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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 May
Sounds like … the songs of the Newsboys from their last two albums, sonically transformedAt a Glance … the Newsboys catalog has a bevy of songs that are perfect candidates for the remix treatment, which are wonderfully handled by several different artists, including some members of the Newsboys.

Sparrow Records has discovered a new low-cost source of revenue for their company – it's called the remix album. Unlike compilation albums however, there's an art to creating a good remix. It's more than simply putting a pop song to a new beat you can dance to, like so many past remix albums have done. There needs to be an element of creativity in the creation of the drum loops and sound effects. Thankfully, Sparrow's getting it right. Their first foray into the remix album genre was Avalon's O2 Remixed, a surprisingly well-made project that successfully transformed many of the vocal group's beloved hits into Euro dance-pop gems. Unfortunately, not all Avalon's fans were warm to the idea of someone messing with their favorite songs; and since the concept of a Christian dance club is fairly alien to most communities, O2 Remixed was largely overlooked. Sparrow probably will have an easier time marketing their latest two remix recordings — ZOEgirl's Mix of Life and Newsboys' simply titled Newsboys Remixed — because the concept is more compatible with the artists' style and fan base.

Like O2 Remixed, Newsboys Remixed features a handful of artists who lend their talents to transforming songs mostly culled from the Newsboys' last two studio albums. Perhaps the most prominent of these studio wizards are Andy Hunter (an up-and-coming DJ from the UK with a solo debut soon to release) and Tedd T. (producer for Rebecca St. James and Stacie Orrico to name a few), who both take the reigns on "It Is You (UK Mix)." This version merges old-time gospel with ambient electronica to remix the song into something you'd expect from Moby's Play or last year's Soul Lift project. Michael Linney's work on the album is equally impressive; he transforms the current single "Million Pieces (A Million and One Mix)" into a heavily distorted futuristic hip-hop track. He also handles yet another remix of the ever popular "Shine," but his "YZ250F Mix" is quite the rocking hip-hop groove that's different enough from other remixes of the song. I was delighted to see Dave Perkins involved with the remix project as well. The former guitarist of Chagall Guevara (Newsboys producer Steve Taylor's old band) delivers a stunning new rock rendition of "Fad of the Land," confirming my opinion that this Newsboys gem meshes well with the Chagall's repertoire as well. This version features additional guitars, keyboards, and drums, and Dave even brings Steve Taylor's backing vocals to the foreground.

If you were one of the Newsboys fans disappointed with the Love Liberty Disco album, you'll probably appreciate what Kipp Kubin and Tony Miracle did with that disc's three hits. The familiar opening guitar effect heralds the start of "Beautiful Sound (Below the Radar Mix)," which pretty much eliminates any trace of disco from the mix, save the lush string arrangement. The same can be said of "Love Liberty Disco (All Mixed Up Mix)" and its fabulous modern dance-club ambience. These remixes do a great job of reintegrating the songs into the Newsboys more modern-pop sounding repertoire. Additionally, there's the bizarre "NYC Mix" of "Good Stuff," which starts off true to the original, only to change into a cheesy easy listening doctor's lounge mix. Complete with a cornball Farfisa organ, a Moog synthesizer straight out of an old Wings album, and lots of "la la la" vocals, it bears little resemblance to the song people know. I suspect most people will dislike it, but I found it irresistibly campy and fun. Kudos to Kipp and Tony for coming up with something unusual and different to vary the sound of this album.

Members of the Newsboys remixed many of the songs on this album, everyone except Duncan Phillips and Phil Joel (who probably was busy devoting himself to his second solo effort). Frontman Peter Furler presents what is surprisingly one of the less interesting tracks, an "O2R Mix" of "Entertaining Angels" that simply features a sparser arrangement with a slightly different rhythm mix. Keyboardist Jeff Frankenstein created "Thrive (Is That James Dancing? Mix)," which is pretty much your generic house remix, as well as "Joy (Let's Be Frank Mix)," a far more creative effort that alternates between a wild transition with synth brass effects and an ethereal chorus. Most impressive of the Newsboys' efforts are the tracks by Jody Davis. "Lord (Father B. Mix)" features some very creative guitar effects; and while the chorus is fairly true to the original, there are surprises to be found in the verses and the excellent guitar riff in the bridge, which also brings Peter's vocal ad libs to the foreground. Even better is the terrific Euro-pop/rock sound of "Rescue (Helmet Mix)," which actually improves on the original version of the song with its stunning guitars, distorted dance grooves, and classic Steve Miller Band sound effects.

Some may complain about the inclusion of the "Mega Mix" from the Newsboys' Shine: The Hits album, but the eight-minute compilation of their greatest hits fits better on this album — besides, you still have an hour's worth of music if you exclude it. On top of that, the album is reasonably priced at less than $10, making it a far more worthwhile purchase than your typical "Best of" rehash. Newsboys Remixed will primarily appeal to fans of the band and electronic music in general, and I don't think anyone expects it to sell as well as a "real Newsboys album" like Thrive. Still, I think this album is even better than Avalon's remix album. It's more in line with the artist's music, and there's more texture and nuance in the Newsboys' music to tinker with. This is an enjoyable and well-done experiment that's sure to be a joy for any Newsboys fan.