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Various Artists : The Bridge School Concerts — 25th Anniversary Edition

Many recall the day this of the mix-tape. Yes, those were the glory days when you could pop a blank Maxell into a boom box alongside a series of recently purchased tapes to make a two-sided masterpiece to suit moods, situations or a certain person. With CDs, this trend began to waver but it wasn’t until the digital age — where playlists simply do not carry the same weight — that the once treasured pastime all but vanished.

With The Bridge School Concerts 25th Anniversary Edition, what has been accomplished is the mix-tape of the most brilliant caliber. It does what one may have deemed highly unlikely in that it captures the charitable spirit behind some of the most unique performances by some of the most renowned artists from the 1960s to the present day.

Opening with The Boss’s  crooning of an acoustic rendition of “Born in the USA,” one can literally picture a passionately bulging jugular during the chilling reworked classic. After a much-needed, fun take on “Too Much” by Dave Matthews, the album stumbles upon (by way of Neil Young’s “Love and Only Love”) what many may initially skip, a true gem in Sonic Youth’s acoustic offering — yes, acoustic —  of “Rain on Tin.” Frontman Thurston Moore’s typically brash vocals give way to a soft and subtle delivery that is in line with the effect-laden backdrop of instrumentation.

The hits keep coming with Pearl Jam and “Better Man”  which finds its stride on the heels of Jeff Ament’s bass line, the intricate guitar work of Mike McCready and Stone Gossard, and  subdued percussion from Matt Cameron that drives the song into an optimistic, even poppy, piece of gold.

Paul McCartney’s “Get Back,” begs the bewildering, yet ever present thought of Macca wielding an acoustic bass. In Brian Wilson’s “Surfing USA,” the delight in the crowded room shines through with perfection. A reminder —  if one was needed —  that REM’s Mike Mills is a stellar guitarist, even when standing toe to toe with Neil Young for “Country Feedback,” is given with authority behind the institution of Michael Stipe’s voice.  Oh yeah, Pete Townsend delivers a really trippy acoustic outro from “Won’t Get Fooled Again” to close the disc.

Simply put, there is not a moment when hitting  “skip” crosses the mind.

Coupled with the aforementioned performances is the fact that the entire shebang is for a cause that has helped precious children who were deemed hopeless to succeed in a world where the odds are against them, making this album one intensely amazing stacked deck. This, my friends, is a mix-tape for the ages.

The Bridge School Concerts 25th Anniversary Edition is out now on Warner Brothers.

 

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