Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Imagine...

Before I convince anyone new that I am, in fact, an asshole, I wanted to briefly mention that today sees the release of ex-X-er John Doe's new album, A Year in the Wilderness. Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach is one of several guests, though he only plays guitar (on "There's a Hole" and "Lean Out Yr Window"), so you'll find none of his lovely growl on the record, unfortunately. But his guitar's nice and rough, and John Doe's not bad at the whole Americana schtick.
And a thought on another of today's releases...

Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur is a double-disc set loaded with modern updates on John Lennon tracks, raising money to promote the awareness of genocide in Darfur. Being that the point of the album is to raise money for people other than the artists, it was smart to get the most marketable and not necessarily best artists recorded for the sake of selling power. I was actually really curious as to what other people thought about this one, since it's a somewhat delicate issue to choose between complaining over crap artists or offering nothing but praise so that the thing sells. I had a glance at Amazon.com reviews and found this comment, which basically summed up the dilemma: “I'm giving it 5 stars for the sheer fact that this is a great way to bring focus to a tragedy that has no end in sight yet. However, that doesn't mean that I like this and will be listening to this for the next few weeks or so.”

Personally, I've always had this tiny fantasy that Tom Waits would one day do a gritty version of “Gimme Some Truth,” and since no one else has had the same vision, apparently, this set finds Jakob Dylan and Dhani Harrison doing a version that leaves me wanting. Also, after listening to Avril Lavigne's cover of “Imagine,” in which she sounds quite like a flat-voiced choirboy, I think it would be really great if Fiona Apple gave it a try at some point. Aside from these meh moments, as well as "Instant Karma," on which U2 completely eliminates the punch of the song that's always made me want to start fights, there are actually some versions of Lennon that aren't bad.

Jack Johnson's version of “Imagine,” using guitar instead of piano, sounds far more genuine than Avril's. Maybe it's that she once got drunk and wrote "Girlfriend" that makes me unconvinced of her sincerity, and yes, I'm a bit weirded out that despite all the John Lennon songs out there, some artists wound up doing repeats. Christina Aguilera's got a surprisingly loyal version of “Mother” that sounds great and not overdone, and covers of “Oh, My Love” (by Jackson Browne) and “Jealous Guy” (by Youssou N'Dour, who dumps all that English language nonsense out the window) are pretty worthwhile. On the whole, though, much as I hope the album sells, it does nothing but further prove that our generation's not going to provide too many inspiring artists for musicians in future decades. Buy the record anyway.

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