REVIEW: The Foreign Exchange ——The Reworks

Remix albums by artists are mostly unnecessary. The point of it all is to give their remixer friends some production credit and royalty checks, and keep fans interested until the next studio album drops. While there are a few essential remix albums that I own from producers such as Masters at Work and Jazzanova, I mostly ignore most remix albums by artists with the exception of Everything But The Girl’s Adapt Or Die: Ten Years of Remixes, and the those few months in the mid 1990s when I was constantly listening to a few tracks off Remixes in the Key of B.

With that said, my favorite artist of the moment, decides to drop a remix album. The result is a rewarding and sonically pleasing albeit non-essential listen. The problem is that the Foreign Exchange‘s best songs are already perfect modern pop/soul concoctions, and even the best remixes will not trump the original, no matter how different they are. FE‘s “Fight For Love” is my second favorite song of all time. It is a modern light rock song with soulful touches, and the plaintive emotion in it is so real and relatable to anyone who has ever been in a relationship. Stuart Matthewman probably slit his wrist when he heard it, and wished that he can strip himself of bullshit jazz or unconvincing stabs at electronic soundscapes, and write something like “Fight For Love.” Hence, a remix to “Fight for Love” by Nicky Mendes and Brasil ’66, even though it is pleasant bossa nova inspired light house, still doesn’t hold a candle when compared to the original. The same can be said about Pure P’s remix to “All or Nothing,” Focus’s remix to “The Last Fall,” Nicky Buckingham’s remix of “If This Is Love,” and Pure P’s Remix to “Maybe She’ll Dream of Me.” The Reworks shined with FE family’s less perfected original such as Ahmed Sirour’s sparse and soulful remix of “All the Kisses,” 4Hero’s remix of Zo’s “Flight of the Blackbyrd,” and Pirahnahead’s sexy house remix of  Zo’s “All is Well With Love.”

The two essential tracks from the Reworks are Nicolay’s Remix of RJD2 feat. Kenna’s “Games You Can Win,” pure FE style urban pop and FE’s “Don’t Let It Be So,” a perfect homage to early to mid 1990’s Black radio R&B. The ballads, Sy Smith’s “The Art of You” and Phonte’s “A Beautiful Night” are sexier with the remixes. And Nicolay’s remix of “AC Slater,” sounds great next to “Axel F” and “Rainforest,” as I think that was his intention. These latter tracks sounds great, but they are not memorable, at least not anymore memorable than the originals. I am a bit torn on FE’s “So What If It Is.” It is mellow soulful house, but leans a bit toward sophistication than simplicity. And that is my issue with The Reworks. FE is my favorite band/artist because — regardless of the fact that their fanbase contains a few bourgie broads and suburban minority psuedo-intellectuals and half ass activists — their music is unpretentious and more honest than 99 percent of pop and soul music out there. Adding sophisticated lounge like house elements, or electronic dabs and sprinkles to their damn near perfect modern pop/soul songs made these songs more cluttered and pretentious like music for urban hipsters or those LA type white dudes that show up at soul music shows just because they think it is cool, or just to see a few more ethnic women.

Just like remixes to “Missing,” and “Rollercoaster,” did nothing for EBTG when compared to the originals, FE’s remixes to their classics such as “Fight For Love” and “Maybe She’ll Dream of Me,” are pleasant, but at the end of the day, unnecessary. FE’s the Reworks sounds wonderful, but most of it is not essential. However, I am still anxiously waiting for their next studio release.