Review Summary: Let's be honest here, you've never heard anything like this before
In 1998, and still reveling in the global success of The Fat Of The Land Liam Howlett called into The Breezeblock, a popular BBC Radio 1 show hosted by Mary Anne Hobbs. During his time there Liam performed a DJ set which sure him chopping and mixing several different artists and genres into an eclectic retro sounding performance. The set received immediate critical acclaim from the show’s devoted listeners, and several fans set about releasing bootlegs of the show. In a bid to suppress the pirated copies from reaching a high level of distribution amongst the public, Liam decided to replicate the set in his studio. Sadly, not of all his samples were allowed to be used, as releasing a cd is obviously for profit as opposed to incorporating them into what was, originally, a one off set. Released in 1999, and while omitting several of the aforementioned samples (namely The Beatles
’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band) ended up becoming almost double in length. This is one of the most genre crossing, awe inspiring, ensembles of music I have ever come across; this is The Dirtchamber Sessions, Vol. 1.
This is an album that has one of the shortest attention spans I’ve ever heard (it cuts through about 30 different tracks in just under an hour), but that’s not the strangest thing about this mix; it’s the massive amount of variety of music contained in it that makes it stand out the most. In the process of putting together a collection of some of his most favorite tracks Liam has managed to go completely across the board in terms of varying sounds. To give you an idea of just how varied this album is; it’s broken into eight sections, or tracks, with each spanning 5-8 minutes in length, and hidden in these segments are such varied genres as Hip Hop, Funk, Electro, Punk, Tech, and even some Rap to boot. In the first section alone, he plows through choice cuts from The Chemical Brothers
(their genre defining classic ‘Chemical Beats’ to be precise), Rasmus
, Time Zone
and the Ultramagnetic MC’s
(cutting in their breakthrough hit ‘Give The Drummer Some’, which of course was earlier sampled by Liam for ‘Smack My Bitch Up’). Things then take a turn into Rock territory for the second installment as The Charlatans
(their entry into the fold is one of the more delightful additions to the album), and Jane’s Addiction
all vie for a chance in the spotlight, with Grandmaster Flash
even peeking in from the sidelines.
Sound interesting so far" Just wait until the beckoning sounds of Flamenco guitars hit you as Babe Ruth
’s ‘The Mexican’ bursts onto the scene. Howlett then effortlessly mixes in The B-Boys
, before pushing The Chem
’s jaw dropping scratch showcase ‘(The Best Part Of) Breaking Up’ into the fray. Without giving you a chance to play genre catch up he quickly moves into the next segment and pulls ‘Hey Hey Can You Relate’ by DJ Mink
out of the box and takes it for a walk across your speakers. Howlett never seems to lose either focus or pace on this or any of the joints put forth here, but what does seem to come across in his performance however is an almost sense of urgency, as if Liam quickly realizes there’s another song that needs to be heard or another beat to throw into the pot. From here on in and all the way until the last note is wrung dry it becomes a who’s who of the music community as Liam cuts and splices such artists as The Beastie Boys
, Public Enemy
, himself (‘Smack My Bitch Up’ is briefly lifted up into the mix), Meat Beat manifesto
, LL Cool J
, Primal Scream
, and yet still finds room to include almost an entire Sex Pistols
track. To say this album is busy would be somewhat of an understatement.
This is one strange mix compilation, and while it is essentially a release by The Prodigy, it isn’t an album to fuel the dance floor. This is an album that requires a nice quiet place, a good pair of headphones, an open mind and a sense of adventure. It’s a musical journey, and also one of the greatest ways for a DJ to pay respect to all of his influences and peers. While it would be a hard task to find an individual who loves and appreciates every song on offer here, there genuinely is something for everyone to enjoy here. This is without a doubt one of the greatest mix tapes I have ever had the privilege of hearing.