Facts about this album:
The producers of this ‘War Child: Heroes’ asked 15 iconic singers to select their favourites from their own songs, and then select a new artist/group to produce their own interpretations.
‘War Child: Heroes’ was produced to raise money and awareness for those children who live in dangerous war zones, extreme poverty, or have lost families due to the destructions of war.
The first War Child album was entitled “Help” and was released in 1995.
There’s a convention to some charity albums: good cause, don’t worry about the tunes. Fortunately, that’s not an attitude War Child abide by. The concept with ‘Heroes’ is that a bunch of ‘legends’ have selected ‘younger’ acts to have a crack at a special moment from their catalogue. Beck transforms Bob Dylan’s ‘Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat’ into a woozy glam-rock stomp, Elbow let the stadium rock tyres down on U2’s ‘Running To Stand Still’, leaving it achingly tender, while Hot Chip’s Kraftwerk reconstruction of Joy Division’s ‘Transmission’ swaps menace for haunting chills.
Peaches’ dominatrix revision of Iggy Pop’s ‘Search And Destroy’ should achieve indie disco domination and Rufus Wainwright serves up baroque Beach Boys, while Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ thrillingly gutter-rock take on ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’ suggests their singer should rename herself Karen Ramone.
Straighter renditions from Duffy (Wings’ Live And Let Die’) and Estelle (Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’) aren’t without charm, but it’s Lily Allen and TV On The Radio who come top of the class. Lily gets the added scrutiny of tackling The Clash’s ‘Straight To Hell’ with Mick Jones onboard, but rather than retreat into orthodoxy, Big Audio Dynamite dub beats see them turn combat rock into a touching lullaby.
Sitek and co have the thankless task of covering ‘“Heroes”’ itself, but with spacey beats and almost balladeering vocals they recapture the spirit of the original without sounding anything like it.
Like all covers albums, the temptation to dig out the originals is not far away, but there’s enough electricity pulsing around these versions to not only justify a charitable contribution but also make it a worthy addition to your record collection.