various artists

War Child Presents Heroes

War Child is a charity that “provides opportunities and long-term solutions for war-affected children” in places like Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq, and for this benefit compilation CD it convinced 16 legendary artists—Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, The Clash, Brian Wilson, Leonard Cohen, U2, Elvis Costello and more—to donate one of their classic songs … with a twist. Each had to handpick a new artist to cover the tune. Despite my pessimistic expectations of the new artists (everyone from Beck to Peaches, and Estelle to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) living up to the entrenched classics, I was very pleasantly surprised by most of the tracks. There are a couple of stinkers, for sure (I can’t skip over the Scissor Sisters’ disco-lite rendition of Roxy Music’s “Do the Strand” fast enough), but the old guys obviously considered their choices carefully. Standouts: Beck’s overdriven, up-tempo rave-up of Dylan’s “Leopard-skin Pill-box Hat”; The Hold Steady’s re-imagining of Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” (including a capella repetition of the “everything dies” lines, and the deft addition of a Clarence Clemons-like sax to hammer the melody home); Adam Cohen doing a live Spanish version of his father Leonard’s “Take This Waltz”; and best of all, the plaintive, atmospheric rendition of U2’s “Running to Stand Still” by British five-piece Elbow.