It is too bad that we live in the age of rehashing. You know, the age where everything is “re-packaged to appeal to a new, more youthful” market. It is the age that saw everything good—and plenty not so good—shows from television made into movies. The age where a director had the nerve—no, the gall—to remake Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, while another had the balls to re-do The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Seriously, they even revamped the tepid horror flick The Amityville Horror.
It’s as if generations before this one were somehow so much more intelligent that they could see the value in seeing the originals. Meanwhile, the lunks of now are so inept and shallow that they don’t know how to surf the web or visit a library and see or hear the original works.
Well, at least that is what the press information for the recently released Motown Remixed suggests. In the press bio they go so far as to say: “The Sound of Young America” is young once again, as if the classic Motown catalog will no longer appeal to the youth of today. However, if you’ve ever been to a wedding, you know that many of these songs still stand the test of time. I mean, how do you re-do a classic, anyway? Would it be just as good if someone redid Michaelangelo’s David or repainted the Systeen Chapel? How about a remake of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa? There should be plenty of call for such things. There aren’t, however, and for good reason.
To be fair, a remix is slightly different. It suggests that the producer has a fresh, new take on its subject. And with the talent involved here—from DJ Green Lantern (for Rick James’ “Mary Jane”) to King Britt (on Edwin Starr’s “War”)—you might think there would be more “newness” to hear. Three tracks, at best, actually push the envelope into something interesting. DJ Jazzy Jeff (of The Fresh Prince fame, who has also worked with Jill Scott and KRS-1) does some justice to The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.” Unlike many of these cuts, which were crafted by deejays, he adds in some scratches along with a female vocal that actually enhances the original.
Likewise, DJ Z-Trip (known for his fanciful turntable revisions of classic tunes) brings vibrancy to the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” The updated guitar work and revamped percussion allow Michael Jackson’s voice and the underrated harmonies he shared with his brothers to soar through the mix.
Smokey Robinson’s “Tears Of A Clown” gets a similar enhancement from Hotsnax (Ashanti, Nelly, Outkast, and Christiana Milian). The Euro-pop feel makes the song snap, carrying the listener along on a ride that emphasizes the keen lyrics of one of the industries most revered writers. Its hard to imagine, but the other cast of characters, Salaam Remi (Fugees, Ludacris, Jamiroquai), DJ Spinna (Guru, De La Soul), and Easy Mo Bee (Alicia Keys, B.I.G.), all of whom have crafted some great music in the past, do little to enliven the original tracks. Although, Tranzition’s re-working of the Diana Ross & The Supremes hit “My World Is Empty Without You” is engaging and makes you want to know the original.
This sort of remix project was tried previously with the Isley Brothers catalog, and though the names tapped for that outing took quite a few more liberties, the end result was the same. There really isn’t any improving on a classic. The powers that be at Motown ultimately realized this as well, as all of the songs will be issued in their original state on the Motown Unmixed CD compilation that will be released in conjunction with this one.
Although a “screwed and chopped” Motown classic is probably the last thing we need on the airwaves, it is interesting to note that none of the producers from Houston were invited to participate. They, at least, would have added something different and interesting to the proceedings. Buy this one if you must, but the originals are still the best bet.