Friday, February 27, 2009

Jeff's Music Review: War Child – Heroes, Vol. 1

To get me through my Friday, I treated myself to an iTunes purchase this morning (and I feel like since I didn’t eat out once this week, I earned it – Emily take notice). My choice was War Child – Heroes, Vol. 1, a new album of covers, with proceeds benefiting war-affected children worldwide.

It’s a great concept. 15 “music icons” were asked to select a favorite song from their own catalogue and pick a new act to re-create the track.

Track Listing:
1. Beck - “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” (Bob Dylan)
2. The Kooks - “Victoria” (The Kinks)
3. The Hold Steady - “Atlantic City” (Bruce Springsteen)
4. Hot Chip - “Transmission” (Joy Division)
5. Lily Allen feat. Mick Jones - “Straight To Hell” (The Clash)
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” (The Ramones)
7. Franz Ferdinand - “Call Me” (Blondie)
8. Duffy - “Live And Let Die” (Paul McCartney)
9. Estelle - “Superstition” (Stevie Wonder)
10. Rufus Wainwright - “Wonderful & Song For Children” (Brian Wilson)
11. Scissor Sisters - “Do The Strand” (Roxy Music)
12. Peaches - “Search And Destroy” (Iggy Pop)
13. Adam Cohen - “Take This Waltz” (Leonard Cohen)
14. Elbow - “Running To Stand Still (U2)
15. The Like - “You Belong To Me” (Elvis Costello)
16. TV On The Radio - Heroes (David Bowie)

Which covers work?
Elbow’s loyal interpretation of U2’s “Running To Stand Still” is probably my favorite track on the album. Craig Potter remains true to the soft, slow, piano-base of the original and his vocals are haunting.

Beck covering an under-appreciated Dylan track? That’s right up my alley. Beck bounces through Dylan’s “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” replacing honky tonk with blazing distortion. Love it.

Lily Allen singing The Clash’s “Straight To Hell” was jarring upon first listen. Her sweet vocals make Joe Strummer’s biting lyrics somehow harsher.

Also worth a listen: The Hold Steady - “Atlantic City,” Yeah Yeah Yeahs - “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker,” and Franz Ferdinand - “Call Me.”

Which ones don’t?
By far the biggest bust was Duffy’s atrocious version of Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.” Her de-juiced, painfully slow interpretation isn’t likely to get revisited by me anytime soon. The definitive cover version of this song has already been done, thank you very much… by Guns N’ Roses.

A lot of people like TV On The Radio. I have yet to see the appeal. They sucked on Saturday Night Live a few weeks back and their cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” doesn’t work. It starts with a bad, karaoke-like Bowie impression and its hard electro-beats add nothing to the original.

Verdict: B-
Predictably, this cover album has its hits and misses. The highlights certainly make it worth the listen but I can’t help but agree with a BBC review I read before I clicked purchase:

“But given the breadth of talent assembled here, you do wonder whether letting them turn in their own homework might have been even more satisfying.”

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