Various Artists: What Is Hip? Remix Project Volume 1 (2005)

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Various Artists: What Is Hip? Remix Project Volume 1
This is probably the release I had the most fun with—laughing alongside friends at parties, singing at the top of my lungs alone in the car with, fun—in 2004. Folks in or around their forties (such as yours truly, H.S. class of 1978) will find that this collection of classics Warner Bros. pop catalog, remaked/remodeled by the most modern of contemporary remixers and beatmasters, hits their sweet spots for new music and nostalgia.

Soft, trippy romanticism gently shimmers from the Tsuper Tsunami mix of "Summer Breeze" (Seals & Crofts) by executive producer Philip Steir and Ramin Sakurai, echoing the Isley Brothers' classic cover of this same song. It positively pours from Boozoo Bajou's (Peter Heider and Florian Sevberth) Georgia Dub of "Rainy Night in Georgia" (Tony Joe White—Brook Benton had the more familiar popular hit but it's White's composition), a tempered groove romantic and soft and dark and lush as a damp Georgia evening. White's gut-level vocal cuts through the music but remains part of the overall picture, like the howl of a distant, unseen freight train passing through the scenery of the night. Thick and steamy, this is so good I don't even remember the original and it's still my favorite piece here.

Assembled by Nightmares on Wax, "This Masquerade" (George Benson) presents another deliciously atmospheric production, full of darkened, stark piano chord drama and an exquisite break when the tape speed slows to a complete stop then cuts right back in, sounding like it must have dropped a beat somewhere though it does not.

The party starts from the opening track, "Listen to the Music" (Doobie Brothers) polished to a sparkle by DJ Malibu. The introduction is made to sound more dance-able, like something from Michael Jackson's Bad catalog (as opposed to Jackson's "lousy" catalog, a different story). Bass and drums into and out of the verse/chorus breaks are sharpened to toothsome grins, and Malibu's mid-song vocal/drum beatdown is transcendent, absolutely begs you to sing along, and could not have been written into the original because such breaks were not part of music's lexicon circa 1972.

For giggles, jump into the Euro-electro-club rhythm bed that Cuica folds underneath "Midnight at the Oasis" (Maria Muldaur) or bounce off the walls with the clattering spastic reggae "Whip It" (Devo) by executive producer Phillip Steir with Ramin Sakuri, so rhythmically perfect you wonder why you never heard this song done in this style before.

Miles did it with "My Funny Valentine." Benson did it with "This Masquerade," written and recorded first by Leon Russell. Updates of pop standards that create new classics while maintaining their ties to the familiar also reopen, in my mind, the question, "Is this jazz?"

Track Listing: Listen to the Music (Doobie Brothers); Summer Breeze (Tsuper Tsunami Remix) (Seals & Crofts); Ventura Highway (Deepsky's Blizzard in LA Remix) (America); Midnight at the Oasis (Maria Muldaur); Do Ya Think I'm Sexy? (Rod Stewart); Whip It (Devo); Rainy Night in Georgia (Boozoo Bajou's Georgia Dub) (Tony Joe White); Biggest Part of Me (Soul Houligan Remix) (Ambrosia); This Masquerade (N.O.W. Mix) (George Benson); Hello It's Me (Again Remix) (Todd Rundgren); What is Hip? (T.O.P.R.M.X.) (Tower of Power); Dream Weaver (Gary Wright); Lotta Love (The Lotta Nic Mix) (Nicolette Larson); Express Yourself (Mocean Worker Remix) (Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band

Personnel: Malibu; Phillip Steir & Ramin Sakuri; Deepsky; Cuica; Halou & Count; Phillip Steir & Ramin Sakuri; Boozoo Bajou; Soul Houligan; Nightmares on Wax with Jack Joseph Puig; Phillip Steir; Meat Beat Manifesto; Supreme Beings of Leisure; Nic Jodoin; Mocean Worker

Record Label: Warner Bros.

Style: Electronica


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