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Re:mix Momentum

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jun
Re:mix Momentum
Sounds like … the bulk of toby Mac's Momentum album, remixed by various producers and generally favoring hip-hop eclecticism over hardcore rockAt a Glance … many of the songs have been reinterpreted in creative new ways, but only serious fans craving new toby Mac material will truly appreciate it

Some remix albums are designed to reinvent artists for the next phase of their career in an attempt to reach an all new audience and brace the fan base for a dramatic shift in style. Most, however, use the artist's back catalog as a sonic playground for the delight of serious fans (and artists as well). Toby Mac's Re:mix Momentum falls in the latter category, revisiting most all of the songs from his popular and acclaimed 2001 release, Momentum. That album was a satisfying enough experience for Toby to keep him focused on his solo career, much to the chagrin of dc Talk fans hoping for a follow-up to 1998's Supernatural anytime soon.

In fact, Momentum was such a pleasure for Toby that he couldn't help getting involved with this remix project. The original plan was for various producers and mix-masters to toy with Toby's music while he finished up his sophomore effort (which has indeed been pushed back to spring of 2004). Instead, like some sort of mad scientist, Toby was so intrigued by the sonic inventiveness that he found himself splitting studio time between his next studio effort and Re:mix Momentum, adding his own personal touch to many of the tinkered tracks.

When a remix album draws from a single disc's worth of source material, one can get a strong feeling of déjà vu reviewing it again. So, to be clear, this review is not about the songs themselves (you can read the previous review for that), but rather how the songs have been transformed, and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time and money compared to the original Momentum. At just over fifty minutes in length, Re:mix Momentum is not a terribly long recording, which is a good thing. It was originally planned to be a seven-track release, and ended up at fourteen—ten different songs, four of them remixed twice. None of them run longer than five minutes, so you know these are not your typical overblown club mix, but rather meaningful attempts to reinterpret the originals.

The result is a hodgepodge. The hip-hop funk of "J Train" (featuring Kirk Franklin) is one of the tracks visited twice. The "MATH Remix" (by members of Earthsuit) sounds tame and sparse compared to the original, revolving the song around a spacey electronic squiggle. It's outdone by the rowdier "Linney Borthers + DJ Remix," which adds a Rez synth bass riff and calls more attention to the female backing vocalists—the lead vocals sound grittier too. "Yours" was a heavy-hitting hardcore rocker on the Momentum album, but this disc's "[Jeff] Savage Remix" is a little less intense, ditching the crunchy guitars in favor of record scratches and R&B/hip-hop production effects. Even more intriguing is the "Mike Linney Remix, which is also less heavy, blending stripped down rock with reggae and leading into an interesting Celtic dance-styled riff by the track's end.

The popular single, "Irene," gets a face-lift in the "['Aurel M.']Marvin Remix," which drops the West Coast hip-hop sound (i.e., the reggae elements) for R&B ambience. That version is far better than "The Binary Twin Remix," which is more distorted and less structured, ditching the song structure in favor of turntable alterations of snippets from the chorus (although the sample of the woman humming a lullaby is a really nice touch). The delightfully tripping California rock of "Love Is in the House" is probably the only track that truly benefits from two remixes. First there's the "NW Remix" by Christopher Stevens and new Gotee artist Paul Wright, which warms up the backing vocals and creates an even more funky and laid-back vibe similar to Lenny Kravitz or Sugar Ray. The "[Dan] Muckala Remix," however, is much more stripped down, built on a killer drum loop and a familiar electric piano riff, later evolving into simple reggae. In some ways, it's the most fun track on the album.

Some of the other tracks that are only mixed once benefit the most here. The "[John Mark] Painter Remix" of "Somebody's Watching Me" (built around Rockwell's classic '80s hit) is fun in the way it turns the song into old school disco funk reminiscent of DeBarge or Kool & the Gang. The "Ghost Remix" of the rowdy rapcore rocker "Get This Party Started" is radically different, dropping the overwhelming electric guitars in favor of hip-hop elements. Similarly, Todd Collins's hip-hop "Beatmart Remix" of "Momentum" is worlds apart from the rocking original. My award for best mix of the disc, however, goes to the "[Tony] McAnany Remix" of "Do You Know." Featuring striking strings and a programmed Indian rhythm, it develops into a soaring mix of the chorus (which most recognize as the "Theme from Mahogany"). This one's a blast and full of surprises, even featuring a wonderful sax solo toward the end.

There's also a "Savage Remix" of the "Tru Dog" interlude from Momentum, which is sort of a cute sequel to the little track featuring Toby's son Truett. Really, the only failure on Re:mix Momentum is the terrible "Shoc Remix" of "Extreme Days," which is more irritating than interesting. Excluding that track, the reinterpretations are interesting, some more memorable than others. The disc calls attention to the talented producers behind-the-scenes, and I also appreciate the way that subtly meaningful phrases that were buried in the hip-hop/rock bombast of the original album are brought into the spotlight here. The question is, will people care? Though priced under $10, the only way you can possibly appreciate this album is if you're an open-minded fan of the original Momentum (in other words, not too much of a purist). You also need to be open to the idea of essentially buying an album for the second time. Considering that most people only buy a couple albums a month, I can't imagine people rushing to pick this up (as with any remix album). It's nevertheless a reasonably priced trifle for fans to consider as toby Mac continues to finalize the more worthwhile recording.