So, I recently bought Above And Beyoncé: Dance Mixes, which features remixes of songs from Beyoncé Knowles’ I Am… Sasha Fierce album.
I’m a Beyoncé fan, but my initial reaction to playing the remixes through a couple of times was disappointment.
The dance rhythms became repetitive and the whole listening experience was tiring by the end. Besides, the original versions were better, so why bother?
However, I stuck them on my iPod anyway and they became part of my normal shuffle rotation. I soon found what I should have realized all along: The remixes were much better out of context.
In other words, a remix of “Sweet Dreams” can sound incredible when you’ve not just heard six other remixes right in front of it.
Why should I have realized this? Because I realized the same thing about Elvis Presley remixes years ago. Elvis remixes date back to 1980’s Guitar Man LP. It featured new background tracks for the following songs:
- Guitar Man/What’d I Say
- After Loving You
- Too Much Monkey Business
- Just Call Me Lonesome
- Lovin’ Arms
- You Asked Me To
- Clean Up Your Own Back Yard
- She Thinks I Still Care
- I’m Movin’ On
Though the “Guitar Man/What’d I Say” single hit #1 on the Country chart in 1981, it became fashionable over the years to hate this album for daring to alter the original versions.
In 2000, FTD apologetically re-released the above songs on CD, along with others from the same remix sessions. The sarcastically-titled Too Much Monkey Business entered my CD collection as soon as it became available. The previously unreleased remixes from that album were:
- Burning Love
- I’ll Be There
- I’ll Hold You In My Heart
- In The Ghetto
- Long Black Limousine
- Only The Strong Survive
- Hey Jude
- Kentucky Rain
- If You Talk In Your Sleep
- Blue Suede Shoes
Between Guitar Man and Too Much Monkey Business, were any of the remixes better than the originals? Probably not, though there may have actually been one or two contenders (“Clean Up Your Own Back Yard” comes to mind).
Why do they have to be better, though? The fact that they are different and sound “new” is what makes them fun. They do not replace the originals, but stand beside them as another interpretation. You see, I already knew this about Elvis remixes. I just didn’t think at first to apply that line of reasoning to Beyoncé as well.
2002’s “A Little Less Conversation” remix by JXL brought Elvis back to the top of the charts for the first time since, well, Guitar Man! To this day, the JXL remix gets tons of airplay in various media.
I loved the Elvis vs. JXL “A Little Less Conversation,” as well as its follow-up, 2003’s Paul Oakenfold “Rubberneckin'” remix. An alternate remix of “Rubberneckin'” by Jason Nevins from that same time period is also fantastic.
In 2008, DJ Spankox remixed Elvis songs for an entire remix album, Elvis vs. Spankox Re:Versions. Rather than taking relatively obscure songs like “A Little Less Conversation,” Spankox took a bolder approach and went after some of Elvis’ better-known songs, including some of the original Sun masters. Since then, he’s even released a sequel album of additional remixes.
Much like Above And Beyoncé, listening to Too Much Monkey Business or Elvis vs. Spankox Re:Versions as albums in their entireties is really not that enjoyable.
Take the remixes out of that context, though, mix them in with your other music, and suddenly remixes of “Lovin’ Arms” or “Too Much” can sound incredibly fresh. Just don’t play all of your remixes back to back.
* * *
A lot of you are already familiar with the Elvis Today blog, but if you haven’t already done so, be sure to read Thomas’ recent reviews of the book Elvis: Still Taking Care of Business and the Sony Legacy CD On Stage. As usual, Thomas is spot-on in his analysis.