How do you bring these values together on a pop music compilation, without banging on about the same old themes so much that everyone loses interest? Well apparently, you don't overdo it.
The EMI team (whose compilation making track record is long and varied) have given this idea a fair shot with an upbeat collection of otherwise unreleased songs and song versions by top artists from Europe and America. The CD begins, not so appropriately, with a pleasing rendition of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by spunky Sk8er punk chick Avril Lavigne. Sure, the tune's nice, but come on guys! What's the link to competitive sports here? Skateboarding? And Destiny's Child / will.i.am's upbeat ditty on unmarried motherhood "I know" is also cool, but again there's no admissible connection with track, field, team, or (even at a stretch) water sports.
Perhaps the attempt to figure out why the producers considered these songs, and not others, suitable for the Olympics 2004 Official album is pointless. Maybe it's not intended to tie in with the event much, apart from the occasional accidental reference to world peace, and the emphasis on international collaboration. I'll assume so, so moving on swiftly...
Look out for nice tracks by the pompous but still impressive Sting, collaborating with Mariza on a version of "A Thousand Years". Beres Hammon and Les Nubians' relaxed protest song "All the way", Wayne Wonder and Neneh Cherry's cleverly rhythmic "Eyes on the prize" and the ever-present Brian Eno working with Skin and Rachid Taha on "Still Standing".
Pleasant surprises include Lenny Kravitz's finger-snapping collaboration with Kadim Al Sahir, "We want peace", and Alice Cooper's PC but cool personal growth anthem, "Stand".
Need a good laugh? Or depending on your taste, a good cry? Don't miss "Everlasting", a trio with impressive camped up emotive moments by Herbert Groenemeyer, Chep Mami and George Dalaras. 'The sorrow cuts into the soul / like raindrops into burning coal' (and cue violins) Dicey! I predict this number will be most popular in places where people 'don't speak English too good.'
In the tiring corner following one another: Mr G's dancehall "Issues", which gets a bit much after the first ten seconds of blooping and infantile lyrics, and Earth Wind and Fire's funky but tedious collaboration with Roots Manuva, "Love Together". Two skips isn't bad going though, for a 16 track album.
Or three. The purpose built official OTT Olympic anthem ("Pass the flame") by Trevor Horn and Yiannis Kotsiras and Tarkan has good energy and could, I suppose, have been more embarrassing than it is - but only just.
- Jean Barker
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