July 30, 2002

various artists "Verve Remixed"

Before I begin, I'd like to give thanks to a few people. First off, thank you to the group known as Propellerheads. Your collaboration with Shirley Bassey a few years ago was quite revolutionary, and it really helped add a new twist to old tunes. Along those same lines, I'd like to thank US-3, whose fusion of hip-hop and "old school" Blue Note jazz. I'd like to especially thank Dahlia Caplin and Jason Olaine, the compilers of Verve Remixed for coming up with something even more interesting. DJ's remixing classic jazz vocalists and creating a number ready for the dance floor? Who'd of thunk it, and who'd have thunk that, in so doing, this blend of old and new would create a sound fresher and more exciting than the sum of their parts?

This record, is, in a word, beautiful. Some purists might equate modern DJ's remixing classic jazz tracks as sinful as colorizing black and white movies (or editing them 20 years later. Valid though their concerns may be, I'd simply ask those folks to not worry about it. Rather than vapid, style-over-substance remixes done by people who are more concerned about making the song theirs, these DJ's take great care in the mixing of these songs, which indicates their own respect and love for the songs as well. Respect. That's the word here.

For the most part, Verve Remixed hits the nail right on the head. Only twice does it falter--and both times, it's because of the original artist, not the remixer. In fact..okay, I'll say it right now. It's Billie Holiday. I've never cared for her music or her singing, for she was/is the first instance in modern recording history that an artist's personal life fuelled her myth, creating a mythic persona for all the wrong reasons. Two Billie Holiday tracks are two too many, too--especially when Ella outsang her, outperformed her, and out-suffered her in life. The debate on which singer is better, though, is one that's best left out of this review, so I'll be quiet.

Those two tracks aside, there are ten other excellent, interesting songs on Verve Remixed. The very first track, a remix of Willie Bobo's "Spanish Grease" by Richard Dorfmesiter Con Madrid De Los Austrias, kicks off the set with an ethno-house beat--seven minutes of dancing, tribal pleasure. From there, Verve Remixed gets mellow, trippy, dancy, and happy. Nina Simone as Rave Diva? Just one listen to Masters At Work's creation, the tribal, percussion-and-flute driven "See-Line Woman" proves that this crown is far from undeserved. Back it up with Joe Claussell's mellow, down-tempo remix of "Feelin' Good," and you realize that, were she still making music, Simone's legacy might just be enhanced by these new directions. Other remixes, such as Thievery Corporation's remix of Astrud Gilberto's "Who Needs Forever," seem to be a natural progression from era to era.

The only fault to be found, if it's really a fault, is that while the music is gorgeous, the focus seems to be strictly on female vocalists, and, well--there's not enough Ella Fitzgerald! I guess I'm partial to the First Lady of Song, because I like talent, as opposed to a merely passable vocalist who happened to have a sad sob-story life. I'm intrigued as to see where Verve will go from the ideas on Verve Remixed. Hopefully these ideas will be taken seriously and not treated as a one-off experiment.

--Joseph Kyle

No comments: