Oh how a young and naive music lover I was. I knew nothing, and still I know only little, but the journey out of complete musical ignorance was a very long and drawn out process. Gone were the days where Billy Joel and Frank Sinatra are the only sounds emanating out of our Italian home; and in came the days of me asking a plethora of questions to take my own musical knowledge upon myself and sometimes looking the fool for it. Especially the day I first heard the name Billie Holiday and immediately assumed that Billie was a man (a mistake I’m hoping a lot of other young music inquiries will bring up). I was just like Alicia Silverstone’s character in Clueless when asked if she liked Billie Holiday she returns, “I LOVE him!” But getting past the initial sting of humiliation in finding Billie Holiday was actually a woman, and first hearing her sultry and beautiful voice, my respect became instant.
Which is why I became extremely defensive when I saw there was scheduled a remix session on Miss Holiday’s originals. Questions of credibility and musicianship floated in my mind past the fear that one more historical singer was going to be exploited by some amateur massacring their music. Fortunately, and to my complete surprised, Billie Holiday Remixed & Reimagined turned out to be a tasteful and eloquent treatment to some of Billie Holiday’s fan-favorite tracks. Finally, two-turntable moguls found a way to stay true to the roots of blues without bombarding us with techno beats.
Brought on for this project were some of today’s best remixers, including Tony Humphries, DJ Logic, Charles Feelgood and Swingsett. Remixed & Reimagined is a menagerie of grooviness that travels down the road to contemporary while still staying true to its original essence. I can’t say for sure if this album is going to turn anyone into an all out Billie Holiday fan but it can be appreciated by any funk, soul, or blues fan out there. Riding on the coattails of the Nina Simone Remixed & Reimagined, this set brings together some of the most influential producers to reinterpret her music for our generation.
The result of this meeting of the minds: the 14-track time capsule of the oppressed, discriminated, addicted and depressed woman’s career. With each track offering a new and fresh look at Billie’s work it is contemplative whether this is an opportunity for historical integrity or a forum for these music pioneers to showcase their work. If the later be the case I think I can let it slide this time, just for the mere fact of how well done this album actually was produced. Tracks including “But Beautiful,” “Glad to be Happy,” and my personal favorite, “I’m Gonna Lock My Heart (and Throw Away the Key),” will make a beeline for your groove center forcing you to get up and dance (or at least sway a little bit).
Whether or not you’re a Billie Holiday fan to start, Billie Holiday Remixed & Reimagined is worth a first listen. It gathers appreciation for the first woman in blues in a way that just makes you feel good about music, where it’s been, and where it’s going. The beats conjured up for this album are at the least infectious and most definitely promise not to disappoint.
Nina Simone – Remixed & Reimagined
Various Artists – Motown Remixed, Vol. 2
Various Artists – Verve Remixed