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Music Reviews

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Various Artists
Mayfield: Remixed- The Curtis Mayfield Collection
Rhino Records

Rating: 5.5/10 ?

April 7, 2005
I keep asking myself if Curtis Mayfield would approve of this. You cannot hear Mayfield: Remixed - The Curtis Mayfield Collection without doing as much, because when a cultural icon's work is translated from classic funk/soul to marginally recognized house remixes, something very necessary is most likely lost.

Recently, a group of DJs including Grandmaster Flash, Louie Vega and Ashley Beedle came together to offer their interpretations of the legendary soul man's work. For the most part, what results is more self-serving than impressive.

In all, Remixed is ten tracks considered to be Mayfield classics - "Superfly," "Pusherman," "Move On Up," and more. The consummate Curtis album, Superfly, is represented well, but so too are compositions from other works, especially those that rang through to the heart of the compiling artists. Some artists such as Maurice Joshua - who chose the subtle classic "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below We're All Going to Go" - made their picks to show other deserving songs in the writer's extensive catalog.

Beedle's "re-edit" of "Do Do Wap is Strong in Here" is an example of what good can come from remixes of this nature. The DJ realizes that part of what made Curtis sound exceptional was the backing rhythm section of the Impressions. This edit keeps the musical soul intact while introducing vocals and solos into slightly altered/sampled patterns, adding electronic effects to re-texturalize certain instruments (a flangey sounding guitar) and laying down some ambient sounds for accompaniment. Anyone can hear this version and acknowledge the original composition while still enjoying interpretations that Beedle contributed.

Other artists such as Grandmaster Flash, Eric Kupper and Stonebridge show why Mayfield's legendary touch is so difficult to recreate. Many artists lose or poorly reinterpret basic melodies while only salvaging Curtis's dusty falsetto vocals of the certain songs. Gone in these remixes are the soulful pockets and attitude that are so inherent to the original. In their stead are the instant gratifying essences of beat-pouncing electronics and sterile sound aesthetics, both central elements of house and electronic, but also elements that definitely don't match well with a basic concept of Curtis Mayfield.

Remixed is a cool idea, but unfortunately, when put into practice, it is a concept that feels alienating. Another question that I continue to ask myself: Does this album approve of Mayfield?

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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