Favorites: A Mix Challenge

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A fellow denizen of www.artofthemix.org proposed to the rest of us that we create and send back to him a CD with our favorite tracks on it for a combination archival/mix project ... who would have guessed the agony that would ensue in trying to whittle a world of favorites down to 13-14 tracks (we agreed upon audio tracks as opposed to mp3s.)  My only limitation was, if I didn't own it in CD form, it wouldn't get included on this disc.  I completed my set on 19 May 01, and promptly redid the sequencing, eliminating some original choices and adding an important track.  Here's a look at the results:

 

The Original Line-up [Total playing time: 78:20]

Comments on the selections:

  1. Heights of Abraham: EVA [from: Electric Hush, 1995, Pork) Epic first track, from the CD that drew me deeply into the acid jazz sound of electronic music. Downtempo, before I knew what downtempo was. That it features saxophones simply ensures its primacy among my favorites.
  2. PFM: One and Only [from: Logical Progression Level One, 1996, Good Looking Records] Another epic (am I testing yr patience right out of the gate with these 10 minute tracks?) When I heard this in 1998, it added another dimension to my music world with its melding of jazz, drum’n’bass, vocals and lush orchestrations. This was my introduction to the LTJ Bukem sound, the first of many gems from the Good Looking posse.
  3. Sade: Paradise [from: Stronger Than Pride, 1998, Epic] Maybe I was just in a musical backwater, but it seemed to me that people were slow to warm up to Sade … even now, critics applaud her reappearance  while criticizing the subdued quality of her latest release. Having seen a televised concert of her at the peak represented by this CD, I have only praise for Sade: she couldn’t fail to be one of my favorites.
  4. Massive Attack feat. Tracey Thorn: Better Things [from: Protection, 1994, Circa/Virgin America] Which Massive Attack to include? Given the limited space, it seemed advisable to maximize my selection and choose one with Tracey on the vocals. Besides featuring their immediately identifiable loping bass and signature triphop stylings, the song itself offers stinging, intelligent lyrics -- a rarity, even in great electronic music. And, Tracey IS the bomb.
  5. Portishead: Sour Times (Lot More Mix) [from: Glorytimes, 1995, Go Times] Had to kick off Daniel Lanois to make room for this Portishead track … but Portishead is one of the major figures in my musical evolution over the past 10 years. Here's another case where picking a track from among a consistently great oeuvre was deadly difficult. But this one rates high for the exaggerated hiphop flourishes and deeply dubby atmosphere. (On one of my mix sets, I put this just ahead of a Baby Mammoth remix of Tosca’s Fuckdub and the pairing is so perfect, it now feels like part of this song is missing when I don’t hear that segue….)
  6. Roxy Music: Rain Rain Rain [from Flesh and Blood, 1980, EG/Reprise] These guys were electronic (thanks to Brian Eno) and downtempo long before the day. They were also the epitome of smooth, from Brian Ferry’s persona to the beautiful liquid sax of Andy MacKay. I wore this album out when it was fresh, and it still sounds fresh to me.
  7. Jeff Buckley: Hallelujah [from Grace, 1994, Columbia] Just as it’s hard to pick out a few favorites from all your CDs, it’s hard to pick a "best" Leonard Cohen song. Plenty of people have done his songs to fine effect … but none I’ve ever heard comes remotely close to Jeff Buckley’s rendition of Hallelujah. I notice it pops up on mixes on AOTM occasionally … there are some mixes (the kind we’ll all have to make at least one of, when our time comes) where this song performs the task of "saying it all" and uses every tool in the musical arsenal -- lyrics, voice, and elegant, restrained guitar work -- to accomplish that feat. Damn.
  8. B-Tribe: Alegria [from Sensual Sensual, 1998, Atlantic] Sensual is right. I notice there’s not much outright wallowing in sensuality among a majority of online music lovers … well, wouldn’t wanna be wussies, now would we? But when you finally get ready to get down and get sweaty, lemme tell ya, there’s a whole lot worse for setting the mood with than B-Tribe. These guys make music that drags sweetly, like a tongue crossing your belly. Perhaps they are the product of a repressive society where everything fleshly gets channeled into the music … or maybe it’s just a marker of how naturally free they are. Who cares, they deliver the goods and that’s why they made the favorites list.
  9. Smith & Mighty feat. Tammy Payne: Believers [from Big World Small World, 2000, Studio !K7] It was a toss-up between Same and this track by the same line-up, both equal favorites showcasing the irresistible S&M backbeat. One of the major crimes of the music industry is that anything contractual prevented these guys from releasing records for the past several years. I can’t bear to think of what we’ve missed….
  10. The English Beat: Save It for Later [from What Is Beat? 1983, A&M] A handful of really great tunes and a heap of forgettable tracks sums up the UK Beat’s career … but the great songs are truly excellent, like this irrepressible item -- they seemed just unstoppable at times.  
  11. Brian Eno/David Byrne: Help Me Somebody [from: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, 1981, Sire]  Now THIS was truly my introduction to electronic dance music … I loved it then, but had to wait nearly 20 years to hit the motherlode that exists today. Pivoting on impeccable sampling, this track is totally relentlessly danceable … they made the world we know today.
  12. Ziggy Marley: Dreams of Home [from Conscious Party, 1988, Virgin] Well, yes, the expected choice would have been Bob, but in the meantime, Ziggy credibly carries on his father’s musical mission and sensibility, and makes classics of his own. This is his "Redemption Song" but without as much of the wistfulness that colored Bob’s guitar and voice. And if you don’t believe, I wish you well….
  13. Grant Lee Buffalo: Rock of Ages [from Mighty Joe Moon, 1994, Slash] I don’t care much about pretty voices particularly, just show me some emotion. Though it doesn’t have the beauty or range of Jeff Buckley’s, the voice of Grant Lee Phillips carries an enormous weight of emotion with every line of this hymn to human frailty: "I heard my brother call, I looked the other way…." Tell me, have you been there? Who has not?
  14. Daniel Lanois: The Maker [from: Acadie, 1989, Opal/WB] I actually had quite a different track chosen for the end of this collection, but ran out of time, so the Daniel Lanois track that had been bumped earlier made it back in…. I like so much of Lanois’ stuff, including his production work for others, that it was another hard choice. But The Maker brings a lot of his signature sounds and effects into play, and provides a fine closing to the collection.

