Jul 9, 2010

Review: Hidden Beach Unwrapped 5.0: The Collipark Cafe Sessions

NOTE: On July 13th 2010 Hidden Beach Unwrapped Volume 7: Back to Basics will be released. In the lead up to the new release, I will be posting a review every day of the previous six releases. You can read the reviews as they are posted by clicking on the links on the right side under the "Album Reviews" widget.


Hidden Beach Unwrapped Volume 5: the Collipark Cafe Sessions takes a departure from the previous four in that there's no classic hip hop tracks on here.  It's more of the current down south type of music from the likes of The Yin Yang Twins, Soulja Boy, Lil Jon, Hurricane Chris and Akon.

As I've been writing up these reviews for this week, I've both been anticipating and dreading writing this specific review.

I've been anticipating it and dreading it for pretty much the same reason:  I really didn't like this one.  I was kind of disappointed in the song selection for this as I'm not a fan of any of the artists whose song were chosen for this. 

I still bought it the day it came out, because I support independent music, and Hidden Beach definitely deserves to be supported.   That said, I wasn't as thrilled about this and going into it I was not filled with the eager anticipation that I had going into the others. 

That feeling when you look at the back of the CD and are thinking "wow, they did THAT song? Man I can't wait to hear that!" it fills you with this ecstatic feeling.

Of course this is also a feeling that is experienced less and less with the advent of the internet age, and the demise of the brick and mortar stores, but that's another conversation for another day.

So when I was deciding to write up these reviews, I was anticipating this because I didn't like it as much, and I realized it would be a break from writing the other four reviews.  See it becomes difficult to keep writing great reviews for the first four because I tend to repeat myself over and over.  

With this one, I could at least break out of the repetition of praising something over and over, and focus on the less praise-worthy.  And yet there's the rub.  There's the "dreading" that I mentioned, because it doesn't thrill me to say that. 

I'm not like some reviewers who seem to get off on trashing artists and albums.  To be honest I don't consider myself a "reviewer" at all, just someone that likes music and movies, and enjoys letting people know my thoughts, however insignificant they may be.

I've had a while to think about this, as the album came out in 2008, and I found myself frustrated because I felt like Hidden Beach really dropped the ball with this volume.  I feel like they lost sight of who their audience was.   Now, I understand the desire to branch out.  To bring in new audiences and perhaps introduce some younger people to the beauty that is jazz in a medium that they will embrace it, or at least be open to listening to it.

However over the course of the first four albums you've maintained a steady model there.  You've covered the classic hip hop tracks by the legends in the game such as Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Run DMC, Big Pun, Dr. Dre, as well as other solid hip hop artists of the last ten or twenty years.   That's what your audience has come to expect.  That's what we've come to love, and yet with this volume that model was abandoned completely for what is, I can only describe as, ringtone rap. 

I try not to be an elitist snob when it comes to hip hop, although I find myself falling into that trap from time to time.  However it is a bit jarring to go from Common and Tribe Called Quest to Soulja Boy and Hurricane Chris.   And I've talked with others about this and while I wouldn't go the extreme route of calling this a "sellout move" as I've heard, I understand why someone would feel that way.

So anyway, I just put this album back on and am listening to it as I type.  There are some highlights on this though.  It's a credit to the Hidden Beach musicians that they are able to take songs that I didn't like at all, and made them not only listenable, but in some cases, really good.

Michael Burton (Alto-Sax) is a flat out beast on Ay Bay Bay. It's rare to hear someone that just attacks a piece like he did and I found myself actually hitting repeat several times, and even rewinding little bits and pieces throughout thinking, "DAMN that was hot!".

On every Hidden Beach Unwrapped I look for two musicians.  Karen Briggs (Violin) and Mike Phillips (Sax).  I know they are solid and always bring it.  On the first two albums their tracks, for me, were always the best and their version of "You Got Me" on Volume 1 remains the best track of the entire series (even up through six which I'll be reviewing Monday). 

I was pleased to see that they had teamed up with the outstanding Jeff Lorber (keys) on Soulja Boy's Crank Dat, and as usual they did not disappoint. 

They also teamed up for "Shawty" and this was one of the strongest pieces on the album.

As I said I'm not a fan of the original songs, so that impacted my enjoyment, although listening to it again it is a decent offering.  Not nearly as strong as the first two, and not quite as good as the third or fourth.  The album is entirely listenable, which is a testament to the talents of Phillips, Briggs, Lorber, Bradshaw, et al.  And it's definitely leaps and bounds over the original versions, for what that's worth.

Hidden Beach Unwrapped always strives to move in creative ways, to continue to up the ante, and I think that's what they were doing here, which you have to give them credit for.  Too many artists and labels just play it safe and do what they've always done, and in the process get stale and safe.   So I give Hidden Beach credit for trying to think outside the box, and while I didn't care for this one as much as the others, perhaps I am in the minority and others flat out loved it.  And I'm sure it brought some new listeners into the fold.

Hopefully that is the case.   As always, below is the snippets and a link to purchase this at Hidden Beach's website.   Listen to the videos above and the snippets below, and make your decision.  If you think I'm crazy, then feel free to leave a comment and let me know.  Be nice though. lol.

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