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Flip Fantasia: Hits & Remixes (1999)

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Us3

When hearing Us3's groundbreaking 1993 debut, Hand on the Torch, the first thing a knowledgeable listener does is identify every riff sampled from the enormous Blue Note catalog: "That's Freddie Hubbard" or "That's Herbie Hancock." Hand on the Torch was a pioneering release in the acid jazz world, arguably the first album to make the jazz part of the equation as important as the hip-hop. However, listening to this rather unexpected 1999 hits-and-remixes compilation -- the much-delayed follow-up, 1997's Broadway & 52nd, had all but disappeared upon release, and acid jazz was no longer as viable as it had been a half-decade before -- it's telling to notice that listeners immediately latch on to the instantly recognizable jazz riffs mostly because there's not a lot else going on here. London natives Geoff Wilkinson and Mel Simpson show excellent taste in jazz samples and a remarkable facility at turning them into hip-hop riffs, as with the lifts from Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island" on their excellent hit single "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)," probably the best acid jazz single ever. Unfortunately, their rappers are uniformly uninspired and forgettable, and the four remixes, including a Nellee Hooper mix of "Cantaloop" that pointlessly removes the best elements of the song, are inessential. You might as well go buy the original Blue Note records. ~ Stewart Mason