Verve Remix Box Set
Old Songs, New Tricks - The Complete Verve//Remixed Deluxe Box Set
Review by Sheree L. GreerAs a music-junkie and lover of classic jazz and blues, in addition to contemporary genres and musicians, I found myself questioning the musical validity of the ‘remix.’ What I found though, was that the spirit of the remix can be both uplifting and destructive to the essence of the original. The Verve//Remixed Deluxe Box Set represents both functions of the remix.
Verve is defined in the Oxford Mini-Dictionary I keep on my desk as “enthusiasm and vigor.” Ideally, the creators of the Verve//Remixed album probably worked with the assumption that they could take the energy and zest of dance/techno/trance arrangements and infuse classic jazz and blues legends with this hyperactive force of beat and rhythm. The result of this experiment is a three-disc collection of remixes that bring a different feel, and ultimately, a new life to such classics as Nina Simone’s “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” remixed with an impressive keyboard solo by Jaffa and Sarah Vaughn’s “Whatever Lola Wants” remixed by the Gotan Project using a new-age take on the tango-like seduction of the song. Both selections hold the grace of the originals, while adding a little toe-tapping and head-bobbing energy to the overall experience of the songs. And, it could be argued that the point of the remix is to do just that. A good remix should be reminiscent of the original; true to it in some way whether by lyric, arrangement, chorus, bass-line, or bridge; yet still be fresh and new enough to create a feeling of awe that compliments the sentiment of the original work.
The formula of a complimentary fusing of the old and new worked wonderfully on many of the tracks from the boxed set. The Thievery Corporation’s remix of Astrud Gilberto’s “Who Needs Forever” punched up the haunting quality of the vocals while using soft, understated snare and keyboard additions to melt the mix into a single groove. The Blossom Dearie song “Just One of Those Things” has a natural quick-step quality to it that is highlighted by the addition of fast-paced drums and electric guitar, trumpet blasts, and stabbing bass-line provided by the remix stylings of the Brazillian Girls. While these tracks found a way to amplify the classic tradition of the piece by incorporating new sounds and rhythms, some others forced me to grimace as the remix seemed like a hard, itchy fire blanket thrown over a blazing work of musical wizardry.
The “Strange Fruit” remix, performed by Billie Holiday and mixed by Tricky, worked against the drama and undeniable grief in the piece by incorporating too many different breaks in the rhythm. Holiday’s voice is heart-breaking in the song, both in the original and in this remix, but the sporadic horn blasts, strange electric white-noise in the background, and stuttering beat distracted me from losing myself in the song. The “Summertime” remix by UFO also fell flat. Sarah Vaughn’s silky smooth voice is lost in the electric sounds and beat experimentation that covers her performance. The result is a clash of slick jazz and busy snares, cymbals, and sound effects.
With most remixing, there lies an implicit hit-or-miss dichotomy where there will be decidedly two camps: those that feel remixing an existing song is an assault of the original and those that believe that remixing can heighten the best things about an original while at the same time being fresh and new. The Verve//Remixed albums do nothing to bring me to a definitive statement about the camp to which I subscribe. Some of the remixes are fun, hip and edgy while keeping in line with the soulful vocals, deep emotion and overall quality of the original. Others have a patched-up, confusing, and disappointing feel that upsets the very spirit of the sampled jazz and blues legends. Overall, though, it being a three-disc set; there are plenty of examples of how remixes can work. As a music-junkie, I find that fact good enough to get my fix of legendary jazz and blues, while being able to get high on the energy and enthusiasm of the contemporary sound. Whether the Verve//Remixed Deluxe Box can be considered a wholly gratifying one-stop shop for classic jazz and blues together with the contemporary beats of techno, dance, and house cannot really be decided, but it is definitely entertaining and worthwhile to throw these discs on for an evening of rhythmically-infectious deliberation.
Sheree L. Greer is a freelance writer in Chicago.
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