various artists,
Where We Live
(Higher Octave, 2003)

This collection of songs by high-profile artists committed to progressive causes is admirable in intent and has a few highlights, some unexpected.

The heavy hitters on this CD, a fundraiser for Earthjustice and the legal defense for the universal right to clean air and clean water, include Bob Dylan, Norah Jones, Ruben Blades, Willie Nelson and Tina Turner. The songs -- some trite, some poignant -- come in all shapes and styles. The music celebrates solidarity, activism and standing up for one's beliefs.

Among the successes: Sweet Honey in the Rock's "More than a Paycheck" and the Neville Brothers' "Sister Rosa" are soulful and politically pointed, as is Mose Allison's lament for the state of the world in "Getting There."

A surprise highlight is Turner's "A Change is Gonna Come," featuring Robert Cray on guitar. Turner can still sing and proves it on this Sam Cooke number, while Cray has his usual deft touch. Another favorite of mine is Ruben Blades' "Estampa," a salsa-influenced piece (I have no idea what it is about, though).

Disappointments include John Hammond and Tom Waits muddling through on the gospel number "I Know I've Been Changed." Also, Captain Beefheart's bizarre "Happy Earthday" failed to connect with me.

Like all compilations, Where We Live has its highs and lows, but, as they say, it's for a good cause.

- Rambles
written by David Cox
published 6 November 2004

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