When I was 13, my father called it one of the most significant events since the beginning of the Cold War. Mikhail Gorbachev formally asked U.S. President Ronald Reagan for humanitarian aid after a devastating 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit northern Armenia, including Gyumri. The quake killed 25,000 people. I might not have even remembered it had he not said that.
Who Cares is a question almost two decades old.
In 1988, it was the same question Gillan asked when he signed onto a project not all that dissimilar to what American musicians recently did for Japan. British musicians created Rock Aid Armenia to help raise money for humanitarian relief and the album featured the memorable rerecording of Deep Purple’s hit song Smoke On The Water.
"Some 20 years ago when the call came, I thought, well at least I’ve helped," Gillan recently said on his site. "But it was going to Armenia and seeing the actual devastation caused by the earthquake that really made me realize that funds were still needed."
What he found in Armenia after all this time was that despite all the money raised, Gyumri is still haunted by the devastation. He was especially touched by a music school that was still trying to do its best, operating in tin sheds. So he thought of ways that he might help the school that was once forced to work out of a fallout shelter and then a building without heat.
Who Cares brings together some of metal's greatest players.
The first call Gillan (Deep Purple) made was to guitarist Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) and together they recorded two songs with the intent to support and and complete rebuilding of the music school, which takes charge of 390 students and 75 instructors.
It was easy for them to work together again, especially since both of them have spent a lot of time in Armenia since the earthquake years ago. Unlike so many other efforts that people have led in recent years, both of them have long memories.
If you recognize some other greats in the video, you wouldn't be wrong. Gillan and Iommi aren't the only ones to lend their names to the two-track album. Out Of My Mind also includes Jason Newsted (Metallica) on bass, Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden) on drums, Jon Lord (Deep Purple) on keyboards, and Mikko “Linde” Lindström (HIM) on guitar.
The 5-minute plus track is a well-composed melodic heavy rock song that touches on how some events never really let us go. We're often haunted by the images after most people have long forgotten. Iommi concepted the song and Gillan added lyrics.
The B-side, Holy Water, is an equally deep and brooding song. Joining Gillan and Iommi on this track is a huge lineup, including Steve Morris and Michael Lee (guitars), Randy Clarke (drums), Rodney Appleby (bass), Jesse O’Brien (organ), Arshak Sahakyan (dudak, solo), and Ara Gevorgyan (dubak intro, and keys). The result is a rich and brooding timeless heavy lament, written by Gillan and Steve Morse.
The physical CD/DVD single, which includes the video clip of Out Of My Mind and a 40-minute documentary that shows Gillan and Iommi‘s involvement with the Armenian cause, is due out May 24 in Europe and June 27 in North America. The release will be handled by earMUSIC and Eagle Rock Entertainment, respectively.
Who Cares Is A Quake Of A Different Kind At 7.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
According to Gillan, the Who Cares project might not be the last collaboration with Iommi. The two had not really worked together since Black Sabbath. What's especially cool is neither artist has forgotten what they started. So many other people do. I hope nobody forgets the unrelated Songs For Japan either.
Out Of My Mind is available on iTunes. Also on iTunes is a rare video of Smoke On The Water with the original Rock Aid Armenia Allstars cut years ago. Out of My Mind/Holy Water is also up on Amazon, along with the original Rock Aid Armenia. Proceeds benefit the causes, with Who Cares specifically raising funds for the music school.