Verve Remixed

Various Artists

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Verve Remixed Review

by John Bush

More than ten years on from the first whisperings of a dance revolution, there are scores of solid producers in the scene, figures with all the talent, historical knowledge, and judgment necessary to rework most any tracks from the Verve archive. Surprisingly, Verve Remixed strays from the label's crossover-heavy '60s and '70s material (the records usually name-checked by dance producers), preferring instead to tackle serious classics from the canon of vocal jazz, focusing especially on female vocalists: Billie Holiday (two songs), Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, Carmen McRae, and Shirley Horn. As is nearly always the case with tributes or remix albums, the results are mixed; several productions triumph in either equalling or enhancing the intent of the original, but too often a complex arrangement of a pop standard is trampled by insistence on a constant groove, whether it's of downtempo or more clubby house origin. British garage producer MJ Cole provides a few good vibes underneath Carmen McRae's "How Long Has This Been Going On?," but, in so doing, utterly destroys the pace and rhythm of the original. dZihan & Kamien are given the unenviable task of redoing Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain," and seem utterly unable to find a middle ground between all or nothing (of course, there isn't much of a middle ground on most dancefloors). The most intriguing collaboration on paper, a take on Holiday's classic "Strange Fruit" by nightmarish trip-hop star Tricky, suffers from the same strange quality: it's a great production, but shows little understanding of the arranging skills necessary to frame a great singer. The best track here, Richard Dorfmeister's grooving house take on Willie Bobo's "Spanish Grease," proves the point perfectly; the original was a laid-back jam (not a standard), and the remix coaxes a superb house production out of it. Too many other contributions here are unable or unwilling to spend the hours necessary to craft traditional pop.

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