It's trite, but Paul Oakenfold's 2006 effort could be a contender for dance album of the year, if the year were 1997. That may be fine for his hardcore fan base, but it's strange to think the man who was on the edge of mainstream dance music for so long isn't offering the next big thing anymore. Making this even more frustrating is the fact that albums of new productions are rare from the man -- mix CDs make up most of his discography -- so one would think A Lively Mind would be a grander statement, especially with its "you get to look inside my busy head" title. Dropping these expectations, and the expectation that the star-studded and smart guest list is going to bring the innovation, the album is satisfactory, and even exciting in parts. Two electro stompers -- one with actress Brittany Murphy on sex kitten vocals -- pass by before the album loosens up and finds an exciting groove with the disco-fabulous "Sex 'n' Money," featuring vocals from Pharrell Williams. Williams' minimal vocals might as well have been a sample of anyone with a cool falsetto, but unbelievably, the legendary Grandmaster Flash's contribution is even smaller. The two other tracks of note are instrumentals. "Praise the Lord" gets campy and offers a Latin-flavored beat with a Duane Eddy-styled guitar, while "Save the Last Trance for Me" is an epic track that builds to a shuddering climax, something Oakie excels at. Some serene, wide-angle numbers toward the end help a lot, making this safe album easier to recommend to the longtime trance addict.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
feat: Brittany Murphy
feat: Pharrell Williams
feat: Grandmaster Flash
feat: Bad Apples