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The Friday Writers’ Bloc: June 6th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Jonathan’s Picks

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks talking about remixes — their origins, their value, their potential — and how sometimes the remix(es) of a song are just better than the originally recorded version. Today I’m giving you three different examples of this idea, but by picking three different remixes of the same song: Jay-Z’s “Change Clothes,” (listen to the original version here) which was the first single off of his epic “last album,” The Black Album. While I loved The Black Album on the whole, “Change Clothes” is among my least favorite songs on it, and I admit I was moderately horrified when it appeared as the debut single off icon Jay-Z’s supposed farewell to Hip Hop. He’s goin’ out like THIS?? Naw. Can’t be, I remember thinking. Well luckily, as it turns out, he wasn’t goin’ out at all.

1. Jay-Z – Change Clothes (The Pink Album Remix)

The Black Album is probably the most remixed album of all time due to the (intentional) release of an a capella version, which provided all of Jay’s vocals with none of the Black Album beats behind them. This allowed everyone from top-flight producers like Just Blaze, to wannabes and Garageband users the same remixing ability. Though the most well-known of these remix attempts is undoubtedly Danger Mouse‘s The Grey Album (a mash up of Jay’s Black Album and The Beatles’ White Album), I’ve never bought into the idea that it was the best of the remixes. In my opinion, one of the best attempts (if not the best), is The Pink Album. For a long time after it first came out, the Pink Album remained a mystery work by an unknown producer (or producers) — though the Internets were ablaze with speculation (even Kanye West’s name was mentioned) — but more recently the Pink Album has been clearly attributed to the team of Hasan Insane and DJ Mills (though which DJ Mills — there are multiple — is not as clear), as the former is now actually selling cuts off the Pink Album on his MySpace page. In any case, the album is great, and “Change Clothes” is definitely among the standout remixes, as the original version’s Neptunes-produced pop appeal is toned down slightly by a new, smoother, Jay-Z friendly beat.

2. Jay-Z – Change Clothes (The Purple Album Remix)

The Purple Album is another great take on Jay-Z’s Black Album, as it uses tracks and sounds taken exclusively from Prince’s Purple Rain and creates almost entirely new beats with them. I either don’t know or can’t remember who’s responsible for this one, there are just too many Black Album remixes to keep track, though DJ Quest and K12 both come up as possible candidates. Either way, mixing an already pop-oriented song with Prince certainly doesn’t make it any more hood, but it most definitely makes it much better, and a hell of a lot more fun to listen to. This is one of those tracks that when you throw it on a party, half the people in the room (Jay-Z fans or not) will look at you and go, “Where the hell did you get this?” It’s a completely different take on the Black Album, and one that I think works pretty gloriously. As long as you don’t try to take it to seriously. Oh, and if Reasonable Doubt is the only Jay-Z album you listen to, you’re not gonna like this one bit.

3. Jay-Z – Change Clothes (The Black Chronic Remix)

The Black Chronic is probably among the most understandable (in terms of knowing what it is you’re hearing) Black Album remixes. Done by the Bash Brothers, it’s actually more of direct mash up than a remix, taking the rhymes from the Black Album and laying them over all the sick beats from Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001 masterpiece. In this particular song, “Change Clothes” is mashed with the hard and heavy beat from Dre’s “Fuck You,” and it works out quite well. Unlike mixing the Black Album with a Prince album, mixing it with something that carries the street-cred and street-sound of a Dr. Dre album definitely turns “Change Clothes” into an entirely different song, transforming it from chart-friendly “hip-pop” back into a legitimate hip hop song. Funny thing is, it really does work too. Problem solved.

JustJake’s Picks

This week’s picks have been a long time coming. They are all from my hands-down, desert-island-choose-one-and-only-one, favorite group, The Band. Eric Clapton said about the group’s seminal first album: “Back in 1968 I heard a record called Music from Big Pink and it changed my life and the course of American music.” Legend has it that it’s the reason he left Cream. But don’t take Clapton’s word for it, here are three picks (and it’s hard to pick only three) off that record.

