The Rebirth: Evil Vibrations
Nicole Kramer: Help Me
Willis: Word Up

All from Rewind 4 (Ubiquity, 2005)

No, I’m not back full-time yet, but I wanted to punch this post out since I meant to do it weeks ago (i.e. pre-baby).

Ubiquity’s Rewind series operates on a simple idea: let’s get a bunch of new artists to cover a bunch of old songs and see what groovy goodness can sparkle henceforth. They began in 2002 with the first in the series, boasting an absolute gem of a song with Frank De Jo Jo’s remake of Larry Young’s slept-on club classic, “Turn Off the Lights”.

Volume 2 was a bit sleepier…the only cut I was really into was the Pied Platinum Piper’s cover of Bobby Caldwell’s “Open Your Eyes”. I must have been snoozing since I didn’t even realize there was a Volume 3!

Volume 4 is was poised to the be the best in the series, by far, but Ubiquity’s home page now says the comp has been, “postponed until further notice,” which is usually cause for the utterance of an “uh oh.” I’m not sure what the hold-up is – Ubiquity, in my experience, rarely delays their releases but I suspect this might be a copyright clearance issue (this is a CD full of covers after all). While they’re in a holding pattern, I decided to hit you with some teasers.

The first is a gorgeous remake of The Mighty Ryders’ delicious disco hit, “Evil Vibrations,” done by The Rebirth. De La fans will pick up on this one in an instant but sample-age aside, I love this track for proving that disco didn’t suck, Haters just need to learn how to deal. Next up is Nicole Kramer’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me.” This is a decidedly loyal cover – Kramer doesn’t mess much with Mitchell’s original arrangement, adding a few bits and pieces here to give it some sparkle, but it’s not a major reimagining. In this case, I think that’s a good thing. The song is so intimately tied into Mitchell that diverting too far from the source might come off awkward.

On the other hand, I’m totally into Willis’ remake of Cameo’s “Word Up” precisely because it’s so different from the O.G. Instead of the uptempo, slap-bass bounce of the original, they turn it into a smoky acoustic ballad, as if Larry Blackmon and Michael Burnett got temporarily replaced by Sade and Tracy Chapman. Sounds weird but to me, it works well.