Friday, May 22, 2009

The Great Recording Artist Draft, or, What Do I Have To Do To Hear A New Angela Winbush Album?

Maybe someone can explain to me why this is a dumb idea, but I'm wondering why we can't set up a mechanism where fans of a particular artist can bid money to "draft" the artist back into the studio to make a new record. Like Jill Sobule in reverse: if you haven't been following that story, she raised about $75,000 from fans and other well intentioned folk so she could record and press her 2009 release California Years (other artists, including Cris Williamson, have done similar self-fundraisers without getting the same media attention).

I'm not talking about recluses like Axl Rose and Sly Stone, who have issues unrelated to financing which keep them from releasing product. I'm thinking more about someone like Ernie Isley or, yes, Àngela Winbush - people who presumably wouldn't be averse to hitting the studio if they could be assured in advance that they would get back their costs and (ideally) a bit extra.

I'd picture it working somewhat like an eBay auction (remember eBay? It's where you used to go for rare LPs before they all starting turning up on Rapidshare). Anyone interested could sign up for a central clearinghouse where you could put down money toward a new album by a given artist, who might or might not be amenable - it would be up to the artist to indicate interest, specify a minimum bid, etc. Everyone going to the site could see how much money had been pledged toward each artist - you could track fastest movers, newest additions, largest budgets, and so on.

The money would be placed in revocable escrow, so that you'd really need to put up the dough but you could get it back if you got tired of waiting for that next Leo Sayer disc - this would address the hypothetical problem where an artist could have an incentive to wait indefinitely, letting the budget go up and up, rather than actually making the record. Once the artist said yes, got the cash and recorded the CD, everyone who fronted money would get some freebie, like an autographed copy. (Sobule made an elaborate system with various levels, so that if you contributed enough you could even sing a duet on the record, but I doubt many artists would be that flexible.)

To really build a system like that you'd need someone to hold the money, and I'm certainly not volunteering. Thanks to the financial crisis nobody's making any interest to speak of anyway, so the only thing you'd need to worry about would be someone running off with all the money. But we're all music fans, we can trust each other, right? Right? Did I just lose everybody? Anyway, assuming the practical part can be straightened out if there's enough interest, let me throw out my price list:

Alec R. Costandinos$50
The Abdul Hassan Orchestra$50
Carole King$50
Biz Markie$50
Pajama Party featuring Jennifer McQuilkin$50
Brenda Russell$50
The Shaggs$50
Bill Withers$50
Chuck Berry$100
Ernie Isley$100
Little Richard$100
Patrice Rushen$100
Àngela Winbush$200

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sharon Brown, "I Specialize In Love" (1982)

I spent almost twenty years looking for this dance record before finally finding it at The Thing in Greenpoint. Written by Golden/Sher and produced by Next Plateau founder Eddie O'Loughlin, the tune was sort of a cross between early disco and Hi-NRG, mixing Latin percussion and a midtempo groove with jumpy synth, diva belting, and a winning attitude. I heard it a lot in 1982, though it seems like I never heard it on the radio, only coming out of passing cars, which is one reason I had trouble figuring out who the singer was. The other reason is, Brown never had much of a career apart from this one song: she apparently fell out with her label after they released a follow-up ("Love Don't Hurt People") she wasn't happy with, they parted company, and she ended up never releasing an LP.

The song was covered by Exposé in the mid-90s, and their version isn't half-bad, but track down the original if you can. Alternatively, you can check it out on YouTube.