Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Grandmaster Flash

  • They Said It Couldn't Be Done [Elektra, 1985] C+
  • The Source [Elektra, 1986] C

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

They Said It Couldn't Be Done [Elektra, 1985]
I was and am rooting for Flash, Creole, and Rahiem--they have good hearts, and from the Fats Waller cover and the way "Iko Iko" sneaks scratch-style into the lead cut, you can tell they're trying. But Creole isn't powerful enough for a lead rapper, Rahiem's crooning is wimp ordinaire without bombast for ballast, and sometime Herbie Hancock vocalist Gavin Christopher not only isn't anywhere near as funky as the Sugarhill gang (which I assume everyone knows) but has none of the pop production flair that might move them into Rick James territory, assuming that's even a desirable destination any more. And the words! "Sign of the Times" is the kind of confused protest you could hear on sucker twelve-inches a year ago, "Jailbait" isn't so fucking good-hearted, and "Girls Love the Way He Spins" is the claim that's supposed to make the competition hang up their mikes and go home. Why do groups break up? It's enough to make you lose your faith in capitalism. C+

The Source [Elektra, 1986]
Their original-is-still-the-greatest message might seem more original if they weren't still using some of the rhymes they introduced back when they and their brother Mel were number one. Imagine Wings getting back at John for "How Do You Sleep?" with a concept album and you'll have some idea of how thoroughly they waste these beats. C