For composer Kenny Young, the decision to use music from trip-hop and dance artists, including Fatboy Slim, Beth Orton and the Chemical Brothers, for an album to benefit a devastated region in Central America, was simple.
"We figured, let's go for these guys rather than trying to get Brit-pop acts like Oasis," said Young, one of the founders of the rainforest conservation group Earth Love Fund, which is aiding the victims of Hurricane Mitch through relief efforts. "When people think about Latin America, they think about dance music. Although it's a different type of music, I thought this would hit a chord with people into dance music."
The resulting double-disc LP, Protection, set for a Jan. 18 release in the U.K., features top trip-hop and dance artists such as Massive Attack, Fatboy Slim, Beth Orton and the Chemical Brothers, as well as the always-charitable Irish superstar rockers, U2.
The desire to assemble a benefit album to help people living in that ravaged part of Central America came as naturally for Young, he said, as writing such famous tunes as his summertime classic "Under the Boardwalk," a song popularized by legendary R&B vocal group the Drifters.
Once Young decided to assist the countries hardest hit by the October hurricane -- Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador -- he relied on his previous experience to piece together the album: As trustee for the Earth Love Fund, Young helped spearhead the 1992 benefit LP Earthrise: The Rainforest Album, proceeds of which helped efforts to save the rainforest from industrialization. The album featured supergroups U2 and R.E.M. and legendary singers/songwriters Paul McCartney and Paul Simon.
"We've been supporting one or two projects in the area. We obviously had interest in the whole idea of helping these people out, because the devastation is incredible," Young said. "We're particularly focusing on that part of the world, because we're familiar with the work that goes on in that region."
Among the tracks included on Protection is "Soul Surfing" (RealAudio excerpt), a rambunctious dance number from British electronica artist Fatboy Slim, (a.k.a. Norman Cook). Taken from his latest LP, You've Come a Long Way, Baby, "Soul Surfing" reflects the populist direction Fatboy Slim took on the album.
"When I started out three years ago, this was uncharted territory, and I've honed it down to a formula that seems to involve a vocal hook because pop music needs that," he said. "People said you couldn't listen to it because it was sledge hammering on your head saying, 'Dance, have fun!' This one is more thoughtful. You can listen to it all the way through and not feel violated."
Ann Stingle, international spokesperson for the American Red Cross, assisted in the hurricane relief effort in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, after the storm struck. She said benefit projects such as Protection are crucial to the long-term recovery process.
"Any help to rebuild the region is welcome and needed," she said. "Quite simply said, the damage done by this was horrific. It leveled towns, cut a huge gash through the capital city of Tegucigalpa. It did enormous amounts of damage [to] the infrastructure," Stingle said. "It will take many, many years to recover from this, and while there's an immediate need for food and emergency systems, [there are] many long-term needs."
Earth Love Fund is in negotiations with several U.S. distributors seeking to release Protection, including online retailer Amazon.com, Young said.
The complete track listing is: Massive Attack ("Protection," the Brian Eno mix), Bentley Rhythm Ace ("Why Is a Frog Too"), Fatboy Slim ("Soul Surfing"), Manmademan ("Ozone"), Chemical Brothers ("Lost in the K-Hole"), Beth Orton ("Tangent"), L.T.J. Bukem ("Horizons"), Les Rhythmes Digitales ("Music Makes You Lose Control"), Dreadzone ("Captain Dread," Voices of Kwahn mix), Banco de Gaia ("Drunk as a Monk"), U2 ("Mofo," Phunk Force mix), 808 State ("Baton Rouge"), Eatstatic ("The Brain," Neuron mix), Face on Mars ("The Bug"), Medicine Drum ("Alpha Return"), Roni Size ("Brown Paper Bag," Roni Size sound mix), Electric Sky Church ("Dreamcatcher"), Astralasia ("Kalahari Bush Man," ELF mix) and Underworld ("Oich Oich").