Back in the early 90s, I saw a video clip on MTV a few times, of Rock Aid Armenia doing a cover of "Smoke on the Water." I always loved the song, but never had a chance to buy it. Recently, it’s been re-released on CD with four versions, a 2010 remix, the original 1989 mix, the 1989 radio mix, and a superfluous version with Ian Gillan singing all through it. The guitarists include Tony Iommi, Brian May, David Gilmour and Ritchie Blackmore. The song was done to aid Armenia after a particularly bad earthquake.
Now there’s a new charity project, called "WhoCares," featuring Tony Iommi on guitar, Nicko McBrain on drums, Ian Gillan on vocals, Jason Newstead on bass and Jon Lord on keys. They’ve recorded a new song with the express goal of rebuilding a music school that has still not reopened, 20 years after the original disaster.
There’s two songs on this CD, as well as some enhanced video. The first, "Out of My Mind" is co-written by Tony and Ian. It is is quite heavy in a slow, doomy Black Sabbath sort of way. I like this song a lot.
I co-incidentally just got the remaster of Black Sabbath Born Again, and while I wouldn’t say this song sounds like it could be on that album, it’s similar in the sense of a Black Sabbath riff with Ian Gillan singing over it. Unlike the original Born Again, the production on this track is very good.
The second track actually loses the all star cast, only Tony and Ian remain for "Holy Water," a song that certainly starts a lot slower and softer. Apparently the instrument I can hear taking a solo is called a "duduk." I admit to having no idea what that is, but it sounds very middle eastern. After about 90 seconds, the song gets a lot heavier, although it’s still more of a progressive rock song than heavy metal. I had assumed that Tony co-wrote both songs, but as it progressed, I thought "There’s no way Tony wrote this," and I was right, Ian did, with Steve Morris. It’s still a very decent track, just not a Black Sabbath-type one.
So, a bunch of members of well regarded rock bands come together for the benefit of a charity. Perhaps it’s an old story, but the cause is a good one, the tracks are good, and I’d certainly recommend this CD as worthwhile for any fan of Iommi or Gillan at least. I’m not sure it’s essential listening for any Metallica or Maiden fans, but I’d still say it’s worth a look.