Review Summary: An abomination that could have only been formulated by a mad scientist.
Mash-ups are, at the very least, an interesting experience. It is the fusion of different musical components uniting to create something new. These components often originate from different genres, but if coalesced dexterously, can evolve into an enjoyable listen. Danger Mouse's The Grey Album
is an infamous effort due to the legal obstructions that surrounded its release. The album is an amalgamation of the vocalizations in Jay-Z's The Black Album
with instrumental elements derived from The Beatles' White Album
. Jay-Z had released an a cappella version of his album, intentionally for the implicit purpose of encouraging mashups and remixes. The material from The Beatles, on the other hand, was used without permission. Due to the amount of attention the album was receiving, EMI, the copyright holder of material by The Beatles, ordered Danger Mouse to cease distribution. But because of the growing popularity of his work, the album continued to be distributed, and eventually becoming recognized as one of the most illustrious efforts in its genre.
As I said before, Mash-ups can be an enjoyable listening experience when orchestrated adequately. The DJ work in this album is mesmerizing and at times it can prove to be quite inventive, and even ingenious. "99 Problems"
is the most eminent moment in this project. The instrumental elements are derived strictly from "Helter Skelter"
, but Danger Mouse completely disassembled the entire song and reinvented it. The guitar work that make up the essential part of the beat are beautifully composed as they roar with a passionate cry behind Jay-Z's vocals, inducing a truly compelling delivery. "Dirt Off Your Shoulder"
is another highlight. This time the instrumental section derives from a much more gentle piece, "Julia"
, an acoustic ballad. The synchronization in this song is truly astonishing. It opens with the same soothing introductory guitar arrangement as the original "Julia"
, but once Jay-Z enters with his opening statement, the music evolves into this disorienting frenzy of rearranged guitar notes and stomping drumbeats.
The Grey Album is certainly an exemplary release within the Mash-up genre, but it does contain its share of missteps. "Allure"
and "December 4th"
are constructed in such a facile manner. Driven by repetitive musical soundscapes that fail to provide the same surrealistic experiences found in the other compositions. But for the most part, Danger Mouse does prove himself to be a wildly imaginative DJ. Despite the fact that The Beatles and Jay-Z stand on the opposite sides of the musical spectrum, tracks like "What More Can I Say"
and "My First song"
, display how well Danger Mouse is able to coalesce these two musical components in a fashion that presents itself quite naturally, as the background music works thematically with the vocals. The overall sound of this album has a very interesting aesthetic because even though the instrumental sections are derived from a Rock album, they have been re-orchestrated to the point where the music expresses itself like pure Hip-hop. This is certainly an interesting release from Danger Mouse, and one that should be heard by any enthusiast of Mash-up efforts.