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Boy George – Essential Mix

Essential Mix CD cover

Over the last several months, I’ve only heard great things about Boy George’s Essential Mix. And since I live in a city where electronica has a small hold on the market, it took nearly six months for it to land on the shelves.

As soon as I got it, I dropped it in my player and started to listen. At first I thought it was a joke, someone switched the CDs and I got a copy of some elevator music. But I listened on and sure enough there was a beat – a beat to “Girl From Ipanema.”

I took that as a sign from Boy George; some sort of a curve ball to really shake the listener up before really getting into the mix. Again, I’d heard only good reviews about Boy George and this CD, so I assumed that the worst was over and I eagerly awaited the next track.

The disc progressed and I just still wasn’t really getting into it. The feel was, well there just wasn’t a feel. I’ve been to crappy frat parties with two bit DJs that could hold down a mood better. George’s transitions just kept breaking what little flow he built up.

After finishing the disc for the first time, I put it back in its case and tossed it in my bag. There it sat for nearly a week. When I pulled it out, I started to listen to it again, this time trying to listen with an open mind. The tracks flowed over me much better this time. The beats on this disc are what kept me interested.

In fact, while most of the tracks aren’t really what I normally listen to, they are all solid tracks. “Call It Fate” by Richie Dan, “Future Sound of Retro” by Lee Coombs, and “Some Say She’s Retro” by Dark Globe really carried this disc along for me.

Like a lot of releases, this one grew on me the more I heard it: it’s still growing on me. However, I’m positive that it’s the tracks, not the DJ. There is absolutely nothing noteworthy about his transitions and the tracks span such a large number of genres, skipping from disco and vocal house to darker trance and acid, that it’s hard to feel any sort of groove.

If you love going to clubs and dancing, then this disc is going to suit your needs. If you go to clubs to hear DJs spin, there is no way in hell you will want to make this a part of your collection.

It’s not that it’s bad – it just isn’t what I expected to hear. Whether Boy George tried too hard to make it a mix with something for everyone, or it had to do with the record label, or maybe this is just how he spins, something about this mix really turned me off.

It isn’t something that I’d recommend to anyone that has taste. But, if you really want to know what this disc is all about, buy it for yourself. I’ll even sell you my copy…cheap.

Essential Mix

Rating by Jeffrey Rooks: 1.5 stars
*1/2

Radiohead – Kid A

Kid A CD cover

 

Kid A is one of the most experimental and influential albums released within the last decade. Radiohead’

Kid A

Rating by Jeffrey Rooks: 5.0 stars
*****

s genius shines more brightly than ever before with this concept album. In one fell swoop, they have broken and rewritten almost every known convention of music, producing an incredible tapestry of sounds and silence.

Their fusion of electronic and acoustic sounds sets them apart from everything else going on in music today. Kid A is an erratic brainchild that is years beyond its time. The true influence of Radiohead will go unnoticed for year to come. They have created a remarkable piece of musical future, a dream crossed between what is and what will be.

This is more of a piece of artwork than a musical composition and it should be reviewed as such. Do not expect to listen to each song as an individual entity, but only a part of the whole. Allow it to wash over you, influence your mind and expand your soul. And once you have it figured out, listen to it again because there is certainly more.

 

St. Germain – Tourist

Tourist CD cover

In today’s fast-paced, money-driven music industry, full of rock-stars, pop-stars and porn-stars, it seems unlikely that the great jazz and blues label Blue Note would release a down-tempo jazz album. However, this isn’t just any jazz album. St. Germain is not your usual jazz group, using the sound of today’s electronica, while still following the conventions set forth by the jazz greats of yester year.

Ludovik Navarre is the man behind St. Germain, handling the writing, producing, and mixing for the album, not to mention conducting the band as well. Tourist is the acts late 2000 release. For the album, St. Germain mixes the spiraling improvisation of jazz with the beat-driven syncopation of modern day techno and house music. The result is a funky trip through fusion jazz, funky lounge music, and innovative French house, all with a vibe that makes you want to groove on the dance floor.

More than just a band that performs with a DJ spinning records in the background, St. Germain has a well-produced and intelligent sound that showcases Navarre’s talent as well as creating a viable new genre of jazz. The disc is full of bright tones and vibrant melodies offset by rhythmic, sometimes tribal, beats. Deep bass lines and satiny smooth keys punctuate many of the tracks.

A perfect example of their style is “Sure Thing,” which contains elements of Miles Davis and John Lee Hooker’s collaboration, “Harry’s Philosophy.” “La Goutte D’or” has a hip-hop flavor to it, full of bouncing beats and urban rhythms. The funky flute and syncopated beat of “So Flute” gives off the feel of an Andes Mountain influenced tribal house track.

Regardless of how they might be labeled by the music industry or received by the listening public, St. Germain has created an intriguing blend of styles and genres. Whether it’s the spiraling jazz tracks or the thumping loungy house tracks, the group lays down something for everyone. Ludovik Navarre and the rest of St. Germain are pushing the genre of jazz into the 21st century.

Tourist

Rating by Jeffrey Rooks: 4.5 stars
****1/2

Thievery Corporation – The Mirror Conspiracy

The Mirror Conspiracy CD cover

Somewhere between drum and bass, ambient, and trip-hop lie Washington DC’s Thievery Corporation. Their eclectic release, The Mirror Conspiracy, is not your average electronica CD. Full of smooth grooves, down-tempo beats, deep bass and wistful vocals, they perform lounge music for the electronic generation. It is as much an experiment as it is a celebration of music.

The Thievery Corporation’s unique sound is comprised of a wide variety of musical styles that have been fused with down-tempo drum and bass. Smooth jazz, soulful horns, and deep bass lines permeate nearly every track on this album. Most intriguing is the influence of techno-blues, a little known genre defined by composer Richard Hartley, which creeps into several of the disc’s funkier cuts.

The highlight of The Mirror Conspiracy is easily “Focus on Sight,” a silky piece that is pure techno-blues. Punctuated by syncopated drums, deep, muted bass lines and funky horns, it is almost impossible not to move in rhythm with this expertly crafted work. Much like the entire album, this track was built for smoke filled, dimly lit lounges where people of all backgrounds groove to soulful, loungy house.

Whether it’s the smooth bass and sitar riffs of “Lebanese Blonde” or the sultry French lyrics of “Le Monde,” each and every track will wrap you in a warm blanket of ambient soul. Latin Samba beats, smooth jazz, spacey melodies and grooving down-tempo make The Mirror Conspiracy a necessity for any fan of loungy house. For the rest of you, don’t fear the unknown; the pulsating rhythms of The Thievery Corporation will overtake you.

The Mirror Conspiracy

Rating by Jeffrey Rooks: 4.5 stars
****1/2

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