Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Since You Went Away/I've Been Hanging Around

Does anybody remember a time in the late-'80s/early-'90s when techno-pop groups teamed up with popular female singers that had been out of the spotlight for a while? I'm talking about the Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield on "What Have I Done To Deserve This?" and the KLF with Tammy Wynette on "Justified and Ancient" as prime examples. These are great tracks but I wonder, were these pairings made in order to make these singers hip to a younger generation? Obviously they worked for me, but what about the people that grew up on "Son of a Preacherman" or "D-I-V-O-R-C-E"?

I didn't grow up on a lot of rock 'n' roll oldies or country music, so the chances of me being exposed to those ladies' voices was very slim. I'm sure there was quite a bit of eye-rolling by longtime fans but if the track is great and still holds up, how can this be a problem?

Until a few years ago, I only really knew Shirley Bassey through her rendition of "Goldfinger." When I heard her version of the Doors' "Light My Fire" remixed by Kenny Dope, I was stunned by 1) how strong her voice is 2) the funkified drums-guitar-bass breakdowns courtesy of Mr. Dope that were added to the original's orchestral twirls. From that moment on, I became a big fan of Ms. Bassey.

We tend to speculate that the pairing of a star from the pre-MTV age with the modern age will yield bad results (like Carly Simon guesting on a Janet Jackson track that sampled "You're So Vain"), but if techno-pop can serve the original artist's strengths, I don't think there is any harm. However, if you take a great track like Petula Clark's "Downtown" and make it into a monotonous, big-beat, disco track, there should be considerable outrage. I'm a huge fan of Clark's orchestral-pop (especially "Don't Give Up," "My Love" and "Downtown"), so to hear the big, warm sounds of the original be replaced by cold, thudding, processed beats and melodies, I draw the line. Sure, those beats may make you dance in a club, but something is just not there.

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