1. The Band – Long Black Veil

This song is simply tremendous. Written in the 1950’s and originally recorded by country legend Lefty Frizzell, “Long Black Veil” is a haunting tale from beyond the grave that sounds as old as the hills. The organs, tubas, and harpsichord that The Band uses add to the song’s strangeness and emotion without taking it out of dirt and grit that give it its soul. This album has very few songs on it that sound like anything that came before, but “Long Black Veil” serves almost as a reminder from The Band that it knows where it comes from and cares about its roots.

2. The Band – Chest Fever

As the story goes, Garth Hudson, The Band’s organist, horn player, and musical guru originally had to tell his family that he was giving his fellow band members music lessons instead of playing in a rock n roll band. Hudson was raised as a serious classical musician and even jazz was blasphemous. His talents remain to this day and you can still find him making strange music on strange instruments, sounding part seafaring, part space exploring. Hudson was responsible for much of ornamental details and subtle touches in The Band’s music that ultimately help give it its depth. While on tour, this song became Hudson’s time to play around. For an idea of what that was like check out this grainy but amazing video from Wembley Stadium (1974).

3. The Band – I Shall Be Released

The last song on Big Pink, “I Shall Be Released” is one of three on the album either written or co-written by Bob Dylan, who The Band backed before striking out on their own. Richard Manuel was one of three amazingly talented singers in the group (Levon Helm and Rick Danko being the others) and his falsetto (and piano) on this track is both eerie and beautiful. The space stands out in this song almost as much as the music itself does; there’s a pervasive sense of loneliness, as if the song were recorded in a giant empty cell.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

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This is the Remix!: When the Remix is Better than the Original (Part 2)

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A couple weeks ago we were successfully able to determine that Diddy did not in fact invent the remix.

Thus, the dastardly album cover at left — by the way, is Diddy wearing leather pants? — represents a complete fallacy.

Shame on you, Sean.

There is, however, admittedly significant evidence pointing to Diddy’s influence and accomplishments as a remixer — at least within the Hip Hop/R&B community. Many of the examples I gave of songs whose remixes turned out to eclipse their respective originals in terms of either quality, popularity, or both, are indeed the work of Diddy and his Hitmen production crew over at Bad Boy Records. So I’ll definitely give him his fair share of credit for bringing us remixes of “Only You” from 112, “Fantasy” from Mariah Carey, and Usher’s “I Need a Girl.”

All three of these remixes far surpassed their original versions in their measure of street cred and mass appeal, if not in actual chart performance. Yet given today’s differing musical climate, one hot with digital downloads, highly-targeted Satellite radio broadcasts, more music channels than ever, and the overall increased accessibility of music, I would wager that all three remixes would fair far better by Billboard’s measurements today than when they were originally released. Simply put, more people would know about them, more people would hear them, and more people would be able to obtain them, giving the remixes a much broader reach.

In the television industry, viewers are often known simply as “eyeballs” — the more eyeballs your advertisements have on them, the more they are worth. The same should hold true in the music industry: the more “eardrums” a certain song attracts, the more valuable it becomes and the higher it rises on the music charts. For example, as of this writing Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” is the number nine song on iTunes’ top downloads. Song number ten? The remix of “Lollipop” featuring Kanye West. Similarly, the album version of Usher’s hit “Love In This Club” sits at number forty-eight. The remix, “Love In This Club Part II,” sits at number forty-nine. In both cases the original versions were officially released well ahead of their respective remixes, so given enough time, it’s entirely possible that the remixes will end up being downloaded as much, or more, than the original songs.

Okay that’s enough outta me.

I promised a second installment of songs whose remixes eventually became more popular than the originals, so let’s get to part two of this ever-expanding list:

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The Friday Writers’ Bloc: May 30th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Jonathan’s Picks

1. Wyclef Jean Feat. Lupe Fiasco – Fast Car (Fugee Remix)

Unlike last week’s picks, I’m really not going with any particular theme here — these songs are about as unrelated as you can get (one new, one old, one classic). First up is somethin’ new, former Fugees bassist and Wyclef Jean cousin Jerry Wonder’s remix of Wyclef’s “Fast Car,” the second single off Clef’s much-anticipated album, Carnival Vol. II: Memoirs of an Immigrant. Personally, I had been looking forward to the album’s release for months, as I grew up bumpin’ great tracks like “Guantanamera,” “We Trying to Stay Alive,” and “Gone Till November” off Wyclef’s first album, The Carnival, which I thought was amazing. Unfortunately, the newest album failed miserably to meet my already high expectations, and that disappointment extended to the original version of “Fast Car” as well, which features Paul Simon. I remember thinking upon first listen that the song had potential but stopped short of being really good. Needed more bump. Thus, I’m glad to say that Jerry Wonder’s remix has done just that: elevated “Fast Car” to another, greater level. Not only is the remix a good one, but it stands strong as its own entity, with producer Wonder giving the track three different layers of beats and building the chorus into an infectious sing along. Even though the Carnival Vol. II album isn’t as good as I’d envisioned, the “Fast Car” remix is going a long way towards making me feel like Wyclef’s still got it.

2. Clipse Feat. Sean Paul, Elephant Man, Kardinal Offishall – Grindin’ (Reggae Remix)

So this is the old(er) pick, and admittedly the logic that brought me to choosing this track is somewhat convoluted, so bear with me here. I think it’s safe to say that Kardinal Offishall is among the top three Canadian rappers of all time (not that I can name the other two), and I was sad to see that he had somewhat fallen off the face of the musical earth over the last few years. But recently, he signed with Akon’s Konvict Muzik, reinvigorating his career, and just released a hot first single with Akon called “Dangerous,” instantly inserting himself back into the game. Hearing Kardinal spit on “Dangerous” (yes, I admit it’s almost a pop song, but who cares?) immediately brought me back to 2002, and the release of what was the hottest beat I had ever heard at that point in my life and DJ career: “Grindin’” by Clipse (beat by the then en fuego Neptunes). Frankly it might still be the hottest beat today, I don’t know. Regardless, the only thing better than “Grindin'” itself was the reggae remix, which featured Sean Paul, Elephant Man, and of couse, Kardinal Offishall, who absolutely SLAYS the track with his closing (third) verse, and steals the song altogether, despite tight verses from both Sean Paul and Elephant Man. See, “Dangerous” you can find anywhere now. But the “Grindin'” reggae remix?? I don’t know if it even left the decks of New York’s DJs! (Who loved it, by the way). Therefore, I give you what you might not ordinarily be able to find. Behold.

3. Cherrelle & Alexander O’Neal – Saturday Love

Now this one is definitely a classic: 1985, baby. Back in the day, old school R&B style. A duet between Cherrelle and Alexander O’Neal, “Saturday Love” hit number two on the U.S. R&B charts (and number 25 overall) in 1985-86 thanks to Cherrelle’s addictive chorus and O’Neal’s signature silky smooth 80s vocals. What could be better? It’s a classic example 1980s R&B pre-New Jack Swing era, which began to dominate R&B at the tail end of the 80s and into the early nineties. And though Cherrelle may draw top billing on this track (it’s from her album, High Priority) it’s O’Neal who has experienced a bit of an unintentional resurgence as of late. His verse from “Saturday Love” was (very obviously) sampled in 1999 by Italian DJ and house producer Junior Jack for his hit single, “My Feeling.” More recently, however, and perhaps more pertinently, Alexander O’Neal’s equally amazing R&B hit (I could easily have picked it instead of “Saturday Love” for today’s playlist), “If You Were Here Tonight,” — video HIGHLY recommended — was sampled by none other than up-and-coming Swedish rapper and old IDK favorite, Adam Tensta. His track “80s Baby,” which I chose for IDK’s very first edition of The Friday Writers’ Bloc, prominently features both the melody and the chorus from “If You Were Here Tonight” to great effect. So embrace the throwbacks, young people, embrace ’em. And right here’s a good place to start.

JustJake’s Picks

1. Corb Lund – The Horse I Rode in On

I don’t know a whole lot about this guy. He’s comes from a long line of Alberta cowboys and he likes to use civil war cavalry images on his albums and website. He writes beautifully simple songs that seem to emanate from a time out of mind and yet feel oddly familiar. If you don’t think you like country music, try coming to this song with an open mind because it exhibits an honesty and genuineness that has been lost in the glitz of modern country music.

