Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Aswad

  • Live and Direct [Mango, 1984] C+
  • Crucial Tracks [Mango, 1989] B-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Live and Direct [Mango, 1984]
These black Brits' considerable commercial success in their non-Ethiopian homeland guarantees no more than any other band's commercial success; though they're avowedly more roots, their songs for lovers ("Your Recipe") and rhythmic extensions ("Soca Rumba") are as serviceably undistinguished as those of Third World, a commercially successful band indeed. And I'm sure they could have made their U.S. introductions more winningly than with a year's dub album followed by a live job. Inspirational Intro: "You know what live and direct mean? It mean live and direct." C+

Crucial Tracks [Mango, 1989]
Where their opposite numbers in Steel Pulse yoke reggae militance to rock aggression, they soften reggae hope with pop salesmanship. Singing sweeter and smarmier than Gregory Isaacs if not Billy Ocean, Brinsley Forde doesn't lend much force to lyrics like "Set Them Free" and "Back to Africa." Nor does their obvious eagerness to insert cutesy hooks do much for their aura of righteousness. Like so many black pop best-ofs, this one showcases beautiful music--I dig their dabs of dub. But if Lionel Richie came up with a liberal lie on the order of "Give a Little Love"--"Only we can make it better/Only if we try"--reggae fans would cry Babylon from here to Nostrand Avenue. B-