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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, November 2, 2001

Music Scene: CD Review
Patriotic songs on CD help unify America

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

Celine Dion performs "God Bless America" on the TV special "America: A Tribute to Heroes." It is also one of the many patriotic songs compiled into the benefit "God Bless America" CD.

Advertiser library photo

"GOD BLESS AMERICA" by various artists, Columbia CK 86300

With emotions still fragile and patriotism still high, "God Bless America" looms as a natural security blanket for the ears and the heart. Listen at home, on the road, at the office; it works.

The title tune, performed by Celine Dion on that recent "America: A Tribute to Heroes" fund-raiser concert on TV, leads the pack in waving the red, white and blue. Kate Smith popularized this Irving Berlin classic after World War II, Connie Francis managed to hit the charts with it in 1959 but Dion's riveting, poignant rendering looms as the version of choice for the 21st century. It is one of two 2001 recordings.

The events of Sept. 11 have made America, and much of the world, conscious of the threat of terrorism and the need for unity. This CD features some songs from the tribute concert but most of the versions are from the Columbia Records vaults and other sources. The tunes at once provide relief in a big way but also magnify the lasting power and emotional wallop they have retained over the years.

From Bruce Springsteen's & the E Street Band's "Land of Hope and Dreams" to Mariah Carey's "Hero," the CD touches a nerve where it counts. Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA," surely, will evoke a tear, Bill Withers' "Lean on Me" will provide a soft shoulder of comfort.

In between, you'll find a spoonful of medicine to cure your heartaches. Frank Sinatra's "America the Beautiful" is not as soulful as, say, Ray Charles' (not included here) but it will appeal to older listeners. The younger crowd will find some peace and hope in John Mellencamp's acoustic "Peaceful World," Gloria Estefan's ethereal "Coming Out of the Dark" and Billy Gilman's inspirational "There's a Hero."

But sometimes, it takes a traditional classic to chase away the blues — Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Pete Seeger's "This Land Is Your Land," Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," Tramaine Hawkins' "Amazing Grace" and Mahalia Jackson's "We Shall Overcome" have not diminished an iota in communicating with the soul.

Should you want to stand up with pride, the resounding Mormon Tabernacle Choir's "The Star-Spangled Banner" performs the national anthem like a chorale should. And, for a moment, you'll forget Whitney Houston's revival hit.

Rightfully, a substantial portion of proceeds from CD sales will go to the Twin Towers Fund. God bless Sony/Columbia Records and all the artists involved.