Much like Moby, Fatboy Slim continues to prove that techno can have soul and that it’s a legitimate subgenre of rock. And what better way to do that than to sample the king of all rock-stars, Jim Morrison? “Sunset (Bird of Prey),” the first single and stand-out track from Slim’s Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars, samples Morrison’s “Bird of Prey” (the original of which is only available on the re-issue of the spoken-word collection, An American Prayer). “Sunset” brilliantly bulldozes all genre-boundaries, mixing ’80s-era beats and synth-effects with drum n’ bass and Morrison’s chant: “Bird of prey/Fly-ing high!”
Halfway features a lengthy list of guest appearances, both in-studio and sampled. The opening track, “Talking Bout My Baby,” is based on the tune “Macon Hambone Blues” by ’70s blues-rock band Wet Willie; “Retox” features Ashley Slater of the cult UK funk outfit, Microgroove; and the vintage-sounding “Weapon of Choice” features heavy basswork from P-Funk’s Bootsy Collins. Both “Star 69” and “Song for Shelter” sample Roland Clark’s “I Get Deep.” The latter is a mood-shifting anthem clocking in at over 11 minutes, and features the talents of New York house DJ Roger Sanchez. The track mixes Clark’s fervid rhymes with thick house beats, creating a celebration of unity and “the dance” (“As if Jesus was a DJ himself!”).
Macy Gray lends her vocal chops to two electro-funk tracks on Halfway. Her vocals themselves sound like they could have been lifted from an old ’70s-soul vinyl. At seven minutes, it’s clear Slim left Gray to do her thing on “Love Life,” ad-libbing her little heart out until the very end: “Gonna D ya/If I E ya/’Cause I wanna F ya.” Her vocal is particularly soulful on the gospel-hued “Demon,” a track based around the piano melody of Bill Wither’s “I Can’t Write Left Handed.” In the end, the songs do as much for Gray’s career as they do for Slim’s.
Purists might insist that connecting emotionally with techno can be attained through the expansion of the mind, and while this may be true, albums like Halfway continue to solidify electronica in the eye of the mainstream collective. Halfway, although largely based on other artists’ music, continues what Moby’s Play began: injecting soul into electronic music and further legitimizing it as a popular genre.