Album review: Released! – The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998

Released - The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998

Eagle Records [Release date: 28.10.13] 6-DVD set, 4 CDs

10th December 2013 marks the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights  – instigated after World War II and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.  It provided the foundation for Amnesty International’s 52 years of worldwide campaigning for human rights.

Music has always been one of the main ways to stimulate public opinion and to communicate awareness of poverty or oppression, at least in the last thirty years since Live Aid in 1985.  It is fitting therefore that Sir Bob Geldof kicks off the first Amnesty gig, recorded in New Jersey in June 1986.  But it was actually the ‘Secret Policeman’s Ball’ benefit show (reprised here in the bonus DVD footage) in 1976 that inspired Geldof, and young people in general, to actively participate in the human rights movement.

Four concerts are captured over the period 1986-1998 accompanied by a 6-DVD boxed set.  This mostly unreleased audio and footage captures some unique performances not least the collaborations, so we have for example Bruce Springsteen and Sting on CD2 (Argentina, 1988) and the perhaps more comprehensible pairing of Peter Gabriel and Youssou N’Dour  also on CD2, and CD4 (France, 1998).

Peter Gabriel emerges as the most persistent of performers during this period, appearing at all four concerts, although Sting runs him close appearing in three of the four concerts (once with The Police in 1986).  Tracy Chapman clocks up two concerts a decade apart in 1988 and 1998.  But there are some now poignant sightings too: Lou Reed supplies three tracks in 1986 (six on the DVD).

One of the criticisms of ‘Live Aid’ was the lack of ‘world’ performers given the nature of the campaign.  The Human Rights Concerts might attract similar criticism and only CD3 (Chile, 1990) includes indigenous musicians, Inti-Illimani and Ruben Blades, although CD4 includes the French folk musicians Kassav’.

The 1986 DVD includes additional songs, when compared to CD1, and most artists deliver additional material.

The DVD content is perhaps the most impressive, including a 48 page booklet and bonus material on Discs 4 and  6 which provides a context for the campaign.  This includes documentary, interviews (including Bruce Springsteen and Sting) and messages from supporters, and even an animated film by the makers of Wallace & Grommit.  The story is brought up to date with several more recent performances from the likes of Mumford & Sons, Ozzy Osbourne and Damien Rice.

This release is a fitting tribute to the Amnesty organisation and the many artists who have supported the cause since the 1970s (and indeed the audiences who came to see the shows).  Net proceeds from the sale of the DVD set and CDs benefit Amnesty so this could be the gift that keeps giving this Christmas.  *****

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

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