[14 April 2009]
What do you do for an encore after releasing one of the best R&B albums of the year? Ideally, after promoting your opus relentlessly, you take a victory lap to collect awards and accolades, and then you hit the studio with another innovative masterpiece. Yeah, you could do that. Or…you could also release a remix album.
Incognito, Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick’s jazz funk ensemble, scored a hit with 2008’s Tales from the Beach. In total, it employed a winning formula of busy, dance-inducing percussion, Earth Wind & Fire-style horns, and a coy rotation of lead vocalists such as Maysa Leak, Joy Rose, and Tony Momrelle. Tales from the Beach offered a feast of rhythmic delights traipsing across the album’s conceptual soft sand. In 2009, most of the album gets a makeover through More Tales Remixed, with varying results.
The remix treatment works well when it comes to Dimitri & DJ Meme’s orchestral re-vision of “Step Aside”, Francis Hylton’s complementary timing and backing for “I Remember the Time”, and the two mixes for “Freedom to Love”. But elsewhere, the original versions are superior, rendering the remixes somewhat superfluous. This is certainly the case with the original of “I’ve Been Waiting” and its angular bassline reminiscent of Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)”. The problem is that More Tales tries to re-energize the upbeat numbers, which were already energized at the outset. Songs that were already club-worthy are only made lengthier and, almost by definition, more monotonous. In some cases, this also means nixing Incognito’s signature horn sections in favor of keyboards, strings, and studio effects like reverb.
The intent is to place original winners into a new context, and the collection gets kudos for that, but the attempt neglects Tales from the Beach‘s slower-paced songs. I wanted to hear what the remixers could do with the slower jams, such as “When the Sun Comes Down”, “Never Look Back”, “When Words Are Just Words”, and especially the near-a cappella “It May Rain Sometime”. The “Tales from the Beach” remix, while failing to improve on the original guitar-licked outro, made the effort to reach beyond the dance floor for something interpretive. There’s nothing bad here, and all of it is worth a head nod or a finger snap, but the original stuff rings truer.