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Music Review: Various Artists – Johnny Cash Remixed

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Hubby and I are huge Johnny Cash fans, and there has been much heated discussion in our house about this newly released collection of classic Johnny Cash songs remixed by artists such as Alabama 3 (think Sopranos theme), Count de Money, Snoop Dogg's new QDT team, and Pete Rock. Since our musical tastes vary widely (dance, blues, hip hop, classic rock, punk, rockabilly, country, Motown, Stax,….) but we tend to like "original" sound, we really weren't sure about this. I decided to refrain from looking at any reviews until we had listened to the CD and watched the "making of" video which is also available at the Johnny Cash Remixed website.

The project was Executive Produced by John Carter Cash (Johnny and June's son), Snoop Dogg, and Mathew Knowles (Beyoncé's father), so there is some real music pedigree and blood connection to the original music in this work, which was conceived as a way of bringing some of Cash's seminal music to a wider audience. As my husband is a Southerner born and bred and LOVES Johnny Cash I let him listen first. His response was that I "had to listen to it" because it "managed to be respectful to Cash's music while still interesting in a contemporary way."

So I listened, and then listened again and again. And while I found some of the new mixes tiresome (Snoop Dogg's conversational remix of "I Walk the Line" is a bit too forced and overdone while Kennedy's "Sugartime" sounds like a bad repetitive commercial jingle), I generally enjoyed the plays on classic country blues. Philip Steir's "Get Rhythm" makes me want to dance my blues away just like the shoeshine guy whose story is the song, and Count de Money's remix of "Big River" is riveting.

Then I decided to see what others have had to say and was truly shocked to see the negative reviewer and listener response to this controversial recording. Rolling Stone's Mark Kemp calls it "musical comedy" while Pitchfork Media's Stephen Duesner liken it to "a small, remote geyser through which a little bit of hell bubbles up into our world." Even our very own Lisa Solod Warren said back in August, "The album is frankly a disappointment."

Well, either we have absolutely no taste in music whatsoever or this album really is that controversial, and I would prefer to believe the latter. If Johnny Cash Remixed is causing this much of a stir then it is worth a listen, and the majority of reviews notwithstanding I think you may be pleasantly surprised.

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About Lynda Lippin

  • Gregg DeMammos

    Thanks Lynda.

    My name is Gregg DeMammos and I helped put Johnny Cash Remixed together. I think this record got caught in a storm of ill will toward the genre of “remix records” and a general trend of creating colorful reviews that tend to thrash records and glorify the reviewer. The record is admittedly pretty easy fodder for that.

    You and your hubby got the intention of the record in your review. We LOVE Johnny Cash and meant to respect the material. All of the artists revere his catalog and what he stands for (for them). Each remix is an expression of the remixer’s own life melding with that love and we trusted this relationship. For instance, when I first heard Machine Drum’s version of Belshazzar or Apparat’s Lonesome Whistle, I was spiritually moved, like I am with so much of Johnny’s original material. The remixers internalized Johnny and came up with something representative of who he was for them. That, to me was truly valuable and artistic. Those are two of my favorite remixes ever. They create a new artistic positioning for the work in their unique interpretations.

    It’s just not clear if people gave the record a chance. It’s not clear if they were willing to hear it through, and that’s a shame, because there might have been something in it for them, too.

    Thanks for giving it a chance. I was honored to work on the project.

  • http://www.lyndalippin.com Lynda Lippin

    Thanks Gregg! I felt like many of the other reviewers didn’t give this a fair chance. I also enjoyed all of the extra material and listening to how the artists related to their songs. We still listen and still love it.

  • Laura

    Wow, this was a great review and it was great hearing from Gregg. I loved most of the album – and understand the idea behind the production. I loved the Pete Rock remix of “Folsom Prison Blues” – which also happens to be my favorite Cash song. The video is great too.

  • http://www.pilatesandreikiinparadise.com Lynda Lippin

    Thanks for stopping by and joining this conversation Laura. I have also found it interesting to listen to several versions of the song from Johnny Cash himself and then the remix. It is always important to remember that a remix really is a conversation between the artists. Now, I think Snoop took that too literally in his and therefore it comes off forced and, well, lazy in a way that bothers me. I did however love Snoop’s “My Medicine” which is a great homage to Cash.

  • Susan

    I’m a big Johnny Cash fan, and I think “Johnny Cash Remixed” is a great CD. It’s obvious it was produced with a lot of love. I’ve listened to it many times, and I hear a Broadway musical in there somewhere.

    I too have been spritiually moved by “Lonesome Whistle.” It’s a totally amazing remix, and it perfectly captures Johnny’s depth of spirit.

  • http://www.pilatesandreiki.com Lynda Lippin

    Thanks Susan! I really don’t understand what moved so many reviewers to completely dismiss this album, especially since the love involved really does come through in the finished product. It is an homage to Johnny Cash and it works.

  • Jeff Weybridge

    The Johhny Cash Remix album is a heartfelt dance remix dedication to the Man in Black. If anything, the album is an experimental hip-hop album that’s anything but commercial and candy coated.

    The remixers on this album have come up with really creative interpretations that not only make compelling listening, but also show a collaborative drive alongside Cash’s original vocals.

    The results are off-the-wall, unpredictable and rhythmic. No doubt country music purists will hate it, but if you are into trippy dance beats with psychedelic flavours, this album is a must.

  • http://www.pilatesandreiki.com Lynda Lippin

    Thanks Jeff! I agree that this is a heartfelt work that is meant to be a creative homage to Johnny Cash’s immense body of work, some of which was highly controversial itself among the country music purists.

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