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Instant Karma: the Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur 
Artist: Various
Label WB
Thu 11th Oct 2007

I have been reassessing my thoughts on John Lennon after I had spent a few years reassessing my thoughts on John Lennon. 
 
As a teenager Lennon changed the way I looked at the world. I came to The Beatles late. I had to; I was born almost exactly a year before "Love Me Do" was released and, though I have vague recollections of "Yellow Submarines" and "Yeh Yeh Yehs," I wasn't old enough to know what was happening in the decade of my birth. It was 1976 before I had a summer of Beatles' conversion and the next four years they pretty much shaped my worldview before Jesus took it up a notch. Truthfully, when it came to peace and justice Jesus built on the foundation Lennon had laid. However, about five years ago I started doubting the authenticity of the acerbic Beatle. I started wondering about his naivety, desire for the tabloid attention and started to question his strength of personality. Was his justice campaigning jumping on the band wagons of the day with little substance in whether he was right or not? 

Make Some Noise has had me reassess. It has helped that I am in the middle of a Masters dissertation where Sgt. Pepper has an important role and thus I have been thinking all things Beatles. My new conclusions are that he was a man with many flaws but then St. Paul (not McCartney) did say, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," so why am I surprised? I am pretty messed up myself! Lennon had all kind of family tragedy which he never hid from us and must have taken a toll. The seemingly childish faces he made were not so much a mark of immaturity as the cultural humour of the day as displayed by the Goons etc. His plunging into political causes, as the Beatles imploded, were a man trying to come to terms and make some sense of the sixties dream as it turned to seventies' nightmare. 

Hearing the Lennon canon through the voices of today's artists reminds you of how good he was. This tribute album done through Amnesty to aid in Dafur is bunged full of great songs by great artists. U2, REM and Green Day will no doubt draw the widest attention but it is perhaps a few of the next division who make it happen best; Matishayu's reggae version of "Watching The Wheels," Snow Patrol's dreamy "Isolation," Postal Service's even dreamier "Grow Old With Me," Corrine Bailey Rae putting some real R&B soul into "I'm Losing You" and Regina Spektor's sparse piano version of The Beatles' very last single "Real Love" deserve first mention. The fascinating collaboration of Jacob Dylan and Dhani Harrison on "Gimme Some Truth" is also particularly satisfying and Harrison plays just like his old man. It's actually a pity there were no Lennon sons here. Yes, we could do without Avril Lavigne's bland version of "Imagine" and Christine Aguilera's "Mother" among others but actually in the midst of the collection the songs themselves are strong enough to allow some forgiveness on the arrangements and lack of soul of some of these. 

There is well enough here to raise this album above a good charitable effort. If you like Lennon then it is the best tribute so far released. As Snow Patrol sing on "Isolation," "just a boy and a little girl trying to change the whole wide world;" this is a good tribute to their efforts. If it influences a new generation to the same social transformational imagining good on it! (Check it out on iTunes for loads of extra recordings). 

Steve Stockman

Steve Stockman is the Presbyterian Chaplain at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland, where he lives in community with 88 students. He has written two books Walk On; The Spiritual Journey of U2 which he is currently updating and The Rock Cries Out; Discovering Eternal Truth in Unlikely Music. He dabbles in poetry and songwriting and he has a weekly radio show on BBC Radio Ulster (listen anytime of day or night @ www.bbc.co.uk/ni/religion/rhythmandsoul). He has his own web page--Rhythms of Redemption at http://stocki.ni.org . He also tries to spend some time with his wife Janice and daughters Caitlin and Jasmine.
 
 

 
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