CD Review of Johnny Cash Remixed by Various Artists
Various Artists: Johnny Cash Remixed
Recommended if you like
Alabama 3, Rednex,
cognitive dissonance
Label
Compadre/Music World
Various Artists:
Johnny Cash Remixed

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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T
he terrible virus at the heart of the music industry has had some pretty nasty, wide-ranging effects, and almost all of them have been bad for consumers – but if there’s one positive thing we can take from the last 10 years of plummeting sales and label panic, it’s that desperate times call for desperate measures, and only in times as desperate as these would we ever see an album as stunningly, fascinatingly, wonderfully wrong as Johnny Cash Remixed.

When profits fall, you see, the industry’s quick solution has always been to either license old product or reissue it, offering maximum return for minimum investment – but after almost 20 years of incessant catalog-plundering, the labels’ options for the old approach have started to dwindle, so instead of just crawling into the vaults and giving the desiccated corpse of this or that heritage artist a good old-fashioned skullfucking, they’ve had to get a little more creative. And that, friends, is why you can now purchase this collection of Johnny Cash tracks, as remixed by producers and artists such as Alabama 3 ("Leave That Junk Alone"), Midnight Juggernauts ("Port of Lonely Hearts"), Pete Rock ("Folsom Prison Blues"), and Philip Stier ("Get Rhythm"). Of course, just because you can buy it doesn’t mean you should. Matter of fact, unless you have an unhealthy appreciation for the ridiculous, you probably shouldn’t – and if you consider yourself a Johnny Cash fan, you should hold your nose and run like hell from Johnny Cash Remixed.

The problem isn’t that the remixes are horrible; actually, for the most part, they’re sort of unremarkable – and in a few places, they actually make a certain limited amount of sense (exhibit A: the Kennedy remix of "Sugartime," a song that’s frankly ridiculous even on a good day, and which benefits from the hayride beat and cartoon-soundtrack vocals that have been tacked on). But when Johnny Cash Remixed is bad, it’s very bad: Pete Rock’s remix of "Folsom Prison Blues" has literally nothing to do with the spirit of the original, and Midnight Juggernauts’ treatment of "Port of Lonely Hearts" leaves it sounding like the morning after the worst rave of your life. The album’s executive producers – a group which includes John Carter Cash, Johnny and June Carter’s son and a man who will apparently sign off on almost anything – at least have the courtesy to signal their intentions right off the bat; Remixed opens with a QDT remix of "I Walk the Line" featuring Snoop Dogg, who kicks things off with a jaw-droppingly inane intro that culminates with the priceless quote "Hey, yo, Johnny, talk to \'em for a minute."

Johnny Cash Remixed certainly isn’t the worst thing you’ll hear this year, but it’s easily an early contender for the least essential release of 2009 – or a late entrant into the race for the least essential album of the decade. That being said, if you’ve ever picked up a piece of music for no reason other than morbid curiosity, this collection is right up your alley – and hey, if it sells well enough, maybe we can look forward to more of this stuff. Who’s up for John Denver Remixed?

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