Machine Soul: An Odyssey Into Electronic Dance Music

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as of 11/26/2020 (Details)

The dance compilation that boasts its definitiveness, its freshness, or, God forbid, its phatness or dopeness, is, as they say, a dime a dozen. But when a label like Rhino calls their new release an odyssey, chances seem good they're going to deliver just that. Insert your favorite quote about reputation and disappointment here. This 28 track, 2-CD set is indeed an amusing sampling of the genre, featuring bands of historical value (Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle, Cybotron) and slightly more modern tried-and-true acts (Underworld, the Orb, the Prodigy, the ubiquitous Chemical Brothers), as well as the occasional guilty pleasure (M/A/R/R/S's "Pump up the Volume" and L.A. Style's "James Brown Is Dead"). Where the collection falls short, however, is on its "odyssey" claim. The cutting edge of the genre is completely ignored in favor of songs that don't necessarily need to appear on more compilations (Gary Numan's "Cars," New Order's "Blue Monday"). Finally, the cuts boom, but they don't flow, missing opportunities to make the most of history or influence (e.g., "Trans-Europe Express" would have made a more interesting Kraftwerk selection, if only so that it could be cozied up with the song that owes it everything, Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock"). All in all, it's a fun trip, just not a mindblower. --Bob Michaels

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