The mash-up represents another notch in the evolution of music, a step beyond sampling where entire songs by one artist morph seamlessly into a tune by someone else.
Purists don t like it because the creativity of actually coming up with your own song is replaced by cleverly mixing and matching genres, a process that seems like a musical parlor trick. It was done most famously by Danger Mouse, who mixed Jay Z s The Black Album with The Beatles White Album on a bootleg that became a hot property when only 3,000 copies were made.
Following in Mouse s wake are heavyweights Jay Z and Linkin Park, who mash the former s rap approach into the latter s hard rock sound. The acts got together for MTV s Ultimate Mash-Ups in November and turned Collision Course around quickly.
The result is, appropriately enough, mixed. When it works, Jay Z s smooth raps counter the razor-like aural scream of Linkin Park. Big loud guitars crash into hip-hop beats, bounce off and make a new sound that takes full advantage of both acts knack for great hooks.
When it doesn t work, and that s about half the time on Collision Course, the music sounds bolted together, the tempo shifts lurching forward and clanging together like a grinding gear. Jay Z s Big Pimpin just doesn t go with Linkin s abrasive Papercut, no matter how cool the idea sounds in concept.
Like the remix or sampling, mash-ups have their place especially in dance music but traditionalists ought to steer clear.
The latest from Destiny s Child is burnished to a high production sheen, with predominantly slower and slinky beats, no working up a musical sweat here impeccable harmonies, and the three group members trading vocal duties. But somehow it all sounds rather soulless. Several of the cuts are sung from the perspective of a subservient woman Cater 2 U, for example, with its lines such as Baby I heard you, I m here to serve you. The arrangements have no impact, some of the woman-as-pleaser-of-her-man lyrics grate, and the entire package has the emotional punch of a soundtrack to a glossy advertisement.
Real Talk is filled with just that: real talk. And it s one of the strengths of the disc. Gangsta and In My Hood are straight forward and not over-produced musically, an approach that lends itself well to Fabolous laid-back, almost monotone flow. He doesn t try to be trendy with his rap style, which is reminiscent of MC Shan, but in a much lower register. He just flows relaxed with the rhythm and tells you a story. More surprising is the variety of Fabolous stylings. He has offerings for bouncing in the club; shows he has a softer side, which is almost taboo in the macho hip-hop game, and drops a little dancehall with the help of Sean Paul. Real Talk has more than enough shining moments to make it one to have.
The first thing that grabs you is the magical harmonies of Abby Dewald and Amanda Barrett who front five other musicians with their glorious vocals. Additionally, they dish up some substantial expertise on acoustic guitar, mandolin, and dulcimer. Irreverance for the status quo of ordinary lyrics is taken to a new level here, with obtuse references to sometimes imaginary events and unlikely persons. The music has hints of folk, western swing, country, ragtime and early jazz, with a dollop of thumb-your-nose attitude. The tunes are far-out, indeed, and may be more of an acquired taste than ordinary fare. If unusual is your cup of tea, try it. If you don t appreciate musical surprises, occasionally delivered with a juvenile attitude, skip it.
THE LUCKY GUY INSTRUMENTALS, Paul Reece This self-produced album by singer/songwriter/storyteller Reece is a collection of truly fine instrumentals, showing remarkable talent by the resident of Galion, Ohio. Reece shines in the creation of lively, folk-y melodies with inspired performances on guitar, backed by some talented studio musicians on fiddle, harmonica, dobro, banjo, and pedal steel. K.R.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, Various Artists (Hip-0) Friday Night Lights is a pure treasure for the musical senses, one of last year s biggest surprises. It s a beautifully-executed jazz acoustic guitar album disguised as a soundtrack for a football movie, nearly all instrumental, with refrains so melodic, so captivating, and so dreamy they keep listeners in a trance. TOM HENRY
UNIVERSAL RELIGION LIVE FROM ARMADA AT IBIZA, Armin van Buuren (Ultra) If you want a taste of what it s like to listen to a world-class DJ spinning trance in the dance music epicenter, Ibiza, and couldn t make it to the Med last year here s the next best thing. Van Buuren conjures Balaeric bliss live with 14 vocal and instrumental tracks. R.P.
DARRYL WORLEY, Darryl Worley (Dreamworks) This is 48 minutes of solid country music, boasting interesting melodies and a powerful, resonant baritone handling down-to-earth lyrics. Worley wrote or co-wrote seven of the dozen numbers, ranging from smooth ballads to lively two-steps. K.R.