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Playing for Change 3: Songs Around the World

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The third installment in Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke's wholehearted global audio peace project, Playing for Change 3: Songs Around the World, offers up another winning mix of the familiar and the exotic, rounding up eight new sonic collaborations that, with help from the multi-faceted PFC Band, bring together established pop artists from different countries. For the most part, the results are uniformly solid; these are, after all, live performances, and the magic can take some time to conjure up. For example, Los Lobos is no stranger to performing "La Bamba," and the initial moments of the version here feel a bit phoned in, but add Argentinian rocker and former Los Rodríguez frontman Andrés Calamaro to the party and the whole mix perks up. Elsewhere, Keith Richards noodles (and occasionally croons) amiably through the self-penned "Words of Wisdom," a languid, midtempo slice of easy reggae-pop that, with help from Keb Mo, Sherieta Lewis, and an army of roots musicians and Aztec Indians, segues effortlessly into a stirring rendition of "Get Up Stand Up," Clarence Bekker and Sara Bareilles lend their voices to a warm and appropriately wistful reading of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" that benefits from an infusion of Brazilian tropicália, and an epic take of the folk standard "Guantanamera," led here by Aymee Nuviola and Equis Alfonso, brings together just under a hundred Cuban voices from all over the world, resulting in a moment that dutifully reflects the ambitious projects central theme, unity. [Playing for Change was also released as a 16-track CD/DVD.] ~ James Christopher Monger