Beyond The Spectrum: The Creamy Spy Chronicles
Blue Note, 2005
It has long been my opinion that the Digable Planets catalogue deserves a proper remastering treatment. Both Reachin’ and Blowout Comb are mixed down so poorly that only a small miracle can explain how the insect tribesmen managed to communicate their aesthetic of the smooth so memorably. On Beyond The Spectrum the nimble and determined flows of Butterfly, Mecca, and Ish are finally rendered appropriately audible and thus consonant with the spacey and dynamic funk, fusion, and yes, smooth-lite jazz samples. Whirling, hallucinogenic jams tailored for the cool-out breed like “Jettin’” and “Dog It,” both culled from Blowout Comb, benefit greatly from their studio shape-up. The cleaner audio on these songs translates into wider negative spaces that intensify the funk effect often alluded to but rarely achieved on previous attempts. The only track that suffers from its facelift is “Grafitti,” precisely because the very lyrics of that song call for its gargantuan bassline to come off as ugly and confounding as possible.
Technical and aesthetic matters aside, this release will be most appreciated for the inclusion of b-side burners like the crunchy DITC-esque remix of “Where I’m From,” and the gentle, smoked-out “Dedication.” I am somewhat surprised that “Lil’ Rene” (from the Coneheads soundtrack [Warner Brothers/WEA, 1993] and “Flying High In The Brooklyn Sky” (from the Stolen Moments: Red, Hot + Cool compilation [GRP Records, 1994]) were excluded, and it can be argued that this release attempts to do too much in one shot as both a rarities compilation and remastering project. Still, it is a worthy enough collector’s item to relish while the old gang recovers from their string of disappointing solo releases and prepares for their rumored reunion on wax.