By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Conspiracy theorists, ready your blogs: I believe the government has unleashed this week's Hurricane Relief: Come Together Now on the American public to convince us to stop sending aid to Louisiana. This two-disc benefit album is the musical equivalent of 9/11, each disc an unforgivable falling tower of smoldering wreckage.
But I will not be swayed by the CIA drones who organized this album for their evil, anti-Louisiana plot. Rather, I have listened through the entire 155-minute runtime as a charitable act--enduring the pain so you don't have to, in the hopes that your charitable spirit won't be ruined.
For starters, there's Clint Black's cringe-worthy "When the Levee Broke." Mr. Contempo-Country, do you really have an N.O. following that will appreciate fiddle-filled quips like, "Can't help but wonder if there's a reason why"? Seems like every washed-up pop icon has donated a reason to hate New Orleans, from Sting's tragic Louis Armstrong impersonation on "Moon Over Bourbon Street" to John Fogerty's "hey, look at me!" attempt of "Born on the Bayou" to John Mayer performing a stomach-turning duet with Aaron "I love cotton" Neville.
To be fair, it's not all terrible, if only because the schmaltzy track list is broken up by decent regional acts and tolerable, if melodramatic, live cuts from Coldplay, Elton John and James Brown. Also, Kanye West's "We Can Make It Better" is not only catchy, witty and positive, but also avoids apologizing for his Katrina-related publicity last month--kudos to you for giving this mess some dignity!
But any decency is ruined by not only one, but three "We Are the World"-style celeb sing-alongs. The hip-hoppified take on "Come Together Now," filled with random Bone Thugs-style raps, is awkward enough, and Kirk Whalum's "When the Saints Go Marching Back In" is expectedly cheesy, but the worst is "Tears in Heaven." Look at this list: Phil Collins. Pink. Robert Downey Jr. Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne. Steven Tyler. Oh, God, even Andrea Bocelli, Velvet Revolver and more singing on the same song? The result is so tragically bad that it makes me want to throw a baby out of a window. The people of New Orleans have had it rough as it is. RIAA, go back to suing 10-year-old girls--that's still a lot less offensive than this "benefit. "