Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign To Save Darfur

Various Artists

Warner Brothers, 2007

REVIEW BY: Paul Hanson


This release is a two-disc collection covering a diverse musical landscape. It's a who's who of mainstream musical acts as U2, R.E.M. and Aerosmith rub elbows with Christina Aguilera, Avril Lavigne, Jaguares, and Youssou N'Dour. The common thread is that all of the songs on this album are covers of John Lennon songs.

Aerosmith's take on "Give Peace A Chance" turns into reggae, thanks to Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars joining them. Christina Aguilera checks in with a soulful rendition of "Mother" that sounds like it was a heart-wrenching track to record. Los Lonely Boys' take on "Whatever Gets You Through The Night" is a joy to listen to. When their trademark clean guitar leads take some liberties with the original, it sounds right.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

All of the songs on this album could easily be pushed onto various sub-genres available on mainstream radio. The radio station that typically plays Green Day's "American Idiot" could play "Working Class Hero" instead - the angst in both songs are the same - and a station that plays U2's "Where The Streets Have No Name" could substitute "Instant Karma" without a lot of difficulty. The songs on this release rival the Van Halen tribute compilation Everybody Wants Some, a disc I hold up as the pinnacle of compilations. Both collections have enough diversity in the bands chosen to represent the original artist's work respectfully.

Avril Lavigne singing "Imagine" is a change of pace for her. I’m familiar with her Let's Go album thanks to my kids; here Lavigne sounds comfortable stepping away from her typical style of material and adding instruments like piano and violin. On the second disc you get Jack Johnson playing the same song. The contrast between the two versions is sharp enough that including the same song twice doesn’t seem like filler.

I will readily admit my ignorance about the crisis in Darfur prior to getting this album. Once in a while, I'd hear about it on the news, mainly about when a report by the UN is released, citing the terrible conditions.   While Africa feels far away from my own world of kids, wife, and work here in Iowa, doing a little research for this review showed me that it is a land where death, violence, and chaos reign daily.

This album represents an initiative by leaders of the mainstream rock world to raise funds to help those in Darfur. According to Wikipedia, the United Nations (UN) estimates that the conflict there has left as many as 450,000 people dead from violence and disease. It's a humanitarian crisis, and I encourage you to explore it, get involved and do something about it. Darfur is in your world too, even if it seems far away from the screen you're sitting in front of now.

Rating: A

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© 2007 Paul Hanson and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers, and is used for informational purposes only.