various artists,
Songs for a Better Planet, Vol. II
(independent, 2006)

These 14 selections come from a variety of musicians from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and the United States. With general themes of unity, environmentalism and the global community, the songs range from upbeat to mournful, from unsettling to empowering. The varying styles are sometimes surprising -- who would expect a tropical instrumental to come from a Massachusetts band? -- but reassure us that we are indeed part of a singular humanity.

From the Netherlands, Ugur Dogan gives us "Loosing It," an ethereal, rhythmic instrumental that is tailor-made for subdued Sunday mornings and that time when the body aches to be mesmerized. Megan Bowman of Australia sings "Everybody's Too Busy for Love," a haunting song of disconnection, as the title indicates.

Six of the tracks are provided by Canadians, most of them from Ontario. British Columbia's Bloodties offers "Angie Song," a loving lyric written for a band member's wife. The minor key strains of "Calyoquot Sound" supplies the lament that "they're cutting the rainforest down," and the Acoustics plead for all of mankind to put an end to the travesty. Lynn Harrison takes us to "Music Town," "where melodies get kicked around" and "where every string is tightly wound." Its easygoing pace makes listeners want to find such a place for themselves. Jacob Moon celebrates the coming of spring with a simple tune, a well-plucked guitar and lilting cello harmonies on "Magnolia." Rodney Brown uses a Jamaican beat on "Into the Woods," which inspires us to nod methodically and chant along, "into the woods I go." Obviously he wants something more from life and intends to change his lifestyle. The catchiest phrase comes from the song that opens the CD, "Shine" by Norm Hacking, which confirms the strength of communal action when "we'll all shine together."

Harmonious Wail of Wisconsin deplores our dependence on "People Stuff." Though the songwriter at first contemplates going off to live next to a flowing stream, eventually he realizes that solace from materialism can, indeed, even be found at home. Californian David Connolly wonders if peace and forgiveness are really attainable in "A Dream." ("I have a dream: will you be in it?") Josee Allard of Washington gives us positive reinforcement by insisting we can change our ways, "We Can Start Today."

Three groups from Massachusetts complete the collection. Richard Berman takes on the role of moralist as he relates the fable of a simple fisherman "On the Mexican Coast." Larry Zarella lives out the dreams previously imagined by Harmonious Wail and Rodney Brown with "Quiet Life," where he's "happy to be here on my own, with just the yellow moon and the stars above." Natural sounds accompany Inca Sun's "Viaje a la Montana (Trip through the Andreas Mountains)," an exotic instrumental that speaks of shimmering southern climes.

An eclectic collection, as you can imagine, Songs for a Better Planet, Vol. II is a CD that demands and deserves thoughtful listening. It should not merely serve as an idle silence-remedying accompaniment for a long drive or a brisk walk.

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review by
Corinne H. Smith

22 December 2007

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