Jimmy Guterman's blog

media, technology, management, and the rest of it

Greatest song of all time of the week: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, "Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel"

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As digital sampling becomes more and more pervasive as a recording technique in pop, the belief that anything is possible in a studio nowadays is also on the rise. But “Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” took the cut-and-paste-sound approach used covertly on many records today and the scavenging of other songs as its very subject. The number asks: How smart can you steal? How slick can you mix? This technical apex of one of rap’s leading disc-spinners is tremendously influential—many of today’s dance-music and rock productions are unimaginable without it.

Grandmaster Flash started as a South Bronx dance-hall disc jockey whose trademark was taking his favorite rock and rap songs and repeating their hottest elements for heightened effect. “Wheels of Steel,” despite being credited to the full Furious Five, was a solo shot by Flash designed to show off the wizardry that knocked ’em out live. After a stuttering intro, Flash lets Blondie’s “Rapture,” Chic’s “Good Times,” the Incredible Bongo Band’s “Apache,” and Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” as well as snippets from earlier Flash/Five singles glide in and slam out of the unwavering beat. These songs of different tempos all fit without being forced. Spoken sections, boasts, and song apexes are finely woven into an amazingly seamless whole. Before the serrated-edged righteousness of “The Message” and “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)” turned attention to rapper and writer Melle Mel, the group was a showcase for Flash. This is why.

Visually pointless, but the only way I can point you to this song:

Written by guterman

April 9, 2008 at 7:52 am

Posted in music

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