Back in the day, big-time musicians used to regularly get together for all-star jams benefiting good causes like famine relief, AIDS research and ending apartheid. But ever since the problems that afflicted the world in the '80s were magically fixed through the transformative power of mediocre pop songs (thanks for opening our eyes, Bono!), rock stars appear less eager to join forces onstage against the intractable ills of the 21st century. Nowadays, the good work is done through compilation albums.
Enter Rhythms del Mundo (just wondering: why not hispanicize all three titular words?), a high-minded album created to raise money for the green activist organization Artists Project Earth. Although it's a bit unclear exactly how the group plans to use the money—the Web site mentions raising public awareness of the need to reduce fossil-fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions—it's a refreshing approach to environmental fundraising.
The project features a weird mix of do-gooder artists, including the usual mainstream suspects (Sting, U2, Maroon 5, Jack Johnson), along with bands with more indie cred, like the Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser Chiefs. All the songs on the album are infused with Latin rhythms inspired by the Buena Vista Social Club, and late, great Social Club members Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo appear on a few tracks. Even Coldplay, the recording industry's answer to unflavored yogurt, gets revitalized with some Cuban flair. Be sure to check out one of the standout tracks, a spiced-up version of Sting's "Fragile." Get the message? The planet is fragile. Yes, it's about as subtle as a cattle prod, but it does sound good. —Doug Cantor