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Picks and Pans Review: America

updated 12/17/2001 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/17/2001 01:00AM

A Tribute to Heroes
Various artists (Interscope)
Album of the week

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During the America: A Tribute to Heroes telethon, there was a revelatory moment, the kind that forever changes the way you listen to a song. As a weary-voiced Neil Young sang John Lennon's "Imagine," he seemed to be carrying the weight of a nation on his shoulders, while the words of the Utopian 1971 classic never rang truer: "Imagine all the people, living life in peace/You may say I'm a dreamer/But I'm not the only one/I hope someday you'll join us/And the world will be as one." Like all 21 performances on this benefit two-CD set, it perfectly married the music with the message of that memorable Sept. 21 night, which has raised more than $250 million for Sept. 11 victims and their families.

While America was emotionally gripping in its original airing, it can better be appreciated as an artistic triumph here. With pop's finest—from Bruce Springsteen and U2 to Billy Joel and Paul Simon—giving inspired turns, this concert scores on its musical merits alone. Not to be outdone by her elders, newcomer Alicia Keys soars on her stirring rendition of Donny Hathaway's "Someday We'll All Be Free." Even Enrique Iglesias gets into the patriotic act with his aptly titled ballad "Hero," which greatly benefits from this altruistic context.

Bottom Line: Super Heroes

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