2. Andru Bemis – Huck Finn

Another strange character from the West, Andru Bemis has spent time traveling the country on the rails with his instrument on his back, working odd jobs to support his odd music, which is quiet, solitary, strange, and out of place. This particular song has an irresistible childishness while expressing a very grown-up sense of sadness at feeling out of place in time.

3. Avett Brothers – Salina

Like Lund and Bemis, these guys came somewhere from the fringes of the American musical landscape and create strange and soulful tunes. While in the last couple of years, they’ve moved more towards the center of Americana music the brothers haven’t lost much of their weirdness. This tune, off their most recent album Emotionalism (2007), showcases the Avetts’ superb songwriting talents as well as the catchiness that has propelled them into a growing spotlight.

Carman’s Picks

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Y Control

Somebody once said to me, “I don’t get why people think Nick Zinner is such a great guitarist. All he does is just play the same two notes over and over again.” Obviously the person who said that simply didn’t get it. Not only was Zinner great because of the harsh and sonorous buzz of his guitar, but for his economy. He played those two notes over and over again, sure, but he did it with the driving force of a Wagnerian symphony. We all remember the surprise hit that was the beautiful “Maps,” but the highlight of their debut album was the incredible “Y Control” that immediately followed “Maps” in the track sequence. Following the dripping guitar lines that concluded “Maps,” this song immediately slams you down with Zinner in control. When we look back on this decade, I can only hope that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are remembered with more fondness than they are now. At least before they wrote “Gold Lion.”

2. The Police – “King Of Pain”

OK, so I realize I’m not digging very far into the record collection with my picks today. Last night I saw The Police (with Elvis Costello & The Impostors as the opening act) at the Hollywood Bowl so I’ve been in a Sting mood. The Police are an interesting band because they’re far better than we ever really give them credit for. Yes they had all those hits and are beloved by classic rock fans everywhere so they get credit where credit is due, but they’re far better than just being another flavor-of-the-month borrowed nostalgia trip to the unremembered Eighties for the 20something crowd. They released 5 excellent albums in their brief career as a unit, and made quite an interesting progression from new wave popsters to essentially creating the world music soundscapes that Paul Simon’s Graceland helped to popularize amongst the yuppies. While the concert was good, it was sad to see The Police essentially Synchronicitize many of their early hits (“Next To You,” “So Lonely,” “Message In A Bottle” to name a few) into Sting solo material by sapping all of the energy that was present in those songs. The transformation was imminent as far back as the second Police album, but Sting fully metamorphosed from rock star into scented candle with the band’s 1983 swan song of Synchronicity. It sounds like I’m slagging the album, but I actually truly love it. It’s easily the greatest adult contemporary album ever recorded.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

I Believe the Expression I’m Looking for is…..Ho, Sit Down!

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I guess it was only a matter of time, right?

Sadly the wondrous glory of a blissfully long Memorial Day weekend was darkened almost immediately as Tuesday, May 27th marked the digital release of no-talent-ass-clown for-hire, Lindsay Lohan’s first single off her forthcoming album called…..oh wait, she hasn’t been able to think of a name yet.

That’s okay, Linds, thinking’s hard.

But judging by the sounds coming from the new single, unoriginally entitled, “Bossy,” singing’s even harder.

After listening to “Bossy” a few times and doing some light poking around (and by that I mean research, not the other thing) I realized several things. First, Lindsay’s record company, Motown Records, spent what can only have been a shit-ton (to borrow an expression from Roswell) of money on the making of this track. “Bossy” is written by none other than Shaffer Smith (aka Ne-Yo), who is among the most in-demand songwriters for pop/R&B crossover records, and whose words don’t come cheap — they seem to virtually guarantee a hit record. (Evidence: Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable,” Rihanna’s “Unfaithful,” “Take a Bow,” and “Hate That I Love You,” Mario’s “Let Me Love You,” and his own “So Sick” and “Sexy Love.)”

Motown spared no expense on the production of “Bossy’s” synth-heavy pop/R&B crossover beat (a formula that’s been working well lately), luring fellow hit-guarantors (and frequent Ne-Yo collaborators) Stargate to do the heavy lifting. The Norwegian duo (no, seriously, they’re two dorky white boys) headed up the production end of nearly all the above-listed singles, along with 2007’s Beyonce/Shakira duet “Beautiful Liar,” Jordin Sparks’ “Tattoo” and Mariah Carey’s most recent single, “Bye Bye.” Fresh off successful productions from Ne-Yo’s Year of the Gentleman, Mary J. Blige’s Growing Pains and Usher’s Here I Stand, Stargate are commanding nearly top-dollar for their radio-friendly, pop/R&B sound.

