Dark Was the Night

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Dark Was the Night
Dark Was the Night (Front Cover).png
Compilation album for charity by Red Hot AIDS Benefit Series
Released February 16, 2009
Recorded 2005–2008
Length 130:19
Label 4AD (DAD 2835)
Producer Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National
Red Hot AIDS Benefit Series chronology
Red Hot + Riot
(2002)Red Hot + Riot2002
Dark Was the Night
Red Hot + Rio 2
(2011)Red Hot + Rio 22011
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars link
Drowned in Sound 8/10[1]
Gigwise.com 3.5/5 stars[2]
Music Feeds 10/10 stars[3][4]
Pitchfork Media 8.6/10[5]
Robert Christgau A-[8]
The Skinny 5/5 stars[6]
Toro 8.5/10 stars[7]

Dark Was the Night is the twentieth compilation release benefiting the Red Hot Organization, an international charity dedicated to raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS. Featuring exclusive recordings by a number of independent artists and production by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National, the compilation was released on 16 February 2009 (UK) and 17 February (US) as a double CD, three vinyl LPs, and as a digital download.[9] John Carlin, the founder of the Red Hot Organization, was the executive producer for the album. The title is derived from the Blind Willie Johnson song "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground", which is covered on this collection by the Kronos Quartet.

John Carlin and Aaron Dessner approached Martin Mills and Richard Russell of Beggars Group with the idea for the album. Their selection of artists to include was an attempt to “capture this musical renaissance, which may not have the cultural impact of grunge or punk, but is equally significant from a cultural and creative standpoint...these artists are not fringe or marginal.”[10] The American folk roots of the compilation are acknowledged in the title and exemplified by tracks such as the cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Was Young When I Left Home.” Production of the album was focused on supporting the Red Hot Organization, as Dessner says “a lot of the artists wouldn’t take the money...Beggars agreed to be really transparent about how it’s done, so as much money flows to the charity side as possible.”[10]

As of May 2012, Dark Was the Night has raised over $1.6 million, a sum that represents all the profits from worldwide sales. John Carlin acknowledged the reason for the album's success, saying "Dark Was the Night encapsulated the spirit and creativity of a new generation of musicians whose work struck a chord and got people to actually purchase the album and raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight AIDS."[11]

On May 3, 2009 4AD and Red Hot produced Dark Was the Night — Live, a concert commemorating the newest Red Hot album. The show took place at Radio City Music Hall and featured several of the artists that contributed to the compilation including Dave Sitek, Dirty Projectors, Feist, My Brightest Diamond, The National, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings plus more.[12]

Track listing[edit]

CD and digital track listing[edit]

Disc 1 - "This Disc"
No. Title Writer(s) Performed by Length
1. "Knotty Pine" Dirty Projectors and David Byrne Dirty Projectors and David Byrne 2:23
2. "Cello Song" Nick Drake The Books featuring José González 3:54
3. "Train Song" Vashti Bunyan Feist and Ben Gibbard 3:02
4. "Brackett, WI" Justin Vernon Bon Iver 4:03
5. "Deep Blue Sea" Grizzly Bear Grizzly Bear 3:46
6. "So Far Around the Bend" The National The National 3:43
7. "Tightrope" Yeasayer Yeasayer 3:18
8. "Feeling Good" Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse My Brightest Diamond 3:54
9. "Dark Was the Night" Blind Willie Johnson Kronos Quartet 3:51
10. "I Was Young When I Left Home" Bob Dylan Antony with Bryce Dessner 4:55
11. "Big Red Machine" Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner 4:39
12. "Sleepless" Colin Meloy The Decemberists 7:54
13. "Stolen Houses (Die)" Sam Beam Iron & Wine 1:07
14. "Service Bell" Ed Droste Grizzly Bear and Feist 2:23
15. "You Are the Blood" Castanets Sufjan Stevens 10:14
Disc 2 - "That Disc"
No. Title Writer(s) Performed by Length
1. "Well-Alright" Britt Daniel Spoon 2:46
2. "Lenin" Arcade Fire Arcade Fire 4:06
3. "Mimizan" Zach Condon Beirut 2:43
4. "El Caporal" Jim James My Morning Jacket 3:33
5. "Inspiration Information" Shuggie Otis Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings 4:06
6. "With a Girl Like You" Reg Presley Dave Sitek 3:27
7. "Blood Pt. 2" (remix) Raymond Raposa Buck 65 featuring Sufjan Stevens & Serengeti 3:36
8. "Hey, Snow White" Dan Bejar The New Pornographers 4:26
9. "Gentle Hour" Peter Gutteridge Yo La Tengo 5:31
10. "Another Saturday" Stuart Murdoch Stuart Murdoch 2:56
11. "Happiness" Riceboy Sleeps Jónsi & Alex 8:37
12. "Amazing Grace" John Newton Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues 3:34
13. "The Giant of Illinois" Brett and Rennie Sparks Andrew Bird 4:45
14. "Lua" Conor Oberst Conor Oberst & Gillian Welch 5:54
15. "When the Road Runs Out" Blonde Redhead & Devastations Blonde Redhead & Devastations 3:28
16. "Love vs. Porn" Kevin Drew Kevin Drew 3:57
  • "Play the Game" (Queen) by Beach House was additionally released as an iTunes only bonus track as the fifteenth track on "That Disc".
  • A misprint in the track listing on the CD case lists Cat Power's "Amazing Grace" as track 10, and Stuart Murdoch's "Another Saturday" as track 12. The booklet has the correct order.

