Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Various Artists
Mellow Mellow Volume 2

Released 2001 on Harmless
Reviewed by Joe Kenney, 29/03/2004ce

The first volume of Mellow Mellow is one of my favorite CDs. Volume 2 is almost as good, but I do feel that Harmless lost its way a bit with the track selection. Volume 1 totally lived up to its subtitle: "Smooth Grooves & Chilled Breaks," but volume 2 is more of a downtempo r&b compilation. Not many "chilled breaks" on display; mostly just "smooth grooves." Volume 2 also differs in that it features more "unknowns" than the first CD.

Standout cuts: Johnny "Hammond" Smith provides my favorite track in the Mellow Mellow series with his "Can't We Smile," a laid-back, grooving number with soaring vocals. Roy Ayers blends vibes with a fat bass groove on "Everytime I See You," Leo's Sunshipp get funky on "Give Me The Sunshine," Rufus and Chaka Khan belt out the all-time classic "Sweet Thing," and Kool and the Gang contribute "Winter Sadness" (a counterpart to their track "Summer Madness," which appeared on volume 1), which showcases some laid-back guitar, before it turns into a mellow jam with some great synthesizer work and a funky bassline that's just as fat as the one on Roy Ayer's track.

So as you can see, there are many great songs on this compilation. However, there are a few that just don't fit in with the concept behind the series. For example, the Horny Horns's "Four Play," while a great, funky track (which is still the template for any hip-hop group looking for a sample), doesn't fit in with the concept behind the series. Same for the instrumental version of James Brown's "King Heroin," which comes off as more depressing than mellow. These songs (and Lonnie Liston Smith's "Space Lady") are great, to be sure, but I just don't feel that they fit in with the series. Nor does the Rotary Connection's mesmerizing version of "Respect," which would be more at home on Harmless's "Gimme Shelter" or "Paint It Black" releases.

As it is, this was the only other volume of Mellow Mellow released, and it came out a year after the first. It's been two years since this volume was released, and I wonder if Harmless plans to release any others. Perhaps they've moved on to more experimental compilations, such as the excellent As We Travel, or just downright weird compilations, like Soul Food (a compilation of soul tracks about food!). Whichever, I hope Harmless comes around and gives us a Mellow Mellow volume 3, and soon.

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