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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Rock Sugar - Reimaginator

Rock Sugar -
ReimaginatorIt seems like the mashup is starting to approach critical mass these days, eh? You’ve probably heard of such a beast at one point or another in one genre or another and have strong opinions on the result. My take is this: Rap and hip-hop showed us decades ago (yes, it’s been that long) that you can take existing popular music and craft something new and unique despite the dismissive attitude that you’re only recycling material you had no hand in creating. Advocates say it’s a legitimate art form that deserves its due credit, while detractors may claim it’s just lazy opportunists cashing in on someone else’s work and thumbing their noses at copyright law. I don’t know who’s right, but I do know when I like something. And regardless of who wrote what, at the end of the day, I just want to hear good music.

Rock Sugar is good music. Seriously.

There is a wealth of music from the hard rock/metal boom of the late 80s and 90s such that one can easily find material to use for a good mashup, but the real genius comes from blending songs from different musical genres and making the final result actually pleasurable to listen to. A lot of credit goes to lead singer Jess Harnell, who is better known as the voice of many popular animated characters such as Crash Bandicoot, Ironhide (from the Transformer movies), Captain Hero (on Comedy Central’s Drawn Together), and Spyro the Dragon. His training as a voice actor has no doubt helped him on tracks like Don’t Stop The Sandman, Heaven and Heaven, and You Shook Me Like a Prayer where his ability to emulate the vocal characteristics of James Hetfield, Bryan Adams, Steve Perry and Brian Johnson adds to the experience without sounding like another cheap parody. The rest of the credit goes mostly to guitarist Chuck Duran who does for guitar what Jess does on vocals, seamlessly weaving signature tones and styles from some of hard rock and metal’s most popular guitarists into his own sonic blend.

What makes this, and other mashups work is a simple formula: You can’t just take any two songs and mix them together. They have to have a common rhythmic background, but even better if their distinctive melodies can harmonize. But even more importantly, you have to take what your doing seriously and commit to the vision that you are making something new and enjoyable. This isn’t about getting a laugh. While not every song is gold on Reimaginator, when the formula works, as it does on Don’t Stop The Sandman (a mix of Metallica’s Enter Sandman and Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing) and You Shook Me Like A Prayer (Madonna’s Just Like A Prayer and AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long), it’s amazing; like a trying a dessert you’ve never heard of before where you put it in your mouth and think “holy shit, where did this come from?”

It gets even better on tracks like Here Comes The Fool That You Wanted where an artful mix of the EurythmicsHere Comes The Rain Again and Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive is topped off with a layer of Cinderella’s Nobody’s Fool. Crazy? Give it a listen.

The Bottom Line: Fans of mashups will enjoy a heavier version of the genre than normally heard, while hard rock/metal fans of the bands involved may experience their favorite songs on a new level. Either way, Rock Sugar is a talented group of guys who know their music and their enthusiasm translates into great tunes. This album is pure fun.

Standout Tracks: Practically the whole album. And check out their videos on YouTube!

By Allan Athans    The Right To Rock

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