Saturday, July 14, 2007

Soul Shakedown Party

Bob Marley & the
Wailers, Roots, Rock, Remixed, Tuff Gong/
rockr Music [7/24/07]

Though the remix album remains a popular concept,
it hasn't become a science.
It's still an art. Some music works better as the foundation of remixes than others. Some producers are better at reinventing that raw material than others.

Here's the thing: If the remix is too similar to the original, it becomes superfluous. If the remix is too different, the original gets lost. The best producers find a happy medium between the two.

My favorite example is Felix da Housecat's version of Nina Simone's "Sinnerman." There's a reason this mix is everywhere—on the radio and in the movies (notably David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE). Simply put, it's great. But more of the credit belongs to Simone than to Felix. The original is already pretty damn groovy.

Similarly, it's not as if the music of Bob Marley is lifeless stuff, just sitting around waiting for some studio wizard to invest it with movement. So, the idea of remixing Nesta makes perfect sense and, at the same time, seems completely unnecessary.

On this disc, DJ Spooky, Afrodisiac Sound System, et al retrofit Marley for the dance floor, but that's about it. If I had to pick favorites, though, I'd opt for King Kooba's "African Herbsman" and Trio El├ętrico's "Trenchtown Rock." Instead of accelerating the pace and boosting the bass, they keep things light and skittery. In other words: more ska, less reggae, and I prefer Trojan-era Marley to the Island years, although I like pretty much everything he ever did.

These 12 tracks make for an enjoyable listen (Cordovan's "One Love" is a CD bonus), and I'm glad they didn't change the originals too much, but I wish they'd changed them more. The perfect combination is an elusive thing, and there are no timeless mixes here, like "Sinnerman" or Max Sedgley's version of Sarah Vaughn's "Peter Gunn" (both part of Verve Remixed, Vols. 2 and 3).

Island head Chris Blackwell proclaims Roots, Rock, Remixed "a great dance party record." He's half right. It's a dance party record, but the only greatness is provided by Bob Marley himself.

Endnote: A Billie Holiday remix album is forthcoming. I have mixed feelings about this—mostly negative. Isn't that a little like remixing Nick Drake? I'm not usually a purist, but you've got to draw the line somewhere. Click the following links for my Amazon reviews of Rebel Music - The Bob Marley Story, Bob Marley and the Wailers - Live at the Rainbow, and Roots Rock Reggae - Inside the Jamaican Music Scene. Image from loomziart.

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