Blue Élan Records to Release Special Album to Benefit UCLA Health Operation Mend Team and Bring Attention to Returning Veterans’ Welfare

Article Contributed by MAD Ink PR | Published on Friday, April 26, 2024

L.A. indie label Blue Élan Records – home for acts like Soul Asylum, KT Tunstall, Ozomatli, Chris Shiflett, Aaron Lee Tasjan and Jesse Dayton – announces a special project to support UCLA Health Operation Mend – a program dedicated to providing free specialized medical and psychological care for our nation’s post 9/11 warriors injured in the line of duty, and their caregivers. Label co-founders Kirk Pasich and Connor Pasich and Dana Katz, Operation Mend’s Board Chair and founder of its Buddy Programs, jointly announced the separate release of two albums of both covers and originals featuring artists, including America’s Gerry Beckley, GrammyⓇ-nominated blues artist Janiva Magness, the Outlaws/Blackhawk’s Henry Paul, and Rod Gator, whose own song, “Different Man,'' inspired the collection. Operation Mend: Hope will come out April 26, while the second album is expected to be available to coincide with Veterans Day, November 11. Two special private concert events, the first in Los Angeles on April 25th and the other in New York this fall, will mark the releases, with all the label’s net proceeds from sales and streams going to Operation Mend.

As a UCLA alum, Kirk Pasich became aware of Operation Mend several years ago from Dana Katz, who sat next to him at the school’s basketball games. Blue Élan has a history of supporting worthy causes, raising funds for the Alliance for Children’s Rights and the Chino Valley YMCA’s holiday drive, while leaning on rock ‘n’ roll and roots music’s ‘60s pro-social roots.

“The idea came together very quickly,” explains Kirk Pasich, whose father was a World War II veteran, recalling getting a draft card when he was a teenager, but not being called up to serve in Vietnam, a war that took the lives of several classmates. “This isn’t about being pro or anti-war, it’s about helping people.”

Echoes Katz, "When Kirk came to me with the idea of Blue Élan putting together this beautiful project for UCLA Health Operation Mend, I almost had an out-of-body experience. It’s so rare to have someone say, in essence, “I see what you’re doing and I’m going to help you,” and to ask nothing in return.” Katz continues, “This music, and these artists, and Blue Élan will help warriors and caregivers across the nation learn about and access the free specialty medical and psychological care Operation Mend provides so they can heal and move forward with the lives they deserve to live.  We can’t wait to see how it all plays out. (Pun intended!)"

The genesis of the project came from label artist Rod Gator’s original song, “Different Man,” a re-recording of which was originally intended to be the centerpiece of an “Outlaws”-themed project, “about people on the run from something… the law, a bad relationship,” according to Kirk Pasich, but swiftly switched gears to one focusing on the difficult path of a returning veteran, scarred both physically and mentally, trying to reintegrate into the life left behind. The album starts with the Kirk Pasich Project’s “Love Is Blue,” translating the French lyrics of the original Paul Mauriat pop hit into English, setting a dark, yet optimistic tone that characterizes the album’s combination of despair and hope.

Other highlights include former Blue Note/Concord Records artist Kristina Train’s slowed-down version of Jay & the Americans’ “This Magic Moment,” symbolizing the hope offered suffering veterans of being able to experience that kind of joy again. America’s Gerry Beckley weighs in with an original, “The River,” while long-time Moody Blues vocalist Bernie Barlow gives the band’s “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” relevance in a world where wounded warriors return to their loved ones. Blue Élan artists Janiva Magness tackles the Eagles’ “Desperado,” while Cimarron 615 (featuring members of Poco and the Flying Burrito Brothers) – gives gravity to Johnny Cash’s “Wanted Man.” Other originals include Henry Paul’s “The Good Old Days,” Morgan Myles’ “Reap,” and Chelsea Williams’ “Ashes.”

“This is a very worthy cause,” says Connor Pasich. “We ask a great deal of our people who fight overseas. Operation Mend doesn’t just provide physical and surgical care, but psychological, too. And they work with the caretakers… spouses, family members, medical personnel, which gives them a broader scope than most of the organizations in this field. These people need our help. They shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of serving their country.”

From hearing from those who attended USO shows by the late jazz clarinet player Woody Herman (Kirk Pasich served as chairman of the Woody Herman Foundation, an early donor to MusiCares), the Blue Élan co-founders realized the role music played therapeutically in helping veterans recover from their injuries and their trauma. As Kirk Pasich said, “Music is an important part of the healing process, and this project for Operation Mend allows us to bring all those elements together. It’s all about increasing Operation Mend’s visibility on a national level. Whatever spotlight we can shine on this important task.”

Operation Mend was established in 2007 by UCLA alums Ron and Maddie Katz as a partnership amongst UCLA Health, the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The pioneering program’s original focus was to utilize UCLA’s world class expertise in plastic and reconstructive surgery to restore the faces of service members who had suffered severe disfigurement in the line of duty during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Operation Mend’s care for physical injuries quickly broadened to include specialty injuries impacting the entire body, and then the scope has widened to include intense treatment for the invisible wounds of war: PTSD and traumatic brain injury.

Operation Mend Tracklist:

    Kirk Pasich Project featuring Kristina Train, “Love Is Blue” (Paul Mauriat Orchestra)
    Bob Gentry, “Against the Wind” (Bob Seger)
    Kristina Train, “This Magic Moment” (Jay & the Americans)
    Henry Paul, “The Good Old Days” (original)
    Morgan Myles, “Reap” (original)
    Gerry Beckley, “The River” (original)
    Bernie Barlow, “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” (Moody Blues)
    Bryan Stephens, “Break It to Them Gently” (Burton Cummings)
    Chelsea Williams, “Ashes” (original)
    Rose’s Pawn Shop, “Wednesday Morning 3 A.M.” (Simon & Garfunkel)
    Janiva Magness, “Desperado” (The Eagles)
    Cimarron 615, “Wanted Man” (Johnny Cash)
    Charlotte Dickson, “Train Song” (Vashti Bunyon)
    Rod Gator, “Different Man” (original)