When artist releases an album full of new renditions of old tracks, it can be for a variety of reasons. In this case, +FE Music: The Reworks serves as a piece to showcase the friends and associates of the Foreign Exchange. While a good chunk of the remixes are reworked instrumentals by Nicolay, other contributions come from the likes of Vikter Duplaix , Marc Mac, Tall Black Guy, Ahmed Sirour, Debórah Bond and Pure P. There’s also a track with the Randy Watson Experience, featuring drumming from ?uestlove and James Poyser on the keyboard. The album also features appearances from the live supporting cast of the Foreign Exchange duo (Nicolay and Phonte), with singers Jeanne Jolly and Sy Smith, on guitar, and Zo! the keyboardist.
The team of Nicolay and Phonte has done an admirable job of incorporating the sounds of neo-soul, hip-hop and R&B into one world. Nicolay lays down beats that are easy on the ears and Phonte complements them with thoughtful, conscious lyrics. Phonte shows the same skill on the Foreign Exchange tracks as he did as a member of Little Brother. The resulting sound differs a fair amount, though, when he is going over Nicolay production as opposed to the more traditionally hip-hop 9th Wonder beats. This album of reworkings is largely focused on highlighting the intricacies of Nicolay’s production, less so on the lyrical prowess of Phonte.
While +FE Music: The Reworks is primarily a remix album, there are two previously unreleased songs. These serve as two of the main highlights on +FE Music: The Reworks. The intro, “So What If It Is” is an eight-minute preview of the direction the Foreign Exchange is taking their upcoming album Love in Flying Colors. It’s a smooth, soulful track that embodies what the Foreign Exchange is all about. “Don’t Let It Be So” is a slowed-down continuation of the vibrant smoothness that was found on the opening track. In a way, this compilation feels like a promotional piece for their upcoming album as much as it feels like a release intended to carry its own artistic merit.
That’s not to say this album feels poorly put together. +FE Music: The Reworks feels intelligently pieced together, sounding as cohesive as an album of this length might be able to. The remixes are still fun at the very least, ranging all the way to the sexily fluid “This Could Be the Night” from Zo! (remix courtesy of Tall Black Guy). +FE Music: The Reworks is a marathon, though. With 21 tracks, many of which push the six-minute mark, +FE Music: The Reworks comes in at nearly two hours worth of listening material. While you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck, it has to be said that most will enjoy this album split up into multiple listening sessions. Even if you have two hours to spare, there’s not enough change of pace here to keep the average listener from becoming bored at some point in the sitting.
The problem with +FE Music: The Reworks is that the remixes just don’t offer anything that different. The music is enjoyable, but it may struggle to hold your attention or leave a lasting impact. This is a collection that is best left up to listeners who are giant fans of the Foreign Exchange. If their albums rank among your all-time favorites, you’ll appreciate the re-imaginings of these old songs. If you don’t fit that description, it would be hard to recommend that you save a spot for +FE Music: The Reworks on your list of must-listens.