Beautiful People “If 60’s Were 90’s” / <i> Continuum Records</i>


One might expect any self-respecting Hendrix fan to be up in arms over a project like this: an album by a British techno-dance group, based around a profusion of digitally sampled chunks of Jimi. There already are hideous precedents for it, albums of the ‘70s “Midnight Lightning” ilk for which producer Alan Douglas used splices and overdubs to fabricate shoddy “new” Hendrix music that was leached of the genius and fire that graced the guitarist’s legitimate works.

Beautiful People, however, have managed an inspired bit of grave-robbing. It’s not a perfect album: As surprising as the group’s taste and insight are, it also is ultimately frustrating to consider how much better this could have been. Hendrix, who died in 1970, was such an innovative, spiritual musician that nearly any collaboration--particularly one distanced by the grave--must fall short of his singular vision.

While adding modern beats, atmospheric synths and backing harmonies, the main “instruments” the group uses here are Hendrix recordings: Guitar riffs, solo sections, vocals and spoken asides from dozens of songs are mixed to create compositions.


A couple of the numbers are merely clever and cluttered, piling on one Experienced snippet after another until there’s a Stratocaster logjam. Other tracks, though, are done with a judicious ear and keen humor, remarkable considering the members of the Beautiful People quintet were in diapers when Hendrix was alive and blazing.

“Stone Crazy” percolates with bits of “Spanish Castle Magic,” “Purple Haze,” “Ezy Rider” and other tracks, while “Feel the Heat” takes the “bus ride through the galaxy” theme of Hendrix’s obscure “Stars That Play With Laughing Sam’s Dice” and sends it spiraling through the rest of the universe.

It’s on the slower tracks that the choice of samples approaches brilliance--which perhaps is even achieved on the title track, “If 60’s Were 90’s.” Over a slow, slinky Sade-ready dance groove, the group mixes Hendrix’s “If Six Was Nine” super-cool anthem of independence with his sex-steeped solos from the slow version of “Voodoo Chile.” The result is haunting, with a dreamlike, late-night mood that recaptures some of the magic of first hearing Hendrix back in the ‘60s.

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