CD Review: Songs for peace

Give peace a chance.

That is the overriding theme in “Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur.”

The two-disk compilation CD seeks to spread awareness about the current crisis in Darfur, Sudan, through 23 cover-tracks originally written by John Lennon and re-recorded by some of the world’s best-known artists.

Musicians, like Christina Aguilera, R.E.M., Aerosmith, Snow Patrol, Regina Spector, Ben Harper, Avril Lavigne, Jack Johnson and the Flaming Lips, portray activism through music.

The genocide in Darfur has taken 200,000 lives, according to Reuters. While singing a song about peace will not solve the problem, it can raise awareness to the issue. Everybody can contributes in their own way and these musicians gave it their all through the album.

Strong, chord-driven tunes like “Working Class Hero” by Green Day and “Gimme Some Truth” by Jakob Dylan featuring Dhani Harrison take a stab at the world’s politics with lyrics like, “I’m sick and tired of hearing things/from uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites/All I want is the truth.”

The album also includes strong ballads like “I’m Losing You” by Corinne Bailey Rae and “Mother” by Christina Aguilera. These songs are particularly moving, with powerful vocals and lyrics like, “Mother, you had me but I never had you/I wanted you but you didn’t want me/so I got to tell you goodbye.”

Overall, the album projects an up-lifting, optimistic vibe. “Give Peace A Chance” sung by Aerosmith and featuring Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” recorded by the Los Lonely Boys and “Power to the People” by the Black Eyed Peas send messages of unity, peace and justice.

The Flaming Lips’ take on “(Just Like) Starting Over,” is the hidden gem of the album. The melodic guitar chords in combination with Wayne Coyne’s lead vocals and lyrics like, “It’s time to spread our wings and fly/Don’t let another day go by my love/I’ll be just like starting over, starting over,” soothe and motivate listeners.

The album’s biggest flaw is its covers of “Imagine.” The song was put in the hands of Avril Lavigne and Jack Johnson, who both failed to meet expectations.

Johnson might as well have been singing his feel-good summer jam, “Bubble Toes.” He does not seem to understand the importance of the song and is simply singing for the act of singing, displaying no emotions.

Lavigne isn’t very convincing either and her detached approach does not allow the hopeful emotions this song carries to be released.

It’s almost impossible to listen to this album from start to finish and not get moved by the music, lyrics and messages the songs carry. Judging by the high-caliber artists involved with the album, it is easy to see the importance of its message.

“Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur” can be purchased at music retailers. An extended, 34-song edition of the album is available for $19.99 through iTunes. Proceeds from the album benefit Amnesty International’s human rights cause in Darfur.

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