Album review by KevW
'The Inner Flame' was originally conceived and released back in 1997, as both a tribute and benefit album to acclaimed singer-songwriter and Giant Sand founder Rainer Ptacek in order to fund the medical bills needed to treat the cancer to which he succumbed later that year. Fire Records is now reissuing the complete collection of Ptacek's recordings beginning, fittingly, with this various artists compilation, now updated with added tracks recorded after the original release, along with the original '97 recordings, many of which featured Ptacek himself.
A quick glance at the legends who have contributed to this record (Robert Plant & Jimmy Page - who perform a scorching version of 'Rude World' - Jonathan Richman, Chuck Prohet, Emmylou Harris, Evan Dando and more) is a testament to just how respected he was throughout the music world, and that his influence stretched beyond the country-blues stylings that hallmarked his own records. With a list of musical heroes such as this, the standard of the recordings was always going to be high, and that's certainly the case here. 'The Inner Flame' sounds incredibly professional.
The disappointment comes that with such an acclaimed array of stars, you'd expect them to stamp a little more of their own personality on these songs. Barring a few exceptions (Grandaddy's take on 'Junkpile' and PJ Harvey's version of 'Losin' Ground' are particularly good) the album is accomplished but predictable. The cause is a worthy one, of that there's no doubt, and the cast is spectacularly good, but unless the highlights of your music collection are Uncut magazine cover-mount CDs then you're better off skipping this one and heading for Rainer Ptacek's originals instead.
Rainer Ptacek's website
Buy the album
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