"Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon"
Whether sublime, gut-wrenching or garish, John Lennon's music (with and without the Beatles) was always idiosyncratically honest. That's what makes reinterpreting his work so daunting--and what makes this collection so torturous.
Many of the featured artists just don't have the emotional chops for the material. "Imagine's" paradoxical blend of naivete and cynicism is troublesome to begin with, but listening to the earnest Blues Traveler grapple with the irony is painful. Others seem intimidated by the music. You want George Clinton's "Mind Games" to be an ominous, funk interpretation; what you get is a kind of self-conscious "Free Bird" with symphonic overtones.
There are a few bright spots, however. Mary Chapin Carpenter's shimmery, mellow "Grow Old With Me" gets right to the heart of the sentiment. Cheap Trick's noisy power-pop rendering of "Cold Turkey" works because it disregards the song's legacy. Similarly, the Flaming Lips infuse "Nobody Told Me" with their own signature psychedelic pop clangor.
"Working Class Hero" began with the best of intentions--and half the proceeds do go to a worthy cause (spaying/neutering programs for dogs and cats). But you might be better off skipping this disc and simply sending a contribution to your local ASPCA chapter.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (e x cellent).