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The Friday Writers’ Bloc: May 23rd, 2008

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Michael-Bradley’s Picks

1. Health- Perfect Skin

These LA Noise rockers have been doing it for a while, and I’m happy for them they’re getting some press. When I finished listening to this album (their newest and first- self titled LP) I felt nothing but pure jealousy. I wish I made this record! Congrats dudes on making a terrific album, beautifully blending noise with some enjoyable grooves. This song is sort of like their slow single, but I think when loud can sound pretty epic.

2. Tera Melos- Last Smile For Jaron

I wrote about these guys early on, but I never uploaded a song. I saw them perform again two nights ago while opening for the Fall of Troy. These guys freakin’ shred and I wished everybody knew it. They smash around between math rock melody, and more experimental sounds. This is off their Split with By The End of Tonight, title Complex Full of Phantoms. Primarily an instrumental band, this album was their introduction of vocals. I think that typically can be dangerous for an instrumental band, but like Battles did with Atlas, they seemed to have found a tactful way of doing it without drowning the music with lyrics. Instead the vocals are just used as another instrument. This song melts me down in a few places, I’d tell you where, but you should just listen to it through and figure it out!

3. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum-Ambugaton

This song has amazing lyrics. Here it is :

“Ambugaton!”

Yea, that’s it. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is a terrific folk metal band that goes through lots of different and very unique/ bizarre sounds. You should try them out, so if nothing else you can say you’ve heard Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. I really have more trouble describing these guys more than most bands. But take the ride that is Ambugaton. It seems to go from edgy classical music, to metal. The whole song is a giant build up to the one lyric, AMBUGATON! Liner notes point to Hank Williams as author of the lyric…….

Jonathan’s Picks

1. Cam’ron – Weekend Girl/Weekend Love

So as far as I’m concerned Memorial Day Weekend is the official start of summer. Forget June 20th. At least in New York it is — offices are vacant by noon, restaurants are empty at the usual dinner rush, and perhaps most importantly, tank tops and mini skirts return. A close second, however, is that inevitable — and often indomitable — summer anthem, the one song that signifies an entire summer in your life. Three months boiled down to three minutes. And you never forget ’em. This Friday I’ve chosen three songs that hold memories for me of recent New York summers past. First, summer 2006: Cam’ron samples/jacks The S.O.S. Band‘s 1985 single, “Weekend Girl,” with great success despite the fact that the track remained largely underground, and was never released on any official album (thus the uncertainty over its actual name). Although sped up slightly from the original “Weekend Girl,” Cam’s song maintains a summery, breezy feel from the first bars, which is further reinforced by his playful, almost lazy, flow. While I refuse to buy into Pitchfork’s identity as the sole arbiter of musical excellence, it’s worth noting that the notoriously tough critics rather remarkably named Cam’ron’s highly unofficial summer anthem to the web site’s Top 100 Tracks of 2006. And for once, I definitely agree with them. This track has flown under the radar for far too long.

2. Kevin Lyttle Feat. Alison Hinds – Turn Me On (Mad Hatters Ball Mix)

Summer 2004: What started out as a laid-back soca ballad featuring well-known reggae artist Spragga Benz back in 2001 was eventually remixed three years later into the summer club banger “Turn Me On.” With a much more uptempo, dance floor-ready beat that plays musical Twister — one foot on reggae, one hand on soca; other foot on reggaeton, other hand on dancehall — by straddling those multiple genre’s, Kevin Lyttle’s introduction to flat out bum-rushing of the U.S. market (the song reached number four on Billboard’s Hot 100) spawned many a drunken hook up in the sweat-soaked bars and clubs of NYC, with some patrons (libidos racing) trying just a little too hard to emulate the moves they saw in the music video for “Turn Me On.” I remember being incredibly amused by this on numerous occasions, as some people actually fell. Like, a lot of people, actually. Unfortunately, 2004 was a hot and sticky summer in New York, and this song only served to make things worse.

