaro Valda, who go by the name V Monkeys. Born in Milan they are a good example of the kind of perfume coming out of Italy. When they started the line with four perfumes in 2016 they worked with perfumers Antoine Lie and Dominique Ropion; who each did a pair. Those first four perfumes each covered a decade. They were where I started learning from my samples. I was impressed that it wasn’t as trite as I feared. After those first four I was wondering where the leather jacket rebel was. I found it in the last sample I tried, Black Powder.

Julien Rasquinet

If there is a single scent which connects to rock and roll it is the smell of the black leather jacket. When I was a young man spending evenings standing in front of a stage losing my hearing a guitar riff at a time it was what I wore. So did everyone around me. The smell of overheated humanity underneath a leather jacket is my Eau de Rock and Roll. Perfumer Julien Rasquinet does an excellent job at coming very close with Black Powder. M. Rasquinet does this by taking a very supple suede leather accord and breaking it in with some interesting choices of ingredients.

Black Powder opens with the first seconds having a too tame suede leather. M. Rasquinet begins the process of roughing it up with allspice, blackcurrant buds, and apple. The more you wore your leather jacket there was always a subtle spiciness imbued into it. The allspice produces that. The blackcurrant is at that kind of urine-like sticky green level. Which works because the smell of overworked restrooms was also a scent of many clubs in the 80’s and 90’s. Tobacco plays up the inherent sweetness of leather. Incense tans it with resins. Sandalwood provides a foundation. Patchouli adds a bit of earthiness. Once it comes together it is that black leather jacket I was searching for.

Black Powder has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

If I was designing this style of perfume the only thing which was missing was that musk of sweaty skin. What is here in Black Powder is enjoyable. I can say that about my early impressions of the rest of the Jusbox Perfumes collection. They have just become available in North America and are worth giving a try. I will probably do mini reviews of the others after I spend some time with them.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Bloomingdale’s.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diana Vreeland Staggeringly Beautiful- DV, Are You in There?

If a perfume is going to carry the name of someone I admire I expect it to live up to that. For the past four years one brand has tried mightily to disappoint me; Diana Vreeland. When I tried the debut collection of five I was crushed at their lack of originality. A perfume carrying the name of the woman who said, “Style, all who have it share one thing: originality” should above all be original. Unfortunately, it seems like that genetic spark has missed her grandson Alexander Vreeland who is the creative director behind the brand. It became more apparent over time as I received each subsequent release wondering where the soul of DV was in these limp perfumes. I keep hoping to find her. When I received the sample for the fifteenth release, Staggeringly Beautiful, it seemed like there might have just been a tiny bit of her there.

Diana Vreeland

One of the things Ms. Vreeland was known for as Editor-in-Chief at Vogue was finding originality in the oddest places. Every morning she began the day by sending a memo to her editors. Mr. Vreeland, before he picked up the perfume business, collected all of them in a book. One in the summer of 1967 shows this as she writes, “I am extremely disappointed that no one has taken the slightest interest in freckles on the models…” She then urged her photo editors to make sure the applied freckles did not “look like black holes instead of pale red freckles”. It was her ability to see style in the perceived flaws; transforming them into fashion in the pages of her magazine. What drew me to Staggeringly Beautiful is I detected some freckles on this perfume that were not black holes.

Pascal Gaurin

Mr. Vreeland has been working with excellent perfumers; as he does this time with Pascal Gaurin. For Staggeringly Beautiful he chooses to use the classic Mediterranean mixture of fig and citrus. Where the figurative freckles appear is in the choice of daffodil as the floral component.

The perfume opens with a flare of stemone for the fig leaves. M. Gaurin tempers it with some other green notes. A ripe fig accord emerges through the green along with a bit of bergamot. At this point I was not impressed. Then the daffodil shows up in a significant concentration. Daffodil is a version of narcissus but not quite as narcotic. It is a smart choice by M. Gaurin because it captures the green theme while tilting it to a slightly less heady floral nature. Daffodil is not used often in perfume but as a partner to a full fig accord it comes together in a very pleasant way.

Staggeringly Beautiful has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Staggeringly Beautiful is still not the kind of originality I would like to see from a perfume carrying Ms. Vreeland’s name. It is the most original of the fifteen releases to date; which is faint praise. At least this time I was able to see a bit of DV in the fragrance.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by Neiman Marcus.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Robert Christgau

When it comes to a critic of any artistic endeavor you must agree on a frame of reference. This comes about by reading the critic’s words and comparing them to your experience. The ones which last are the ones which provide insight beyond what you’ve found on your own. With the publication of the recent “Perfumes: The Guide” by Tania Sanchez and Luca Turin there is an interesting perspective provided by short piercing reviews which add up to a greater overall commentary on perfume as art or commerce. This kind of critic has become a bit of an anachronism. When it comes to music there is only one left; Robert Christgau.

Robert Christgau

When I moved to the New York City-area in 1984 one of my favorite reads were the music reviews of Mr. Christgau. He was the lead music critic for The Village Voice weekly newspaper. I was on the train from Brewster to Grand Central Station, in September of that year, and I began to read my first “Consumer Guide” where he reviewed a dozen newly released albums. As I looked at the list I agreed with his assessment of the new tunes from Husker Du, Hoodoo Gurus, The Cars, and Miles Davis. Like all good critics it is when they savage what you like, you feel a little twinge. Which is how I felt when next to the label “Must to Avoid” was one of the albums on heavy rotation in my car. Here is his review of it:

SCANDAL FEATURING PATTY SMYTH: Warrior (Columbia) The ryffs keep the treadmyll moving with nary a twytch, not once does a lyric offer a detail of behavior or decor, or even a real metaphor–the sexist twaddle of Nyck Gylder's "stereo jungle child" in the title chartbuster, now transmogrified into lyberated twaddle because a woman is singing, is as hot as it gets. C

Despite that it was always his opposite side of that coin which has provided me with so much music he pointed out to me. From that same column here is his “Pick Hit”:

KING SUNNY ADE AND HIS AFRICAN BEATS: Aura (Island) Three albums into this world-class popmeister's American career, his U.S. debut begins to seem like the compromise purists claimed it was–not because it's too American, but because it's not American enough. Now when I want something subtly polypercussive I'll choose one of his Nigerian LPs rather than Juju Music. And when I want a heavier, hookier groove I'll pull out Synchro System–or more likely, this one. With Martin Meissonnier back behind the glass and Stevie Wonder's earthbound harmonica on native ground, it's every bit as consistent as The Message and–by (Afro-) American standards–considerably more propulsive. At times it's even obvious, regular. Next time I assume they'll go all out for a dance-chart hit. And I can't wait to hear it. A

Within my first year of being a young man in NYC I would be at a show featuring King Sunny Ade and His African Beats.

I look at my giant collection of digital music and realize there are artists I never would have given a try without reading about them first in a “Consumer Guide”.

As the publishing world has changed Mr. Christgau has continued to publish reviews in the same compact style. His current gig is at the music blog Noisey. Just so you know it wasn’t a phenomenal personal memory; just a well-archived website which allowed my trip back to the first column I read.  More importantly at robertchristgau.com all his reviews and other writings are gathered in one place. It is the history of rock music one album at a time.

There is such a consistency to his perspective after nearly fifty years of doing this it is unfathomable to me. Even for me almost thirty-four years since that first column I read he has given me a new artist I’ve listened to over and over; “Oil of Every Person’s Un-Insides” by Sophie.

It is the epitome of what artistic criticism is meant to do. Mr. Christgau has been my guide through rock music and all its iterations.

Mark Behnke