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Sweet Relief: A Benefit for Victoria Williams

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4

All-Reviews.com Music Review: Sweet Relief: A Benefit for Victoria Williams

Artist: Various
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: July 1993


Review by LarryG
3 stars out of 4

On Sweet Relief, musicians recorded Victoria Williams' songs. The proceeds went towards paying medical bills for Williams, who has multiple sclerosis. The record was for a good cause and it also was a good introduction, to a wider audience, of one of the most interesting writers around. Sweet Relief also was a very good showcase for a group of singer songwriters, mostly good writers in their own right. Williams' own records are worth checking out but it's nice, on Sweet Relief, to hear Williams' very good songs without her sometimes distracting girlish singing, vocal idiosyncracies and often meandering arrangements.

Most of the performers on Sweet Relief showed respect for Williams' songs but made them their own. Eddie Vedder's typical intensity is appropriate on Pearl Jam's solemn version of Crazy Mary. He clearly shares Williams' empathy for the title character who lives a sad life and is bound for a sad end. Maria McKee, whose material often hasn't been as good as her voice, shares Williams' sunny world view. Benmont Tench joyful piano matches McKee's soaring vocals on Opelousas(Sweet Relief), Williams' song about finding joy in all things. Soul Asylum, who haven't know what to do since the surprise success of Runaway Train and also haven't written songs worthy of their skills as performers, do a good job with Summer of Drugs. Dave Pirner's gritty, wry vocals(with the Jayhawks having fun on backing vocals) work on Williams' cheeky song about kids "too young to be hippies" and have a cause so they just do a lot of drugs. Michael Penn's typical stark, atmospheric music, with its simple, banging drum, works well on Weeds, Williams' story of finding beauty in the mundane. Everything Lou Reed does sounds like Lou Reed but Tarbelly and Featherfoot is a fun, loose version of a colorful song which ends with a woman flying away from an unworthy man. Accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, Evan Dando finds real poignancy in Frying Pan.

The songs that aren't transcendent are still likable. Lucinda Williams is sometimes a little stiff on her own excellent songs, and she also is Victoria's memory song Main Road. Her solid, well made version still does it justice. Buffalo Tom's garage rock version of Merry Go Round is slight but fun. This Moment finds Matthew Sweet in sincere mode on a nice psychedelic country version of This Moment. Mike Scott of the Waterboys shares Williams' tendency to get a little cutesy. His Why Look at the Moon is silly, but fun. The Jayhawks, whose co-leader Mark Olson married Williams and later left the band to make music with her, lend their sincere integrity to a solid version of Lights. My least favorite song is Michelle Shocked's gospel version of Holy Spirit which, like much of her work, strikes me as pretentious and humorless.

Luckily, Victoria Williams has been well enough to put out more records since Sweet Relief. Williams has a great spirit and a unique, always interesting, writing perspective. Even without the good cause, Sweet Relief is worth buying. It's filled with very good, distinctive songs given very fine presentations. The second Sweet Relief record, with a similarly star studded group doing Vic Chestnut's very good songs, is also recommended.

10000031

 


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