BOSTON — The words Diana and tribute seem to be synonymous these days. But instead of elegant pictures and text, this one sings.
"Diana, Princess of Wales: Tribute" (Columbia) features 36 beautiful old and new songs that range in tempo and genre. From soft rock to gospel and opera, the double album centers on love, hope, and loss. It's a moving tribute to a woman who touched the lives of many with her strength and selflessness.
But the overall tone is not uplifting. Beginning with Queen's heavy-sounding "Who Wants to Live Forever" to Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven," the melodies may be easy on the ears, but the words are sentimental and somber. It's probably best to listen to this double album while in a happy mood or, at the very least, in moderation. It's also curious that more artists didn't come up with original material. Only 13 of the selections are new. And what happened to Sting and Phil Collins, who originally committed to the project?
But despite these disappointments, listeners will appreciate the abundance of talent. The gospel-driven "Every Nation" by Red Hot R&B All Stars (featuring Lauryn Hill of The Fugees and Mary J. Blige) is beautifully composed; Sinad O'Connor's acoustic "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace" is touching; and "Miss Sarajevo" (Passengers and Luciano Pavarotti) contains gorgeous string arrangements and strong vocals.
It's well known that Diana liked to dance (remember the dance with John Travolta at the White House?), so it would have been refreshing to hear a few upbeat tunes. The album may have shortcomings, but it still captures the grief that surrounded Diana's death. The Pretenders' "Hymn to Her" had it right with the lines, "We will keep speaking her name/ She will always carry on." It's unfortunate, however, that these words weren't actually written for the princess.
Proceeds from "Tribute" will go to the Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.