Saturday, February 18, 2017

DJ Shadow - "Midnight in a Perfect World" (LP Review)

David Axelrod, another artist who nicely illustrates the difference between influential and popular, died earlier this month.  You probably haven't heard of him, but he is a popular source of samples for hip hop heavyweights such as DJ Shadow, Lauryn Hill, and Dr. Dre.  I have David Axelrod's eponymous 2001 LP, but instead of that I'm focusing on my first introduction to his music: DJ Shadow's "Midnight in a Perfect World". 

"Midnight in a Perfect World" is the lead single and arguably the best song on his seminal 1996 LP "Endtroducing...." In fact, "Midnight in a Perfect World" was almost the name of this blog, which should convey the depth of my feelings about this haunting yet substantive song.  DJ Shadow samples many artists in the song, but the prominent piano sample is from "The Human Abstract", of Axelrod's 1969 William Blake-themed LP "Songs of Experience".

As is typical for Mo' Wax releases, there are several versions of this single.  My version is the 1998 US 5 track CD single with:
  1. "Midnight in a Perfect World" (LP Version)
  2. "The Number Song" (LP Version)
  3. "Red Bus Needs to Leave" (non-LP track)
  4. "Midnight in a Perfect World" (Gab Mix)
  5. "The Number Song" (Cut Chemist Party Mix)
They're all great tracks, and it's a shame that the Gab Mix (technically a DJ Shadow remix featuring Gift of Gab) for "Midnight in a Perfect World" is relegated to an obscure B-side.  I won't say it's better than the original, but rather it illustrates the best elements of a remix in that it incorporates an alternate but necessary perspective on the original.  That's probably also true for the Cut Chemist mix of "The Number Song" (which is an even more radical transformation), but that track has appeared on so many releases it hardly still qualifies as a B-side.

I'm breaking from my standard LP review format by linking the DJ Shadow songs above, and the David Axelrod song below.  To fully understand "Midnight in a Perfect World", you really need to listen to "The Human Abstract".

David Axelrod - "The Human Abstract" ("Songs of Experience" Full LP)

Final score: 10/10

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