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CD Review: Various Artists – Music for Hope

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It’s tough reviewing a compilation CD. Much of the time, compilations are made up of previously released material from well known bands that have been reviewed to death, leaving the critic to find something new to say about songs which have outlived their shelf life. It’s especially hard to review this kind of CD when it’s not that good and happens to benefit some worthy causes.

In this particular case, the compilation is the Music for Hope CD benefiting two non-profit groups, Summit Educational Resources, a non-profit that helps children with autism, and the Music is Art Foundation. The project was put together and produced by Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac, and features a number of up and coming bands like Last Conservative, The Juliet Dagger, Klear, and Katrina Carlson, most of whom record for Good Charamel Records, which released Music for Hope.

All of the above named bands and solo artists are quite good in their own right. But their efforts for this compilation seem to me a little lackadaisical. The usual driving force of Last Conservative and The Juliet Dagger and others just doesn’t punch through on this album. Maybe these groups were tired from touring or perhaps Takac as producer toned them down a bit. But the inspired, magnificent energy that make these bands dynamic is quixotically subsumed by rather bland arrangements and uninspired vocalizations. With some of the bands, Takac takes an experimental approach but doesn’t fully explore the potential in these experiments. What we’re left with are some good musical ideas that Takac and the bands don’t follow through on.

Beyond the music, the promotional effort behind the music is a little misleading. It sports a supposed unreleased track from singer-songwriter extraordinaire Ani DiFranco when in actuality, the song is a “re-working” of DiFranco’s “Napoleon” by Takac’s side project, Amungus. DiFranco fans expecting to hear her soaring vocals will be sorely disappointed, as DiFranco’s voice is nearly obliterated by effects processors. As someone who’s run non-profit organizations in the past, I wouldn’t want the name of my organization mentioned along with this deception.

I really wanted to like this album. I listened to it a number of times hoping that the direction Takac was taking would eventually fully engage me. But as it is, it is a magnificent effort left wanting. It is a shame, because the Music is Art Foundation and Summit Educational Resources, which benefit from the sale of Music for Hope, really deserve your support. So even though I don’t like this album or the deceptive practice that has gone into promoting it, I’m going to recommend it to you because I have a soft spot in my heart for worthy educational and neurological health groups. And if you choose not to buy this album, think about making a donation to the charities mentioned above. Their addresses are available on the internet.

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