Playlist

One of the nicer things in the last 20 years of pop music are rubinations, after Rick Rubin, an early innovator in it:

  1. an over-the-hill musician
  2. is renewed, accrues critical acclaim
  3. from working with a young svengali producer,
  4. on an album containing covers (especially surprising ones).
  5. The festival circuit
  6. or very large sales follow.



May-September music.

  • Johnny Cash (& Rick Rubin) - American Recordings (1994-2003).
    Satisfies #1, 2, 3, 4, 6.



  • Loretta Lynn (& Jack White) - on 2004’s Van Lear Rose.
    Satisfies 1, 2, 3, 4.



  • Mavis Staples (& Jeff Tweedy) - 2010’s You Are Not Alone (and others). 1, 3, 4.



  • Wanda Jackson (& Jack White) - on 2011’s The Party Ain’t Over.
    Satisfies 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & perhaps soon 6.



  • Shirley Bassey (& the world) - on 2008’s The Performance. Satisfies 1,2,3,4,5, and of course 6.



  • Neil Diamond (& Rick Rubin)- on 2005’s 12 Songs.
    Satisfies 1,3,4,5 & 6.



  • Vashti Bunyan (& Max Richter & Animal Collective!) - on 2005’s Lookaftering.
    1, 2, 3, 4, 6.



  • Bettye Lavette (& Joe Henry) - on 2005’s I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise.
    1,2,3,4,5.



  • Willie Nelson (& Daniel Lanois) - on 1998’s Teatro.
    Satisfies 1,4,6.



  • Willie Nelson (& Ryan Adams) - on 2004’s Songbird.
    Satisfies 1,2,4,5,6.



  • Howlin Wolf (& Norman Dayron) - on 1971’s The London Sessions.
    Satisfies 1,2,3,4.



  • Muddy Waters (& Johnny Winter) - on 1977’s Hard Again.
    1,2,3.
Embedding forbidden, but click here. The best single blues session?



  • Leonard Cohen (& Sharon Robinson) - on 2001’s Ten New Songs.
    2,3,6.



  • RL Burnside (& Jon Spencer) - on 1996’s A Ass Pocket of Whiskey and others.
    1,3,4.



  • John Fahey (& Jim O’Rourke) - on 1997’s Womblife.
    1,3,4.



  • Glen Campbell - 2008’s Meet Glen Campbell, cover dreck.
    1,3,5.



  • Gil Scott-Heron (& Richard Russell) - on 2010’s I’m New Here.
    1,2,3,4.



  • Roky Erikson (& Will Sheff) - on 2010’s True Love Will Cast Out All Evil.
    Satisfies 1 and 3.





  • Robert Plant (& T-Bone Burnett) - on 2006’s Raising Sand.
    1,2,3,4,6.



  • Jimmy Cliff (with Tim Armstrong!) on Rebirth (2012)
    1, 2, 3, 4



  • The Stooges (& Steve Albini) on The Weirdness.
    1,3,6.
    [No.]

Tom Jones continues to try, but he didn’t rise anywhere in the first place, and so did not fall, and so cannot be renewed.



Alt-washing

A less exalted mirror image of these albums, though: pop stars having one album produced by a high-cred cult figure. While it's easy to interpret rubinations - producers are music nerds, rebirth is a deep and appealing trope everywhere and always - I do not pretend to know what these mean.

Tim Armstrong (P!nk)

Howe Gelb (KT Tunstall)

Bill Laswell (Motorhead, Ramones)

Odd choice, I grant you: but the point is that, however revered they are, these are two of the least experimental rock bands.

Jon Brion (Sky Ferreira)

Steve Albini (The Cribs)

Glyn Johns (Linda Ronstadt)

I could've made this list easier by just doing "surprising producers" - John Darnielle and Erik Rutan,

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