The Legends of Laurel Canyon
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
It’s So Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best
Transfiguration of Vincent
Christmas in the Heart
Glitter and Doom Live
Let It Roll: The Best of George Harrison
Secret, Profane & Sugarcane
Playing for Change
Songs Around the World
Who says that there’s nothing new under the sun? With an ocean of new music that vies for our attention every single day of our lives, it is hard for anything to stand out as decidedly unique, or original. As a lifelong music nut, I sometimes find it difficult to fight off the jaded sense that I’ve heard it all before, and there is nothing left but variations on familiar themes. The reason I still listen to as much music as I possibly can stems partly from habit, and partly from the outside hope that I may stumble on something new, unique, surprising and inspiring. “Playing for Change” is just such a collection. I had no expectations, so the sheer emotional power of this collection caught me by surprise and hit me square between the eyes.
The title “Playing for Change” is a conceptually clever play on words that addresses the exact nature of the collection, which gathers recordings from various street musicians from around the globe, and ‘mashes up’ their performances into one seamless whole. All of the material has political implications based on the simple concept that world peace is achievable if we overcome the barriers that separate us. To this end, a song like “Stand By Me” begins simply enough, with a California street musician singing the Ben E. King classic, but then shifts to post-Katrina New Orleans with a new set of performers. As it progresses, stylists from the Netherlands, New Mexico, France, Brazil, Russia, Italy, Venezuela, the Congo, South Africa, and Spain each chip in with a new bit that allows the performance to build to an emotional crescendo. The various songs each feature different artists from different locales. Can you imagine hearing Bob Marley’s “One Love” being sung by performers who are thousands of miles apart, while accompanied by Indian tabla and sitar? This could have been a complete mess if it hadn’t been done right, but the production is seamless and focused, and elicits the intended emotional effect of inspiring the listener to believe that music really does have the power to unite people.
I challenge you to listen to or watch this without welling up at some point. There is just too much emotional resonance to remain inured from music this passionate, relevant and uplifting. To get the full impact of these performances, I highly recommend that you watch the DVD disk that accompanies the CD, which allows you to visualize the miracle of mixing dozens of performers from as many locations, all coming together to create something unified, as if it were cut from whole cloth. Music is an ephemeral thing, yet it somehow manages to touch us in a myriad of ways. It can elicit any number of emotions, but it is especially sweet when music can make us feel good about ourselves, and happy about our potential, both individually and globally. Every song on “Playing for Change” plays to our better nature, yet it never gets cloying or syrupy with emotion. If you ever doubted the power of music, then you need to hear (and see) “Playing for Change.”
Buy it now! -