Remixed Pop and Blues Classics

Recasting some Top 40 hits as enduring songs

The remix album is a hit-or-miss affair, either a disappointing repository for once-golden dance hits or, ideally, an amazing improvement on an already great song

Sony BMG’s “Superstars #1 Hits Remixed” gives this year’s hottest pop hits a club-ready patina.

Another remix album falls into a hybrid category—of quintessential bluesy tunes revamped with a thoroughly infectious beat—that will make you pay close attention at the clubs or heat up your own living room. “Verve Remixed 3” takes classics by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone and reinterprets them with the help of today’s hottest new bands, including Brazilian Girls and Danger Mouse, for an effect that is positively captivating.

It would have been easy enough to churn out a deejay-friendly play list of this season’s pop hits and call it a day. But “Superstars” takes it a step further with 19 remixes of pop hits, including Alicia Keys, Pink, Jennifer Lopez, Sarah McLachlan, Duran Duran, Maroon 5 and others. The Junior Vasquez Sirius Radio Edit of Maroon 5’s hit “This Love” is an amazing meld of slowed-down vocals and speeded-up beats that will have you hitting the repeat button like a crazed teenage girl.

The Al B. Rich Radio Edit of Dido’s “White Flag” is a haunting dance version that preserves her intense message of a very ill fated love. She sings, “I will go down with this ship/ I won’t throw up my hands and surrender/ there will be no white flag above my door/ I’m in love, and I always will be.” What is truly amazing is how well it morphs into last season’s swinger, Kelis’ “Milkshake” DJ Zinc Radio Edit.”

And though Britney Spears’ “Toxic” has always rocked the dance floor, the Armand Van Helden Radio Edit makes this party-pleaser even better. You may find yourself singing the Calderone Quayle Club Mix Edit version of Beyoncé’s “Naughty Girl” for days after your first listen, and will be unable to resist going back for more of Deborah Cox’s Hex Hextor Radio Edit redux of “Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here.”

Newbies like Fantasia and American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson get the same kid-glove treatment as hits by Duran Duran and Whitney Houston, making the album a must for deejays. Even if you like to leave the spinning to the professionals, “Superstars” is a collection you won’t want to be without through the summer.

Meanwhile, Verve Records is up to its old tricks, recruiting today’s newest artists to rework old classics, from Nina Simone’s “Little Girl Blue” to Dinah Washington’s “Baby, Did You Hear?” The same high quality that allowed these songs to endure the decades and remain classic hits is meshed with the skills of today’s hottest producers, deejays and musical artists.

The album opens with a chime instrumental of holiday classic “Good King Wenceslas,” then introduces modern FX and a hot bass line. It may take you a minute to recognize Simone’s “Little Girl Blue” under it all, but the a-ha minute is so worth it. Billie Holiday’s “Speak Low” opens like an old Wham! hit, but the English band Bent gives due respect by maintaining Holiday’s original vocals, pairing it up with a samba backbeat. Anita O’Day’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” becomes a big band number that would be embraced even by the standards of her day, and Adam Freeland gives Sarah Vaughan’s seminal hit “Fever” an intensely full sound, with the addition of drums, piano, and even horns.

Shirley Horn’s “Come Dance With Me” never sounded fresher since Sugardaddy got its hands on it. And the best of the bunch is the Brazilian Girls cover of Blossom Dearie’s “Just One of Those Things.” With its rap- fast vocal delivery and pounding drum line, it becomes a dark, captivating “trip to the moon on gossamer wings,” as the song goes. Brazilian artist Astrud Gilberto’s “The Gentle Rain” falls luckily into the hands of RJD2, who melds the original vocal styling with pared-down beats to produce a lush, six-minute love song.

Fatboy Slim and Sarah Vaughan make Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn” into the most swinging hit since Austin Powers put on a velvet lounge suit, sporting lyrics, “Don’t be surprised, you buttered your bread, so it’s fair that you should look at the back of my head.” It moves seamlessly into MC Lyrics Born remix of Jimmy Smith’s “Stay Loose,” another swinging hit.

Start out with “Verve Remixed 3,” then crank the party into full gear with “Superstars #1 Remixed.” You won’t need to touch the dial to keep even the biggest remix snob satisfied.

Toni Braxton, Kelly Clarkson and Beyoncé are several of the artists with remixed number one hits on the summer release, “Superstars.”

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