Paul Oakenfold is a polarizing celebrity in the dance music industry. One need only look as far as the reviews on Amazon.com for his recent compilation, Greatest Hits & Remixes, to see the impassioned emotions people feel towards his work (some of them positive, some of them negative and quite critical). This reviewer found Oakie's latest project to actually be exactly what the phrase "greatest hits" personifies: strong song choices and major mainstream artists that the average fan will recognize.
I'll admit that I've never been a huge fan of Paul Oakenfold, nor have I purchased any of his albums. His take on Madonna's "Hollywood" remains my favorite remix from the American Life project, and I continue to be in awe reading about the numbers he commands for his live DJ sets (both in crowd attendance and salary requirements). So I came at this album from a neutral perspective. I have to say, in terms of content, it doesn't get any better than this. Major obsessive fans may quibble about song choice, but from the viewpoint of a casual dance music fan, this has everything Paul Oakenfold is best known for. Singles I'm familiar with, after hearing them on the radio and various other media are well represented: "Starry-Eyed Surprise," "Ready Steady Go," and "Faster Kill Pussycat." Big names he must've fought like hell to get the clearance for: Smashing Pumpkins, U2, Madonna, Radiohead, Justin Timberlake, and Everything But The Girl. Finally, seamless mixing from one track to another makes this non-stop compilation CD a professional victory.
As far as the mixing goes, while the segues themselves remain perfectly on beat, there is an alarming amount of tempo-change near the ends of a few tracks, most notably during the first half of the disc. One wonders if perhaps Mr. Oakenfold should've sped up the track gradually, increasing the tempo by an equal percentage throughout the duration of the song, instead of all at once during the final few 32 counts. Another negative I was surprised to notice was the omission of any tracks by Grace, whose hit song "Not Over Yet" has been remixed many times over the past decade. Her intense Perfecto-produced single "Skin On Skin" (and its accompanying instrumental "Orange") is my favorite Oakenfold production of all time, and it would've been great to see that or any other Grace songs on this album.
All of Oakie's favorites are here though: from the dazzling brilliance of Justin Timberlake's "My Love" to the brooding "Unfinished Sympathy" by Massive Attack, to the ubiquitous "You're Not Alone" by Olive. Paul's brand new 2008 mix for Everything But The Girl's "Missing" is a special highlight as well. All in all, this album is one worth picking up if you're even a casual fan of Paul Oakenfold. Twenty tracks and an ample 79 ½ minutes worth of music; you can't get more generous than that.