Various Artists

No Boundaries: A Benefit for the Kosovar Refugees

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Jeez, it's hard to criticize a project with intentions as noble as No Boundaries: Benefit for Kosovar Refugees. After all, only the hardest of hearts would not pleased by the fact that the proceeds are being donated to UNICEF, CARE, and the UN Kosovar Relief Fund, with the intention of helping Kosovar refugees. But, judged as an album, No Boundaries is pretty much a mess, a hodge-podge of unreleased cuts, B-sides, album tracks, and live cuts, with a different track listing in almost every continent. Typically, benefit albums like this are supposed to be rarities compilations, since that entices hardcore fans to fatten their collections, but there's a difference between a carefully constructed record and a hodge-podge. For instance, for Help!, War Child's charity album for Bosnia, each artist contributed a new track. Whether it was a brand new song (Radiohead's definitive "Lucky" debuted there), a cover, or a re-recording, it was all premiered on Help!, which turned out to be the polar opposite of No Boundaries. With a handful of exceptions, almost everything on this compilation has been released before. True, some tracks have appeared only as limited-edition singles or B-sides, but that only accentuates that almost all the music is subpar. The highly touted Pearl Jam covers ("Last Kiss" and "Soldier of Love") are two sides of a fan club Christmas single, and they sound like it -- the kind of obscurities that delight fans but are utterly inessential (maybe even embarrassing) to anyone not in the cult. That's the case with almost every cut here, with the possible exceptions of Tori Amos' fine "Merman," a good (but unremarkable) live take of Neil Young's "War of Man," and Oasis' five-year-old B-side, "Take Me Away," all of which are strong but will likely not convince doubters. And that's quite amazing, considering the heavy-hitters here -- Alanis Morissette (live album cut), Rage Against the Machine (previously released cover B-side), Korn (remix), Black Sabbath (remix), Bush (billed as acoustic, but really solo electric), Ben Folds Five (studio outtake that sounds like a mock of Spector), Sarah McLachlan (live album track), Indigo Girls (live album tracks), Wallflowers (OK unreleased cut), Jamiroquai (instrumental B-side), and Peter Gabriel (album cut). Given that lineup, it seems that No Boundaries should at least be listenable, but it's just a frustrating mess. To make matters worse, two of the stronger songs -- the Manic Street Preachers' "She Is Suffering" (evidently a new, unintentionally ironic "U.S. Remix," which apparently means heavier guitars) and a demo of Suede's "He's Gone" -- are left only on the European collection. They would have added weight to a collection that needed it.

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