Various Artists

Yes We Can: Voices of a Grass Roots Movement

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Hidden Beach Recordings is the first label -- independent or otherwise -- to attempt to cash in on the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States with Yes We Can: Voices of a Grassroots Movement. The album was produced by Steve McKeever of Hidden Beach with the brilliant Meaghan Burdick from Obama for America; she was his online coordinator for fundraising, and worked previously for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In his liner notes, McKeever documents the birth of Yes We Can: Voices of a Grassroots Movement, but that hardly matters in a sense, because the music is what does. Assembled here are 18 cuts, some of them presented in their original form, some with bits from the speeches of Obama and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Of course Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" is here, but it's rather amazing that the audio for's "Yes We Can" video is not, and neither is Kentrell's killer "Time" demo. Huh? Right. And that's part of the problem here: musically this set is diverse all right, but it is also scattershot in terms of quality -- that is, at best. It's about as middle of the road as it gets, even with the enormous profiles of some of these artists. Those using Obama speech audio include John Legend "Pride, In the Name of Love," Lionel Richie with "Eternity," and artists as diverse as Ozomatli, Jill Scott, Bebe Winans (who uses a bit of King's "I Have a Dream" speech instead), Dave Stewart, Shontelle, Los Lonely Boys, Suai, Keb' Mo', and Buddy Miller (whose closing number "Wide River to Cross" is among the real highlights). Elsewhere, Jackson Browne's "Looking East" is included as is Sheryl Crow's "Out of Our Heads," and "Promised Land" by Kanye West, Adam Levine, and Malik Yusef. Another highlight is Yolanda Adams' deeply stirring "Hold On." Thankfully,Bono isn't anywhere to be found here. Ultimately, this is a souvenir that loses the salt in its taste after a spin or two. It's far more memorable as a piece of memorabilia or nostalgia than as a musical artifact. The package is a nicer go, with photographs of everything from the Democratic National Convention to the New Hampshire Primary, and the many snippets from Obama speeches on the campaign trail included. The lyrics are also here but most of them are forgettable at best. We're also told that Hidden Beach is "donating a portion of the proceeds" from the sale of this volume to charitable causes. While it's a wonderful thing to want to remember and never forget what had to be overcome in this historic campaign, and it's unlikely that anyone living on either side of the red and blue aisle will thank goodness, it's quite another to engage in a bit of marketing for its own sake.

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