Vinyl track listing[edit]

Side one[edit]

  1. "Knotty Pine" – Dirty Projectors and David Byrne
  2. "Cello Song" – The Books and José González
  3. "Train Song" – Feist and Ben Gibbard
  4. "Brackett, WI" – Bon Iver
  5. "Deep Blue Sea" – Grizzly Bear

Side two[edit]

  1. "So Far Around the Bend" – The National
  2. "Tightrope" – Yeasayer
  3. "Feeling Good" – My Brightest Diamond
  4. "Dark Was the Night" – Kronos Quartet
  5. "I Was Young When I Left Home" – Antony + Bryce Dessner
  6. "Big Red Machine" – Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner

Side three[edit]

  1. "Well-Alright" – Spoon
  2. "Lenin" – Arcade Fire
  3. "Mimizan" – Beirut
  4. "El Caporal" – My Morning Jacket
  5. "Inspiration Information" – Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
  6. "With a Girl Like You" – Dave Sitek

Side four[edit]

  1. "You Are the Blood" – Sufjan Stevens
  2. "Blood Pt. 2" – Buck 65 Remix (featuring Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti)
  3. "Hey, Snow White" – The New Pornographers
  4. "Gentle Hour" – Yo La Tengo
  5. "Die" – Iron and Wine

Side five[edit]

  1. "Service Bell" – Grizzly Bear and Feist
  2. "Sleepless" – The Decemberists
  3. "Happiness" – Riceboy Sleeps
  4. "Amazing Grace" – Cat Power and Dirt Delta Blues

Side six[edit]

  1. "Another Saturday" – Stuart Murdoch
  2. "The Giant of Illinois" – Andrew Bird
  3. "Lua" – Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch
  4. "When the Road Runs Out" – Blonde Redhead and Devastations
  5. "Love vs. Porn" – Kevin Drew


Additionally, a double A-side 7" single was released to promote the compilation:

  • Dark Was the Night: Songs from the Upcoming Red Hot Compilation
    • 2 February 2009; 4AD AD 2834
    1. "Knotty Pine" – Dirty Projectors and David Byrne – 2:23
    2. "So Far Around the Bend" – The National – 3:43


  1. ^ Skinner, James (2009-02-16). "Various — Dark Was the Night / Releases". Drownedinsound.com. Retrieved 2012-02-12. 
  2. ^ Hot right now:     (2009-02-13). "Various Artists - 'Dark Was The Night' (4AD) Released 16/02/09". Gigwise. Archived from the original on 2012-04-04. Retrieved 2012-02-12. 
  3. ^ Music Feeds review (very positive; missing rating)
  4. ^ Music Feeds article by same reviewer, mentioning rating: "Now I know I gave Dark Was The Night a 10/10 as well..."
  5. ^ Plagenhoef, Scott (2009-02-26). "Various Artists — Dark Was The Night". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  6. ^ Album review by Gillian Watson. (2009-02-13). "Various Artists — Dark Was The Night". The Skinny. Retrieved 2012-02-12. 
  7. ^ "Good was the Compilation". Toro Magazine. 2009-02-18. Retrieved 2012-02-12. 
  8. ^ Christgau, Robert (April 2009). "CG: Dark Was the Night". Robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  9. ^ 4AD - News - Dark Was the Night - full artist list, artwork and release date confirmed Archived 2009-06-28 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ a b Cohen, Jonathan (21 February 2009). "Starry, Starry 'Night'". Billboard. 121 (7): 29. 
  11. ^ 4AD - News - Reveal amount raised for charity from Dark Was the Night, retrieved 27 October 2009
  12. ^ "Dark Was the Night @ Radio City Music Hall in NYC (Brightest Byrne Bon National Feist Projectors) - pics, review & setlist". Brooklynvegan.com. 2009-05-04. Retrieved 2012-02-12. 

External links[edit]