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CD REVIEW

Various Artists “Yes We Can! Obama Classics”

by Sarah Noorbakhsh

“Yes We Can! Obama Classics” is an album that sets excerpts of U.S. President Barak Obama’s famous speeches to classical music, simple as that. Conceptually it’s an interesting idea — harnessing the emotion of Obama’s memorable words and setting them to powerful orchestration. The execution is not a bad effort, though the final product is something like a bizarre cross between a movie soundtrack and political propaganda. Imagine “Evita: The Obama Version” and you’ve got the idea.

At times the tracks unfortunately come off sounding slightly sappy. One of the worst is “Change Has Come,” the first part of Obama’s 2008 election victory speech is set to a segment of Gustav Holst’s “Jupiter from the Planets,” a tune made familiar to almost all Japanese ears by Ayaka Hirahara’s 2003 hit “Jupiter.” One of the best tracks, “Ann Nixon Cooper,” actually comes from that same victory speech, and the solemn, resonating tune in the second movement of Antonin Dvorak’s “Symphony No. 9 in E Minor ‘From the New World’ ” elicits even deeper meaning from Obama’s tale of Nixon Cooper’s life and the evolution of America.

“Yes We Can!” is a great opportunity to become familiar with Obama’s famous and highly regarded speeches, especially for those who may have glossed over them in the past. The words are printed in the leaflet in both English and Japanese making it easy to follow along, and the short length of each track certainly makes it easier to chew on than the English learning supplement, “The Speeches of Barack Obama.”

Worth a listen for Obama fans and for fans of classical music, and probably perfect for classical music fans who love Obama, but “Yes We Can!” will likely make a understandable pass under the radar for everyone else.