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Yugoslavia: Western Musicians Record Benefit Album To Help Kosovars

Washington, 28 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Some of the West's most famous rock musicians have joined together to create an international benefit album that will raise money to aid the Kosovar refugees.

The album, entitled "No Boundaries," features 16 rare, previously unreleased and live versions of songs from artists and groups as diverse as Pearl Jam, Alanis Morissette, Rage Against the Machine, Neil Young, Black Sabbath, Tori Amos and Peter Gabriel. The artists are from various countries, including the U.S., Canada and Britain.

The first single from the album, Pearl Jam's version of the 1964 hit called "Last Kiss," will be released to radio stations on June 8. The album in its entirety will be released worldwide by the U.S.-based company Epic Records on June 15. Epic made the album available to RFE/RL in advance of the release date.

Pearl Jam's manager Kelly Curtis issued a statement saying: "Pearl Jam is proud to offer this small contribution to help improve the appalling conditions of the refugees suffering from this human rights tragedy in Kosovo."

David Massey, executive vice president of Epic Records, told RFE/RL that he was so personally affected by the plight of the refugees that he felt he had to do something to aid them.

"I just woke up one morning and decided that we had to do something to help the refugees, that we in the music business had an opportunity to do something that could really help. So, it was an idea that just came very quickly, you know, after the refugees started to move into Montenegro and everywhere else."

Massey, who also produced the album, says he quickly put together a list of high-profile musicians that he wanted for the album. He says every artist was very enthusiastic and supportive of the effort. In fact, he adds that so many artists were interested in participating that he ended up having to turn away several of them.

Massey says all of the musicians expressed profound frustration and horror over the plight of the refugees and wanted to contribute in any way they could to help ease the situation.

"We really broke so many rules. Normally, with a record like this, especially when you are using artists from other record companies, it does take time to get permission from the other record companies and to do the legal clearances. In this case, everything was done in two weeks. It was remarkable."

Massey says in advance of the June 15 release of the album and based on projected sales, Epic Records will make an initial donation of $1 million to be distributed among three international aid organizations --- CARE, Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders. Any profits beyond the initial one million dollars will also go to the charities, he adds.

Massey says that while it was "very difficult" to decide which charities to endow, these three were selected because they "had a reputation for getting money directly" to the people that needed it. He also says the musicians specifically stated that they did not want contributions made to any politically-connected organizations.

L. Michael Green, marketing director for CARE, says the money the album will generate for his organization is "mightily important."

CARE, which is based in the U.S., is currently involved in managing refugee camps in Macedonia and Albania, and providing food, shelter and medicine for the Kosovar refugees. The organization also has a special project focusing on reuniting children separated from their families.

"What this does, is that it allows us to receive not only the resources that we'll be able to channel into buying the needed foods, medicines and other supplies that are needed to help the refugees, but what it will also do will continue to ensure that this stays a very top-of-mind story, and stays very important to all the people in the U.S. and the Western world."

Green says he is both encouraged by and delighted with the musicians cooperation and contribution.

"One thing that is certainly very positive about the human spirit is that when people see the unfortunate circumstances that their fellow man is experiencing, they want to reach out and provide assistance."