Motown Remixed takes its cue from the Verve Remixed series, where oldie classics get a new, beat-driven makeover from today’s dance floor finest.
Difference is, of course, putting a funk beat under an old jazz standard is a no-lose situation; when it comes to Motown, these are funk classics. It ain’t broke so there ain’t nothin’ to fix. Which is why, for the most part, the remixers here assembled takes on Marvin, Smokey, The Temps and even funkier fare by the Undisputed Truth and Edwin Starr with more reverence than adventure. Hip-hop DJ Z-Trip, for instance, doesn’t do much more with the Jackson 5’s "I Want You Back" than throw a kickin’ breakbeat under it to make a surefire party record. Ditto for Salaam Remi’s "Crunk-A-Delic Party Mix" of the Jackson’s "ABC." Likewise, Roots drummer ?uestlove and James Poyser, recording as The Randy Watson Experience, softly update Gladys Knight and the Pips’ "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" — you can’t tell where the original leaves off and the new tracks begin.
At its best, though, MR introduces its classics into a new, powerful context. Groove Boutique’s Rafe Gomez and Dave Baron give Smokey Robinson’s "Quiet Storm" new life as a downtempo masterpiece, complete a fresh arrangement and all-live playing highlighted by vibist Roy Ayers’ solo. King Britt, meanwhile, gives Edwin Starr’s "War" a relentless, tribal undercarriage that upholds Fela Kuti’s honor and electrifies the song with relevance and a dope, dope beat. What is it good for? Absolutely everything — dancing, listening, pondering. Berry Gordy would be proud.
Hobey Echlin writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com.