Thursday, February 26, 2009
Various Artists - War Child Heroes
In the past I've often felt guilty when reviewing charity albums. As they're always for a good cause, and you have the commend each artist for taking part, it's hard to be negative - because in reality, a lot of these albums don't live up to their billing. However, this is far from the case with War Child's Heroes compilation.
Heroes is a small bit different from other covers records, as the artist who performed the original chose which contemporary band or singer to update their tune. This makes sense for David Bowie choosing TV on the Radio and Bruce Springsteen with The Hold Steady, but some of the choices are downright bizarre. Elvis Costello and The Like? Paul McCartney and Duffy? No idea where these came from. But it is good to see Scissor Sisters back. Where have they been?
The album opens with Beck's take on Bob Dylan's 'Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat', a very much inspired choice. I always find covers work best where they're not a cabaret/karaoke performance of the song, but sound like something the artist would write themselves. Here, this sounds very much like a Beck song. Roxy Music and Scissor Sisters is something similar, probably because they have such a distinct sound.
Lily Allen joins up with Mick Jones to perform a version of his band's (The Clash) 'Straight to Hell'. It also sounds like one of her own, except without all the sex and drugs reference. The Clash were one of those straight-laced bands don't you remember? Or do I have them mixed up with someone else?!
The real highlights of the album are Duffy's version of Paul McCartney's 'Live and Let Die' and the Hold Steady taking on Atlantic City'. 'Live and Let Die' works just as good as a soul tune, and really suits her husky voice. She really was deserving of some of those Brit awards. The Hold Steady do a magnificent version of the Bruce Springsteen tune, a bar-band romp that the Boss himself would have been proud of.
Like anything, every song is not going to be brilliant. Estelle's 'Superstition' (originally by Stevie Wonder) is a bit bland, and Peaches brings a confused look to my face every time I hear it. Surely Iggy Pop could have picked someone better. Peaches is very much all style and no substance (a bit like Lady Gaga so).
The record ends with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs doing the Ramones and then Franz Ferdinand's 'Call Me' (a Blondie cover). Both are splendid. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs tune makes me excited for their upcoming album. If it's as good as this cover, it could well be one of the albums of the year.
This record however is really great. It's probably the best charity album I've heard since the Cake Sale, and promises to be volume one in a series. I can't wait for the next instalment.