3. Lumidee Feat. Busta Rhymes & Fabolous – Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh) (Remix)

Summer 2003: My god this song was hot back then. That’s all I remember. (Busta Rhymes even warns of its power in the opening line…”Ayo Tedsmooth it looks like it’s gonna be another one of them hot summers…”). Of all three tracks, “Never Leave You” was probably the most ubiquitous during its spectacular summer run. You just couldn’t get away from it no matter where you went: TVs, radios, cars, bars, and house parties bumped Lumidee aka The Queen of Spanish Harlem for three straight months. It swept New York. And the video — ohh man the video was so good too — was really the perfect reflection of the record’s street roots; basically just a huge Spanish Harlem block party up on 2nd Avenue and 119th street with corner boys posted up, Puerto Rican chicas dancin’ up a storm, Busta Rhymes shadily lurking in a bodega, Fabolous rappin’ in front of a corrugated steel garage door, 5-0 on hand (as always), and little kids all crowded around the DJ. (Side bar: I just realized upon rewatching the video that Lumidee’s love interest — a corner boy — is played by none other than corner boy extraordinaire Bodie Broadus — played by J.D. Williams — from HBO’s The Wire, aka the Greatest Show of All Time. Small world). Now I say “street roots” because the great thing about this song is that it had no business being a hit record, let alone an athemic one. It was produced by no-name neighborhood DJ and producer Tedsmooth, who blatantly hijacked the already known Diwali Riddim (you’ll remember it from Sean Paul’s hit, “Get Busy,” as well as one of my old favorites, “No Letting Go” by Wayne Wonder) and sung by a no-name local teenager who could sort more or less carry a tune, named Lumiana DeRosa. (What, you thought she just pulled that name out of thin air?) And yet, a street anthem was born. Busta was right too, it was a hot summer.

JustJake’s Picks

1. John Prine- Angel From Montgomery

This week’s picks honor one of my favorite songwriters, John Prine. Another one of those so-called “songwriters’ songwriters,” Prine has written some of the saddest, funniest, and most poignant songs in the Americana songbook. Along with most songwriters in this category, Prine has been covered time and again, often with his songs reaching a broader audience in the hands of better-known artists. You might recognize this first song as a Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon, Susan Tedeschi, or Tanya Tucker tune; it’s actually Prine writing from the unique perspective of a broken down housewife.

2. Jim & Jesse and the Virginia Boys- Paradise

All three of these songs were first recorded by Prine on his tremendous, eponymous first album (1971). Shortly thereafter this track became somewhat of a standard in the newgrass movement and this is a cut done by Jim and Jesse McReynolds, one of the sibling super groups that helped shape bluegrass music. You can also watch Prine perform the song here.

3. John Prine- Illegal Smile

More than just a stoner anthem, this song is one of the more cleverly written tunes out there, and my personal Prine favorite. The whimsical melody and playful lyrics help cover up the pain and sadness that lurk just below the song’s surface.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

This is the Remix!: When the Remix is Better than the Original

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Okay so P. Diddy didn’t actually invent the remix.

No shit.

He was probably not even born yet when Tom Moulton began doing dance remixes in the late 1960s, and wasn’t even ten years old by the time pioneering DJs and producers like Walter Gibbons, Tee Scott, Larry Levan, Shep Pettibone, and François Kevorkian were already deeply ensconced in remixing disco records. So, sorry, Diddy.

But it’s true that over the next fifteen to twenty years, particularly in the 1990s, Diddy and his Bad Boy Records production crew (aka The Hitmen) would have a hand in some truly great remixes, many of which were major improvements upon already popular songs from artists like 112, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Total, Usher, and Jennifer Lopez.

And it’s not just Diddy either — far from it. The remix has been prevalent in hip hop music since the genre’s inception, as DJs would essentially “re-mix” tracks (sometimes without even knowing what they were doing) by extending the breaks or most danceable portions of the records in order to satisfy the breakdancers and b-boys of the day. And the tradition of remixes in hip hop has stayed strong to this day — only growing stronger and more common with the advent of the mixtape (thanks DJ Clue, Green Lantern, Whoo Kid et al.) — as almost every track released seems to be followed by an “official” remix, along with a few other “unofficial” remixes (often just the same beat with a different rapper spittin’ on it) from various mixtapes and websites.

