Erasure's Andy Bell, Franz Ferdinand, Michael Jackson and other remixes

Doug Rule
Published on July 7, 2005, 12:00am | Comments

ERASURE'S ''BLUE'' BELL... Nearly one year ago it was reported that Erasure's Andy Bell would be responsible for two new albums, and both were expected early in the year. The duo's Nightbird, one of its very best, showed up as scheduled. But what about the solo debut from Bell that was said to ''encompass styles that people may not have heard Andy sing before?'' Well, it was just reported that the debut -- with the fitting title Electric Blue -- will see release everywhere but the United States on Oct. 3. Based on other Britpop releases, that would suggest we might not see it here until early next year. Billboard confirms the earlier reports that the dance-pop U.K. duo Manhattan Clique co-wrote and co-produced the album, and first single ''Crazy'' will see release -- again, everywhere but here -- Sept. 26, accompanied by a remix from Bell's straight partner in Erasure Vince Clarke. But the juiciest new news: Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears sings a duet, ''I Thought It Was You,'' with Bell. And the best new news: Bell is planning to tour solo in support of the album. Given that Erasure's recent concert was one of the best all year, that's great news. A series of club DJ gigs with Bell and the Clique are being discussed as well....

FRANZ HAS NEW COLORS... One surefire Britpop release this year is Franz Ferdinand's sophomore set. That Scottish band, named for the Austro-Hungarian Archduke who helped provoke the first World War, helped spark today's dance-rock genre and are one of its best practitioners. So it's good to hear the new album's sound is said to be similar to the band's successful breakthrough debut. And just like that debut, the plan is for the new album, due Oct. 4, to go without a title. Instead, it is to be referred to by its cover art color scheme: While the debut's geometric abstract art was colored in dark brown, orange and cream, the new set is said to feature black, red and pale green. That reflects a bit of the change the band has made to the sound, according to the foursome's frontman Alex Kapranos. He says they were intent on ''capturing more of the energy we have as a live band. I'm not sure [the first album] completely captured that kind of unpredictability and rawness you have at a live concert.'' They plan to perform at live concerts in America beginning around the time of the album's release....

MOTOWN REMIXES LITTLE MICHAEL... Next Tuesday Epic Records is set to test Americans' lingering interest in a certain recently acquitted pop star. The Essential Michael Jackson is a two-disc anthology of hits, including Michael Jackson's beginning as the most boisterous of the Jackson boys. But already his work with the Jackson 5 takes pride of place on Motown Remixed. ''I Want You Back'' and ''ABC'' are two standout tracks on this first-ever remix compilation commissioned by Motown Records. The stated aim was to appeal to today's hip-hop generation by reworking 15 of Motown's biggest hits, from the likes of Gladys Knight and the Pips, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and even Rick James. Some of the remixes do this better than others, but most of the hip-hop DJs here were so gentle that you'll be bedazzled by their work even if you don't consider yourself part of the hip-hop generation. Z-Trip's remix of ''I Want You Back'' is as sweet and confectionary as the original, for example. And if you do like hip hop, none of the remixes here will likely bedazzle you more than Saleem Remy's Krunk-A-Delic Party Mix of ''ABC.'' Built on a forceful, infectious hip-hop beat, Remy's remix plays up to the hilt every single vocal shout of little Michael. Note how much deeper his voice sounded as a teenager than it does today....


Erasure: Nightbird

Franz Ferdinand

Mowtown Remixes

VERVE, THE REMIX STANDARD-BEARER... Motown was clearly inspired by the success jazz label Verve Records has had with its Remixed series, which has only gotten better with each new edition. Verve Remixed 3 is the best in the series yet. The value in this series is in drawing your attention to noteworthy remixers. The label has not allowed any remixers to repeat, so that 38 have been allowed to do the honors in all. Koop, Felix da Housecat and RSL have furnished some of the best work. And the label has released matching Unmixed sets simultaneously, so you can compare the remixes to the originals, a fun pastime for some of us.

But just as valuable, the series has drawn attention to jazz artists you might have overlooked. Nina Simone is the one the label pushes the hardest -- she's appeared six times in the series, or twice each compilation. Invariably the remixes of Simone's songs are standouts, from Masters at Work's transfixing ''See-Line Woman'' on the first set to The Album Leaf's suitably woozy ''Lilac Wine'' on the new edition. But as good as that remix is, the best from Verve Remixed 3 has to be Sarah Vaughn's sassy ''Peter Gunn'' song, the Henry Mancini composition that isn't only an instrumental. In fact, the lyrics are fabulous. And newcomer Max Sedgley's remix swaggers as D.C.'s own Horn confidently dismisses her lover. ''I'm through now, with you now,'' she sings. ''If you write a letter to me, my former friend don't you end with an R.S.V.P.''....

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