Paul Oakenfold: Greatest Hits & Remixes

Because we needed a dance remix of Radiohead.

Paul Oakenfold

Greatest Hits & Remixes

Label: Ultra
US Release Date: 2007-10-23
UK Release Date: 2007-10-22

Paul Oakenfold receives a lot of flack simply because he's a popular DJ. The truth of the matter, however, is that he's not as much a popular DJ as he is a populist one.

After all, Oakenfold certainly deserves credit for bringing trance to the masses, starting off as a smalltime producer (along with friend and collaborator Steve Osborne) who hit big by producing the Happy Mondays' 1990 masterpiece Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches. It was the success of that dance pastiche that ultimately led to his formation of Perfecto Records and, eventually, a never-ending list of high-profile remixes. He never received critical atta-boys because of his lack of innovation. He never received respect in the hardcore dance scene because of his continuous flirtation with the mainstream. Yet this never stopped Oakenfold, who tried to put out a mix CD a year, and it wasn't even until 2002 when he attempted his first stab at being a solo artist with the semi-popular Bunkka. It was at that time that some of his loyalists jumped ship (and insisted that most of his success in the past was due to Steve Osborne), but once the platinum certificate got shipped to his home office, it was obvious that there was no going back.

So Greatest Hits & Remixes -- using up the entire time allotted to a CD release -- attempts to cover about 15 years of dance-floor history in 79 minutes. It covers everything from his chart-busters to his early beginnings, all presented as one continuous non-stop mix. Though this may all sound thrilling, the tracks are divided up in erratic fashion, and any purist who thinks that remixing Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" or Radiohead's "Everything In It's Right Place" amounts to nothing but blasphemy should best stay away. Ultimately, Oakenfold makes music for the people: big, dumb, to-the-point club tracks that hit your pleasure-center and nothing else. At times, he succeeds wonderfully. At others, the phrase "pleasantly innocuous" comes off as press-release lingo for "flat-out irritating."

Good news first: the original songs. The disc opens with "Starry-Eyed Surprise", his surprising pop-rap hit with former Crazy Town frontman Shifty Shellshock (probably best known for its use in a series of early-2006 Pepsi commercials). It's utterly disposable, but it's that very feature that makes it so wonderful to begin with: it's watered-down Ibiza for the bubblegum crowd, and it's somehow refreshing (partially because Oakenfold is working with the simplest of drum beats, not his usual reverbed-to-infinity fare). The more rock-oriented "Faster Kill Pussycat", from his disastrous Bunkka follow-up A Lively Mind, features a surprisingly fetching vocal turn from actress Brittany Murphy, and his own "Dread Rock" works just fine as music to be played during some fight scene in a cookie-cutter action movie.

Which leads to the first of many gripes with the actual disc itself. "Ready Steady Go", a fight song that was used to excellent effect in The Bourne Identity, doesn't have its signature three-note guitar squall at the opening of the track. Nay, that distinctive track-defining opener actually consumes the last 20-seconds of his remarkably uninteresting take on Dirty Vegas' "Days Go By". With these songs released as a continuous mix, the tracks aren't divided up so you can simply plunk "Faster Kill Pussycat" down on your next mix CD. Instead, there's extra drum hits hanging on to track starts and track ends, making these tracks nothing like the original versions that appeared on Oakenfold's CDs. The worst example of this is his remix of U2's "Beautiful Day", in which we don't even hear the Edge's distinctive guitar line until two whole minutes into the track. Greatest Hits & Remixes is rife with these inaccuracies, making the disc's "continuous mix" system work only if you're playing it straight through. To put it simply: it's a needlessly frustrating experience for track-hunters (or anyone who likes their music on "Shuffle", for that matter).

More bad news: the only thing more single-track than this disc is Oakenfold's hit-or-miss remixing abilities. "Days Go By", for example, feels as if nothing more than a simple drum beat was plastered over the original song before being sent to the label. Same goes for Mark Ronson's "Stop Me" (featuring Daniel Merriweather). Other Oakenfold mishaps include trying to make one song sound like another (Madonna's "Sorry" suddenly transforms into Alice Deejay's "Better Off Alone" for some reason) and touching Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" in the first place (which was part of his score for the John Travolta/Halle Berry bomb Swordfish). He succeeds, however, when he genuinely brings something new to the mix. His remix of Justin Timberlake's "My Love", for example, throws in a whole new keyboard line, making the song sound looser and flat-out funkier. His revision of "Jack's Theme Suite" from Hans Zimmer's Pirates of the Caribbean score succeeds because he retains all of the bombast of the original In order to make a solid club track, and -- for all of the flak he will receive for tinkering with something that was never to be tinkered with in the first place -- his remix of Radiohead's "Everything In It's Right Place" succeeds because it doesn't go the half-hearted route: it sends the song into full-on club territory. If Oakenfold can get raver kids dancing to cryptic, distorted lines like "I woke up sucking on a lemon", then all the more power to him.

Yet the highlight of this album (and, let's face it, Oakenfold's entire career) is with the Happy Mondays. "Step On" remains a bright & poppy burst of danceable guitar-rock, oozing with feel-good vibes and Shaun Ryder's perpetually-strange lyrical stance. Ironically, Oakenfold's Greatest Hits is a hit-or miss affair, swerving violently from big-beat pleasure spots to bloated paycheck-padding remixes (and Richard Norris' ego-pumping liner note essay certainly doesn't make matters any better). Oakenfold's massive popularity has been both his greatest gift as well as his greatest curse. At the end of the day, the only person that Oakenfold is trying to impress is the one shaking everything they got on the dancefloor. If that person is you, then pick up Greatest Hits & Remixes and call it a day.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.