Three Great Albums for Three Great Causes

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Three Great Albums for Three Great Causes

Musicians have a long, storied history of lending their talents to worthy causes. But I don’t remember ever coming across a trio of benefit records hitting around the same time that are this cool. I would have recommended the following albums if the proceeds went to pay for Donald Trumps hair implants, but they actually go to to organizations that fight human trafficking and AIDS and provide aid to children affected by war. So go buy them. Now.


1. Dark Was the Night

(Out now on 4AD)

The scoop:

The Red Hot Organization released its first AIDS benefit CD Red Hot +
Blue in 1990, featuring artists like Tom Waits, U2 and Sinead O’Connor
covering Cole Porter songs. Dark Was the Night is the 20th Red Hot
release and was curated by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National. “We
all agreed not to do a ‘theme’ album per se,” says Aaron, “but
something that
showcased the best in independent music, with an emphasis on
traditional themes played and arranged in a contemporary way. But there
many different stories behind each song: some we had heard live and
knew had to be on the record (The Books “Cello Song”, My Brightest
Diamond’s “Feelin Good”); close friends whose arms we knew we could
twist enough to give us special tracks (Arcade Fire and Sufjan
Stevens); bands we asked who were too busy but had solo projects or
side projects they could include (Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio and
Jonsi Birgisson of Sigur Rós); songs we had always imagined certain
artists singing (Cat Power’s “Amazing Grace” and Antony’s “I WasYoung
When I Left Home”); and dream collaborations (David Byrne and The Dirty
Projectors, Feist with Grizzly Bear and Ben Gibbard, and my own song
with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver).

The need:

A 2008 UNAIDS report estimates that 30.8 million adults and 2 million children are living with HIV. Red Hot is an international organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS.

The tracklist:

Disc One

1 Knotty Pine – Dirty Projectors + David Byrne 

2 Cello Song (Nick Drake) – The Books featuring Jose Gonzalez

3 Train Song (Vashti Bunyan recorded, written by Alasdair Clayre) – Feist + Ben Gibbard 

4 Brackett, WI – Bon Iver 

5 Deep Blue Sea – Grizzly Bear 

6 So Far Around the Bend – The National (arrangement by Nico Muhly)

7 Tightrope – Yeasayer 

8 Feeling Good (popularized by Nina Simone) – My Brightest Diamond 

9 Dark Was the Night (Blind Willie Johnson) – Kronos Quartet

10 I Was Young When I Left Home (Bob Dylan) – Antony + Bryce Dessner

11 Big Red Machine – Justin Vernon + Aaron Dessner

12 Sleepless – The Decemberists 

13 Stolen Houses (Die) – Iron and Wine 

14 Service Bell – Grizzly Bear + Feist

15 You Are The Blood – Sufjan Stevens 

Disc Two

1 Well-Alright – Spoon

2 Lenin – Arcade Fire

3 Mimizan – Beirut

4 El Caporal – My Morning Jacket 

5 Inspiration Information (Shuggie Otis) – Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

6 With A Girl Like You (The Troggs) – Dave Sitek

7 Blood Pt 2 (based on original song “You are the Blood” by the
Castanets) – Buck 65 Remix (featuring Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti)

8 Hey, Snow White (Destroyer) – The New Pornographers 

9 Gentle Hour (Snapper) – Yo La Tengo 

10 Another Saturday (traditional song) – Stuart Murdoch

11 Happiness – Riceboy Sleeps

12 Amazing Grace (traditional song) – Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues

13 The Giant Of Illinois (Handsome Family) – Andrew Bird 

14 Lua – Conor Oberst + Gillian Welch 

15 When the Road Runs Out – Blonde Redhead + Devastations

16 Love vs. Porn – Kevin Drew


2. War Child Presents Heroes
(Feb. 24 on Astralwerks)

The scoop:
compilation’s producers asked 16 legendary artists (like Bruce
Springsteen, The Clash, David Bowie) to pick a song from their catalog
and choose a newer artist (The Hold Steady, Lily Allen, TV on the
Radio) to cover it. Seeing which young bucks the legends selected is
fascinating in its own right. I guess U2 likes them some Elbow. The
album was recorded over six months in studios in London, Manchester,
Paris, Berlin, New York and Los Angeles. It was mastered at Abbey Road
studios in London.

