by Michael Popke – My 13-year-old daughter purchased the 20-song Hope for Haiti download from iTunes back in February. While I was thrilled to see her support a charitable cause and enjoy the music, I can’t say I was enthralled with the artists who participated, including John Legend, Coldplay, Taylor Swift and Christina Aguilera. She shared her download with me, but I’ve only really listened to Bruce Springsteen’s “We Shall Overcome,” Sting’s “Driven to Tears,” Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” and Stevie Wonder’s “Time to Love/Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
Then I found out about a charity compilation in which every track contained the promise of something new and exciting. In fact, in the few days since I’ve downloaded The Haiti Projekt – a collection of 40 songs donated by famous and not-so-famous prog artists from around the globe – I’ve listened to instrumental tracks by the likes of Asymmetry, Collin Leijenaar and Relocator (with Derek Sherinian on keys) multiple times. Each of those artists were new to me, and I now plan to seek out their other work. The list of contributors also includes Neal Morse, IZZ, Roine Stolt (Agents of Mercy), Andy Tillison (The Tangent), Ajalon and Little Atlas. Shadow Circus and several other artists on the ProgRock Records roster make appearances, too.
Spearheaded by Brian Cobb, Asymmetry’s bassist and co-producer of 2005’s The Tsunami Projekt (a prog compilation that sold more than 700 copies and raised more than $10,000 for the victims of the Indonesian tsunami disaster), The Haiti Projekt has collected more than $2,100 in a little more than a month. All proceeds will be donated to the Red Cross in support of that organization's humanitarian efforts in Haiti.
For 20 bucks, you get more than four hours of music – 245 minutes! – and I can almost guarantee you that there will be at least one artist here with which you’re not familiar. And the track representing that artist likely will wind up among your favorite of the 40. For me, those hidden gems include the acoustic, harmony-laced “Conspiracy of Silence” by Denver’s Every Waking Hour and a mysterious live version of the jazzy instrumental “Oraculo” from Brazil’s Mahtrak, which boasts some jaw-dropping sax blowing You’ll also hear established musicians like you’ve never heard them before, such as Spock’s Beard bassist Dave Meros performing a delicate solo piano piece called “Remembrance.” The Haiti Projekt’s web site boasts a full track listing, detailed artist bios and audio samples, and Cobb has established a Facebook page, as well.
Of course, the audio quality among these tracks varies, and there are a few songs that don’t quite match up with the rest of this strong material. But, hey, it’s for charity – and it sure as hell beats that “We Are the World” remake featuring Justin Bieber and Auto-Tuned rappers. The Haiti Projekt (at least for now) is only available as a download, so for those of you who have never downloaded before, this is the perfect opportunity to give it a try. For the rest of us, this collection is bound to remain in our MP3 player for a long time -- both as a continual reminder of the redeeming power of prog and the help and hope that the people of Haiti still need.