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Album review: War Child's 'Heroes'

February 23, 2009 |  4:37 pm

Warchild Compilations don't pack the conceptual punch of a traditional album created around a set of themes, but they can impress with a gimmick, and War Child's got a great one. Have a legendary musician select a song from his or her catalog and handpick a younger artist to cover it. Then donate a portion of the proceeds to War Child, a charity that provides humanitarian assistance to children in devastated regions.

Most of the 16 tracks on "Heroes" don't disappoint, but there are a few that should've stayed on the drawing board. The Hold Steady covering Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City" would be novel if Craig Finn hadn't spent the last several years limning the Boss' style. Same for the Kooks' narrow homage to the Kinks, though sometimes close calls yield fresh beauty: Elbow has surely worn out the grooves on U2's early albums, but the band's version of "Running to Stand Still" explores different corners of the melody, turning up new depth and vision.

Other successful alliances include Hot Chip's sleekly funky rendition of Joy Division's "Transmission" and Roxy Music's "Do the Strand," which the Scissor Sisters inject with club sparkle. Duffy leaves her soulful imprint on Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" and the title track from David Bowie finds a good spiritual home with TV on the Radio. The Brooklyn heavyweights nail the balance of reverence and reinvention.

--Margaret Wappler

War Child

Three stars