Celebrating the twenty fifth anniversary of its release, the War Child charity album Help has been reissued on limited edition vinyl and has been made available on streaming services for the first time. I remember buying the album on cassette (!) on release day all those years ago and also remember not being particularly impressed with it either. At the time the album was a huge success - Britpop was in full flow - and it generated over £1.25 million for the War Child charity which is pretty phenomenal. Help was recorded on Monday, 4 September 1995, mixed on Tuesday the fifth and was in shops on Saturday the ninth.
The album opens with a new version of Oasis B-side Fade Away complete with Noel Gallagher on vocals and Liam doing the backing vocals. It is a more laid back version with model Kate Moss and then boyfriend Johnny Depp also appearing on the recording. We all know Fade Away and this is an incredible version of a great song; it is the highlight of the album.
The Boo Radleys, a band enjoying some success at the time, are up next with a song called Oh Brother. It is inoffensive and has a nice message but is ultimately track three on a CD single release fodder.
A re-recording of the classic Love Spreads from The Stone Roses gets the album back on track. Featuring drummer Robbie Madix, it is a more rough version but altogether the song we know and love.
Radiohead previewed a track from OK Computer here with the first airing of Lucky, two years before the release of their third album. It’s Lucky. It’s decent enough.
The album almost falls off a cliff here with a trio of dross from Orbital, Portishead and Massive Attack respectively. Utterly skippable.
Suede king of get things back on track with a cover of Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding while The Charlatans do their thing with Time For Livin’ which is a Stones inspired effort. Stereo MC’s drag things down again before Sinead O’Connor provides a haunting version of Ode to Billie Joe.
The Levellers aren’t half bad on Searchlights preceding The Manic Street Preachers version of Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head - the band's return to recording after the disappearance of Richey Edwards. A poignant version but in that context.
Brit rockers Terrorvision try something different on Tom Petty Loves Veruca Salt. The next two tracks are a couple of throwaway orchestra/folk quartet things which won’t ever be listened to again, by anyone. Dream A Little Dream, a beautiful song and covered brilliantly by Terry Hall and Salad is next. The contribution from Blur here has to be considered disappointing. A song called Eine Kleine Lift Musik is a waste of their contribution.
The Smokin’ Mojo Filters (Paul McCartney, Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher, Steve Craddock, Steve White and Carleen Anderson) - cover Come Together which is for all intents and purposes a Weller style version and lacks the raspiness and edge of The Beatles original.
It is incredibly difficult to give a charity album a bad review - it is worth checking out for yourself, certainly - but this album fares no better twenty five years on. Barring Fade Away (the highlight of the selection on offer), Love Spreads and perhaps Time For Livin’, the album is a major disappointment given the names involved. Blur should have recorded something more accessible and Paul McCartney perhaps would have been better off doing a version of Yesterday or something. **