"War Child presents Heroes" is the third in the series of compilations to raise money for children affected by war around the world. Prior to this release, the only other one I'd owned was 2005's "Help - a day in the life" featuring acts such as Radiohead, Keane, Coldplay and Bloc Party to mention a few.
This new collection comes with a twist. Where "Help.." comprised mostly new recordings from the artistes involved, here we get covers of songs selected by the original performers. This is the only minus, as one gets to compare the covers with the originals (where you are familiar with them). For example, Franz Ferdinand's live cover of Blondie's "Call me" is practically identical to the original, right down to the deadpan vocals of Debbie Harry. Well, the song is great so that is really no loss.
Estelle sounds a wee bit like Lauryn Hill as she blasts through Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" but with those funky horns replaced with scatting and ad libs. Duffy does a stripped, Bluey-y cover of Paul McCartney's "Live and let die", the Hold Steady transform Bruce Springsteen's acoustic ballad "Atlantic City" into an upbeat Rocker, yet still manage to sound just like the Boss himself.
Rufus Wainwright does what he does well, a theatrical almost Cabaret delivery of "Wonderful/Song For Children", a Medley from Brian Wilson's Smile, one of my favourites. Elbow turn in a Coldplay-style delivery of U2's "Running to stand still", initially calm and building to a stadium-sized climax. David Bowie's "Heroes" is given an upbeat, stomping treatment by TV on the radio with lead singer Tunde Adebimpe turning in an echoing Bowie vocal impression.
The other songs are all new to me; a fuzzy/distorted cover of Bob Dylan's "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" by Beck, a rolicking cover of The Kinks' "Victoria" by The Kooks, a synth driven/ghostly cover of Joy Division's "Transmission" by Hot Chip, Lily Allen and Mick Jones doing a gentle cover of The Clash's "Straight to hell" (and it sounds like it could be right off her "Alright, still" CD), and a blazing and frenetic cover of The Ramones "Sheena is a punk rocker" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
An AWOL Scissor Sisters do what they did for Pink Floyd's "Comfortably numb" to Roxy Music's "Do the strand", Peaches covers "Search and destroy" by Iggy Pop, Adam Cohen does an impassioned live Spanish acoustic/piano cover of dad Leonard Cohen's "Take this waltz", and The Like do a rocky, reverb-filled cover of Elvis Costello's "You belong to me".
Nice music, and all for a noble cause.