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V/A - Rewind! 4

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Artist: V/A

Album: Rewind! 4

Label: Ubiquity

Review date: Feb. 20, 2005

Why would someone drop more than a fake email address for a compilation album of songs and artists that are unified under no other banner than “someone more famous sang this once and didn’t use sampled conga drums?" The patient soul jazz fanatic might find a few bright spots on Rewind! 4, Ubiquity’s latest roundup of oddball acid jazz and latin takes, which features cleaned-up funk and soul renditions of hits by artists as diverse as The White Stripes, Woody Guthrie, and Joni Mitchell. Each track is an experiment, and a few succeed.

One of the standouts, Shawn Lee, provides an earnest take on Nick Drake’s “River Man,” set to an increasingly tense rhythm track of grumbling bass and a sampled orchestral hit. Like Drake, Lee doesn’t fly off the handle with vocal dynamics or showmanship; it’s the honest strain of his voice, a veritable plaintive wail of bedsitter soul, that grows on the listener and makes his case. Sharon Jones’ reworking of “This Land Is Your Land,” while not quite revolutionary, does in fact take Guthrie’s quaintly naive sing-a-long to new places with a hard stomping groove and a funereal brass section that offers a nod to “I Put A Spell On You.” The Rebirth’s pass at “Evil Vibrations” (samples of the original by The Mighty Ryeders figured prominently on “Saturday” from De La Soul’s De La Soul Is Dead) is pretty much on the money as mimicry, and may be significant in that DJ’s who couldn’t find the original now have a clean copy to sample.

Most of the other tracks on Rewind! 4 don’t move beyond novelty status. The White Stripes makes their own music ugly and clubfooted enough that perhaps the post-Jazzie B excursion of Willis’ “7 Nation Army” wasn’t necessary. Cuts like Platinum Pied Piper’s Roger-esque vocoder-only cover of Burt Bacharach’s “The Look Of Love” reek of loft studio hell, and on their own strength could likely prevent Apple from porting Garage Band to Windows, thus assuring that 98 percent of the home computer market might be prevented from easily making their own albums.

Regardless of the value or necessity of some of the recordings on Rewind! 4, listeners will be rewarded at the end of the last track when the purpose of this collection reveals itself: now that looped cassettes are no longer the preferred medium of retail “atmospheric” programming, CDs like this one are needed by establishments like Old Navy and The Limited to cover up the subliminal mind control of “don’t steal” and “lose 40 pounds.” Boosters will leave targeted swipes in the dressing room when they emerge to ask the cashier, “who is that singing ‘Word Up?’” and a lucky few can shake their asses while they get their parking validated.

By Andy Freivogel

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