First of all, notice the UK album cover. It isn't a wall of records, as you yanks might have already seen. It is a fat git, holding a cigarette, with a cheesy grin on his face. I suppose the obesity problem is so severe in America, the record company didn't want to offend anyone (marketing: art's evil twin).
Fatboy Slim, or Norman Cook, reached his peak with You've Come A Long Way, Baby, or YCALWB, for the sake of brevity. It was released in 1998, and soon went on to become one of the most commercially exploited albums ever made, along with Moby's Play. Why do you think this is? I'll tell you. YCALWB is just downright catchy. It is surprising just how catchy Norman Cook can be, considering the fact that all his songs are entirely composed of samples. He synthesizes so many different sounds, that I have not ever heard in their original context.
Basically, he takes something someone else made, throws it in a can, jumbles it around with some break beats, and comes out with a brilliant track. That is, a brilliant dance and pop track. If you expect this album to stack up to Entroducing, by DJ Shadow, think again. YCALWB is enjoyable to listen to, but it never amounts to any musical achievements or anything ridiculous like that. You've Come A Long Way, Baby serves what it promises: fun, catchy, somewhat throwaway songs; not musical masterpieces.
Some of the better songs to demonstrate this are the infamous Right Here, Right Now, The Rockafeller Skank, and Praise You. Right Here, Right Now
uses a sample from the movie "Tank Girl" (I think), which is pretty much the basis of the whole song. That and the also infamous orchestration that goes along with the vocal sample. When you listen to it, it may sound simple, and in all honesty, it is. But remember, this is Fatboy Slim, not Kruder Dorfmeister. Right Here, Right Now is a fantastic dance track, and helped Norman Cook Achieve star status.
It is shame that artists often put some of the best tracks at the beginning of the album, as if they're trying to get your attention, and then slap around some more mediocre songs later in the album. This apparent in YCALWB, but oh well. I am sure you have heard the Rockafeller Skank
, and you should have. It was all over the radio for about two years, and was pretty much engraved into everyone's mind. The vocal sample can seem a little irritating at times, but Fatboy Slim manipulates it incredibly well. He spins and whirls it around in a fast, upbeat song.
Standing out among the seemingly random and pointless songs, Praise You
emerges towards the end of the album, and salvages anything that may have been lost. A piano tune and a male vocal sample make up the song, complemented by Fatboy Slim with crazy beats and keyboards of course. The song is funky, fresh, and uplifting. "We've come a long, long way together, through the hard times and the grief. I have to celebrate you, baby. I have to praise you, like I should" is the vocal melody sung throughout the song. I'm sure many of you guys out there are familiar with the director Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Jackass: The Movie, numerous music videos). He filmed the video for this song in an American shopping mall. He dances hilariously to the song playing on a boom-box, with a group of dorky, middle-aged, and overweight people in public. After seeing countless thin, sexy dancers in music videos, it feels nice to be confronted with the reality of people, and dancing. I know the video doesn't really represent the song, but I think some of the light-heartedness and innocence found in the song is carried over the video.
You've Come A Long Way, Baby is not an album that has much to prove, yet it was one of the most successful and important albums of the nineties, and the dance scene alike. Cook jumbles things is a predictable way sometimes, but you do not want to be surprised when you listen to the album. There are a few poor tracks, like Build It Up - Tear It Down, and You're Not From Brighton, but they do not subtract much from the album itself. Overall rating: 3/5, because of the ebullience and energy that is for the most part constant throughout the album.
Individual Track Ratings
Right Here, Right Now - 4/5
The Rockafeller Skank - 4.5/5
F**king In Heaven - 2.5/5
Gangsta Tripping - 3.5/5
Build It Up - Tear It Down - 2/5
Kalifornia - 3.5/5
Soul Surfing - 3/5
You're Not From Brighton - 2/5
Praise You - 5/5
Love Island - 3.5/5
Acid 8000 - 4/5