Released to coincide with a tour of Australia, The Lost Treasure of Big Audio Dynamite I & II is, on its face, a nice souvenir for fans, compiling 14 remixes from throughout the band's career. But it's also a useful primer of remix culture, pre- and post-acid house, and convincingly illustrates that most of the changes that occurred were not for the better. Disc one features seven songs drawn from B.A.D.'s first two albums, redone in the colorful style common to the mid-'80s. The beats are primarily old-school
hip-hop-based, and while there are a few too many of the stuttering vocal bites that predominated during the early years of sampling, there's an unpredictability about these mixes that makes them enjoyable well into the sixth or seventh minute. Rick Rubin's sensational "Def Jam Remix" of the group's first single, "The Bottom Line," which finds him rocking the bells like LL Cool J, is the standout, but the fact that the remixers -- like Sam Sever and Paul "Groucho" Smykle -- felt it their duty to enhance, not deconstruct, the material means that the hooks of "E=mc2" and the twanging "Badrock City" still drive the new versions. Not so on disc two, which picks up the story after Mick Jones and company had dived headlong into dance culture. These tunes showcase nearly every weakness of '90s remixes, including the ego of producers who stripped away every recognizable element of a song, leaving only a rhythmic shell, and called it progress. The best example is Andre Shapps' unlistenable white-label reworking of "Rush," which removes every drop of energy from one of the group's finest singles and substitutes a faceless house beat, but most of the other six mixes are nearly as poor. It's a relief then, when the untampered-with "Looking for a Song" -- then a brand-new tune, prior to its release on Higher Power -- comes on to close out the disc. It's a worthwhile reminder of Jones' melodic gifts, which his collaborators ensure are in scant evidence elsewhere.