The 1999 Guinness Book of World Records touts Paul Oakenfold as the "World's Most Successful Club DJ." That's no small feat, but now he has finally released his first artist album after being involved with the music and club scene for more than twenty years. Oakenfold's recent offering, Bunkka, is what you'd expect from someone who's graced the pages of a record book: an expertly produced, well-rounded, serious effort that mesmerizes with its masterful soundscapes. Each track provides a distinctly different listen than Oakenfold's previous mixed-compilation discs. From the slower, India-infused "Zoo York" to the bizarre "Nixon's Spirit" (which features the vocals of Hunter S. Thompson), Oakey demonstrates his range of influences and interests.
Furthering his brand of commercial dance music, each selection boasts its own star voicing hooky lyrics. An electric-guitar riff starts things off, leading straight to the big beats of "Ready Steady Go"; the likely club-theme "Southern Sun" fulfills expectations -- you can almost see the sun rising after an all-night party. The album features DJ Peretz (Perry Farrell) on vocals and finishes with the partnering of Tricky and Nelly Furtado in "The Harder They Come." Probably the most unlikely track is the sunny summer song "Starry Eyed Surprise," which features Shifty Shellshock, better known for providing the vocals for Crazy Town (of rock/rap "Butterfly" fame, if you can call it fame). Through this selection Oakenfold loosely dabbles in hip-hop, a genre with which he's quite familiar as a former Def Jam charge. This pulls listeners into the harder "Get 'Em Up" rap collaboration with Ice Cube, which is also found on the Blade II soundtrack. Grant Lee Phillips appears twice, and Carmen Rizzo, Oakenfold's programmer on the 2000 release Mobilize, helped produce and record more than half of Bunkka. Throughout this album, Oakenfold leverages his DJ and production experience with well-known guests to bring the decadent "underground" DJ lifestyle to the pop forefront.
Although Bunkka grants electronic-music fans a futuristic glimpse by debuting hot female vocalist Tiff Lacey, the disc overall plays it safe, mostly serving to show listeners and fans the extent of its creator's clout. With trance, hip-hop and rock well represented, this album may help ease mainstream America into a club culture that's far more prevalent in Europe. Oakey prepares to continue breaking records by leaving dance fans disoriented but curious as they await the remixes. On this debut, Oakenfold shows he can shake some ass and bring names.