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Various Artists War Child: Heroes Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

More ambitious than many previous covers record.

Jaime Gill 2009

Yet another charity cover versions album, War Child: Heroes adds novelty by asking the original artists to choose who should revive their songs. The results are predictably mixed: Mick Jones' choice of Lily Allen to add sugar and cream to The Clash's Straight To Hell proves surprisingly inspired, while Paul McCartney once again picks the wrong woman, with Duffy suffocating Live And Let Die with coy mannerisms.

As with all covers, the best songs here revere the original (is there anything more dispiriting than an ironic cover?) but add a new dimension or perspective, As well as Allen's chimingly lovely version of Straight To Hell, her sweet vocal making the lyrics bite even harder, Peaches brilliantly re-invents The Stooges' Search And Destroy as sleek, dark electropop and Scissor Sisters streamline and discofy Roxy Music's Do The Strand.

Of the bolder cover attempts, only Duffy's Live And Let Die truly falls flat on its face. Presumably, slowing down this former Bond theme was an attempt to add Shirley Bassey grandeur, but losing its abrupt, playful shifts in tempo robs it of all its former charm. Rufus Wainwright fares much better with his medley from Brian Wilson's Smile, pushing his florid, elegant vocals to the forefront.

There are more straightforward revisitings, too. Beck's version of Leopard-Skin Pill Box Hat is strikingly similar to Bob Dylan's own honky tonk version, with a little added swagger, while Elbow approach Running To Stand Still with the same stately grace as U2. Sadly, TV On The Radio's version of David Bowie's Heroes is a mess, with its hard electro beats adding nothing to the futuristic perfection of the original.

War Child: Heroes is admirably more ambitious than many previous covers records, and the fact it succeeds so often is to its credit. But given the breadth of talent assembled here, you do wonder whether letting them turn in their own homework might have been even more satisfying.

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