Taking a rather relaxed approach to the concept of bootlegging, Brighton-based Skint Records chose not to consult their lawyers when they discovered an illegal remix of their star artist Fatboy Slim's 2001 hit "Star 69" being sold on another label's download site. Instead, they contacted the culprit, Funkagenda, and offered to release it officially, a rather unprecedented move which kick-started the whole idea of this innovative 12-track compilation, Best of the Bootlegs. Featuring both specially sanctioned remixes from superstar DJs and unofficial bootlegs from unknown producers sourced from various websites, this floor-filling alternative to 2006's Why Try Harder: Greatest Hits, focuses on six of the multi-alias-using Norman Cook's biggest singles. Unsurprisingly, given his recent lack of chart success, it's his earlier material which gets the reworked treatment, with three tracks apiece included from his 1999 number one album You've Come a Long Way, Baby and his 2000 follow-up Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars. Despite being the least familiar tune, "Star 69" is featured in four different versions, from Funkagenda's attention-grabbing "What the Fuck?" retitling (also remixed itself by Kim Fai), which tones down the original's booming rave in favor of minimal acid-house, to the pounding techno and Chemical Brothers-esque electronica of Ronario's "Rogue Eternal" production, respectively. But with such anthemic source material, it soon becomes apparent just how difficult it is for any of the contributors to put their own spin on the records. Indeed, despite the best efforts of Dutch chart-topper Fedde Le Grand and Riva Starr to inject some electro vibes into "Praise You," the former with a cavalcade of hypnotic bleeps, the latter with some abstract percussion, it's only when the iconic, original, thudding piano chords kick in that the tracks come to life. Likewise with the epic, swirling strings and chopped-up vocal samples of Abel Ramos' "To Brighton with Love" reworking of "Right Here Right Now," and the rockabilly guitars of the acidic, bass-heavy second-hand remix of Koen Groeneveld's "Rockafeller Skank." There are a few remixes that work on their own merits, such as Markus Schulz's atmospheric trance interpretation of "Bird of Prey," which perfectly complements the sampled, trippy vocals of the Doors' Jim Morrison, and Lazy Rich's retooling of "Weapon of Choice," which retains its chaotic energy while also adding a slightly sinister edge, thanks to the ramped-up whispered vocals. But overall, the tendency to just add a few more pumping beats and keep the listener waiting for a few minutes before anything remotely resembling the original kicks in means Best of the Bootlegs is a much better idea in theory than it is in practice.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien