Various Artists

Help: A Charity Project for the Children of Bosnia

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Conceived as a charity for orphans of the Bosnian war, every song on Help was recorded on one day and released a week later. The rapid turnaround was inspired by John Lennon's belief that "records should be like newspapers," a theory he brought to life with "Instant Karma," a single recorded on a Monday and released the following Saturday. Eighteen artists were recruited to record their contribution on Sunday, September 3, 1995, with each song running no longer than three minutes and 45 seconds. The day commenced with Noel Gallagher recording a slow, reflective version of "Fade Away" with Johnny Depp on guitar. It ended with Gallagher joining Paul Weller and Paul McCartney for a take on the Beatles' "Come Together," bringing together three generations of British pop royalty. In between those two contributions came 18 other songs -- two more than expected, since Sinead O'Connor and the K Foundation (formerly the KLF) turned in tracks unannounced at the last minute. Given the rapid nature of the project, it isn't surprising that some songs on Help are slightly below par. What is surprising is how many songs are very good, even bordering on excellent. Radiohead's "Lucky" equals the best on their fine 1995 album, The Bends (it would later be a highlight on OK Computer), The Boo Radleys turn in a first-rate track and Suede's cover of Elvis Costello's "Shipbuilding" is moving. Blur, appearing under their original name Seymour, contribute a kitschy instrumentals, which will probably baffle anyone but dedicated fans. "Come Together" doesn't quite live up to expectations, yet it's charming, much like Help itself. It may have its faults, but it is one of the best, most consistent charity albums ever recorded.

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