Arthur Russell's musical output was intricate and peculiar in a myriad of ways. He was an expressive cellist that was equally comfortable working in the world of disco as he as penning sentimental folk songs. His late career material traversed expressive synthpop, free flowing folk and even country music, leaving a deep and varied catalog in its wake. Master Mix: Red Hot + Arthur Russell pays tribute to Russell by having an army of musicians from across the musical spectrum cover 26 of his songs. The cast is as varied as the track selection and the combination produces some unexpected results. Jose Gonzales gets things started with spacey version of "This Is How We Walk On The Moon" that is able to capture the uneasy essence of Russell while taking the track through unexplored territory. It's followed by the short interlude of "Soon-To-Be Innocent Fun" which is handled quite magically by the keyboard of Lonnie Holley. Things pick up quickly as Robyn delivers a suprisingly faithful cover of Loose Joints' "Tell You (Today)." Even more remarkable is Hot Chip's shifty and idiosyncratic rework of the Dinosaur L's Loft classic "Go Bang." The song is the perfect foil for the British band's inherently quirky take on dance music. From there the compilation moves through a mix of Russell's softer material and more upbeat cuts. Highlights include Rubblebucket and Nitemoves offbeat take on "Eli," the soothing version of "You Can Make Me Feel Bad" from Phosphorescent, and Blood Orange's hypnotic one two punch of "Is It All Over My Face + Tower Of Meaning." There are many different ways in which Russell's music is covered throughout the compilation. They all seem to offer up a certain empathy and tenderness that only his music can invoke. It's remarkable how little of that gets lost in translation.
- music label: Yep Roc Records 2014
reviewed by Michu Meszaros 12/2014