The highlights:
*Beck’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat” highlights (and updates) the natural groove of the original

*The Hold Steady really sounding like Springsteen

The need:
of all casualties in war are children. In Afghanistan, one in four
children will die before the age of five. War has forced 18 million
children to flee their homes, and there are 300,000 children who have
been conscripted into armed forces around the world. War Child provides
opportunities and long term solutions for war-affected children,
focusing on education, strengthening children’s rights, reducing
poverty and fostering self-reliance. War Child protects children in
Darfur, Sudan; rebuilds schools in the increasingly volatile Democratic
Republic of Congo; provides support to vulnerable women and their
children in Afghanistan; and works to protect the rights of women and
girls in northern Uganda who have suffered greatly from a long and
brutal war.

The tracklist:
1. Beck (Bob Dylan – “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”)
2. The Kooks (The Kinks – “Victoria”)
3. The Hold Steady (Bruce Springsteen – “Atlantic City”)
4. Hot Chip (Joy Division – “Transmission”)
5. Lily Allen feat. Mick Jones (The Clash – “Straight To Hell”)
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs (The Ramones – “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker”)
7. Franz Ferdinand (Blondie – “Call Me”)
8. Duffy (Paul McCartney – “Live And Let Die”)
9. Estelle (Stevie Wonder – “Superstition”)
10. Rufus Wainwright (Brian Wilson -” Wonderful & Song For Children”)
11. Scissor Sisters (Roxy Music – “Do The Strand”)
12. Peaches (Iggy Pop – “Search And Destroy”)
13. Adam Cohen (Leonard Cohen – “Take This Waltz”)
14 Elbow (U2 – “Running To Stand Still”)
15. The Like (Elvis Costello – “You Belong To Me”)
16. TV On The Radio (David Bowie – “Heroes”)


3. Call+Response Soundtrack

(Out Now on Fairtrade)

The scoop:

The soundtrack contains 17 live cuts from the movie about human
trafficking, along with commentary from Cornel West. The film
intersperces live performances from acts like Talib Kweli, Switchfoot
and Imogen Heap with stories about slavery around the world.

The highlights:

Former child soldier Emmanuel Jal’s “War Child”
Matisyahu’s cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” which transitions into his own song about a girl on the streets
Cold War Kids’ live version of “Hang Me Up To Dry”

The need:

An estimated 27 million people live in bondage across the world, more
than at the Emancipation Proclamation or any other time in history. All
of the profits from the soundtrack go to help fund organizations like
Not For Sale, International Justice Mission and Free the Slaves, all of
which exist to fight human trafficking.

The tracklist:

1. Introduction to Call+Response – Cornel West

2. Hang Me Up to Dry (live) – Cold War Kids

3. Indestructible (live) – Matisyahu

4. Blues = Justice – Cornel West

5. I Trust You to Kill Me (live) – Rocco DeLuca

6. Baby Blue (live) – Justin Dillon

7. Warchild (live) – Emmanuel Jal

8. Soulmate (live) – Natasha Bedingfield

9. Exit Music for a Film (live) – The Scrolls (Works Progress Administration)

10. Freedom – Cornel West

11. Broken Glass (live) – Talib Kweli

12. World (live) – Five For Fighting

13. Music Is About Helping People – Cornel West

14. Awakening (live) – Switchfoot

15. Rise Up (live) – Works Progress Administration

16. Unwritten (live) – Natasha Bedingfield

17. Indifference = Inhumanity – Cornel West

18. Bus Ride (live) – Rocco DeLuca

19. Justice Is What Love Looks Like – Cornel West

20. We Used to Vacation (live) – Cold War Kids

21. I Am an Abolitionist (live) – Justin Dillon and Rocco DeLuca

22. Redemption Song (live) – Matisyahu

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