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Album Review: 'West Of Memphis: Voices For Justice'

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 (Legacy Recordings/Sony Music)

The vicious 1993 murders of three eight-year-olds in West Memphis, Arkansas — and the conviction of the three teens charged with the crime — has captured the attention of the media for nearly 20 years.

The artists on this companion album to the documentary “West Of Memphis” were in some part responsible for securing the freedom of the men that they, and others, believe were wrongly accused.

An outpouring of support from the music community drew attention to the men who spent more than 18 years in prison, and although they have been freed, the West Memphis Three struggle for full exoneration.

The album is expected to raise awareness for the continuing fight. Patti Smith’s live, heart-felt rendition of “Wing” is taken directly from the benefit concert in Arkansas that helped turn the tide in releasing the WM3, while Band Of Horse’s “Dumpster World” is an equally powerful live track, kicking into righteous overdrive halfway through the song.

Lucinda Williams’ “Joy” will make “West Of Memphis: Voices For Justice” essential for fans. Re-recorded specially for the soundtrack, it’s bruised blues that rocks in all the right places. Just as compelling is Bob Dylan’s “Ring Them Bells” a gospel-tinged demand for liberation from “Oh Mercy.” And the circular melody of Eddie Vedder’s acoustic “Satellite” is like letting in a ray of light.

Then there are the covers. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised by some unexpected artist/song combinations, like Dixie Chicks' vocalist Natalie Maines’ haunting interpretation of Pink Floyd’s “Mother,” rocker Dave Navarro’s supergroup Camp Freddy making David Bowie’s “Jean Genie” their own, and Marilyn Manson’s total reinvention of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” — with Johnny Depp on guitar.

Damien Echols said that music always played a huge role in his life, and ultimately contributed to helping win his freedom. On “West Of Memphis: Voices Of Justice,” the power of music comes through loud and clear.

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