Albums: Back to the Old Skool and Back to the Old Skool 2
Artist: [Various]
Label: Ministry of Sound
Released: 2001-10-01 and 2001-11-19
Summary: Classic anthems and cringe-worthy gimmicks halfheartedly mixed together.

Back to the Old School and Back to the Old Skool 2 are two compilations of rave and early house music released by the Ministry of Sound. As two releases aren't enough to really qualify as a series, I'm reviewing them as if they were one big box set. Each part contains two CDs, and each CD contains twenty tracks, giving you a grand total of eighty songs. That works out as over five hours of dance music.

First off, this compilation includes many classic and unashamedly cheesy songs that pretty much defined the genre. If you're only casually into rave and early house, this contains all the songs you'll need. Unfortunately, there is a catch.

The problem is how the songs are mixed in. In my opinion, there are two types of compilation worth getting:

The first type involves many songs being mixed in together skillfully. Often two songs are played at the same time that sound so well together that you'd think the artists intended them to be played this way. Turntablism is used, the tempo and preferably key of the songs are matched, and the whole mixture turns into a new piece of music in its own right. The Dirtchamber Sessions Volume One is a good example of this type of compilation.

The second type has the tracks unjoined, with a small amount of space between each one, so you can leave out the songs you don't particularly like, and put the remaining ones on random play. You can then pretend you've got your own tailor-made radio station with no adverts. This is by far the most common type of compilation as it's much easier to make. It's also the type of compilation you should make when you have a phenomenal number of songs to include. Let's face it, any genre more specific than "classical" or "rock" is unlikely to have eighty classic songs.

Back to the Old Skool is a lot closer to the second kind of compilation, but many of the songs overlap by a small amount, with all the finesse of a wedding DJ. This means that although the mixing isn't impressive or artistic, it will still get in the way of rearranging the songs. This is a shame, because the songs themselves include all the classics (such as Pump Up the Volume, Voodoo Ray, Hear the Drummer Get Wicked and Back by Dope Demand) as well as all the best forgotten gimmicks (including Sesame's Treet and Trip to Trumpton). It's impossible to separate the gold from the gravel.

As a result, I for one am still searching for a compilation that firmly falls into one of the two groups that I like. This definitely doesn't.

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