Sunday, July 24, 2005

Jukebox Juicebox #1

Bebel Gilberto – “Bebel Gilberto Remixed”
I’ve only heard a few tracks from her recent self-titled album, but there’s a sense that remixers have not tampered too much with the original songs, with only a couple of versions on the bonus CD daring to ditch the vocals. However, it makes for (yet) another enjoyable chill out / lounge album with Gilberto’s unaccomplished yet sensual singing well matched to the jazz inflected backing. Best tracks are the brace of Tom Middleton mixes, and the contributions from Thievery Corporation, John Beltran and Guy Sigsworth, though there’s not really a duff mix on the album.

Tindersticks – “Nénette Et Boni” / “Simple Pleasures” / “Working For The Man”

All of the Island/This Way Up albums from 1993-99 have been reissued with bonus discs – picked these up for £5 UK apiece, so a real bargain. Nénette Et Boni, their first official soundtrack, is a slight affair with repetitive musical motifs and just one vocal track. It’s accompanied by the previously rare-as-hen’s-teeth Marks Moods from 1997. Again, this is largely instrumental, a mix of re-recorded tracks plus excellent vocals on Buried Bones and For Those (a version of the latter appears on every single reissue!). As such, the bonus disc makes the purchase worthwhile. The fantastic Simple Pleasures is bolstered by some tight demos of the album, including their spine-tingling cover of Odyssey’s If You’re Looking For A Way Out, plus a previously unreleased Adrian Sherwood dub mix of I Know That Loving and assorted B-sides. Working For The Man compiles the 1992-99 period, from the original version of Her to Can We Start Again? Once more, the bonus disc is excellent, capturing early single versions and rarities, including covers of Townes Van Zandt, Otis Redding and Pavement. As an extreme latecomer to Tindersticks, these albums have been a revelation, the latter two absolutely essential listens.

Laibach – “Anthems”
In true Laibach style, this is not merely a “Best Of”: the package itself looks imposing with it’s solid, 5” hardback novel appearance; the 44-page booklet uses a critical essay, paintings and video stills to reinforce the Laibach manifesto. As for the music, it’s what you’d expect – a chronological progression from Teutonic beats to Euro pop, though there’s a return to the mid-80s pre-Mute material towards the end to confound the listener. The covers of Life Is Life (Opus Dei), One Vision (Geburt Einer Nation), Get Back, Sympathy For The Devil and Final Countdown sound every bit as epic and subversive as they did when originally released upon an unsuspecting public. A second CD of remixes demonstrates that remixers past and present largely missed the point, surgically removing the vocals and adding even more concussive industrial/hardcore beats. That said, the Juno Reactor remix of Final Countdown remains a highlight of these alternate takes.

Tears For Fears – “Tears Roll Down”
Re-issued from 1992 to cash in on their recent reformation, this is a rather uninspired “Best Of”: big chart hits only and a reliance on easily available album – rather than their often different single – versions; no Suffer The Children or the Fluke-invigorated Johnny Panic and The Bible Of Dreams. Likewise, the bonus remix CD is a patchy mix of original 12” versions and 21st century overhauls. Dave Lee (aka Joey Negro/Jakatta) provides three of the latter, with Change the least excruciating. Pale Shelter (1983 version) is the best of the original 12”s, though this also appears on the recent 12”/80s/2 compilation and the re-issue of The Hurting so including the equally good 12” version from 1982 would have been preferable. In short, this is not a patch on the similar Human League & OMD hits/remixes packages also available.

OMD – “The OMD Singles”
This 2003 reissue, intended as OMD’s swansong, compiles selected singles (& charts a steady decline) from 1980-93. Bizarrely, the French version is the only one to include a limited bonus remix CD. Only 4 new mixes – an edit and club mix of Enola Gay by David Guetta, plus Mulu reworkings of Joan Of Arc and Maid Of Orleans. I've quite enjoyed Mulu's previous releases & remixes - here, they would have been really great dubs, but horribly misfire as full vocal versions. The remaining tracks date from 1998 including 4 Moby mixes of Souvenir, which are all adequately varied, though it’s the largely faithful vocal version that works best. Sash!, Micronauts and Apollo 440 fill out the rest of the CD with reasonable (& characteristic) mixes of Enola Gay, Electricity and Apollo XI respectively.

Various – “12”/80s/2”
Seemingly rush released to cash in the success of it’s predecessor, this compilation suffers from a slapdash approach. Track markers kick in a beat or two late and a number of tracks have been ‘trimmed’ to fit the CD, including an inexcusable 2 mins each from Echo and The Bunnymen’s The Killing Moon. Worse, Talk Talk’s Life’s What You Make It (Extended Mix) is in fact the hideously inferior ‘BBG Remix’ from 1990 (wrong decade… doh!). However, worst crime is a mastering fault which results in Aztec Camera’s Oblivious skipping part way through the intro! There’s an otherwise great mix of tracks, from Visage’s Night Train and Sly and Robbie’s Boops (Here To Go) to Swans Way’s Soul Train and Animal Nightlife’s Mr Solitaire, taking in Party Fears Two, The Reflex, Need You Tonight and Sound Of The Crowd along the way. But the sloppy handling of this release really lets it down. Must try harder next time.

Röyksopp – “The Understanding”

I’ve read a lot of interviews and reviews highlighting the fact that Röyksopp didn’t want to produce Melody AM Vol. 2 and celebrating the fact that they haven’t. Actually, I’m not sure I’d entirely agree with that: sure, they’ve ditched many of the Café Del Mar-troubling ambient instrumentals; however, the ghost of Poor Leno still walks these corridors. However, I think it’s different enough to be an enjoyable listen. The Deluxe Edition offers a 5-track bonus disc, opening with another enjoyable vocal from Chelonis R. Jones, plus 4 good – but hardly essential – instrumentals. Best dance album of the year? Well, I’ve heard very few to be honest, but I’d still hesitate to label it as such. However, will I still be listening to it in a year’s time? Probably.