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Charity CD spices up classic songs

August 13, 2009 - Andy Gray
Ever wonder what Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” would sound like if it was slowed down and sung to a sultry Latin beat? Ever wish Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was in Spanish?

Those are a couple of the oddball treats to be found of Rhythms Del Mundo’s “Classics,” a new CD released this week on Decca Records.

The purpose of the CD is to support Artists Project Earth, a British charity devoted to raising awareness for climate change projects and natural disaster relief. But folks always can write a check directly to an organization if they want to support the cause.

The CD will succeed or fail on the quality of the music, and it’s mostly a success.

The set features several big names – Rolling Stones, The Killers, Jack Johnson, Amy Winehouse, Keane, Cat Power, KT Tunstall, OneRepublic, Kaiser Chiefs and Fall Out Boy. Some recorded cover songs specifically for the project with the collective of Rhythms Del Mundo musicians. Others donated existing tracks that are spiced up with horns and percussion to give them a Cuban feel.

Tunstall channels her inner Patti Smith on a faithful vocal cover of “Because the Night,” but the musical arrangement takes it in an original direction. Killers’ completists will consider their version of The Eagles’ “Hotel California” a must have. And the Rhythms Del Mundo players funk up the Kaiser Chiefs’ cover of ``I Heard It Through the Grapevine.’’

A rainbow coalition of styles come together on a remake of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” – Fall Out Boy provides the basic track with Patrick Stump’s lead vocals, John Mayer does the guitar solo, and it’s all layered over driving horns and percussion that would be at home in a Havana hotspot.

Not everything works. The arrangement build around Winehouse’s recording of “Cupid” seems at odds with the vocals, rather then complementing them. And the new instrumentation doesn’t jazz up the Stones’ rather lackluster version of “Under the Boardwalk.” Hearing trumpets play the signature guitar riff on the Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is the only thing that save Cat Power’s snooze-inducing rendition.

It’s a disc that’s sure to draw double takes and confused looks on first listen, but it ultimately heats things up as it hopes to cool the planet down.


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