Various: Healing the Divide (Anti/Shock)

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Tom Waits: God's Away On Business
Various: Healing the Divide (Anti/Shock)

Now that Earth Aid or whatever it was called has retreated safely into the distance we might well ask: What the hell was that all about?

"So, you, like, didn't get the point of Al's film thing because there was talking and charts and that -- but Madonna's set, like, just soooo turned you around on this global warming stuff?"

Harrumph.

A concert to "raise awareness" sets itself a pretty low threshold -- and one you can't even know if it has achieved. Take heart civilians, here's a cause -- with an interesting soundtrack.

In 2003 a benefit was held in NYC which not only aimed to "raise awareness" but also "raise funds" (that's more like it) for Tibetan refugees. Among those taking part were the Dalai Lama (who turned up to say hello -- in Tibetan -- and then made his excuses because at about 7pm it was too late for him), Philip Glass with Foday Musa Sosa, sitar player Anoushka Shankar, the Gyuto Tantric Choir, Native American flute player R. Carlos Nakai, and a very witty and mildly heretical Tom Waits accompanied by the Kronos Quartet.

By buying this CD you will apparently provide health insurance to a Tibetan monk or nun living in exile.

Okay, you are unlikely to listen to the brief speech by the Dalai Lama twice, and maybe the Peace Chant is a bit ethereal -- but the low rumblings of the Gyuto Tantric Choir are compelling, Anoushka Shankar seems to have made great progress since her somewhat lightweight debut album, the Glass/Suso piece is beguiling, and Waits is just extremely funny in his introductions before his four songs: Way Down in the Hole; God's Away on Business; Lost in the Harbour; and Diamond in your Mind, during which he gets the audience in the Lincoln Centre to sing along.

It is a holy moment, from poolbar ballad to Protestant choir. Extraordinary.

It's worth getting this CD for his four tracks alone -- and as you laugh along with his jibes or revel in his guttery vocals you also know that somewhere a Tibetan nun with a broken ankle is covered.

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