Monday, November 01, 2004


Vitamin Records. The new 101 Strings. At last count they've released over 100 (!) string-quartet "tribute" albums dedicated to every band/singer you've ever heard of, and plenty that you haven't. Maybe the weirdest: covering the entirety of the "Velvet Underground & Nico" album. Interesting choice, considering that some songs on that album are pure noise.

But Vitamin doesn't just release, say, string quartet remakes of Black Sabbath songs. They also have apparently tongue-in-cheek cocktail lounge "tributes" to the likes of eminem and Outkast. The audio sample of the eminem album on Vitamin's website was terribly obnoxious, but the bossa-nova take on "Hey Ya" was quite nice. The also have electronic, straight rock and acoustic tributes. U2 is the subject of a bluegrass (!) and New Age (!!) collections, the latter boasting Enya-like singing over "ethereal" backing.

I'm the proud owner of one of their best releases: "Swingin' To Michael Jackson," a bona-fide big-band blast. The arrangements (by one Jim McMillen) would be the envy of Count Basie, the solos are jazz-legit, it's loud, brassy, and original, even throwing in some reggae during "Beat It."

Check out their catalog, and ask yourself, "Self, who is buying all this stuff?"

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