TVT Records out of New York is a great indie music label. They’ve introduced the world to Nine Inch Nails, put out records by XTC and Gil Scott-Heron, and released some of the best soundtrack albums of recent years, including Big Night and Traffic. But judging by this incredibly misguided compilation, they have no business putting out dance music.
To be fair, TVT bills this not as a dance music disc but as “the ultimate workout CD”, which lowered my expectations considerably. But even as workout music, this isn’t very good. The tracks are too unevenly paced, and the attempt at a “continuous mix” is laughably bad—your college mix tapes probably play more smoothly. I can’t imagine shifting mid-step on the Stairmaster from the breezy dance-pop of Trinity Hi-Fi’s “Turn the Lights Down” to the driving breakbeat rhythms of Moby’s “Bodyrock” without pulling something.
Even disregarding the mix, there’s only a few things here worth recommending. “Bodyrock” is a great song, but you’re better off hearing it in the context of Moby’s equally outstanding album Play, rather than listening to a bad edit of it here sandwiched between “Turn the Lights Down” and an indifferent remix of War’s classic “Galaxy”. The overplayed but still catchy club hit “Big Love” is another track that you’re probably better off owning on one of the ten zillion better compilations that it appears on. For fans of sweatin’ to the oldies, there’s not only War but also a surprisingly entertaining funky-house update of the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancin’” by Blockster, and a very tepid but semi-groovy instrumental version of Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” by K. Hand. There are a couple of tracks from superstar house DJ’s Armand Van Helden and Cevin Fisher, but hardly their best—the Van Helden cut is dominated by a cookie-cutter “I wanna testify” male R&B vocal, and Cevin Fisher’s “Burnin’ Up” has a similarly annoying disco diva wailing over a cheesy horn-laden riff. And that’s about it. Apart from “Bodyrock” and “You Should Be”, nothing here really manages to rise about this compilation’s pervasive air of mix-tape shlockiness.
Some of the blame for the crummy production values probably lies with TVT’s partner in producing this compilation, an exercise company called Crunch Fitness. Their cheesy comic-bookish logo, as printed on a T-shirt, graces the CD’s cover, and the Crunch Executive Producer receives a prominent liner note credit. Crunch also produces exercise videos and TV shows; if they’re anything like Music to Sweat To, I don’t think The Firm has anything to worry about.