You will either love this, or hate it. Ambivalence is not an option.
In Remixes, Sarah Pillow has taken a selection of seventeenth century baroque tunes and reproduced them faithfully on disc 1. Then on disc 2 she re-arranged each of the thirteen songs for modern consumption. The concept is not new, with the most recent incarnation being Shania Twain's 2002 release Up! which comprises a country mix on one CD, a second CD with a pop mix of the same 19 songs, and a third CD with an 'international' mix.
Disc 1 contains the classical arrangements. The style is early baroque, with much of the music taken from the late 17th century. The baroque era in the history of western arts was distinguished by its stylistic complexity, grandeur, sensuous richness, drama, movement, and emotional exuberance. This music is classical, but clearly not in the operatic style.
(Baroque for dummies: Think Green Sleeves, not Figaro!)
If you're into pre-classical folk songs, you're in for a treat. The songs on the first CD are faithfully reproduced down to the instrumentation which is played by Pillow's Galileo's Daughters ensemble – with Mary Anne Ballard on viola da gamba and Jennifer Peterson on harpsichord. Lutenist Ronn McFarlane and organist Dongsok Shin also contribute to the traditional renditions of the songs.
Sarah Pillow has a wonderful, crystal voice which is beautifully suited to her selection of baroque pieces. Her classical training is very apparent, and she is also an accomplished jazz singer. Bon't look for any hint of modern jazz here – this is pure classical stuff.
Disc 2 contains the remixes. Each song is essentially the same piece as the corresponding track on disc 1, re-arranged and featuring backup music by an ensemble drawn from Tunnels & Brand X.
You can't help thinking that Pillow and colleagues were scratching, trying to find a format that would work. It is a brave attempt but it's tough to take a 17th century Henry Purcell piece and throw in a few brilliant lead guitar licks and a pop rhythm and say that it works. Some of the remixes have a pop style, some are jazzy, some are great elevator music, all sound a bit awkward.
If you have a very broad mind and are an aficionado of classical singing, new age, jazz and progressive music, then don't hesitate – this album will be a key addition to your collection. But if your collection favors standard prog-rock, prog-metal or fusion, then approach with caution and go to Buckeyball Music's samples page and try it out first. You may be surprised.