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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Various Artists
In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2
Shout Factory

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

April 9, 2008
Throughout U2's thirty-year existence, critics have rarely hesitated to deride the band's overtly political messages. The ever-clad in sunglasses Bono, especially, is fodder for many cynics, though I've never quite understood why working to reduce the crushing debt of less developed and long exploited countries, or raising awareness of HIV/AIDS in Africa, is worthy of ridicule. Yes, Bono is self-righteous and self-absorbed, but what rock star isn't? At least Bono believes in something, and this critic is loath to chastise artists for using their celebrity to advance worthy causes. There was a time when art was highly political, but unfortunately the recent trend has been to move away from such lofty (and I may note more challenging) aspirations. Novelist Barbara Kingsolver recently lamented this fact and has established a new writing award, the Bellwether Prize, to reward art with a social conscience. I commend Kingsolver for this action, and echo her sentiments.

Enough grandstanding: this review is really about U2's music and how the band's extensive catalogue translates into other musical styles. In the Name of Love is a collection of twelve U2 classics interpreted by various artists from across the African continent. Bono's activism on behalf of Africa, including the ONE campaign, inspired the production of this collection. There is much passion and pride to be found in the music of the talented artists contributing to In the Name of Love, and hence there's much to enjoy here for fans of both U2 and world music

The music present in Shout Factory's collection hails U2 from across Africa: artists contributing come from Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and South Africa. In many ways this album is a nice introduction to African music for those traditionally too afraid to venture into such large and foreign world - the collection includes an array of styles but delivers them with the comfort and familiarity of some of U2's most popular and recognizable songs. Highlights include Angelique Kidjo's sexy version of "Mysterious Ways" and the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars' reggae-inspired cover of "Seconds," and the collection wouldn't be complete without a contribution from the wonderful Soweto Gospel Choir from South Africa, who covered "Pride (In the Name of Love)." Covers are always hit and miss, and so it isn't surprising to find songs that don't quite work, including Vieux Farka Touré's "Bullet the Blue Sky" and the African Underground All-Stars' "Desire." Surprisingly missing from the compilation is a U2 song interpreted in kwaito, the wildly popular mash of house, hip-hop, and African styles, for which "Discothèque" or "The Fly" would have been interesting choices.

Devotees of world music and, I suppose, covers (if there is such a thing), will find In the Name of Love an interesting experiment. The album was conceived for a good cause - raising money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria - and it is a heartfelt tribute by African artists to a band that cares deeply about Africa. Ultimately, though, the original material is far more compelling than the covers, and the tribute falls a little short of an absolutely compelling listening.

Reviewed by Eric J. Morgan
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Eric J. Morgan is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Colorado. He has an orange cat named Nelson and longs for the day when men and women will again dress in three-piece suits and pretty dresses to indulge in three-martini lunches and afternoon affairs.

See other reviews by Eric J. Morgan



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