Busy Beats is actually a U.K. compilation of tracks drawn from both Baby's First Beats and Pretend Hits, apparently meant as an introduction of sorts to British audiences. All well and good, but it seems rather superfluous since the albums from which the material hails were issued not long before this CD came out. It would seem that in the days of mega-stores, specialty stores, and online stores, it shouldn't be that difficult for anyone, even from outside the U.S., to get the first two albums themselves, which would be reasonable investments for anyone who likes hearing half of each one on this disc. Anyway, if these do happen to be the only Busy Signals available in your neighborhood, it's a reasonable enough overview of what Howard W. Hamilton III's accomplished on his maiden outings. As for the music, it's perhaps more inventive than it is excellent. But it's a good-natured stew of several decades' worth of eclectic pop/rock, garnished by samples, electronics, and hip-hop-ish beats. He's among one of the relatively few practitioners of the art that makes the modern trimmings subservient to the pop songs at the heart of his work, rather than overdubbing them to make him seem more trendy or making the pop subservient to the gimmickry. Has anyone noticed that he's sampled mid-'60s Beau Brummels outtakes (which lay unissued until a rarity compilation in the 1980s) more than once? The weird low voice saying "watch it, watch it" throughout "The New You" is lifted from studio chat at the beginning of the Beau Brummels' "Dream On," while the folk-rock guitar on "Low on the Food Chain" is from the same group's "Love Is Just a Game." Now baby, that's esoteric.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger