In the near-25 years since Live Aid made music history on two continents, it's safe to argue that charity rock music has never quite been the same. (Of course, others -Morrissey, for instance - have never liked charity rock from the outset.) But critics, audiences and especially performers have changed since those fateful concerts. Nowadays, the efforts seem a bit more forced, whether they're high-profile (Live 8, Live Earth), or relatively obscure (Band Aid II, Band Aid 20, Hear 'N Aid).
As a music fan and collector, I often find the spectacle of these charity outfits to outweigh the cause. (I vividly remember writing some kind of column about this for my college paper around the holidays, cracking at Live Earth, "So it's hot outside; who cares? Half my iPod just came to life.") So when I read the news of the planned "We Are the World" remake, my heart sank a bit. As worthy as relief efforts in Haiti may be, why dilute the impact and message of the original USA for Africa?
Furthermore - and here's where that Second Disc charm comes pouring in - there was a whole We Are the World album that's stayed out of print for years. It had some interesting stuff, too. Let's break the track list down after the jump, shall we?
Here's how the We Are the World album looked:
- USA for Africa, "We Are the World" - the chart-topping single, still available on iTunes (where I assume your 99 cents will go to charity).
- Steve Perry, "If Only for the Moment, Girl" - from the sessions for Perry's Street Talk, later included on a 2006 reissue of that album.
- The Pointer Sisters, "Just a Little Closer" - unreleased on CD.
- Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, "Trapped" - a live recording that resurfaced on the bonus disc of The Essential Bruce Springsteen.
- Northern Lights, "Tears Are Not Enough" - the Canadian counterpart to "We Are the World," also currently unavailable on CD.
- Prince and The Revolution, "4 the Tears in Your Eyes" - this studio version remains in the Paisley Park vault, but a live version (the video for which aired at the Live Aid concert) was released on Prince's The Hits/The B-Sides.
- Chicago, "Good for Nothing" - released on Rhino's Chicago: The Box in 2003.
- Tina Turner, "Total Control" - a longer version actually appeared on the Collected Recordings: Sixties to Nineties box set.
- Kenny Rogers, "A Little More Love" - currently unreleased on CD.
- Huey Lewis and The News, "Trouble in Paradise" - another live take that was included on the band's 2006 Greatest Hits disc.
Alright, so 30 percent of the album hasn't seen a CD or digital release. And the other 70 percent has to be obtained by hunting down box sets and other compilations. Wouldn't it be better in the long run, then, to press the album on CD/distribute it digitally and use those proceeds to benefit a charity or two? Heck, make it a deluxe package by throwing in some other tracks ("We Are the World" and "Tears Are Not Enough," both released as singles, had non-LP B-sides - a track called "Grace" for the former and an instrumental version of the latter) or some nice liner notes by Quincy Jones or Lionel Richie.
It'd probably be cheaper than getting a whole bunch of artists into a room and re-recording the song, it would get back catalogue enthusiasts pumped and - most importantly - it would raise money for charity. So let's all start giving, shall we?