by Rachel Brame –
This is a tale of two musical icons and one risk taker. It takes a keen ear to create REALLY good mash-up and Danger Mouse a.k.a. Brian Joseph Burton serves up the goods with this ultimate juxtaposition of cuts from Jay Z‘s Black Album & The Beatles White Album. As a die-hard Beatles fan I never thought their original classics could ever be improved upon, but blending these two albums together absolutely BLEW MY MIND the first time I heard it! The Beatles instrumentation is spliced and sampled over Jay Z’s beats and rhymes. I first read about this amazeballs mix in a music mag somewhere but didn’t know how to get a copy. Right out of the barrel, it was surrounded by lore and quickly earned a reputation of being the hippest album you couldn’t find (at least for a hot minute). As soon as I became aware of its existence I began an inner quest to seek out this novelty. Big thanks to You Tube for eventually overcoming this problem and spreading the joy!
Initially, I was surprised that Beatles songs were utilized and spliced like they are on this project since their catalogue was still an asset of Michael Jackson’s estate at the time. Now, it was quite a bold move on behalf of Burton to let loose this self-released ‘promotional’ experiment. Generally speaking, issues around Beatles song rights have typically resulted in VERY unpleasant litigation. I still catch myself thinking in wonder: “So, how did he really pull this off?”
It dropped in February 2004 with a very limited pressing of 3,000 copies. The Grey Album didn’t stay on the down low for too long before EMI issued a cease and desist letter in an effort to squash the project. Needless to say they were unsuccessful, the snake was already out of its cage. They couldn’t commandeer the thousands of copies already floating out in the ether. Some might equate Burton’s methods to bootleg guerilla tactics against the record industry, in hindsight one might call it extremely lucky creative marketing. Essentially, The Grey Album helped propel Danger Mouse to new heights in the music industry and carved a path to more ‘legitimate’ projects as a part of the Gorillaz and Gnarls Barkley. Its release left a deep imprint in the industry and has inspired countless mash-ups in its wake. When you hear it, I hope your mind is blown too.
Track list: 1 Public Service Announcement/Long, Long, Long 2:45 2 What More Can I Say/While My Guitar Gently Weeps 4:25 3 Encore/Glass Onion 2:40 4 December 4th/Mother Nature’s Son 3:34 5 99 Problems/Helter Skelter 4:06 6 Dirt Off Your Shoulder/Julia 3:59 7 Moment Of Clarity/Happiness Is A Warm Gun 4:00 8 Change Clothes/Piggies 4:04 9 Allure/Dear Prudence 4:06 10 Justify My Thug/Rocky Raccoon 4:12 11 Lucifer 9/Revolution #9 & I’m So Tired 2:01 12 My First Song/Can You Take Me Back & Savory Truffle 4:48