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What the Hell?

Okay, I usually am relatively neutral about remixes. Some are good, most are okay, some are stinkers, and most of the time, unless nothing is really added to a song by remixing it, I fail to see the point. Now, while editing a huge brainhog of a document — a thing for one of the other offices on campuses, which looked like it was 50 pages (but 30 pages of that is a strangely formatted chart that only took me a few minutes to tidy up and correct thoroughly, thank goodness), I thought I’d put on the Courtney Pine remix album Another Day.

While the extended solo on the Pressure Drops Rivers Run Deeper remix is actually realy good, better than on the original (though I prefer the vibe of the original), there was something very disturbing about how the sax break was pasted into the track. It sounds almost right, but not quite, and the effect is disorienting. It’s not just copied and pasted on the wrong beat, it’s been re-cut and pasted together so that most, but not all, of it is a half beat off or something. It’s dizzying, but not in a good way, and makes the solo sound, I don’t know… screwed-up.

And the Bossa Nova remix that ends out the album does little for me, as well, which is really too bad, as this is one of my favorite Courtney Pine tunes. I love the way the original brings out something, I don’t know, metarhythmic about the poem — this kind of sense of slouching through history, of seeing the Black Man rise up beside the Nile, beside the Mississippi, of the coextensive life of Black Man to Langston Hughes, something deep and subterranean and meditative. You hear Hughes read it, and even though his voice is all kind of high-pitched and nasal, there’s some sense in which you can feel him taking on a role as the speaker for history, the way Pound and Eliot and Ginsberg and all kinds of other poets do. I think this was the first Langston Hughes poem I read, and I’m once again kicking myself for not having hauled my collection of his poems to Korea last time I visited Canada. (I shall have to, as I think he’ll get a cameo role in my Russian-jugglers-and-alien-frogs novel next year.)

Pine does a really beautiful rendering of it, of course with the voice of Cassandra Wilson contributing inestimably. But really, still, my favorite version of the track is the original. The 4Hero remix is too, I don’t know, too sped-up and “beaty”, and some of that misty, semi-religious meditativeness of the Hughes poem is just lost there too. I guess I just like the original the way it was.

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