Under Review: War Child Presents: Heroes

War Child Presents: Heroes

Making a solid tribute album is a tough game to win. There’s the inevitability of filler tracks, songs whose original versions are untouchable, and otherwise questionable inclusions. The redeeming part is that tribute albums, no matter how uneven, often support very worthy organizations. The newest album from international charity War Child (www.warchild.org), Heroes, follows the pattern of mostly-great covers for a good cause. War Child, whose efforts bring aid to children in war-stricken countries, mixed the album’s assembling process up a bit, asking veteran artists to nominate younger contemporaries to cover a tune from their classic catalogue.

Some of the choices were painfully obvious, such as The Kooks‘ predictable cover of The Kinks’ “Victoria,” and The Hold Steady‘s take on (who else?) Bruce Springsteen. More enjoyable are the covers by bands whose influences are a bit more subtle, such as Scissor Sisters’ boogie-down take on Roxy Music‘s “Do The Strand” and a live version of Franz Ferdinand covering “Call Me” by Blondie.

A few of the legends’ choices work almost puzzlingly, such as Iggy Pop picking electroclash girly-girl Peaches to do The Stooges‘ “Search And Destroy,” (which gives new meaning to the line, “Look out, honey, ’cause I’m using technology”) and the surviving members of Joy Division (i.e. New Order) nominating Hot Chip to cover “Transmission” (though Alexis Taylor‘s plaintive tenor makes you wonder how Bernard Sumner would’ve sounded if he would have been Joy Division’s lead singer).

The set isn’t without its missteps, as Welsh soulstress Duffy sucks all the fun out of “Live And Let Die,” and Leonard Cohen‘s son Adam delivers a strange version of “Take This Waltz,” incorporating a lot of the original Spanish poem his dad used as inspiration.

While I’m won over by the cinematic balladry of Rufus Wainwright‘s Beach Boys medley, I’m sure War Child is counting on Beck‘s raucous translation of Dylan‘s “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ pogo-ready take on “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” to catch prospective donors’ attentions. No matter what your style, odds are Heroes has what it takes to please your palate. And after all, isn’t universal happiness what these charities are all about?

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~ by E. on June 2, 2009.

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