Mon, 04 Apr 2005 17:23:02
Album Reviews: Verve Remixed, Vol. 3Although it has spawned a host of imitators, Verve's highly successful Remixed series has suffered from the same problem that plagues most club-friendly remix compilations based on classic songs: The remixes simply don't measure up to the brilliance of the originals. Not even talented producers like Thievery Corporation and dZihan & Kamien were any match for timeless numbers like Astrud Gilberto's "Who Needs Forever?" and Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain," and the first two Verve Remixed compilations felt half-realized and gimmicky as a result.
But the series has slowly improved with each passing album, and with Verve Remixed, Vol. 3, producers Dahlia Ambach Caplin and Todd C. Roberts finally seem to have mastered the art of pairing the right producer with the right nugget from the Verve vaults. The trick? Find outstanding but non-definitive versions of familiar songs, or neglected masterpieces, and give the remixers free reign to whittle away the original track until it's practically just a sample gracing an entirely new production. This strategy pays off best on the collection's more wistful, midtempo numbers, like The Postal Service's brilliant electro-pop reinvention of Nina Simone's "Little Girl Blue" and The Album Leaf's even glitchier yet equally melancholy take on Simone's "Lilac Wine." But the voices of Verve's signature chanteuses also sound surprisingly at home on floor fillers like Adam Freeland's breakbeat version of Sarah Vaughan's "Fever" and Sugardaddy's funkified "Come Dance With Me," on which Tim Hutton and Groove Armada's Tom Findlay send fragments of Shirley Horn's punchy vocals and playful piano vamps skipping over a head-nodding groove.
Inevitably, there are a few miscues, most notably Max Sedgley's bombastic, Fatboy Slim-style assault on the "Peter Gunn" theme, which is hobbled from the start by its use of Sarah Vaughan's ill-advised vocal take (complete with embarrassingly lame lyrics) on Henry Mancini's famously gangsterish horn arrangement. But for the most part, Verve Remixed, Vol. 3 finally measures up to the promise of this trendsetting series. Plus, it features Danger Mouse giving the Grey Album treatment to Dinah Washington's "Baby, Did You Hear?" What could be cooler? - Andy Hermann
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