The disclaimer on the `up for grabs’ entry for Rob Swift’s reissue read, “Warning: Annoying Robot Voice within!” After I requested it, I was told once again, “No, really. It’s VERY annoying.” And, wouldn’t you know it, it is annoying, and worse than I could have possibly imagined. I’ve had my trouble with promos before so I was at least prepared. Promotional copies of CDs have destroyed my hard drive and my nerves alternately, thanks to the oil and water combination of rampant downloading / pirating and the lengths that labels will go to both block it and at the same time avoid the reality that the music industry is changing more rapidly than they can keep up with. Take for instance the promo I received of KT Tunstall’s album, Eye to the Telescope. Edging into the beginning of every track is the horrific voice of a smarmy DJ (you’ve heard it before, overexcited, insincere and more than a little corny) announcing the release of the album. People, this is why we are going to digital music and satellite radio in the first place, to get rid of that unwelcome intrusion. With the internet and a rising global community, we need radio disc jockeys less than ever. I am ensuring that I use the modifier `radio’ so as not to sully the term `DJ’ as it applies to Rob Swift, formerly of the X-Men, and after they had to change their name for copyright infringement reasons, the X-Ecutioners for while we might not need radio DJ’s, turntablism and Swift’s Soulful Fruit, originally released in 1997, sounds just as fresh now as it did then.
Swift’s combination of jazz composition, breakbeats, sweet scratching and hip-hop ingenuity all make Soulful Fruit ripe for a reissue. Listening to the mix of disco, hip-hop and jazz makes one want to start an instant block party. Hopefully, as common sense would lead, the actual final version that would reach stores would not have this pervasive robot voice saying, “Rob Swift, Soulful Fruit, In Stores Fall 2005.” It was almost enough to make me rip the disc out of the player and test either my distance Frisbee skills or my water pistol skeet shooting ability. Luckily, Swift’s music, when it wasn’t drowned out, saved the disc from those not so pretty fates. Parts of Soulful Fruit can seem dated, like the intro featuring the sample from Richard Dreyfus in Mr. Holland’s Opus, but the music itself is timeless. Swift shows throughout the album that it’s not all about scratching and beats in and of themselves. Jazz, salsa, swing and classic rock all find their way into the diverse quilt of Soulful Fruit. One of the highlights is the battle between human beatbox Rahzel of the Roots and Swift. Nearly ten years after the fact, people are still talking about that John Henry-like man vs. machine brouhaha. Bruce Lee also makes an appearance in a time when martial arts and chop-socky films were more of the model for hip-hop than Scarface and The Sopranos.
Had I a clean copy of Soulful Fruit, rather than the robot voice laden one I received, I might have been able to sing its praises even further, but unfortunately, the voice does more than just annoy, it takes away from the complete package. As if woken from the middle of a dream suddenly and unexpectedly, the hyping voice shocks and disturbs almost enough to turn a great record into a forgettable one. So, you’ll have to hear for yourself how good the album really is, and from the times I wasn’t rocked and socked by the robot, I was impressed.
DJ Shadow- Pre-Emptive Strike
Coldcut- More Beats & Pieces
Dr. Octagon- Dr. Octagonecologyst