Monday, July 05, 1999

Gene Loves Jezebel - Desire: Greatest Hits Remixed

Sometimes you just can't take a key element away from something and have cohesion. John Mellencamp once said that in recording "Jack And Diane" they kept the beat with handclaps and when trying to pull them off - the song fell apart. This is one of those times.

The record label tries to promote the band as some sort of Bauhaus yet only sparse guitar remains on some tracks (if that.) Some darker bands can be hardened in a well-produced mix but here Gene Loves Jezebel has pretty much been cut out of the product. "Jealous" from what is arguably their best album Kiss Of Life is the only track from it on this collection. Yet, they found space for two versions of two other songs "Always A Flame" and "Desire". Three of those four were 'undesirable'. "Suspicion" is also missing when actually it could have used a remix. It also sounds as if the vocals have been re-recorded with less emphasis... the high notes are nowhere to be found. It's as if particular songs were meant to be slaughtered and thankfully they left the other songs alone! Even the signature howl at the beginning of some of the songs is missing.

There are some redeeming factors to this collection. Actually, the highlights are the first songs on this disc. The Mission U.K.'s mix of "Heartache" puts a very nice spin on a great song. The remix by Ex Voto of "Desire" and JLab of "Jealous" do the songs justice. They have subtle keyboard textures, a throbbing bass line and a kick beat that follows through the songs as it it were meant to be there.  Spahn Ranch put a great mix of "Motion Of Love" together into what could be a dance floor anthem.

If you are a diehard collector, some of these remixes might be worth your while. Otherwise, I'd highly recommend waiting for a real "Best Of" collection. I feel more than half of these 14 mixes yanked the essence of the band out of the music for a chance at releasing a product. Give me the originals any day.

Friday, July 02, 1999

Styx - Brave New World

The first studio album since 1990 from the recently reunited Styx has one of the most apt titles I've ever seen. Brave New World starts with soul-infused track "I Will Be Your Witness" bears semblance of a classic Styx. If there is a hit on here this one is screaming "Play Me!!" In all honesty, I was expecting more after the first track. Maybe it was the rollercoaster intensity of the track order... I was ready to say hideous things about the album until my 8th listen.

It is like watching The Phantom Menace - the first viewing you are waiting to see characters you remember and remain judgemental about who looks like a Jedi or not. The second time you pull the expectations and see it for what it is. After repeated listenings, several tracks here start to grab your ears. You forget that you are looking for another "The Best Of Times", "Babe", or "Renegade" and see the songs for themselves.

James Young's dark vocals on "What Have They Done To You" are mesmerizing when countered with Tommy Shaw's own pipes. Shaw's guitar controls most of this album - sometimes so in your face that Dennis DeYoung ballads like "Goodbye Roseland" seem stark and empty. Yet, there is redemption with "While There's Still Time" which also has single written all over it.

The book Brave New World by Aldus Huxley described an inhumane society controlled by technology and a loss of soul. It can describe some of this album. But without the Huxley reference this is a brave attempt at changing the sound of a band that has spent three decades pleasing fans. Despite a few very notable tracks, I wasn't sure I liked where their new world was going. But, I'm starting to like it more and more.