“Best of” albums are always tough to review: if you already know you like the musicians in question, the album often serves a reminder of why you like them, probably through a replay of songs you know well. If you didn’t find them the first time around, well, are you any more likely now that they’ve been around so long they’re doing “best of” albums?
DJ Shadow’s new album, Reconstructed: The Best of DJ Shadow falls, for this reviewer, into the former category. This writer has enjoyed a good deal of Shadow’s work over the years, and this best of album provides a good reminder of just how far Shadow reaches, particularly in terms of musical breadth. In many ways DJ Shadow is the kind of DJ you want at a party: he adroitly jumps across genre sounds, passing along the wasted-rock sounds of “I’ve Been Trying,” dropping in to breezy jazziness of “This Time (I’m Gonna Try It My Way),” playing psychedelic party host on “Organ Donor,” and of course mixing up a dark undercurrent to the Richard Ashcroft-sung “Lonely Soul,” which listeners of a certain age may recognize as having been on the “The Beach” soundtrack – with heaps of other sonic explorations wrapped around them.
The two previously-unreleased tracks on the album, “Listen (featuring Terry Reid)” and “Won’t You Be,” are, as his other work, divergent sonic explorations. The first is an interesting mix of very Shadow-esque snare drum line providing a pulsing urgency to Reid’s vocals, punctuated throughout with a lovely, expressive trumpet. By contrast, “Won’t You Be” takes on the vibe of a smokey jazz club with a chill lounge singer, punctuated on occasion by the sound of a record being scratched and sampled rumba-sounding drum lines and lines lifted from a film.
If you liked DJ Shadow, this album will likely remind you why. If you don’t know Shadow, well, the music herein represents a broad enough pastiche of sounds that you’re likely to find something you’ll like.