Armand Van Helden

New York: A Mix Odyssey (Tommy Boy)

In the mid- to late '90s, Armand Van Helden was the name in American progressive trance and house, penning hits such as "U Don't Know Me" and "Witch Doktor" while remixing tracks by everyone from Puff Daddy to the Rolling Stones. His two post-millennial LPs met with tepid critical press and little dance-floor furor, making Van Helden's first mix CD (and first album in two and a half years) something of a comeback. Designed to ape a club night in New York, the album delves heavily into the early '80s for a passel of hits: Blondie's "Call Me," Soft Cell's ubiquitous "Tainted Love," the Romantics' "Talking in Your Sleep" and even prog-chestnut Yes' swan song, "Owner of a Lonely Heart." Thankfully, Van Helden's tastes extend beyond this overplayed fodder to include the roaring Ram Jam one-hit wonder, "Black Betty," Klonhertz reprising Wire's "Three Girl Rhumba" (also the source of Elastica's hit "Connection") and Felix Da Housecat's throttling electro-clash number "Cyberwhore." Van Helden even finds room for three of his own compositions (the collaboration with NYC girl-group Spalding Rockwell being the best of the bunch -- like the Sneaker Pimps with better arrangements). Overall, it's quite an eclectic tour de force. Van Helden refrains from tampering with the hits and maintains a good flow, but this still feels more like a bid aimed at crossover appeal than a gift for the dance-floor cognoscenti.
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