CD reviews: ‘West of Memphis: Voices for Justice’ sountrack, Yo La Tengo, 12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

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‘West of Memphis: Voices for Justice’ soundtrack
  • Yo La Tengo
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    Yo La Tengo

  • 12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief
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    12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief

Various artists West of Memphis: Voices for Justice sountrack/Legacy

If you aren’t familiar with the case of the West Memphis Three, then Google it. Reading the entire, tragic story of this miscarriage of justice will be much more effective than me trying to explain it in a few sentences.

Throughout the legal battle waged by the West Memphis Three, numerous celebrities and musicians threw their support behind the unjustly charged young men.

Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson produced a documentary, and the film’s soundtrack features an amazing array of artists performing a collection of covers and originals.

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis composed the score for the film, and their music plays here under the readings of two letters written from death row by West Memphis Three member Damien Echols.

Elsewhere we get covers of Pink Floyd’s “Mother” by Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, David Bowie’s “The Jean Genie” by supergroup Camp Freddy and Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” by Marilyn Manson.

There is also great original material by the likes of Eddie Vedder, Lucinda Williams, Band of Horses and Patti Smith, among others.

A portion of the proceeds directly benefit the West Memphis Three, all of whom are now free and attempting to reacclimate themselves to normal life.

It’s an incredible soundtrack to an even more incredible story.

Key Tracks: “Mother,” “Satellite,” “Anything Made of Paper”

Yo La Tengo Fade/Matador

When you think of musical hotbeds, you probably think of New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Tenn., or even smaller, more concentrated towns such as Athens, Ga., or Seattle.

Hoboken, N.J., definitely isn’t one of the towns that springs to mind when one talks about music.

Sure, Hoboken is the town that gave the world Frank Sinatra, but these days it’s known as the home of indie darlings Yo La Tengo.

For nearly 30 years, Yo La Tengo has been quietly releasing its own brand of lo-fi rock music, amassing a large and loyal following in the process, despite nearly zero radio airplay.

On Yo La Tengo’s latest effort, “Fade,” the band continues to make the low-key kind of music that has made critics and listeners alike fall in love with it.

“Fade” has a much more personal feeling than the last few albums by the band.

Songs such as “Ohm,” “Is That Enough” and “I’ll Be Around” demonstrate the minimalist beauty that is found within the typical Yo La Tengo track.

This new release can rightfully take its place alongside classic Yo La Tengo releases such as “I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One” and “And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.”

Key Tracks: “Ohm,” “Is That Enough,” “I’ll Be Around”

Various artists 12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief/Columbia

Benefit albums are nothing new. Going back to the ’70s when concerts for No Nukes and famine relief in Bangladesh spawned popular albums, it seems that musicians have always been more than happy to lend their time and talent to help out those in need.

When Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast last year, it affected those that were seemingly the most unflappable folks in America: the citizens of New York and New Jersey.

When it came time to raise money for disaster relief from Sandy, a mega-concert was planned for Dec. 12 at Madison Square Garden.

The resulting show represented what might be the most incredible lineup of musicians in recent memory.

“12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief” features not just contemporary musicians such as Alicia Keys, Chris Martin and Eddie Vedder, but also rock legends such as The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Roger Waters, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel and Paul McCartney.

The electrifying set by The Who, represented here by “Who Are You,” “Baba O’Riley” and “Love Reign O’er Me,” is one of the highlights of this album, as are the pair of songs by The Rolling Stones.

Curiously absent is any trace of Kanye West’s performance, but this commemorative document of one of the biggest collections of talent joining together for a common cause is well worth checking out.

Key Tracks: “Comfortably Numb,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Baba O’Riley”

Devin Grant