MOTOWN REMIXED: HOW TO RETREAD CLASSICS


Jackson 5: I Want You Back (Z-Trip Remix) (edit)

Marvin Gaye: Let’s Get It On (Da Producers MPG Groove Mix) (edit)

Rare Earth: I Just Want to Celebrate (Mocean Worker Remix) (edit)
All above from Motown Remixed (Motown, 2005)

(Editor’s Note: I’m bringing this back into rotation because my NPR Morning Edition review of the CD just appeared last week. Sorry, but the song files are long deleted but you can hear two of three songs mentioned below in the review itself. – O.W.)


I was originally going to podcast this up but frankly: I’m hella short on time right now so this gets the text treatment instead: I’ve been looking forward to writing on this comp ever since it crossed my doorstep about six weeks back. I normally am rather skeptical of label remix projects. The recent Atlantiquity comp was surprisingly mediocre and while the Verve Remix Project has some solid tunes on it, it can feel stretched thin at times. So far, the Motown Remixed album is the most consistent and well-balanced of is peers.

It does help that Motown has some of the best songs ever written in American musical history but one could make the same claim of Atlantic – that doesn’t mean the remix is going to be good just because the original material is. However, what partially distinguishes this comp is how each remixer gained access (I’m assuming) to multitrack versions of the orignal songs, allowing them to isolate the elements they want and then build up from there.

Take Z-Trip’s remix of “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 for example: he begins with th guitar line – the melodic hook to the song that’s instantly recognizable. Then he brings in the bassline…and eight bars later, he drops in the drums. It all sounds increadibly clean and more importantly, it’s not a radical revamp of the original, but rather, strips it down to its best parts.

With the remix for Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” the challenge here is how to touch up one of the biggest hits in soul history without coming off like a tool. Let’s be straight up: you can’t improve on this song – no way, no how – but what Da Producers do with it is reinterpolate the song’s famous melodies, make ’em a bit more airy, drop a flute in, and give the song a nice new feel that should play well in an early evening club gig or just on a lazy Sunday afternoon car ride.

Lastly, I wanted to drop something a bit funkier and energetic so I went with the Mocean Worker remix of Rare Earth’s classic “I Just Want to Celebrate.” The remix doesn’t tweek too much but makes a smart move in juicing up the breakbeat – the drums crack like thunder now.

While not everything on this comp is as strong as the three selections I pulled, overall, this was a very enjoyable listen (especially the first half, I didn’t fast-forward once). If you’re too young to remember The Big Chill this might as well be your introduction to Motown (actually, scratch that – listen to the OG stuff first but then use this to supplement).

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