Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kat's Korner: If you can get ahold of it, We Came To Sing! is amazing

Kat: In probably the best moment of the album, Holly Near, Pat Humphries and Sandy O's voices combine on the chorus with "Don't you rock 'em daddy-o, don't you rock 'em daddy-o." It's a moment that recalls "Oh River" from Holly's last album Show Up. This time round, she's joined with Pat and Sandy of emma's revolution and the song they're singing is the folk traditional "Sail Away Lady" arranged by Holly with a few new lyrics including, "Let's sing Odetta on her way." They manage to do just that. Not via show boating or flash, but by providing a vocal blend that calls to mind the ocean itself -- especially during the final moments when lead and backing vocals give the song the feel of waves lapping.


The album. And here's where we get to the problem. The album is We Came to Sing! and it's a pity no one came to sell. I've written online many times about Living in the USA and how that album hurt Linda Rondstadt. Not because people didn't enjoy the album but because they couldn't. Those were the days of vinyl and cheap vinyl was used on Living in the USA which set records in its year of release for returns. And it's rare that I ever meet someone from that period who likes Linda's vocals and they don't, at some point, bring that up. They had to return it. Their sister or brother had to return it. Every one's got a story.

Now no one thought Linda finished a set at the Troubadour, rushed to the factory and began pressing some hot wax. But when her next album came out, Mad Love, you better believe people thought about the hassle they had getting a working copy of Living in the USA, about how they purchased it and then had to go back to the store and return it for a new copy which might or might not have been the end of the story. While not blaming her for the problems with the physical record, they were aware they didn't want to go through that again and it did effect her future sales.

Today every thing's changed, right?

Wasn't I just addressing this last week?

Yes, I was.

And it's worse than it was last week. I've gotten more e-mails -- some community members, some visitors -- from people who've had nothing but problems. Does it matter? Yeah, it does. If you're going to sell downloads, you need to be able to deliver.

As two visitors wrote, they know how to take money but they don't know how to deliver the product. That's CD Baby whose download problems were supposed to have been fixed last week. If they were, no one who had a problem with the download was contacted. In fact, I will never promote CD Baby for downloads because they have refused to respond to any e-mails from customers with problems. If you want to buy a physical copy of the CD, CD Baby now has those in. I'm not aware of any problems the company's had with sending out discs. But I do not recommend them for downloads.

And I don't recommend emma's revolution website for downloads. Community member Dallas downloaded a track two Saturdays back. Well, he bought a track. And I noted at my site that he got an e-mail on Monday that contained the track he'd purchased and explained that the track is supposed to be e-mailed automatically but there's some problem at emma's revolution.

And Dallas is his usual nice self and okay with everything. I'm not. My name's on this review and I'm telling people about the album. I need to be honest about the problems. Tuesday night, Dallas purchased the entire album from emma's revolution. He has no copy. (I've burned a copy and sent it in snail mail to him.) How come?

emma's revolution hasn't e-mailed the tracks to him. His money was taken Tuesday night. What the hell is this? Downloads are not supposed to be, "For this K-Tel collection, send $4.99 plus shipping and handling and, in four to six weeks, we'll mail you your record." Downloads, by their very nature, are supposed to "down" "load" on your computer after you pay.

Now Dallas' attitude is that the women at emma's revolution are busy and blah, blah, f**king blah. It's bulls**t. Dallas is a nice guy. No one's ever accused me of being a nice woman. emma's revolution wants to sell an album. Fine. Then sell it.

Don't take people's money and fail to deliver the product.

That's bulls**t. And if I tried to do that on any of my photography assignments? If I missed my deadline, you better believe people would find someone else for their next jobs. I know it, they know it.

Dallas' attitude is that it's his fault because he didn't e-mail right away to let them know he hadn't gotten the e-mail downloads, he thinks it's his fault for waiting until Thursday to notify them. First off, emma's revolution already knew there was a problem on their end. That's what they wrote in their Monday e-mail to Dallas. So they knew they had a problem. So it was incumbent upon them to follow all purchases with an e-mail of the tracks since they knew one wasn't going out automatically.

Add in that if you e-mail them on a work day, they should be responding on the same work day. So Dallas, a sweet heart of a guy, can be patient but I wouldn't be and I don't think most people would be.

