Sounds like … the songs of U2 as interpreted by Christian music heavyweights like toby Mac, Jars of Clay, Nichole Nordeman, Pillar, and Sixpence None the Richer
At a glance … though it's simply an album of covers, it's hard to dislike when most all of them are solid, some are fresh, and the source material is strong
The title for In the Name of Love: Artists United for Africa sums up the album well. Inspired by the efforts of U2 frontman Bono to raise awareness of the African AIDS crisis, Sparrow Records and an impressive roster of artists have yielded an album for which a portion of the proceeds goes to World Vision. The liner notes are very detailed in the explanation of how the funds will be used to support a specific African village ravaged by the deadly disease.
But this is more than just a benefit for a vital cause. It's also a fine tribute to the music of U2. The band's a worthwhile choice not only for their worldwide success or Bono's work with DATA, but also because the band has long alluded to themes of compassion, perseverance, and faith in their songs—perfect subjects for an album conceptually born out of charity. If nothing else, In the Name of Love demonstrates to skeptics that at least some of U2's songs do exhibit strong themes of Christianity and that their music has inspired several great contemporary Christian artists over the last 20 years.
U2 fans are undoubtedly curious how the band's classics hold up here. It'd be near impossible to improve upon U2's oft-imitated-rarely-duplicated anthemic rock, elevated by Bono's passionate vocals and The Edge's brilliant guitar work. Still, the only real fumble is a densely jumbled hip-hop cover of "With or Without You" by GRITS and the soulful voice of Jadyn Maria. It's a nice try for something different, but too much so in this case—you might appreciate it if you also enjoyed P. Diddy's remake of The Police's "Every Breath You Take." Less shaky is Audio Adrenaline's appropriately bold but overproduced version of "Gloria," and while a straightforward performance by Jars of Clay of the anthemic power ballad "All I Want Is You" could have been glorious, this bouncy, gritty blues rendition is likely to earn mixed reactions.
But most of the covers remain very true to the originals. It's no surprise that the heavily U2-influenced Delirious delivers a spot-on imitation with "Pride (In the Name of Love)," an ode to those who have given their lives faithfully serving others. If only Martin Smith could belt the vocals as high as Bono once did. Likewise, Chris Tomlin's usually strong voice sounds relatively wimpy—compared to Bono's—on "Where the Streets Have No Name," this album's most overtly faithful remake. Michael Tait's expressive lead vocal is well matched for a straightforward cover of the affecting ballad "One," and Todd Agnew delivers a strong B.B. King impersonation for the blues-rock jam "When Love Comes to Town." New band Starfield performs a fine modern rock interpretation of the Psalm-derived "40," while Sanctus Real offers a slightly punchier and noisier remake of "Beautiful Day," this album's first radio single.
In the Name of Love's best moments come from those you'd least expect. The psychedelic sounds of "Mysterious Ways" are perfect for toby Mac's fusion hip-hop rock, and he gives a surprisingly good Bono impersonation. Nichole Nordeman's beautiful and subdued cover of "Grace" is one of the most alternative pop-sounding tracks she's ever lent her voice to, and the song somehow benefits from a female singing it: "Grace, she takes the blame, she covers the shame/Removes the stain/It could be her name/Grace, it's a name for a girl/It's also a thought that changed the world." Pillar's performance of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is true to the original while infusing it with nu-metal production, and the lyric, "And it's true we are immune/When fact is fiction and TV reality/And today the millions cry/We eat and drink while tomorrow they die" is at least as relevant today as it was 20 years ago—especially when considering the current AIDS crisis in Africa.
In the Name of Love plays like a single disc of U2's essential hits not performed by the band. Boil it down to an album of covers if you must, but it's hard to dislike with such strong source material and a good balance of fresh and faithful arrangements. The fact that a percentage of the proceeds go to such a critical cause only seals the deal.