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Dirty Vegas - Dirty Vegas Print E-mail
Tuesday, 04 June 2002

Dirty Vegas
Dirty Vegas
format: CD
label: Capitol
release year: 2002
performance: 8
sound 8
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

ImageDirty Vegas incorporates all the latest bells and whistles associated with contemporary dance music, but instead of relegating vocals to the status of just another aural element, singer Steve Smith gives this outfit’s beat-heavy music a tangibly soulful presence. His vocals are like the soothing voice of humanity, inside an otherwise well-oiled machine.

The album’s hands-down highlight is ballad called “Candles,” which plays out like bluesy ‘70s jazz fusion, due to its lopping rhythm and Fender Rhodes-like keyboard vibe. Smith sings the song -- which may or may not be about a nearly burned-out workaholic -- just like Billie Holiday might have done it. It’s a labored late-night plea to slow down and make amends, and it’s effective.

Dirty Vegas didn’t get its first major break from the pop charts, but rather because its song “Days Go By” was used for a Mitsubishi car commercial. That song’s frothy groove, with its Cher-like treated vocal, is not at all the best example of what Dirty Vegas does so well. Better by far is “7 AM,” which is shaped by a pumping bass groove and a clapping percussion track under a lyric that contemplates the consequences of giving into temptation. Smith’s vocals once again make the biggest lasting impact here, as his passion finds him in a mode similar to the distinctive singing of Simply Red’s Mick Hucknell.

DJ/producers Paul Harris and Ben Harris provide this album’s dance sounds, and they’ve given Smith plenty of electronic keyboard melodies and bass-heavy rhythms to sing over. The best parts of this album, however, are its actual songs. Nevertheless, studio experiments – like the propulsive rhythm and dub-vocal that drive “The Brazilian” – are also a big part of Dirty Vegas’ overall package.

In the end, contemplative tracks, such as the closer “Simple Things Part 2,” set this album apart from an almost overwhelming glut of robotics now flooding the current dance market. Dirty Vegas may have a seedy-sounding name, but due primarily to Smith’s honestly vulnerable lyrics and singing, this album is mainly all about coming clean.

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