November 22nd, 2009

NZ Music Month

CD Review - Various Artists - "Stroke: Songs for Chris Knox"

I've always been rather ambivalent about tribute albums; a lot of the ones I've heard are more along the lines of "slavish devotion" than "respect". Let's face it, if an artist is worthy of a tribute album, their songs are strong enough that they can survive being done in all sorts of different styles. Another thing making actually reviewing these CDs a practically pointless task is that in this case, with its proceeds going to A Good Cause (assisting with Chris Knox's recovery from a stroke he suffered during the winter which has left him unable to speak), most of the people likely to buy it will already have made up their minds to do so without worrying about minor details like whether it is actually any good.

First I should probably explain who Chris Knox is. If his Wikipedia entry doesn't give enough information, you may be familiar with his work from this beer advertisement:

This isn't really an accurate representation of his main body of work, though; this video here is a better example. He's also experimented a lot with his music (background noise, tape-loop percussion, etc.) and with his videos (stop-motion animation and working directly on the film itself; in places it seems he's quite inspired or influenced by Len Lye). I could put up a lot more You Tube links, but I'd rather get on with actually writing this review.

Anyway, the most important question about the music itself is: is it any good. Collapse )

By way of comparison, or if any of this review interests you, the album's official web site includes samples of all tracks, plus complete versions of the original recordings for comparative purposes. In all, this would be a worthwhile CD just from a musical perspective, even if it hadn't been done for A Good Cause. And it's a testament to Chris Knox's talent that a lot of the music here, while good, just isn't quite as good as what one skinny little bugger can do in his spare room with some antique stereo equipment.