In the ongoing Classic Album Rewind series, some of our favorite producers discuss a classic dance album that influenced their lives and career.
On a spring evening in 1999, Terry Mullan, a popular Chicago DJ known for packing crates of exclusive wax, arrived at Motor nightclub in Detroit and proceeded to play not one, not two, but three cuts off Basement Jaxx’s debut album, Remedy. In those final days before Napster democratized music for all, the possession of such tunes was a major accomplishment. For the crowd of Motown ravers—who, during one two-hour set, were treated to the first local airings of all three of the album’s upcoming singles, “Redez-Vu,” “Red Alert” and “Yo Yo,”—it was nothing less than a dancefloor revelation.
“I was one of three people in the States who had the singles off of Remedy before anyone else,” boasts Mullan. “It was an honor to have that kind of ammo first, and I definitely rocked them with pride.”
Those three tunes, along with “Jump n’ Shout” and “Bingo Bango,” would go on to become seminal hits for the UK duo, whose reputation had grown throughout the ’90s via a series of unforgettable releases on their own Atlantic Jaxx imprint. Their 1997 cut, “Fly Life,” was already a ubiquitous party-starter around the world, with its long-winded air horn into and rollercoaster of filtered brass stabs. But Remedy introduced a new layer to the Jaxx’s samba-infused house music carnival, one that saw their songwriting craft catch up with the pure adrenaline of their Brazilian drum samples.
From the airy guitar strum and proto-vocodered vocals of opener “Rendez-Vu” to the Jamaican-inspired jump-up of “Jump n’ Shout” and the funkified bass-slap of “Red Alert,” side one came with a fully-formed mélange of sound that would define Felix Burton and Simon Rattcliffe’s musical career. They even offered a series of “-ludes” that played with the hip-hop convention of interludes between songs.
Side two began with “Always Be There,” a shamefully slept-on tune that easily rates as one of the best (and only) house music ballads of all time. It then went on to slide in the ska-referencing “Same Old Show,” before offering up one more dancefloor burner, “Bingo Bango,” in the mold of scorching house music that the Jaxx had already patented by the time the electronica boom hit.
The album was released to nearly universal praise, with UK indie bible NME calling Remedy “as good a dance album as anyone from these Isles has produced this decade,” and MTV.com proclaiming it to be “as seminal as London Calling and as well rounded as Sign o’ the Times.” And unlike many of its 1999 peers that haven’t aged so gracefully, Remedy holds up amazingly well, named #13 in Rolling Stone’s list of “Greatest EDM Albums of All Time.”
But perhaps the true gold standard achieved by Basement Jaxx on Remedy is that, despite airtime saturation that came to even include a Coca-Cola commercial featuring “Red Alert,” the album never tires. And one could easily point out that, despite plenty of other utterly amazing tunes in the Jaxx career—“Where’s Your Head At?”, “Romeo” and current killer cut “Mermaid Of Salinas”—they never produced an album that came close to delivering as many hit singles (five in total) as was found on Remedy. From a house history perspective, that makes it a Thriller of an album.