Recorded over a long weekend in November 1983 with nothing more than a couple of guitars, a set of bongos, and a malfunctioning four-track cassette Portastudio, Amateur Hour is the R. Stevie Moore album that most closely resembles the lo-fi craze that would start a decade or so later. The 29 songs are a mixture of wayward semi-improvisations, oddball covers, and new takes of old Moore favorites, mostly performed on a trebly, clangorous acoustic guitar with Moore singing at the very top of his range, giving much of the album an uneasy, anxious-sounding feel that's mitigated somewhat by the easygoing, ramshackle looseness of the performances. Maybe it's the inclusion of a falling-apart take of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On," but the overall feel sounds like what Alex Chilton's solo demos for Sister Lovers might have been like. Highlights include "We're in Vietnam," a peculiar but perfect metaphor for a struggling, doomed relationship, an oddly endearing cover of Public Image Ltd.'s "Public Image," and new versions of two favorites from 1977's masterful Swing and a Miss, "New Girl" and "I Never Know."
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason