Learning to Be Patient 

Goapele's major label debut arrives six months late and right on time.

Goapele's famously healthy glow is even brighter these days: Change It All has arrived. Finally. No more endless build-up. She spent nine months cranking it out (primarily at Emeryville's Skyblaze Records), but its original June '05 release got pushed to late December, a decision she rather diplomatically describes as a "mutual decision" with her label, Sony/Columbia. For comparable anxiousness, frustration, and anticipation, imagine being in your third trimester when the doctor announces you'll have to wait another six months to finally give birth. "Until it's tangible, it's like, is it gonna happen?" she says now. Happily, it finally did.

Goapele enjoyed tremendous success with her pioneering indie albums Closer and Even Closer -- a plaque on Skyblaze's wall commemorates the latter's "ghetto gold" sales of 50,000 -- but dealing with a major is a whole 'nother story. "It requires a lot of patience and trust," she admits. "I just had to be really patient. That was hard at times."

Even so, the delay gave her and the Skyblaze crew "a little more time to be thorough." That meant paying more attention to details like album graphics and press kits. Goapele also recorded spoken-word segments from various folks (including Mumia Abu-Jamal) for the interludes that link Change It All conceptually. The experience was an eye-opener for her, showing her how universal the themes of love, relationships, and community really are.

Normally an extremely confident person, Goapele is a bit nervous as to how all this will be received -- she took some risks, broadening her sound from the jazzy urban soul groove of Even Closer. "I hope it's a reflection of personal growth," she says. "I just challenged myself to do something different and go all the way there creatively." During production, she listened to everything from classic soul to rock (a genre she wasn't all that familiar with), resulting in more live instrumentation on Change It All, as well as a retro '80s feel that recalls "Raspberry Beret"-era Prince and the SOS Band at times.

Love songs dominate the album, from the melodically infectious "First Love" to the sensual Dwele duet "You" to the urban romance of "Different," featuring Clyde Carson of rap titans the Team. "I like my lyrics to be personal and honest," she explains. But part of that honesty is the trademark social awareness tune reminding the listener of her Bay Area-bred consciousness -- in this case the album's title track, which follows in the footsteps of Even Closer's reflective look at current events, "Red, White, and Blue."

While Goapele doesn't want to get too deep ("I don't think I could do a whole album of 'Red, White, and Blue,'" she says), she feels it's important to speak on what's going on these days: "I need to talk about what I see in the world." After 9/11 and the War on Terror, "How have our lives changed? What effect does that have on our daily lives?"

As a result, besides reaffirming the power of love, Change It All also gets across a message of individual empowerment. Goapele is following up on that idea with ChangeItAll.org, a Web site whose motto is "big things start small." It mixes arts, culture, business, and activism, providing informative commentary on international issues like conflict diamonds, as well as audio and video clips and links to organizations like Prison Radio and Amnesty International. Activism, like music, "is just a creative outlet," she says, and though she's concerned about what's going on, she remains hopeful for the future: "I believe we'll find a way. ... We have to."

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