Sunday, March 08, 2009

Various Artists - War Child: Heroes

War Child has a history of great compilations. Their last effort, Help!: A Day In The Life. It was recorded and released in a record-breaking 30 hours featuring prominent acts such as Radiohead, Coldplay, and Bloc Party. Heroes is is a conceptually great album as well. Well respected, established musicians pick their favorite new act to cover their tracks. Unfortunately, this album is plagued by many of the same problems most compilations face. Far too many half-assed covers and bad B-sides.
Now, I understand the cover song is a tricky proposition. How does one pay respects to a great track without copying directly, or transversely mutating it in to something it was never meant to be?
Lily Allen was smart enough to have an original Clash member to help her out on her cover of their mournfully beautiful (and overly sampled) "Straight to Hell". It turns out to be one of the album's strongest tracks. Duffy pulls the ace out of her sleeve for her take on Paul McCartney/Wings "Live and Let Die". She turns it from amped-up Bond song to smokey, sultry barroom blues. Rufus Wainwright's take on an excerpt from Brian Wilson's master work SMiLE is fairly straightforward, but his voice fits so perfectly that he could claim the music as his own. Of course, The Hold Steady's take on Springsteen is excellent. It really cements the comparison between the two groups.
Elsewhere on the album are some epic fails. The Scissor Sistors turn Roxy Music's pop noire masterpiece "Do The Strand" into a very boring disco rave-up. The Kooks take on The Kinks' "Victoria" is wholly uneccesary, as it ports the song straight across, only adding a bit more studio shine. Peaches take on The Stooges "Search and Destroy" is probably the biggest disappointment on the album. Not that it wasn't expected to be an awful song (What Peaches song isn't?), no, what is disappointing is the fact that Iggy Pop chose Peaches in the first place.
Still, this is an album worth having, the good covers are that good, and the decent covers are worth having. Just do yourself a favor and actually buy this album. It's for a good cause. War Child sends money to children in war ravished countries.

The Hold Steady - Atlantic City (Bruce Springsteen Cover)

Rufus Wainwright - SMiLE (Brian Wilson Cover)

Lily Allen Ft. Mick Jones - Straight To Hell (The Clash Cover)

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