Fatboy Slim/Paul Oakenfold Essential Selection Vol. One (London/ffrr)
Essential Selection Vol. One
Essential Selection Vol. One is the latest compilation album from Britain's most popular dance music radio shows, but the first to receive an American release. And the debut is a colossal effort: over 150 minutes of dance mix featuring the mixing skills of two of the industry's most popular DJs, Fatboy Slim and Paul Oakenfold.
The album's first disc features the Fatboy Slim mix. True to the big beat sound, the disc kicks off with Walter Wanderley's organ tune "Summer Samba." Laid over that kitschy melody is the weirdest breakbeat you'll ever hear, something like a mixture of a saw and a mattress spring. Fatboy Slim's mix features remixes of songs by famous artists like the Chemical Brothers ("The Private Psychedelic Reel"), Underworld ("Born Slippy") and Art of Noise ("Metaforce"), but to buy the album just for these would be a terrible mistake. To appreciate the mix, you really need to hear it from beginning to end: the way the songs blend into one another is a journey into the fun and eclectic mind of Norman Cook. The mix is unpredictable, always swinging between styles, from hardcore techno to funky soul. And it always gets your ass shaking.
The Paul Oakenfold mix starts off rather moodily with four intense trance tracks, but becomes more danceable as Oakenfold gets into a house groove. Throughout, Oakenfold's mix remains an emotional one, with the high point being his interpolation of Barber's classical piece "Adagio for Strings."
Above all, Fatboy Slim's big beat and Oakenfold's trance and house mixes complement each other well. Whether you're looking for a solid party mix or something more intense, Essential Selection lives up to its name. B+ -William K. Lee
Juliana Hatfield, Juliana's Pony Beautiful Creature (Zoe) Total System Failure (Island)
Beautiful Creature (Zoe)
Total System Failure (Island)
Juliana Hatfield is beautiful. I'm not just talking about her physical aesthetics, or her enchanting lyrics, or her dreamy voice, or her assertive hooks, but rather the entire intimate Hatfield musical experience. Anyone who has ever seen her in concert will know exactly what I am talking about. But if an exotic foreign land beckons and you can't stay for her upcoming Somerville concert, make sure to pick up the nearest approximation to her on-stage beauty, her new album Beautiful Creature. Hatfield's emotions always feel like a dam about to break, with the uncontainable excess spilling over the edge, sometimes in a small stream and other times in a tidal wave. "Slow Motion" is musical elegance, a feather dancing in a calm breeze. "Might Be In Love" is as sincere a love song as I have heard in years, combining touching, flirting and longing. "Daniel" is light pop reminiscent of her early college days with the Blake Babes at Berklee. "Cry in the Dark" is a shoulder to rest on for anyone afraid to let their own dam of emotions break. In many ways, this person is also Hatfield, who lets you in-but not too far-like a lover unsure about the other's sincerity and devotion.
The second upcoming release involving Hatfield, Total System Failure, teams her up with Weezer bassist Mikey Welsh and Milligram drummer Zephan Courtney, and is much harder than the light acoustics of Beautiful Creature. The album displays her versatility, moving away from vulnerability, enchantment and curiosity towards strength, assertion and occasional anger. Her lyrics are not wondering, but answering, with little sign of backing down from her claims. On "Road Wrath," Hatfield orders "Give me a reason to gun it." Apparently Juliana's Pony is reason enough, as she slows down just long enough to tear ahead again. Although Beautiful Creature is the most precious half of this double album, Total System Failure will not disappoint, and may even be preferred by some fans of Hatfield's early work on Hey Babe and Become What You Are. A (for both albums) -Christopher R. Blazejewski
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