In Tribute: Wampus Multimedia Sings Unsung Praises
The tribute album has been around a long time. Ever since Elvis & the Beatles began exciting too many people, upcoming bands have wanted to spin their own interpretations on the hits of the day and Yesterday (literally). The audio equivalent of fan fiction, even top bands and artists flock to the notion of a tribute cd these days when a slot becomes open to pay back a superstar for all the hope and dreams they fulfilled growing up. Everyone has a hero. Even the folks at Wampus.
"After we've heard the submissions, we pick the ones that fit best in the larger context. We try to show the scope of the subject's accomplishments, and then tell a story with the sequencing of the tracks. The Richman and Reed records make some critical comments about their subjects."
Wampus Multimedia (www.wampus.com) is an indie label run by artists, for artists. Founded by Mark Doyon, writer, editor, musician, and marketing executive, Wampus boasts a growing roster of exceptional independent artists from a variety of genres, including pop, AAA, Americana, alternative rock, ambient, blues, and folk. Among those signed to Wampus are tvfordogs, Amateur God, Arms of Kismet, Cafebar 401, Kowtow Popof, and Wampeters.
If Wampus is trying to corner the market these days on indie band tribute releases, they've got a good jump on the competition with the line-up so far. If I Were a Richman: a Tribute to the Music of Jonathan Richman was recently released, along with the re- release of Glass Flesh 2: a Tribute to Robyn Hitchcock. In April of this year comes After Hours: a Tribute to the Music of Lou Reed. And if you fancy yourself an artist who can do justice to the Warren Zevon sound, they are accepting submissions of covers for his tribute cd. Get 'em in by November 30. A buck per sold cd will be given to the American Cancer Society for Warren Zevon, which comes out in April '04.
But why Richman, Hitchcock and Reed for tribute cds? Wampus: "We chose Richman because he's brilliant, unheralded, and close to the Wampus heart. We chose Reed because he's Richman's antecedent, and, in some ways, the grandfather of most rock 'n' roll. I guess we have a bias toward literate songwriters. The Hitchcock tribute was produced by Bayard Catron, who has successfully marshaled the world's Robyn fanatics into a lean, mean listening machine. We picked this record up as a complement to our own tributes."
The artists were allowed to do whatever songs they wanted, said the record label. "After we've heard the submissions, we pick the ones that fit best in the larger context. We try to show the scope of the subject's accomplishments, and then tell a story with the sequencing of the tracks. The Richman and Reed records make some critical comments about their subjects."
Doors were opened to everyone, as they are to the coming Zevon tribute. "You never know what you'll get - some of the stuff is just obscure and amazing. Some of it is more conventional. We received more than 50 submissions for the Reed CD, so choosing the final 14 tracks was a real challenge."
The Crowd Scene
The Richman and Hitchcock cds are still selling steadily as more and more fans learn about them. "We're trying to promote the hell out of the Reed record, which comes out in April. From the Velvet Underground on, Lou has had a huge influence on musicians - so we think there could be a lot of interest in what these musicians, and this record, have to say about him."
But first up is the long overdue Richman treatment:
Someone I Care About / Fee Foe 5
Jonathan Richman with his Modern Lovers is generally credited as the inventor of the punk sound. He was born on May 15, 1951 in Boston, Massachusetts. He began playing guitar at age 15 and formed the Modern Lovers there in 1970.
The elder member of this tribute phenomenon, Lou Reed - who is 61 this year - was front man for the revolutionary Velvet Underground and like David Bowie and a handful of like genre inventors, retains his immense popularity to this day.
Sunday Morning / Johnny J Blair and the Cellarbirds
Robyn Hitchcock was born in Paddington, London in 1953 and has influenced at least one generation with his ability to write un-love songs that embrace alternative subjects, long before alternative was a movement. By the sound of the youths involved in the tribute release, other generations have been bitten by the Robyn bug as well.
The Hitchock treatment:
Queen Elvis / Triskellion
Naturally you have to love the source material if there's to be any chance of loving the new renditions. But then that's the whole point of buying the cd in the first place, right? Well, the Robyn Hitchcock assemblage is a nearly flawless collection of mostly lite rock given a youthful and punk-spirited spin. Any stand-outs I could point out will be demolished by the next listeners. We all have our favorites. The easiest way to locate yours is to latch onto all 3 cds, which are well worth the low purchase prices.
Obviously, Reed is going to join its cohorts in sales. It's a trilogy that is by far worth the hype.