War Child Heroes Vol. 1: The Ultimate Covers Album

2009-03-18 10:05
War Child: The Ultimate Covers Album
The message behind this album is simple: put your faith in the next generation. The marketing tip is mercurially simple too: invite 15 legends to each chose a contemporary artist to do a cover of one of their tracks. Simply brilliant – why did no one think of this before? It's not only a stellar idea, it's got heart too. Proceeds will assist child protection agency War Child in helping children who live with the brutal effects of war.

Beck breaks the album open on a high note with a muddy, dirty cover of Bob Dylan's "Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat". Although Dylan covers are always better than when he sings them himself, Beck does a great job of reintroducing Dylan’s extraordinary songwriting skills to a new generation with a vehicle they can relate to.

Lily Allen joins The Clash guitarist Mick Jones to rework their anti- war anthem "Straight to Hell". While her godfather Joe Strummer's loaded vocals in the original were bleeding with fresh anger, Lily's innocent, ethereal voice rather highlights the inevitable sadness of war, long after the fact. This sweet remake may be a far cry from a punk protest song, but it is appropriately poignant.

The essence of this project is summed up in Elbow's hauntingly emotive, yet careful interpretation of U2's "Running to Stand Still". Two totally different battles (heroine vs. heroes); one universal solution. When fighting against war, "You've got to cry without weeping/ talk without speaking / scream without raising your voice" to get your message across without being a hypocrite.

However, the album isn't just a slash-your-wrists reminder of war atrocities. Discover what fun you missed in the 60s, 70s and 80s without having to endure stretched tapes and tinny, mono playback. Electroclash vixen Peaches gets all freaky with Iggy Pop's "Search and Destroy" and we have ourselves a chart-worthy dance track! Chick rockers The Like funk up Elvis Costello's "You Belong To Me" and The Kooks keep true to 60s hand-clap magic with a very traditional cover of the Kinks' "Victoria".

Don't think you need to be a funky-punky-monkey to enjoy this album. Pop sensation Duffy filled a tall order when covering Paul McCartney and Wings' "Live and Let Die". Already covered by Guns n' Roses and Fergie, Duffy takes the road less travelled and keeps it very mellow. Her retro voice and simple accompaniment turn this former 007 theme into a soulful power ballad. And speaking of soul, Estelle bravely covers Stevie Wonder's "Superstition", producing a possible future club hit while doing it. Finally, Franz Ferdinand gives Blondie's "Call Me" some edge with rough riffs and gritty vocals, turning a cheesy 80s tune into a rock revelation.

It must have been incredibly daunting for all these new artists to take on such big projects. Imagine David Bowie slating TV on the Radio for their cover of "Heroes" – not that he would – but that's a big risk to take. It could ruin your career. And yet they all accepted the challenge and delivered thoughtful and sincere interpretations.

This is the ultimate celebration of good music across genres, decades and differences. And it works, because deep down, we all really do want World Peace.

Good for your ears, your education and your soul, this collection of covers is the new Band-Aid.

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