That old theory about "too many cooks in the kitchen" could apply to Motown Remixed Vol. 2. An interesting experiment in theory, this new release pits top studio musicians operating in contemporary Latin music against some of the biggest hits ever produced by Motown in a cross-pollinating, genre mash-up that falls flat on its face more than it succeeds. Talk about your spoiled broth.
Patterned after 2005's Motown Remixed project, which gave Motown classics an electronic, house-music makeover, Motown Remixed Vol. 2 lets producers, DJs and musicians have at it, with decidedly mixed results.
Jr. Walker & The All Stars' "Shotgun," a powerhouse of grind-it-out, gutsy R&B, receives a sunny, technicolor house treatment from Venezuelan synth-pop outfit Los Amigos Invisibles — with help from DJ Afro — and Martha & The Vandellas' "(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave" gets chopped up and slowed in the David Elizondo mix. Lost is the fluidity and flow of the originals, with Los Amigos Invisibles' humid version of "Shotgun" drawing distracting squiggles all over the thrusting grooves of Jr. Walker And The All Star, but offering little else. Even more disappointing is Elizondo's tepid reworking of "Heat Wave," which blunts the ebullient joy of the group vocals that made the song such a delight. And in the end, maybe welding Latin rhythms with Motown soul isn't the greatest idea. Here, at least, they mix like oil and water, neither genre feeling totally comfortable with the other.
Elizondo, formerly of Univsion, somewhat redeems himself by fleshing out The Temptations' "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone" with cool synth washes and minimalist Latin beats that make the original's funk sound fuller, and somehow, even fatter; however, there is an air of artificiality about it that kills the vibe, and the beats feel tacked on and listless.
Reggaeton hot-shit producer SPK adds up-tempo, bossa nova beats to the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," but hardly anything more. This isn't a full-on remix; it's just a studio wizard with too much time on his hand. It stands in sharp contrast to the bewildering Reggaeton mix of high-stepping piano, woofer-blowing electronic beats and hot accordion ooze spread all over Diana Ross' "The Boss." The original would be unrecognizable were it not for Ross, and what comes out is a confused, jumbled mess. Elsewhere, the Miami Mix of the Jackson 5's "Dancing Machine" is immersed in tropical horns and Latin piano to the point of redundancy; it sounds like a horrible Miami Sound Machine outtake.
But then there is the Randy Cantor mix of "I Can't Get Next To You." Maintaining the soul of the original, Cantor surrounds the original vocals with a dizzying array of Latin beats, party sounds and energetic piano. Following Cantor's remix is the Fun Machine Mix of Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," a techno wonderland of echoing vocals, big beats, deft sampling and chill grooves that makes you believe remixing is a noble art form.
Unlike The Beatles' Love remix album that came out a while back, Motown Remixed Volume 2 isn't a coherent, cohesive statement of purpose, and it seems to bring out the worst in almost every artist involved with the project. That's what happens when you have a whole bunch of sonic scientists in the lab working on the same problem — that is, how to blend in Latin influences without scarring the originals. Though all the pieces do seem like sincere homages to Motown's glorious past, the execution is messy. Motown fans are probably going to label these experiments as heresy. That was the contention of some who listened to Love. To me, there are no sacred cows. Everything is up for reinterpretation in this age, and when remixes can add new life to the originals, I'm all for it. That's not always the case with Motown Remixed Volume 2, but I'm not ready to bash the intent of the album just yet.
Let me know what you think. Is it wrong to remix versions of original classics from legendary artists that made Motown the hit-producing factory it was? Should modern-day bands, or even skilled producers like George Martin, leave the works of The Beatles alone?