There are people who have now paid for this album twice and three times. Paid to download it from CD Baby and never gotten it. And CD Baby will not reply to e-mails. I find that outrageous. I also find it outrageous that emma's revolution wants to sell downloads at their website and they will immediately take your money but they will deliver the 'download' whenever they feel like it.

That's bad business and I don't want an e-mail telling me someone had a cold or the flu or their period or blah, blah, f**king blah. You're selling downloads at your site. You're taking people's money. You need to be able to deliver. If you can't, I consider you to be, at best, an inept business person and, at worst, an outright fraud.

This community hates iTunes. I was talking to C.I. about it (I've listened to C.I.'s CD of the album for sometime now) and C.I. said, "Well let's try iTunes." So we did on Saturday before we flew home. We downloaded it immediately with no problem.

I know iTunes is this community's last stop and understand why. But the only download available currently that I can recommend is iTunes. If Amazon ends up providing it as a download, you can download there with no problem. In terms of ordering a CD. I've never had a problem with CD Baby when ordering discs. (I've never tried to download from CD Baby.) They do have a new shipment of the albums and, while those are in stock, you can purchase them there.

Years ago, to get a functioning copy of Living in the USA, I finally had to go with 8-track because Tower was telling me, on my third return, that the problem was the vinyl. So once I had the 8-track, I was able to enjoy Linda's version of Elvis Costello's "Alison" and her monster remake of "Ooh Baby Baby." And "Love Me Tender" -- which I think a large number of people have forgotten she once recorded and did so amazingly well. In other words, when I switched over to 8-track, all the trauma and drama became someone else's problem that I could find amusing and just focus on the album itself.

If you're fortunate enough to get a copy (a CD or download) of We Came to Sing!, you're very fortunate. This is an amazing recording. It's largely a cappella but there are some acoustic instruments as well. "1,000 Grandmothers" is notable mainly for the vocal interplay which is really something to marvel over. At one point, Holly solos and lets it rip with a powerful vocal that'll put a chill down your spine. Contrast that with "Fired Up" (written by Holly) which is so hard driving and rhythmic, it takes a moment to grasp that they're doing it all vocally, there's no musical instrument accompanying them. Equally impressive is their cover of "Sing to Me the Dream" (which Holly wrote with Jorge Coulon and recorded back in the eighties). I also find Pat Humphries' "Swimming to the Other Side" to be a pretty amazing song with a pretty amazing performance and Holly's "Listen to the Voices" and Rick Burkhardt's "Ministry of Oil" are among the other fine tracks.

"Study War No More." It's a strong album and, although there's not a clunker, the weakest track is the final one, the traditional "Study War No More." It's a bit of dirge and it's really not a closer. In addition, three women get together and do the traditional "Study War No More" and not one of them thinks, "Hey, what if we blended this with Laura Nyro's 'Save The Country'? You know, 'In my mind, I can't study war no more . . .'?"

It would have given the final track an urgency and bounce that's missing.

And the Laura Nyro suggestion? A good one and a good reference point. Laura's largely forgotten today and that's mainly because so many women refuse to honor other women. (In other words, don't expect Judy Collins to do an album of Nyro songs.) Laura was one of the most groundbreaking songwriters of the sixties and praised by everyone from Bob Dylan to Stephen Sondheim. From 1967 through 1970, she released four amazing albums of her own compositions (many of which were hits for other artists: Barbra Streisand's "Stoney End," the Fifth Dimensions' "Wedding Bell Blues," "Save The Country," "He's a Runner," "Stoned Soul Picnic," Three Dog Night's "Eli's Coming," Blood, Sweat & Tears' "And When I Die," etc.). Then she decided to step away and her goodbye in 1971 was Gonna Take a Miracle with Labelle (Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash). The four women went into the studio and turned out amazing versions of "I Met Him on a Sunday," "You Really Got a Hold on Me," "The Wind" and other songs. That album is now considered a classic and that fate could await We Came To Sing! as well.

For example, if it could get a Grammy nod, there's no way it wouldn't win. This is music at a time when the music industry appears to be interested in everything but music. This is satisfying music at a time when most releases that satisfy people tend to be repackaged hit collections. This is really something and Holly Near and emma's revolution should be really proud of being there on the front line making the case for art, showing the power of music, living the joy. But for that to happen, people have to be able to hear the album.

And that remains the problem.