Compilations CDs will forever be known as the tombstones that speckle the audio graveyard of unsold and ignored music. Most are haphazardly assembled collections that hold no central theme, like a poorly put together mix CD without the personal touch.
Released by local label Arena Rock, Bridging the Distance (in stores April 17, with a digital version including six extra songs available online) is a complete exception to the idea that compilations are a waste of record store shelf space. Benefiting local nonprofit organization p:ear, the album is made up of some of Portland's finest bands, all of which take on the brave task of covering classic songs. The tracks are a vibrant example of the rich variety of music, and generosity, our town has to offer. In their own words, a few of the bands that took part in the compilation explain themselves.
Band: the Thermals
Originally recorded by: Led Zeppelin
I chose "Tangerine" by Led Zeppelin because it's the first Led Zeppelin song I ever learned how to play, and besides, it's the only Led Zeppelin song I know how to play. At first I was reluctant to contribute to this comp, ya know, because it's for charity and I just hate that sort of thing, but Greg (from Arena Rock) assured me that he would get it to the one and only Jimmy Page and maybe he would love it so much and we would get to have a "jam" someday. So, ya know, I'm stoked on that. HUTCH HARRIS
Band: the Joggers
Song: "Long Distance Runaround"
Originally recorded by: Yes
We've always liked Yes; they were always really imaginative, earnest, and silly. We wanted to cover one of their songs, and had a bunch of them on one of our iPods, but without song titles. We were halfway into learning "Long Distance Runaround" before we realized what the name of the song was, at which point we thought, "Aw shucks." BENJAMIN WHITESIDES
Song: "What a Fool Believes"
Originally recorded by: the Doobie Brothers
I've always been opposed to covering other people's songs, because so many artists have influenced me over the course of my lifetime. How would I comb through all of these legendary odes to life, love, and romantic artistry and select just one? The Bob Dylans, the Robert Johnsons, the John Lennons... narrowing down the life's work of one of these icons is too daunting of a task for me to even begin to fathom. And then, just as I was beginning to type a "thanks, but no thanks" response, it hit me like a ton of bricks, one proverbial cinder block at a time. There I was, trying hard to re-create what had yet to be created. Just once in my life, could I muster a smile? Or was I blinded by my own sentimentality? I shook my head slowly. No, no! That's what a fool believes! As I began to sing, my spirit rejoiced within me. My voice soared upon the wings of eagles. I will never again be able to match this performance as long as I live. Thank you Mr. Michael McDonald. DANNY SEIM
Band: Wet Confetti
Originally recorded by: Pat Benatar
We were super excited when asked to be on this comp. The idea was great and we all unanimously chose Pat Benatar's "Invincible" because we were all at the time obsessed with the song and what it stood for. Plus have you seen The Legend of Billie Jean? ALBERTA POON
Band: the Minus 5
Song: "That Smell"
Originally recorded by: Lynyrd Skynyrd
I always thought "That Smell" was a cool song, and of course quite creepy what with the horrors of the plane crash and all. I thought it could be effective (and fitting) to suck the '70s rock right out of it, and present the lyrics under a bare light bulb, as it were. And of course, it's all booze and death, which is the very template upon which the Minus 5 was founded. SCOTT McCAUGHEY
Song: "Black Sabbath"
Originally recorded by: Black Sabbath
At first it might seem a bit incongruous for a band like Wroom to cover a Black Sabbath song. This song in particular ("Black Sabbath") seemed appropriate to deconstruct. It is primal; both in the sense that it seems to me like the first Black Sabbath song from which all others sprung forth, and also from our historical perspective, the tolling of the bell at the start signals not only the coming of the Apocalypse, but also heralds an entirely new genre of rock. All metal, in all forms, is summoned forth at that moment. Besides, it fucking rocks. RIAN CALLAHAN