The best type of music today is the type that knows how to give it back, in the most stylish, famous ways of the trade. Charity compilations used to be so painful, but if done right, could be powerful instruments of hope, respect and devotion for the cause at hand. Today’s entry will be about 2 stellar charity albums released back to back , Dark Was the Night for Red Hot, and War Child Heroes for War Child.
I guess it would be kinda exciting being producers of the modern charity album, nicking and picking your way through a list of the finest musicians, all of whom are dying to add some goodwill to their name for all the pot they’ve smoked, assembling the ultimate musical superhero in a glorious attempt to save the world. Depending on the way you do it, you would either end up with Superman, something with the real potential to motivate a generation, or you would end up with Lingerman, the kind of casual joke that nobody takes seriously.
Dark was the night by Red Hot.
Red Hot was organized nearly twenty years ago as an attempt to bring the world closer to fight against AIDS. The most powerful type of charity album channels the correct amount of gravitas as the subject it demands your attention, but still packs a punch of bittersweetness and lightheartedness that points to the direction of how we could all move on from there. Dark was the night, although a little on the side of heavy, is exactly the type of album we all need once in a while, whether it supported a cause or not. There is no tempo in the album and almost nothing current in it that you could boast of, but it is filled with such stunning vivid poetic beauty that it almost demands repentance from the listener. Now at this point you might be intimidated, and rightfully so, because AIDS is a heavy subject matter, and the album pays tribute to the cause by painting a rather bleak picture, acknowledging that there is very little we all can do except to try and understand and empathize.
But if you’re not the sensitive type, then you should at least consider that this album is a collaboration filled with the most shimmy and shiny kitty cats of recent indie history: Feist, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons), the Decemberists, The New Pornographers, Riceboy Sleeps (Sigur Ros), Arcade Fire, Beirut. Dave Sitek (TV on the radio), Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), Jose Gonsalez, Stuart Murdoch (Belle and Sebastian), Cat Power, Spoon, My Morning Jacket and Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), each writing and singing and covering their various interpretations and meditations of the night.
Still, with such a stellar cast, one shouldn’t expect the heavens. There are obvious duds in the album like Blood pt.2 by Buck 65, and Arcade Fire fails to inspire dramatic group singing where they previously succeeded to do so. But when the album is good, it is VERY good, producing perhaps the odd classic here and there, something that you will always go back to. However, be prepared to listen to an album that is dramatically dark in ways that is reminiscense of abandoned playgrounds at night, travelling alone and the lone whisper of yearning in the dark.
Feist and Ben Gibbard, Train Song
Grizzly Bear, Deep Blue Sea
The National, So Far Around the Bend (the entire album is produced by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National)
Feist and Grizzly Bear, Service Bell
Perhaps the most haunting bit on the compilation, a nice little piece of warning dressed in glittering regret and breathtaking vocals.
So, as much as Dark was the night exceeds itself as a charity album, it should be listened with caution and as the title suggests, best enjoyed in the Dark of the Night.
Visit Dark Was The Night’s website and get your own Dark Was The Night widget.
War Child Heroes by War Child
War Child is an organisation that works with children affected by war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, helping them cope with the aftermath of the war to reassimilate themselves into society. It is a hopeful organisation, for what brings us more hope than the children? And hence, that is exactly how the charity album tries to project itself, optimism in light of tragedy, brightly hued crayons masking the terror of guns.
But War Child Heroes, with all its psychedelic gun-graffiti (since when was psychedelic ever taken seriously), turns on itself and perhaps ends up as the casual joke of the bunch, passing the message in the most flirtatious and flamboyant way that does not resonate with either the audience, nor the subject matter.
War Child Heroes relies heavily on the talents which it does not have : Bob Dylan, Paul Macartney, David Bowie, U2, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and like, and not the talents that it does: Beck, Lily Allen, duffy, Elbow, TV on the Radio, Hot Chip, Rufus Wainwright, The Kooks, Peaches, Franz Ferdinand, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs etc.
This is especially so when it proclaims itself to be the Ultimate Covers Album, getting the most current artistes of the pop-rock scene to cover classics from the greats. But the offside is, none of the covers are able to break away from the influence of the great talents they originate from,and we don’t get any unpredictable stuff. And the result is a bunch of pop stars trying to compensate their lack of understanding of the source material but adding as much glitter, hair spray and keyboards. Though it does have some moments of exception, like Rufus Wainwright’s wonderful rendition of Brian Wilson’s “Wonderful” and “Song for Children”, ultimately it is mostly optimism without heart.
Therefore if you have time, just drop by HMV to get your copy of either one of those albums, but in case you were thinking, buying them won’t help to cut back your taxes. REMEMBER TO FILE YOUR TAXES BY THIS WEEKEND!