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Music Review: The Beastie Boys – The Mix-Up

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Most people know the Beastie Boys from the band's 1986 nine-times-platinum Licensed to Ill. Prior to that rap release, the Beasties were a punk band. 1995's Root Down contained some of the band's first forays into a more jam/groove sound. But in 1996, the band released the groovy funky masterpiece The In Sound From Way Out! I somehow got my hands on a French import. I liked how the band was described: "Le groupe sensationel "badboy" americain." With a prominent Farfisa sound throughout the CD, it sounded like the soundtrack to a 70s blaxploitation flick. Great music.

This year the band released a second instrumental work, The Mix Up. It is also available on vinyl. This album has quite a different flavor from The In Sound. It is mellower; still funky, but in a more soulful way. However, it still grooves like a 70s soul/jazz god playing a gig in a smoky basement bar in Chicago. There is more distorted guitar sound than the previous disc and song styles ranging from jazz to reggae. Most prominently, it is clear that these rappers are also highly talented musicians.

"Dramaastically Different" has an eastern flavor to it, but unlike The In Sound's "Shambhala," no Buddhist chanting. "Off The Grid" has a great bass line – really; the whole CD does — and the video is posted in the band's blog for 5.15.07. "Freaky Hijiki" is a jazz tune. The rhythms on some of the songs, such as "The Kangaroo Rat," have a Go Go-ish feel to the meter. (I'd love to hear this band create a Go Go album.)

The cover art is a Pop Art Rube Goldberg sound board created by graphic designer Bill McMullen, who also did the cover design for the new Bad Brains release (produced by the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch).

Like all great musicians, the Beastie Boys are progressive and unafraid to innovate. With any luck, we won't have to wait another eleven years for the next instrumental release!

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