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Sounds like … a handful of Rachael's best songs, reinvented for a younger demographic by moving away from adult contemporary styles and embracing R&B, techno, hip-hop, and funkAt a Glance … some of the remixes work better than others, but several of these tracks are successfully reinvented, smartly transitioning Rachael into a new career as a diverse R&B pop artist.
Looks like Sparrow isn't the only Christian record label that's discovered the concept of the remix album. However, there's more to Word / Warner Records' Blur album than rehashing and reinterpreting recent material – this is about reinventing an artist, in this case Rachael Lampa. As well received as her 2000 debut, Live for You, was, people were primarily impressed with Rachael's vocal strength and the mature production; it was more like a Cindy Morgan album than Christina Aguilera. That was followed by early 2002's Kaleidoscope, which found Rachael taking a more active role in the songwriting with more of a funky R&B dance pop sound. So far, the album is enjoying fair success, though not quite to the same degree as her much-talked-about debut. Considering she signed her recording contract at age 14, it's not surprising that the 17-year-old admits she's still learning who she is as an artist. Though many of her peers have embraced Rachael's music for what it is, there are certainly many more who have shied away from it because it's too mature for their tastes; both albums bore a stronger resemblance to the Point of Grace albums their mothers were playing in the car than the teen pop albums their friends were listening to. Blur reflects Rachael's desire to take her music beyond the adult contemporary genre and target the teenage demographic with funky, electronic, R&B, hip-hop-influenced pop. This is Rachael finally embracing the J. Lo/Britney audience she always was destined to reach.
Blur includes four songs from the Live for You album and six from Kaleidoscope. The Live for You tracks are the most interesting because they're such a departure from the sophisticated adult contemporary sound of the originals. Take the opening track, for example; Tedd T.'s "Holla Back Mix" of "Free" is completely different from the ethereal and inspirational pop of the original. It now sounds like one of those hip-hop singles that features the likes of Jennifer Lopez or Mariah Carey, with Rachael's vocals almost taking a backseat to the lead rapping of the verses. Electronic pop wizard Dan Muckala (who's programmed for teen artist Mandy Moore) has a field day with "Day of Freedom." The dramatic power pop of the original is transformed into a heavy electronic R&B teen pop anthem for the "Mirage Remix," with rock guitars and hints of Middle Eastern sounds (which actually are present in the original). Dan also handles the difficult task of transforming Rachael's biggest hit, "Live for You." He succeeds tremendously with the "Marbella Mad Motion Mix," shedding the Latin pop sound in favor of a fast techno beat that's quite different rhythmically; it's not necessarily better, but rather an enjoyable variation of the well-known hit. There's also an "Epiphonic Remix" of "Blessed" by the Dingo Brothers, which changes the generic adult contemporary pop sound into a symphonic pop piece, complete with big string samples, a gospel-styled bridge, and R&B-styled drum programming.
The Kaleidoscope remixes are a little less interesting, but only because the songs were already teetering on funky R&B to start with. Dan's "For Your Love (Gravity Moon Mix)" is still a funky groove like the original, but it's more atmospheric here. The Dingo Brothers' "Elevation Remix" of "Lead Me (I'll Follow)" is still well done, but it isn't all that different from the Latin dance pop of the original. Tedd T., however, transforms the breathy ballad "A Song for You" into an upbeat Euro-pop treasure á la Dido with the "London Daydream Mix." JimEvision's "Brand New Life (Sunny Day Mix)" is more reminiscent of Out of Eden and Destiny's Child, a pleasant R&B alternative to the Avalon-styled adult contemporary of the original. "I'm All Yours" is similar to the remix of "Free." What began life as a basic Christian pop song is completely morphed into a funky hip-hop track featuring Souljahz with the "Giraffro Phat Funk Mix." My favorite remix has to be Jeff Savage's "Sonic Overload Mix" of "Savior Song," which was already a funky R&B hit on Kaleidoscope, but now has a harder hip-hop rock edge to it, as if Toby Mac had tinkered with it. It's an excellent track for head banging.
Blur generally works because the songs are still familiar to Rachael Lampa fans, yet many of them have been completely transformed. The remixes are inventive and well made, not simply a variation of the originals, but virtually all new songs. I only wish Word/Warner were as generous to buyers as Sparrow is with their remix projects. On albums such as Newsboys Remixed and ZOEgirl's Mix of Life, you got well over and hour's worth of music with the same quality, priced at $10 or less. Blur is only ten tracks, forty-five minutes long, and yet you still pay $13 to $16 for songs you are already acquainted with. It would have helped if Rachael had included a few more mixes for your money, or better yet, a couple of new songs that demonstrate the new artistic direction she's taking. Nevertheless, Blur appears to be a smart move by Rachael, taking her into a more focused artistic direction that makes her more relevant to her peers. This bodes well for her next new recording.