PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Various Artists: Released:The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998

The artists tend to work with a grand palette and paint the obvious tropes so that even those in the cheap seats can hear what’s happening. The result is a lack of subtlety and fuzziness.


Various Artists

The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998

Label: Shout! Factory
US Release Date: 2013-11-05
UK Release Date: 2013-11-04
Amazon
iTunes

Let me make my biases clear. I am not a fan of Amnesty International as an organization. While I may agree with many of their criticisms of human rights violations and their support of groups such as Pussy Riot, I also find their assessments of other political entities specious and duplicitous. This review focuses on the double-disc compilation taken from four Human Rights Concerts held in New Jersey, Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Paris between 1986-1998. While the net proceeds from the CD sales benefit Amnesty International, my concerns solely address the music. My criteria can be summed up in one short sentence: Does it kick butt?

And unfortunately, despite the plethora of talent (e.g., Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, Lou Reed, and the Police), the answer is simply no. That’s not to say there aren't some fine performances. The problem more generally lies in the recording of large outdoor concerts. The artists tend to work with a grand palette and paint the obvious tropes so that even those in the cheap seats can hear what’s happening. The result is a lack of subtlety and a fuzziness to the vocals and instrumentation.

Consider U2’s "MLK/Pride (In the Name of Love)" from the 1986 A Conspiracy of Hope show at Giants Stadium. The song was still fresh (a 1984 release), the crowd pumped and singing along, the lyrical content relevant to political activism, the anthemic nature of the tune infectious, etc. On paper, this seems the perfect moment for U2 to create a transcendent moment. Instead, it turns into a somewhat clichéd back of forth of "oh-oh-ohs" between the crowd and Bono before he blithely tells them to "Sing it for Jimi Hendrix, for John Lennon, for Reverend Martin Luther King." The spiritual meaning of the song gets lost as a simple paean for the dead which dissipates the enthusiasm in which the band was received. The track is forgettable at best.

The best cut from the first ten culled from the Jersey show is Joni Mitchell’s "Hejira". The Canadian singer-songwriter quiets the crowd down and raises the intensity through her thoughtful and literate description of life’s journey to a throbbing bass line. She mixes "hope and hopelessness" into something beautiful, sympathetic and, well, essentially human. She reveals the importance of every being on the planet, the stated cause, by simply expressing herself as an artist. If you are a fan of Mitchell, it’s worth the price of the CD for this cut alone.

The selections from the Argentinian concert in 1988 benefit from Bruce Springsteen’s contributions on three of the six tracks. The Boss's ability to work a crowd is well known, and he gives it his all. That said, there is nothing essential here. Another live version of "Born in the USA" with the E Street Band rocks hard, but a longish take on "Chimes of Freedom" with Sting, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman, and Youssou N’Dour starts to drag, and Springsteen’s duet with Sting on "Every Breath You Take" in a country known for its secret police and torture not long in the past seems embarrassingly stupid.

The four tracks from Chile 1990 reveal more variety with the acts Inti-Illimani, Jackson Brown, Sinead O’Connor, and Sting sharing little in common. Again, the performances are simply not that good. This is probably due to the open air acoustics that prevent the musicians from hearing and reacting well to each other.

The French 1998 show’s eight cuts were better produced and recorded. Everything from Tracy Chapman’s "Fast Car" to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant’s "Rock and Roll" come off clear and strong. That said, most performances still come off as more affected than effective. The main exception is Springsteen who turns his own rollicking composition "No Surrender" into an acoustic folk tale that could pass for Dylan circa 1963, complete with harmonica. Like Mitchell on "Hejira", Springsteen's being quiet intensifies the moment. The impression gets a little lost during the sing along at the end, but the Boss's magic still lingers in the air.

So whether or not this two-disc anthology is worth your money remains a somewhat open question. For a Mitchell of Springsteen completest, sure, go for it. Fans of the other acts may prefer to skip this.

5

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.