Various Artists

Sampled, Vol. 4

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The Sampled series certainly isn't the first to assemble a batch of original recordings later plumbed and plundered to create the foundations of latter-day hip-hop and dance tracks, but it's one of the best -- the sheer diversity and reach of these 40 pop hits, funk classics, and rare grooves is astounding, offering a crash course in the timelessness and endless mutability of great music. The fun of sets like this one is hearing a given beat or break, and experiencing that moment of recognition when music's past and present merge -- comparisons and contrasts are inevitable as well, and while Happy Mondays' "Step On" clearly outpaces its inspiration, John Kongos' "He's Gonna Step on You Again," not even the mighty N.W.A. hit "Express Yourself" can surpass the Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band original of the same name. These two discs can sometimes seem uneven -- the sheer scope of the material guarantees something annoying for everyone -- but the good stuff is really good: Salsoul Orchestra's "Chicago Bus Stop (Ooh I Love It)," Ike & Tina Turner's "Whole Lotta Love," David Axelrod's "The Human Abstract," and the Mary Jane Girls' "All Night Long" are among the highlights.

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