Overrated Sacred Cows

Johnny Cash

Usually, the best way for an artist to cement legendary-genius status is to die young. The Man in Black flipped the script by living longer than anyone thought possible and releasing a series of downbeat American Recordings that splendidly showcased his death rattle. Critics hailed them for their naked emotionalism; to me, they just sounded like music to croak by. And lest we forget: His biggest hit was "A Boy Named Sue." —Eric Snider

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles

Why is Sgt. Pepper's considered the critical turning point of popular music in the past 50 years? The Beatles recorded at least two albums that were better (Revolver and Abbey Road), and listening to Pepper today reveals it to be a bug in amber, lifeless and dated. "Getting Better" and "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" hold up as great tunes, but too much of the rest is mediocre — go ahead, try to defend the cloying harp on "She's Leaving Home." —Wayne Garcia

Janis Joplin

She was the white girl who stole the blues — and treated them shabbily. Joplin came out of Texas and quickly became a human train wreck. Worst of all was her caterwaul of a voice that somehow earned props for its passion. I could lament such a waste of talent — but there wasn't much talent to waste. —ES


Nowhere in the annals of music culture exists a more compelling argument against considering a band great simply because the only people who have heard them are college students who wear glasses. —Scott Harrell

Eric Clapton

Clapton has forged a fitful career ever since 1970. "I Shot the Sheriff"? Stick with the Marley version. Clapton's status as a guitar deity persists even though he's been recycling the same licks for decades. —ES

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

If an 18th-century Viennese were to find a time machine and dial it to the present, he would probably laugh his ass off at the way we revere Mozart — the Ozzy Osborne of his day. Mozart did write one tremendous piece, the Symphony No. 40 in G Minor. But it's the inconsequential piffle that we swim in. If I hear "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" one more time, I swear I am not responsible for my actions. —WG

Dylan's late-career renaissance

Boomer rock critics so badly want to believe in the Dylan rebirth that they hand out five-star reviews like fliers after an all-ages show. Worse yet, many younger scribes are jumping onboard. The late-career Dylan mythology has been built around a so-called trilogy of albums — Time out of Mind (1997), Love and Theft (2001) and this year's Modern Times — whose "genius" has been to wedge mediocre lyrics over recycled blues, folk and old rock 'n' roll tunes. All I can say is that compared to the dreck Dylan shoveled out in the decade or so beforehand, the last three sound halfway decent. —ES


Just because a guy shoots himself in the face shouldn't mean he gets a free pass from critical analysis. —Joe Bardi


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