The new Foreign Exchange album is not a “Foreign Exchange” proper album, although it could very well be an extension of what Foreign Exchange have established over the years. While they’re calling it a remix album, +FE Music: The Reworks features not only FE songs but also tracks that various members of the +FE family have done, plus a few cameos from Phonte, a number of remixes from Nicolay, and more. I feel more artists should make a “resume album” this good and this deep.
On one hand, it’s a great way to hear new mixes of familiar material, so if you’re a fan of Foreign Exchange or Phonte’s solo album, you can hear new interpretations of what you like. If Phonte had a special guest spot in something, you may hear it here. While FE has been about the soul with touches of pop, he has a few rap verses on this, for those who still demand what he had offered with Little Brother. All of this makes the album quite good, but then it gets better.
If some feel that soul music in the United States went down the tubes in the last 15 years, one can argue that it has been European artists who have helped to keep it strong, if not alive, at a time when it could have laid itself to rest. I look at Nicolay’s remix of Deborah Bond’s “Say It” and it reminds me of something I would expect to hear on a 4Hero or Jazzanova album. As for 4Hero, he handles the remix to Zo!’s “Flight Of The Blackbyrd” and with Phonte’s sweet vocals helping out in the background, it feels like a project that was… I was going to say “made elsewhere” but perhaps a better phrase would be that it sounds like worldwide music, as if I might catch it in a hot club in Japan as I would somewhere in Germany or France. Nicolay’s remix of Vikter Duplaix’s “Electric Love” sounds like it has a few purple shades to it, with slight musical hints to Prince’s “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” or Vanity 6’s “Drive Me Wild”. Hear Duplaix’s vocals made me think “the only thing that would make this song better would be background vocals from Clara Hill.” Phonte’s tracks are all standouts, and hearing these new music will make you ponder on which is the better (or preferred) mix. He has one of the best voices out there, and it doesn’t matter if he keeps things mild mannered or breaks out, I like hearing what he does.
+FE Music: The Reworks is soul, it’s a club album, it’s electronic soul, it’s disco, it has the slow jams, and there’s more than enough tracks on here deserving of maximum exposure and airplay. This is a double album with close to two hours of music, and it has some grit to it, in that there’s substance to what I’m listening to. A part of it reminds me of the music I grew up listening to, but it also sounds like the music I found a liking to while exploring magazines that looked elsewhere for inspiration. What I could not find domestically, I had to hunt for and this sounds like a great accumulation of the many things one would love to hear in an album. It may very well be an assortment of songs but it’s put together as if it was a concert performance, a set list for a concert you would feel foolish in missing. Whatever Phonte and Nicolay plan on doing with the Exchange they have organized so far, it has been a very healthy union and one that I hope will continue for many years to come.