Armand Van Helden

Armand Van Helden enters the future by reaching back to the past.

In the mid- to late '90s, Armand Van Helden was the name in American progressive trance and house, penning hits like "U Don't Know Me" and "Witch Doktor" while remixing tracks by everyone from Puff Daddy to the Rolling Stones. His two postmillennial LPs met with tepid press and little dance-floor furor, making Van Helden's first mix CD (and first album in two and a half years) something of a comeback. Designed to ape a club night in New York, the album delves heavily into the early '80s for a passel of hits: Blondie's "Call Me," Soft Cell's ubiquitous "Tainted Love," the Romantics' "Talking in Your Sleep" and even prog chestnut Yes's swan song "Owner of a Lonely Heart." Thankfully, Van Helden's tastes extend beyond this overplayed fodder to include the roaring Ram Jam one-hit wonder/Leadbelly cover "Black Betty," Klonhertz reprising Wire's "Three Girl Rhumba" (also the source of Elastica's hit "Connection"), and Felix Da Housecat's throttling electroclash number "Cyberwhore." Van Helden even finds room for three of his compositions, the collaboration with NYC girl group Spalding Rockwell being the best of the bunch -- like the Sneaker Pimps with better arrangements. Overall, it's quite an eclectic tour de force. Van Helden refrains from tampering with the hits and maintains a good flow, but this still feels more like a crossover attempt than an appeal to the dance-floor cognoscenti.

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