It sounds like one of those artistic marriages that are totally mismatched. But someone came up with the idea of pairing the songs of British soul crooner and all-around nice guy Phil Collins with some of hip hop's and modern r&b's most prominent performers.
And "against all odds," the union brings out the best in both parties, accentuating the rhythmic roots of Collins's standards and presenting the hip-hoppers with some succulent melodies to wrap themselves around.The project germinated following numerous requests to Collins's publishing company from hip-hop and r&b artists for permission to cover his songs on their own discs. The suits put two and two together, and this tribute album was born.
Collins's music has already been covered by rappers like DMX and Queen Pen, and of course Eminem drops a reference to "In the Air Tonight" (performed in a riveting version here by Lil' Kim) in his notorious Stan. But they only hint at the connection between Collins's tunes and these hip-hop kids featured on Urban Renewal.
Brandy and Ray's echo-filled version of "Another Day in Paradise" takes the Collins original and transforms it into a swirling raveup. Likewise, the aforementioned Lil' Kim version of "In the Air Tonight" in which she duets with a sample Collins himself.
When the r&b stylists take over, the results are just as impressive. Montel l Jordan dominates "Against All Odds" and Brian McKnight propels "I Wish It Would Rain Down" into a soulful serenade.
Some of Collins's material is just too bland to do much with, as Kelis finds out on "I Don't Care Anymore" and Deborah Cox discovers on "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven." But most of the 15 selections highlight some new aspect of Phil Collins's songwriting style that his own performance and arrangements either ignored or failed to transmit.
Urban Renewal helps to promulgate Collins's legacy better than the little fella does himself.
URBAN RENEWAL featuring The Songs of Phil Collins
1. Ray J "Ray J Prelude"
2. Brandy & Ray J "Another Day in Paradise"
3. Ol' Dirty Bastard "Sussudio"
4. Deborah Cox "Something Happened on The Way to Heaven"
5. Dane Bowers (from Another Level) feat. Kelis "This Must be Love"
6. Lil' Kim feat. Phil Collins "In the Air Tonite"
7. Coko "Gotta Hold Over Me (Easy Lover)"
8. Kelis "I don't care anymore"
9. Joe "Can't turn back the years"
10. Debelah Morgan "Do you remember"
11. Montell Jordan "Against all Odds"
12. Changing Faces "One more night"
13. TQ "All of my life"
14. Brian McKnight "I wish it would rain down"
15. Malik Pendleton "Take me Home"
© The Jerusalem Post, by David Brinn