Picks and Pans Review: Nobody's Child

updated 09/03/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/03/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Various Artists

Not many do-gooder projects associated with pop music are as artistically successful as this 15-track album packaged to benefit the Romanian Angel Appeal, a charity formed to aid orphans left destitute by the political upheaval in Romania.

Organized by Barbara Bach, Olivia (Mrs. George) Harrison, Elton John, Linda McCartney and Yoko Ono, the album includes a few songs recycled from other records. But most of its tunes were either recorded expressly for the album or were previously unavailable on record—and more than a couple of them are memorable.

That certainly applies to the Paul Simon-George Harrison vocal duet on Simon's "Homeward Bound," an air check from a 1976 broadcast of Saturday Night Live. Equally appealing are Stevie Wonder's evocative "Feeding Off the Love of the Land," which he sings with only his piano as accompaniment, "Civil War" by Guns n' Roses, Elton John's "Medicine Man," "Big Day Little Boat" by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians and "Ain't That Peculiar," a variation on the Smokey Robinson hit performed by Mike + the Mechanics with Paul Shaffer and his band from a Late Night with David Letterman show.

Most of the songs seem more or less related in theme to the cause of the album. While "Ain't That Peculiar" is a stretch in that regard, Eric Clapton's "That Kind of Woman," written by George Harrison, seems way out of place. So does "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?"—though what sets it apart from the rest of the album is not subject but quality. It would sound like a bad parody of the Bee Gees in especially reedy mode, except that it is the Bee Gees in especially reedy mode.

Still, this would be a thoroughly admirable album, even if all net profits weren't going to orphans—and in what sounds like a sensibly oriented project too. Olivia Harrison, who got the other Beatle wives and Elton John together in the first place, notes that the Appeal's first shipment to Romania included mostly basic supplies: "We felt that sending them sophisticated X-ray machines was not our priority when they don't even have toilets. By our standards, what we've done seems so little, but already it has dramatically improved their lives." (The address of the Romanian Angel Appeal is P.O. Box 5966, Playa Del Rey, Calif. 90296.) (Warner Bros.)

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