Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur

Amnesty International has pulled together this two-CD set using John Lennon's music-driven activism and a slice of his canon (with the blessing of Yoko Ono) as a means of bringing the younger, iPod-wielding set into the fold of awareness. (There are at least another 46 extra iTunes-only songs available for purchase.) The 23 songs featured here fall into interpretations ranging from clever and unorthodox to predictable and/or unimaginative. Predictably enough, U2 and REM deliver the kind of spot-on readings expected from heavyweights of their caliber on "Instant Karma" and "#9 Dream" respectively. The same can't be said for Avril Lavigne or Jack Johnson, who both provide versions of the classic-yet-way-overcovered "Imagine," with the former sounding as if she's reading a term paper on world peace while Johnson ends up with a spare-yet-forgettable cover. Denizens of the pop world don't totally embarrass themselves, as Christina Aguilera filters in just enough emotivity to score a bull's-eye with the painful confessional that is "Mother," and the Black Eyed Peas give a rousing, gospel-tinged jump start to "Power to the People." Elsewhere, efforts by Aerosmith with Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars and Regina Spektor offset vanilla appearances by Lenny Kravitz and Matisyahu. This is an undoubtedly up-and-down collection, but in the end, the cause outweighs the art, with proceeds going to support Amnesty's work in Darfur.


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