Tuesday, February 24, 2009


A lot of people groan at the idea of tribute albums. I'm not one of them. I enjoy hearing artists attempt to reinterpret someone else's work.  When done well, it can be as creative an endeavor as writing a new song. 

A lot of people groan at the idea of charity compilations, and are quick to mock "rock stars" getting involved in "saving the world."  I'm not one of those either. If I were a rock star, I like to think I'd try to use my position to help others to the extent that I could do so. 

All of that said, I can't totally recommend Dark Was The Night or War Child Presents: Heroes based on their music. You know that I rarely go negative here, but I just don't love either collection. 

Dark is the latest edition of the Red Hot series, which has also included Red Hot + Blue: A Tribute To Cole Porter, No Alternative, Red Hot + Country and America Is Dying Slowly. The series has encompassed "alternative rock," country, hip-hop, jazz, Latin music, dance music and more. Dark, organized by members of The National, features mainly current indie rock.  There's a lot of what I call "beard rock" -- guys with thick beards doing remotely folky music.  Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, My Morning Jacket, etc. There's also contributions by music for the beret wearing museum crowd: David Byrne and Kronos Quartet. I have enjoyed songs by many of the artists on the compilation, but I can't seem to get too into Dark Was The Night. But don't let me discourage you from contributing money to the Red Hot Organization, who fight AIDS through pop culture.  You can buy their older compilations from their website.

War Child Presents: Heroes has a theme. Older artists request to have younger ones cover their songs.  So Beck does Bob Dylan's "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat" at the request of The Bard,  The Hold Steady does Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City" because Bruce told them to, and so on.  I don't have much else to say other than, on paper, I was really psyched to hear the album, but haven't really enjoyed listening to it. But War Child is a wonderful organization who works in countries all over the world to help children whose lives have been ravaged by war. You should check them out, and contribute to them at their website.  

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