Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers

  • The Best of Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers [Rhino, 1989]
  • The Very Best of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers [Rhino, 2000] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Best of Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers [Rhino, 1989]
[CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Very Best of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers [Rhino, 2000]
Lymon's oeuvre is less mythic than he is. Forced to sit through his Bear Family box, adepts luxuriate in nostalgia or read trauma and triumph into every piece of crap George Goldner handed him while outsiders smile indulgently at his una-poppa-cow or kvell about a New York street music better understood as a democratic multiplicity. Fact is, the 16-song package is kinder than the 20-track it condenses. Lymon possessed the strongest instrument of any young teenager on record, including Tanya Tucker, Arlene Smith, Brenda Lee, LeAnn Rimes, and Michael Jackson himself. Aware that this little kid was a pimp before he got fucked on the hit parade, we can hear the knowingness of the voice's innocence as both thrilling and chilling. But note as well how much his street music owes the showbiz razzmatazz every teenager of the time encountered on radio and television but few were canny enough to put to use. Then we should admit that on the few pieces of B material here, he's just reading his lines, stuck in a rut that can't accommodate his drive to rise above. And then we'll try and forget all that, as Lymon had to if his records were to make any sense as the teen dreams they were and remain. A