 

 

In case you’re curious, the intended closing track was to have been Bjork’s One Day (Springs Eternal Mix). So I guess I’ll just have to do another favorites CD…..  In the meantime, thanks to Steiney for suggesting this exercise.  

 

Well, that didn't take long ... since I couldn't resist tweakin' it, here is version 1.2 with that Bjork track replacing both Ziggy Marley and Daniel Lanois:

The Final Mix [Total playing time: 79:20]

Comments on the selections (repeated, with the addition of new No. 9)

  1. Heights of Abraham: EVA [from: Electric Hush, 1995, Pork) Epic first track, from the CD that drew me deeply into the acid jazz sound of electronic music. Downtempo, before I knew what downtempo was. That it features saxophones simply ensures its primacy among my favorites.
  2. PFM: One and Only [from: Logical Progression Level One, 1996, Good Looking Records] Another epic (am I testing yr patience right out of the gate with these 10 minute tracks?) When I heard this in 1998, it added another dimension to my music world with its melding of jazz, drum’n’bass, vocals and lush orchestrations. This was my introduction to the LTJ Bukem sound, the first of many gems from the Good Looking posse.
  3. Sade: Paradise [from: Stronger Than Pride, 1998, Epic] Maybe I was just in a musical backwater, but it seemed to me that people were slow to warm up to Sade … even now, critics applaud her reappearance  while criticizing the subdued quality of her latest release. Having seen a televised concert of her at the peak represented by this CD, I have only praise for Sade: she couldn’t fail to be one of my favorites.
  4. Massive Attack feat. Tracey Thorn: Better Things [from: Protection, 1994, Circa/Virgin America] Which Massive Attack to include? Given the limited space, it seemed advisable to maximize my selection and choose one with Tracey on the vocals. Besides featuring their immediately identifiable loping bass and signature triphop stylings, the song itself offers stinging, intelligent lyrics -- a rarity, even in great electronic music. And, Tracey IS the bomb.
  5. Portishead: Sour Times (Lot More Mix) [from: Glorytimes, 1995, Go Times]  Portishead is one of the major figures in my musical evolution over the past 10 years. Here's another case where picking a track from among a consistently great oeuvre was deadly difficult. But this one rates high for the exaggerated hiphop flourishes and deeply dubby atmosphere. ( On one of my mix sets, I put this just ahead of a Baby Mammoth remix of Tosca’s Fuckdub and the pairing is so perfect, it now feels like part of this song is missing when I don’t hear that segue….)
  6. Roxy Music: Rain Rain Rain [from Flesh and Blood, 1980, EG/Reprise] These guys were electronic (thanks to Brian Eno) and downtempo long before the day. They were also the epitome of smooth, from Brian Ferry’s persona to the beautiful liquid sax of Andy MacKay. I wore this album out when it was fresh, and it still sounds fresh to me.
  7. Jeff Buckley: Hallelujah [from Grace, 1994, Columbia] Just as it’s hard to pick out a few favorites from all your CDs, it’s hard to pick a "best" Leonard Cohen song. Plenty of people have done his songs to fine effect … but none I’ve ever heard comes remotely close to Jeff Buckley’s rendition of Hallelujah. I notice it pops up on mixes on AOTM occasionally … there are some mixes (the kind we’ll all have to make at least one of, when our time comes) where this song performs the task of "saying it all" and uses every tool in the musical arsenal -- lyrics, voice, and elegant, restrained guitar work -- to accomplish that feat. Damn.
  8. B-Tribe: Alegria [from Sensual Sensual, 1998, Atlantic] Sensual is right. I notice there’s not much outright wallowing in sensuality among a majority of online music lovers … well, wouldn’t wanna be wussies, now would we? But when you finally get ready to get down and get sweaty, lemme tell ya, there’s a whole lot worse for setting the mood with than B-Tribe. These guys make music that drags sweetly, like a tongue crossing your belly. Perhaps they are the product of a repressive society where everything fleshly gets channeled into the music … or maybe it’s just a marker of how naturally free they are. Who cares, they deliver the goods and that’s why they made the favorites list.
  9. Bjork: One Day (Hope Springs Eternal Mix) [from: "the best mixes from the album debut for all the people who don't buy white labels", 1994, One Little Indian]  None of the high energy off-kilter pop I'd heard from Bjork prepared me for the impact of the tracks on this collection of remixes.  The skilled combination of original production by Nellee Hooper and additional mixing by Sabres of Paradise/ Andy Wetherall et al. heaps sonic riches on a slim remnant of the original One Day -- it's all about the remix and Bjork's soaring vocal flights.  
  10. Smith & Mighty feat. Tammy Payne: Believers [from Big World Small World, 2000, Studio !K7] It was a toss-up between Same and this track by the same line-up, both equal favorites showcasing the irresistible S&M backbeat. One of the major crimes of the music industry is that anything contractual prevented these guys from releasing records for the past several years. I can’t bear to think of what we’ve missed….
  11. The English Beat: Save It for Later [from What Is Beat? 1983, A&M] A handful of really great tunes and a heap of forgettable tracks sums up the UK Beat’s career … but the great songs are truly excellent, like this irrepressible item -- they seemed just unstoppable at times.  
  12. Brian Eno/David Byrne: Help Me Somebody [from: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, 1981, Sire]  Now THIS was truly my introduction to electronic dance music … I loved it then, but had to wait nearly 20 years to hit the motherlode that exists today. Pivoting on impeccable sampling, this track is totally relentlessly danceable … they made the world we know today.
  13. Grant Lee Buffalo: Rock of Ages [from Mighty Joe Moon, 1994, Slash] I don’t care much about pretty voices particularly, just show me some emotion. Though it doesn’t have the beauty or range of Jeff Buckley’s, the voice of Grant Lee Phillips carries an enormous weight of emotion with every line of this hymn to human frailty: "I heard my brother call, I looked the other way…." Tell me, have you been there? Who has not?

The Cover Art

Big fun ... thanks, Steiney, for getting it started.

 

 


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