a good compilation for a good cause

Compilation albums can be much more than simply a collection of songs by a variety of bands, the sole purpose of which is to generate revenue for whichever company happens to be releasing it. They can serve a purpose, whether it be to provide smaller bands with some much needed publicity and exposure, giving an insight to the musical output of smaller independent labels, or, as is the case with the Take Action compilation, to support a charity by donating proceeds from record sales. 'Take Action' is not just a compilation however, and is in fact the name given to an annual music tour that raises funds and awareness for the National Hopeline Network (HOPE), a charity that provides free access to suicide crisis counselling throughout the US. The tour has been well supported since its conception, with previous bands on the tour having included Thrice, Jimmy Eat World, Anti Flag and Thursday. 2003 saw the Take Action Tour hit the road for the third year in succession, playing to over 50,000 people at 28 venues in little over a month.

This CD is intended to be much more than merely a collection of music; it also operates as an instructional and self-counselling tool for people who are contemplating suicide. This is achieved via the addition of a substantial amount of enhanced multimedia content, including some general information and contact details for HOPE, details of how you can volunteer to help with the Suicide Prevention Action Network, and a genuinely moving video piece, narrated by Carrie Fisher, which documents some real life cases surrounding suicide. Also included is an 'electronic' copy of the book 'Suicide - the forever decision' by Paul G. Quinnett (who also gives a video interview), and a 'depression screening tool', which is designed to help users self-test for depression.

Not only is this compilation a great way to support a worthwhile charity, it's also one of the best damned compilations you're ever likely to hear! The first disc is introduced by Ryan from Poison The Well, who then proceeds to shell shock the listener with his visceral screams on the abrasive 'Crystal Lake'. This is followed up by the metallic-tinged hardcore of Thrice, who contribute the simply excellent 'Silhouette', with a momentary respite being offered by the fast yet melodic punk of Recover. Those of you with an inkling towards the heavier side of rock will be more at home here, with chaotic metalcore and melodic hardcore being the orders of the day. The standard of bands on display is amazingly high, with tracks from Thursday, Boy Sets Fire, Shai Hulud, Silverstein, Shadows Fall and The Beautiful Mistake to name but a few. If this all sounds a little bit hostile and unpleasant for you, then you should head on over to the second disc, where things are a bit easier on the ear. There's the listener-friendly pop-punk of the Ataris with the aptly titled 'A Beautiful Mistake', garage rock from The Division Of Laura Lee, thought-inducing emo from Cursive, and epic, atmospheric space-rock from Elliot.

Compilations like this should be encouraged. Whether or not you believe that musicians have a responsibility to use their popularity and influence to support just and noble causes such as HOPE, displays of altruism and generosity such as this should be highlighted and applauded in today's money-driven musical world. The only disappointing thing about the album is that some of the bands that were on the tour, such as Dillinger Escape Plan, Since By Man, Eighteen Visions and Himsa, sadly are not present on the CD, although this really is a minor blemish on an otherwise outstanding compilation.

Even ignoring the charity aspect, at a price of only 6.99 the Take Action compilation offers excellent value for money considering the quality of the 45 tracks it contains, and would be a worthwhile addition to anyone's collection. Buy this now.