.386dx The best of

(from http://ampersandetc.virtualave.net/ampv2001_04.html)

15 great rock songs brought to you through instrumental and vocal synthesisers. Yep, the ultimate techno group (invented and developed by Alexei Shulgin) which has actually played over 40 concerts. ‘California dreaming’ sets the pace - faithful to the original, with a harpsichordish solo, and a gentle computer voice singing over. From there we move through ‘Jumping jack flash’, ‘Should I stay or should I go’, ‘House of the rising sun’, ‘Rock ’n’ roll’, ‘Light my fire’, ‘Anarchy in the UK’, ‘Don’t cry’, ‘My generation’, ‘Purple haze’, ‘Imagine’, ‘Smells like teen spirit’, ‘I shot the sheriff’, ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Layla’ - a veritable history of rock and roll (but why two Stones and no Beatles?) The voice is a little, how shall I put it, soulless - there is some tremelo and nice sustain, and better than you would expect, but not warm (although some might argue the point: is ‘Layla’ more moving than the original? though the pronunciation is more like Lor-ler). Very growly aggresive for the Pistols, while the ennunciation is appropriately off with ‘Smells like teen spirit’!

(However, it could be familiarity with the lyrics - my partner couldn’t recognise ‘I shot the sheriff’)

Instrumentation is good - rather keyboard dominated: the piano in ‘House of the rising sun’ is very realistic, and there’s a lovely organ solo. The pace changes smoothly - ‘Light my fire’ takes a gentle rhythm (which stretches the voice a tad) and again nice piano and harpsichord, balancing the rockier items. A highlight is ‘Imagine’ which reproduces Lennon’s piano and simple percussion, adding a touchingly weird vocal. Drum riffs are handled better (the rhythm in ‘I shot the sheriff’ is very bouncy), guitar solos are shaky, unless acoustic. Sometimes the version moves from the original - ‘Anarchy’ has a wurlitzerish solo, while the vibrato and squeals on ‘Purple haze’ are a perfect touch. Properly pop songed, the tracks are at most 4 minutes but generally 3 or less - just the right time.

The cover is an excellent ASCI version (minus the analog zip) of the Sticky Fingers cover (with the underpants on the disk) - and accurately represents the versions we find here, close but worked within the limitations of the medium. A piece of flummery perhaps, but a lot of fun. Not to be taken too seriously (except as an example of what computer music can do) but definitely will be pulled out and wacked on pretty often before the novelty wears off. (For windows users the program is also on the disk, and there is a quicktime music video of ‘California Dreaming’ - coincidence: the bloke from the Mammas & the pappas died today)