Angela Johnson - Revised, Edited & Flipped (2012)

Angela Johnson
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The truth is this: there are few artists who've surfaced from the independent soul scene over the last decade who merit a career retrospective so early in the game. Angela Johnson isn't a typical artist, though. A quadruple threat, she's nurtured her singing, composing, playing, and producing talents ever since emerging as one-half of Cooly's Hot Box. After the group's Make Me Happy remix project arrived on U.K. shores in 2001, Take It (2002) introduced Cooly's Hot Box to U.S. audiences. From New York to Tokyo, the album marked the start of a long love affair between music fans and Johnson's songwriting -- a style that's always accentuated her impressive vocal power and strong sense of melody. Songs like "Happy Feelings" and "I'm In Love With You" attested to Johnson's strength in both ballads and dance-based material, a range that she explored in greater depth when venturing solo with They Don't Know (2002).

The truth is this: there are few artists who've surfaced from the independent soul scene over the last decade who merit a career retrospective so early in the game. Angela Johnson isn't a typical artist, though. A quadruple threat, she's nurtured her singing, composing, playing, and producing talents ever since emerging as one-half of Cooly's Hot Box. After the group's Make Me Happy remix project arrived on U.K. shores in 2001, Take It (2002) introduced Cooly's Hot Box to U.S. audiences. From New York to Tokyo, the album marked the start of a long love affair between music fans and Johnson's songwriting -- a style that's always accentuated her impressive vocal power and strong sense of melody. Songs like "Happy Feelings" and "I'm In Love With You" attested to Johnson's strength in both ballads and dance-based material, a range that she explored in greater depth when venturing solo with They Don't Know (2002).

Since then, Angela Johnson has always been led by one overriding vision: to just be herself. Her sophisticated musicality continued to grow and reshape itself on Got to Let It Go (2005), her A Woman's Touch (2008) producer's project, and, most recently, It's Personal (2010). On Revised, Edited & Flipped, she doesn't simply revisit some of her finest moments. Instead, she and a cadre of DJs and mix masters undertake the challenge of infusing some new life into already vibrant compositions.

It's a bold challenge, especially since remix ventures are alternately loved and loathed. In one sense, they offer fresh takes on the familiar or give the artist an outlet for further experimentation. However, listeners are often protective of the songs they love. To hear the ten year-old "Rescue Me" recast with a sleek yet funky arrangement may take some listeners aback at first but the "Blu-Swing" remix holds its own through repeated listens.  It doesn't just weave Johnson's vocal in and around monotonous beats. Like all of Revised, Edited & Flipped, it's one of fourteen, well-conceived excursions to a land where Angela Johnson assumes the throne as Queen of Clubs. During nearly 70 minutes of music, Johnson sustains a vibe that often takes unexpected turns between tracks. The common thread is that each "flip" commands attention because of its uniqueness.

Harkening back to the very beginning of her solo career, Johnson deftly rearranges "They Don't Know" in her own new remix, wherein the original vocal vamp that closed the song now ostensibly serves as the chorus. The title cut to Got to Let It Go is similarly washed and rinsed through a cycle of polyrhythms. With personality to spare, an organ cuts through the beats like falling stars shooting and dipping across the night sky. Equally compelling, the Massheen Remix of "You're Here With Me" summons a blissful ambience, a quality that would not be out of place on a Hotel Costes compilation or as the soundtrack to a poolside lounge in Ibiza.

Based in Italy, DJ Mickey More fuels "Better" with a driving beat. Decorated with horns, the song receives a startling makeover but still retains the infectious lead melody of the original beloved by Johnson's fans. Instead of merely pumping the mix with anonymous beats, More ensures that the winding bass line drives the rhythm along, with a sax solo riding out the closing minutes of the track. Perhaps the most startling remix of the project is "All In Me" (Yannis Remix), Johnson's winning duet with Darien from It's Personal.  It is an utter revelation in its new sonic skin. Over buoyant, reggae-infused rhythms, Johnson's chemistry with Darien is just as palpable and true to the lyrics here as it is on the original version ... if not more so. 

Similar to how A Woman's Touch debuted a new solo side by Angela Johnson ("Should've Been There") amidst a sea of Johnson's work for other artists, Revised, Edited & Flipped features a brand new song among the remixes. "Don't Take It Out On Me" is a stunning new addition to Johnson's already impressive repertoire. She bravely lays bare the tension that sometimes arises in committed relationships and explores the kind of delicate dynamics between lovers that aren't so readily and honestly addressed in popular music.

"Don't Take It Out On Me" is but one of many gems waiting to be excavated on Revised, Edited & Flipped. Ultimately, the set satisfies a number of appetites: it offers a bountiful meal to audiences who enjoy their soul served with a side of spicy beats; for the uninitiated, it's an appetizer to Johnson's original albums; and for Johnson's devoted international fan base, it serves some new flavors to sample while Johnson prepares the next course. To quote "Better," Revised, Edited & Flipped "lights the fire within." Keep it burning, Ms. Johnson...

By Christian John Wikane

 
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