Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Various Artists: Tibetan Freedom Concert

It's easy to succumb to one of two kneejerk responses to Tibetan Freedom Concert: You can either trumpet the goodness of its cause while failing to acknowledge the quality of its contents, or you can cynically dismiss its cause while failing to acknowledge the quality of its contents. (Leave it to rock stars to think they can free Tibet with a big concert and extravagant live album.) Of course, both responses fail to acknowledge what anyone listening to Tibetan Freedom Concert will quickly realize: that there are some dynamite performances spread throughout the collection's lavish three discs. Sure, there's some filler (Porno For Pyros' "Meija," KRS-One's muddled medley), and the collection's two and a half hours could have fit fairly comfortably on two discs. (The third CD is just five tracks from the 1996 concert, with a multimedia extravaganza tacked on.) Not surprisingly, phenomenal talents like Radiohead and Patti Smith turn in the best performances here, while one of the hidden thrills of Tibetan Freedom Concert lies in hearing the way a few acts work the Tibet issue into their patter. (Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: "When we're talkin' about freein' Tibet, I think we're talkin' about… love." A Tribe Called Quest: "Everybody say, 'Free Tibet!'") Whether you'll want to lay out the cash depends on both your passion for Tibetan freedom and your passion for live albums; if you opt to make the investment on those grounds, you won't be disappointed.

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