By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
The reticence of area radio stations to play recordings by local artists isn't exactly a new problem--far from it. But Hakeem Abdul-Khaaliq is tackling it in a fresh and aggressive way. He's the co-executive producer of The Bizness, a CD compilation of work by Colorado hip-hop, R&B and soul artists that serves as the soundtrack to a film of the same name. (Abdul-Khaaliq, one of the hosts of a hip-hop show heard Sundays from 7 to 10 p.m. on KGNU-FM/88.5, describes the movie as a "documentary of the Colorado urban music scene" and pledges that it will be available for public viewing next month.) From the beginning, he knew that radio airplay was key, so he attempted to guarantee it by inserting between the disc's main tracks snippets of DJs at work. Ricky O of KS-107.5 and Ed Atkins of Jam'n 92.1 both appear as part of the package, which also features well-produced performances by DJ Jam X, Erika (Blk Miss America), Solseed, Kingdom, DJ Chonz, Mr. Monsta and others. However, this canny approach hasn't paid off--not yet, anyway. When asked if KS-107.5 or Jam'n are playing material from the platter, Abdul-Khaaliq responds, "Neither of them are. It's not that Ricky or Ed wouldn't like to play it, either. It's that radio is so corporate out here. They don't want to give you the time of day."
But Abdul-Khaaliq hasn't surrendered. Instead, he's staged a couple of mock demonstrations in front of KS-107.5's offices. "We've gone out there with signs that say 'The Bizness' and 'Support Colorado Music' and 'Buy Colorado Music,'" he says. "And we've been giving out money. When cars pull up, we hand them bills in denominations of five, ten, even twenty dollars, along with fliers about The Bizness. Now, they may spend the money on a steak dinner instead of the CD--I don't know. But we're getting the word out."
Abdul-Khaaliq is convinced that this tack is working. He points out that The Bizness has been selling briskly at a number of area music stores, including Sunshine Records & Tapes in Aurora, without any airplay at all. Nonetheless, he has dedicated himself to revealing to KS-107.5 and Jam'n the error of their ways. "So far, they're not acknowledging us--they're acting like they don't even notice we're there," he admits. "But they know were out there. And we're not giving up. We'll be out there with the pickets again--and the next time, we're going to call the TV stations in town. Then they'll notice."
Late last summer, you may recall reading that Acoustic Junction would be signing a deal with Capricorn Records (see Feedback, September 16, 1996). But even though the members of the band finalized the contract a month or two back, Capricorn will not be issuing music under the Acoustic Junction moniker. That's because the combo has decided to change its name to Fool's Progress, after a novel by the late Edward Abbey.
On the surface, this seems like a loony decision: After all, the outfit has spent the past four-plus years establishing its name in cities and towns all over the nation. But according to group leader Reed Foehl (speaking from Boston, where he's been living for the past few months), the players have been dissatisfied with the Acoustic Junction tag for several years--at least since the time they released their appropriately titled second disc, Surrounded by Change. "We felt that we weren't reaching as many people as we could because of the connotations of the name," Foehl says. "A lot of people to this day think we don't have a drummer and we sit on stools. Basically, it was a name that fit us once but doesn't anymore. But back then we were still on a grassroots level--we didn't think we had the kind of support we needed to make that kind of switch. And now we do."
In fact, the folks at Capricorn were thrilled by the move. "They thought that marketing a band called Acoustic Junction would have been an uphill battle," Foehl elaborates. "Especially as far as getting it played on rock radio. We think we can reach a lot of different people--alternative fans, younger people, older people. And we don't want to alienate any of them by making them think they won't like our music when maybe they might." He adds, "This is kind of a risk, I guess, and Capricorn's taking a risk, too. But they don't see it as a problem, and having their support helped make doing it easier for us."
The contract itself guarantees the release of two Fool's Progress albums. The first of these is quite similar to Acoustic Junction, the offering the band issued last year. "It's a mixture of old and new," Foehl notes. "We took two of the old songs off, added three new ones and rerecorded a fourth one, 'Think About It.' That's going to be the single, and we're really happy about the way it came out." Right now, the "Think About It" single is set for release in mid-April, by which time the group will already have embarked on a mini-tour that will begin in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and end on the East Coast. The album is set to appear in stores on May 13. The band plans to take that month off; Foehl and his significant other are expecting a baby around that time. But beginning in June, the musicians will take to the road again and will likely stay there through the end of the year. By the time they take their next break, they should know whether the name change was a success or an example of, well, fool's progress. "We don't want to be pigeonholed," Foehl says, "but at the same time, we don't want to lose those fans who have allowed us to come this far. We're hoping they stay with us no matter what we're called."