But what I’m most interested in is when the remix clearly becomes better and more popular than the original track itself, and not solely in the world of hip hop. Sometimes this means a complete overhaul of the track, as with Usher’s “Love In This Club (Part 2 Remix)” or “Everyone Nose” by CRS & Pusha T., and sometimes it just means adding some guest verses, as in Day26’s “Got Me Going” remix, which simply adds verses from Fat Joe and Rick Ross. (Note: the song is still lame, but not as lame).

So even though we’re not gonna hit them all — and they definitely won’t all come from the Bad Boy camp — I’d like to throw out some of the best examples of what I’m referring to, some classic, some current. Hopefully y’all can add some more to this list. Now this is not to say that the originals were bad in any way, most were already hot, just that they were eventually eclipsed by their respective remixes.

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Everything Went Black

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Black Flag is surely the pinnacle of the first American Hardcore movement the late 70’s and early 80’s. Their first LP, Damaged [1981], is frequently looked at as their most defining work of theirs as well as the entire movement. But in a lot of ways, Damaged was a major shift in direction for a band that had already spent 4 years establishing and defining a new punk. Damaged was the introduction of the young and angry lead singer of DC Hardcore band S.O.A., Henry Rollins. Though plenty enthusiasts-myself included find Rollins work to be great (but very different), many Hardcore originals/purists think Rollins was the start of the end of Black Flag, founder Gregg Ginn included. His brutal singing quality, his super serious tone, and his interest in spoken word were all a very new direction for the Black Flag of the 78-81 years.

In reality though, I think Rollins was thrown into a terrible situation in which he couldn’t win. He came in as the new singer, at the peak Black Flag’s success. Many of the songs that were recorded for the Damaged LP had already become favorites with former singers. His new style was abrasive to the fans that were comfortable with the old Black Flag. Most importantly though, Black Flag founder and sole writer of music and lyrics (at that time), had a new direction for the band. He didn’t want to make another Damaged or Nervous Breakdown even. He was getting more and more into slow, heavy metal, citing late Sabbath as a major influence. The B side to their follow up LP, My War, was full on slow metal punk fusion(Scream Live). From then on, the band’s sound would change forever. Though he was fully in possession of the direction of the band, he left Henry out in front as the guy to take the blame for everything. Ginn was not the guy who got beat up, have shit thrown at, and spat on at every show. It was Rollins. Rollins documented many of his disenchanted tour stories (check this out) in his book “Get in the Van” (Ginn claims it’s mostly lies). Rollins seemed to get beat up at nearly every show.

After that Rollins back story, let’s step back again. The release of Damaged led Black Flag to a long legal battle that prevented them from properly releasing another album for several years. Originally it was intended to be distributed by Unicorn Records, a subset of MCA. After the first pressing of the album was pressed, MCA decided they wanted no part of the record. As a result members of Black Flag had to go to the pressing plant, and place a sticker on top of the MCA Distribution logo. First pressings can be be differentiated easily, as they are the only records to have this sticker [my record and thumb shown to the right]. Black Flag’s own label SST took up distribution immediately after. As a result of SST’s new distribution plan, Unicorn sued for breach of contract. Under a court order, Black Flag was then not able to release another album for nearly three years until the claim was settled (81-83). Unable to release anything, the band continued to practice and tour fervently. Of course though, and as you could imagine, they still released an album. They decided to release a compilation album compiling nearly all of their songs before Rollins’ introduction (78-81), in chronological order, starting with singer Keith Morris, briefly Ron Reyes, and then Dez Cadena. So as to dodge the issue, they pained white over the Black Flag logo, and only displayed their names in text on the front cover. Only the first pressing includes this format. Following pressings came after the lawsuit was settled, and had a new cover with the logo unmarked, as well as big Black Flag text. I just won this baby on an ebay auction recently in near mint condition! In another article (my first here), I talked about the importance of first pressings. But this is a particularly cool instance, where it is a real document of a very specific time in history(pretty sweet Pettibon cover too!).

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Written by RocksRocksRocks

May 19, 2008 at 11:35 pm