Ready, Steady, Go for Oakenfold

Review by Jack Foley

DJ Paul Oakenfold has had a varied career. Best known, perhaps, for being one of the 'founding fathers' of the acid house scene in the 1980's and one of the pioneers of 90s electronica, the world-renowned disc jockey has also been heavily involved with hip-hop and helped to produce one of the indie albums of all time - 1990's Happy Mondays epic Pills 'N' Thrills and Bellyaches.

Collaborations followed with the likes of The Cure, New Order and Massive Attack, while a year later, in 1991, Oakenfold was approached by U2 to work on the band's Achtung Baby album; helping to produce of the tracks Even Better Than The Real Thing (which was later released as a single in its own right) and Mysterious Ways. The Irish rockers even asked him to DJ for them on their historic ZOO TV tour (he has since collaborated on Beautiful Day).

Oakenfold went on to form his own record label, Perfecto, which still acts as a platform for promising new dance acts (Timo Maas are current favourites, for example), and has continued to collaborate with high-profile artists, such as Madonna (What It Feels Like For A Girl) and on soundtracks (such as last year's Swordfish). According to the Guinness Book of Records, he is the world's most successful DJ.

Yet until now, he had yet to release an album of his own material. Bunkka is that album and, boy, was it worth the wait. The album manages to combine all of Oakenfold's musical influences, from his love of guitar bands, through to hip hop and dance. And the collaborations continue, with artists this time repaying the compliment to help him sound better.

Bunkka looks set to be among the dance albums of 2002 and works on so many different levels; not least because it is an album to suit all moods. It also does justice to a prodigious musical talent.

Tracks such as Ready Steady Go (pumped-up and Prodigy-inspired), or Southern Sun (serene and chilled out) are probably the most easily identifiable (having been released as double A-sided singles), while the delightfully hip hop sound of Starry Eyed Surprise (featuring the vocals of Shifty Shellshock of Crazy Town) features on the current commercial for Capital Radio on television.

But it is difficult to pick out a bad track, such is the musical rush to be had while listening. Oakenfold has roped in some terrific talent, drawing on a diverse vocal range to bring out the best in his beats and breaks. Hold Your Hand, a really funky dancefloor number featuring the seductive lyrics of Emiliana Torrini is just a really great listen (one to kick back to at the end of a day), while the pumped up Time of Your Life features a terrific vocal turn from Jane's Addiction vocalist Perry Farrell.

Ice Cube appears on the attitude-laden Get Em Up (which includes a Mike Oldfield/Tubular Bells rift in the background), while Nelly Furtado and Tricky team up for the album's moody finale, The Harder They Come - a piano heavy, dirty beat chill out track.

But the award for most bizarre and intriguing collaboration must go to Nixon's Spirit, for which Oakenfold has enlisted the vocals of Hunter S. Thompson, the infamous creator of gonzo journalism and the author of 'Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas'.

Oakenfold purists will, no doubt, lap it up, even though they may not be able to pigeon-hole the style, for this is a mix-master dabbling in all the styles he has come to enjoy; and the result is nothing short of Perfecto!

Track listings:

1. Ready Steady Go (Feat Asher D)
2. Southern Sun (Feat Carla Werner)
3. Time Of Your Life (Feat Perry Farrell)
4. Hypnotized (Feat Tiff Lacey)
5. Zoo York
6. Nixon's Spirit (Feat Hunter S. Thompson)
7. Hold Your Hand (Feat Emiliana Torrini)
8. Starry Eyed Surprise (Feat Shifty Shellshock)
9. Get 'Em Up (Feat Ice Cube)
10. Motion (Feat Grant Lee Phillips)
11. The Harder They Come (Feat Nelly Furtado & Tricky)