Conspiracy theorists, ready your blogs: The RIAA unleashed last month's Hurricane Relief: Come Together Now on the American public to convince us to stop sending aid to Louisiana. Why? Who knows? But this two-disc benefit album is the musical equivalent of 9/11, each CD an unforgivable, falling tower of smoldering wreckage. The anti-piracy brigade can rest assured nobody's gonna pass out burned copies of this debacle.

To be fair, it's not all terrible, if only because the schmaltzy track list and interminable 155-minute run time is broken up by decent regional acts and tolerable if melodramatic live cuts from Coldplay, Elton John, and James Brown. Also, Kanye West's "We Can Make It Better" is not only catchy, witty, and positive, but also avoids apologizing for his recent Katrina-related publicity -- kudos to him for giving this mess some dignity.

But any decency is ruined by not just one but three "We Are the World"-style celeb sing-alongs. The hip-hop-ified take on "Come Together Now," filled with random Bone Thugs-style raps, is awkward enough, and Kirk Whalum's "When the Saints Go Marching Back In" is expectedly cheesy, but the worst is "Tears in Heaven." Look at this list: Phil Collins. Pink. Robert Downey Jr. Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne. Steven Tyler. Oh, God, even Andrea Bocelli and Velvet Revolver singing on the same song? The result is so tragically bad that it makes me want to blow up a levee. The people of New Orleans have had it rough as it is. RIAA, go back to suing 10-year-old girls -- that's a lot less offensive than this "benefit."


Hurricane Relief: Come Together Now


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