Long Way Round – Various Artists

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Album Review by Jonathan Dyer

LONG WAY ROUND is the inevitable soundtrack to the docu-film (book, DVD and t-shirt) of adventurous thespian types Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s epic 20,000 mile globe-straddling motorcycle journey, made in aid of worthy causes such as Unicef and Macmillan Cancer Relief.

The impressive route map of the journey takes in numerous weird and wonderful places from Kazakhstsan to Ulaan Bataar, many of which had remained resolutely untouched by Western influences until Obi-Wan and, erm, the other bloke blasted into town on their two-wheeled BMW monsters, complete with film crew and support vehicles in tow.

However, an interesting proposition in terms of soundtrack, one would imagine. A touch of Siberian folk music, Mongolian nose flute orchestras and blazing balalaika duels as the heroic duo chase the sun across continents? The possibilities seem endless as I load the CD and settle back to enjoy the ride. Track 1 – RADIOHEAD. Hmm, the untamed wilds of Oxford. Track 2 – COLDPLAY. OK, they started off in the UK – just warming up before hitting the continent maybe? Track 3 – THE STEREOPHONICS. South Wales is slightly off course if you’re heading towards Prague lads – time to sack the map reader. Only by track 5, with Iceland’s SINGAPORE SLING and their mighty sonic barrage ‘Curse Curse Curse’ do we leave the safety of driving on the left, the comfort of sanitised motorway service stations and Burger King fuelled pit stops. And even this seems way off course. Already, one is sensing the air of missed opportunity less than halfway through the album.

Aside of the occasional nod to something a little out of the ordinary – HEADLAND’s ‘Let’s Hear It For God’ is an Avalanches style cut-and-paste slice of heaven with a gloriously off-kilter plink-plonk piano loop and RUPERT GREGSON-WILLIAMS’ ‘Mongolian 3 Vox Master’, which brings a welcome 90 seconds of indigenous Asian-style magic to the proceedings – on the whole the collection has a worrying air of an insurance salesman’s compilation of “Songs That Are Really Good To Drive To” for a Bank Holiday trip down the M4, rather than the soundtrack to a once-in-a-lifetime journey around the planet. This is an uninspiring collection which mostly fails to get itself out of first gear.

2 stars