Founded in ’56, Verve Records has long been the home of quality jazz and blues artists and, since 2002, has been releasing a series of albums where they get the bright young things of today to remix the maestros and divas of yesteryear. This time out for the eighth in the series, it’s the turn of their leading ladies to get cut ‘n’ spliced by our friends electronic. All of which results the esteemed Nina Simone, Astrud Gilberto, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald meeting the likes of Pretty Lights, Toro y Moi, TOKiMONSTA and RAC.
So does it work? As standalone tracks the answer is mostly in the affirmative. Like the bastard child of an unholy union, the new life formed has the genes of both parents and characteristics unique to themselves. Zeds Dead remix of Nina Simone’s ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ is suitably respectful of the original vocal, while the drum ‘n’ bass drive adds a new vitality to track. Also worth checking out is Bassnectar’s bombastic, dubstepy, glitch-a-licous remix of Simone’s (again) ‘Feeling Good’ which makes Muse’s previous abomination of the standard seem totally tame and pedestrian by comparison.
Other honourable mentions go to Toro y Moi (Billie Holliday’s ‘My Man’), Flume (Marlena Shaw’s classic ‘Woman of the Ghetto’ – samples of which were heard in Blue Boy’s ‘Remember Me’ all the way back in ’97) and Pontus Winnberg’s treatment of Sarah Vaughan’s ‘Please Mr Brown’. Where the album falls down is in its diversity of styles. With so many genres and DJs in the mix the whole collection lacks cohesion. Taken individually most of the tracks stand up to repeated listens but as a whole it’s an album that you won’t play from beginning to end unless you’re using it to sound track a schizophrenic game of musical chairs.
When that other fine stable BlueNote opened up the doors to their vaults back in the 90s, US3 were granted the keys to that kingdom and the resulting Hand On the Torch flows together in a way that offerings like this never can. Maybe not one for the purists of either tradition but it’s bound to generate some crossover interest from both sides of the fence.