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CD Reviews:  America: A Tribute to Heroes

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"This is a prayer for our fallen brothers and sisters," Bruce Springsteen mumbles as his signature harmonica opens the two-disc compilation of mostly quiet and soulful ballads that is America: A Tribute to Heroes. Unlike the lively and upbeat Concert For New York City, done weeks later, this release was created during a live studio broadcast just days after the September 11th attacks last year. The nationwide telethon, broadcast historically on all three major networks simultaneously, was aimed at immediately raising funds for the World Trade Center survivors and community personnel, and it did! There is no live audience present, no clapping or cheering between performances, and no humor whatsoever. Instead, this is a landmark event of music and emotion, stripped down to its very soul.

The performances enlist some of the top names in the industry, playing some original material and some borrowed cover songs, but all remain relatively somber and error on the side of quieter ballads. Springsteen's "My City of Ruin" is brilliant and couldn't have struck a more appropriate chord for the evening. U2 was pulled in via satellite from a studio in London to supply an inspiring run-through of their current hit "Walk On." The lovely Faith Hill displays her incredible range on the gospel-like "There Will Come a Day," with full church choir accompaniment. Most artists attempt to remain close to the night's theme by re-working their own material, like Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" and Sting's "Fragile," while others succeed by dusting off old classics that seem a perfect fit. Neil Young's take on John Lennon's "Imagine" is one of the absolute highlights of the collection, and Wyclef Jean adds a very well-suited version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song." 

The lyrical alterations to Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" by Limp Bizkit and John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, while arguably hokey and ill-advised, are ultimately sincere and fitting, not to mention one of the more interesting performances of the broadcast. We all could have done without hearing Canadian Celine Dion take her run at "God Bless America," but once Willie Nelson and friends bring the curtain down with his splendid rendition of "America The Beautiful," we are all reminded of the cause and of a night in National TV history we won't soon forget.

~Red Rocker

Also see:
Concert For New York City (2001) : Feedback - Link to Us  - About B-E - FAQ - Advertise with Us

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