- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 8, 2001

ATLANTA — A stark and beautiful American flag painting by Jasper Johns adorns the cover of "America: A Tribute to Heroes," the new double CD that has arrived in stores. That's in keeping with the stripped-down nature of this remarkable project, a star-packed fund-raiser that subverted the whole notion of stardom.
On Sept. 21, actors and musicians gathered for what remains the most haunting and appropriate entertainment industry response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. Airing live on more than 30 networks and watched by 60 million people in the United States, "Tribute" raised $150 million. But it was even more remarkable for its lack of show-business trappings. Stages in Los Angeles, New York City and London were adorned only by candles. There was no audience to play to and the performers were not even identified, which led to a bit of "who's that?" for some viewers.
None of the spoken-word tributes by Julia Roberts, Muhammad Ali and others is gathered here (they are on a separate DVD that is being released), but the 21 musical numbers are, and their quality is even better than viewers will remember it.
Standouts include Bruce Springsteen's opener, "My City of Ruins," and Faith Hill's "There Will Come a Day," both with strong gospel elements, and Paul Simon's mournful, cello-backed "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
Several songs took on new meaning that night and on these discs. Fred Durst, the Neanderthal frontman for Limp Bizkit, joined John Reznick of the Goo Goo Dolls on an unbearably sad "Wish You Were Here," the old Pink Floyd tune. Mariah Carey, the inflatable doll of pop music, acquitted herself nicely on "Hero," and Neil Young did John Lennon's "Imagine," a song shunned by some radio stations after the attack as inappropriate. Also here: Stevie Wonder, Wyclef Jean, Tom Petty, Billy Joel, U2 and more.
The only missteps were Celine Dion's plaster-cracking "God Bless America" and the raggedy, all-together-now closer, with everyone joining Willie Nelson on "America the Beautiful" (thankfully edited here).
Proceeds go to the Red Cross' September 11th Fund, which after some controversy is reportedly being better disbursed to victims' families.

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