Music News

Diamonds in the Rough

Neil Diamond's 1966 debut single was "Solitary Man." Since then, though, he's been anything but. While there's no denying the chart giant's ability to appease the hoi polloi, he's relied on everyone from Robbie Robertson to Burt Bacharach to revive him whenever his career started to flatline. For 12 Songs, Diamond's acclaimed new record, he enlisted the biggest reanimator in the business: producer Rick Rubin, who famously engineered Johnny Cash's cash-in comeback with a trio of discs throughout the '90s (ending in, oddly enough, 2000's American III: Solitary Man). Rubin's paw prints are all over 12 Songs: Stark, stripped down and not afraid to play off of Diamond's dual image as a has-been pop maestro and a staple of ironic hipster record collections, the album follows the Cash formula almost to a fault, yet still succeeds in wringing a last gasp of credibility out of Diamond's croaky lungs.

Of course, Diamond and Cash aren't the only artists Rubin has tried to resurrect. He succeeded in turning cartoon punker Danzig into a heavy-metal demigod and failed at propelling Donovan into the 21st century with 1996's Sutras. With the triumph of Diamond's 12 Songs, what washed-up star could be next in line for the Rubin treatment?

Gary Glitter: Johnny Cash recorded within the walls of Folsom and San Quentin. How about a Gary Glitter album made inside the Vietnamese prison where he awaits trial for hiring twelve-year-old sex slaves? Just as Rubin had the bizarre yet lucrative idea of having Cash cover "Hurt," by Nine Inch Nails, Glitter might exploit his own hardship for once with a forlorn, desolate rendition of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." That is, if he makes it out of the shower in one piece.

Henry Rollins: Rollins and Rubin go way back; in fact, they co-owned the Infinite Zero reissue label in the '90s. Rollins, now a media personality and spoken-word artist, left his punk past behind long ago, preferring to name-drop and crack dumb jokes about his glory days rather than trying to relive them. Hmm, come to think of it, he didn't really have that many glory days. He only made two good records with Black Flag. He made zero good records with the Rollins Band. When it comes to obsolete alternative rockers, maybe Rubin would have better luck with

That Guy From Everclear: If Weezer -- yet another Rubin alumnus -- can make a comeback (albeit a shitty one), why not that guy from Everclear? You know, that one guy. With the guitar and the goatee and the songs and stuff. Wait, didn't he die of an overdose? Or was it the dude from Alice in Chains? It's hard to keep these guys straight.

Michael Jackson: Thriller is the best-selling record of all time, but only 8,000 copies of The Essential Michael Jackson crossed the counter the week it was released last July. If anyone's career needs reconstructive surgery, it's Michael Jackson's. But in the face of self-mutilation, Jesus-juicing, child-petting, monkey-fucking and the recent revelation of such anti-Semitic zingers as "They suck like leeches" and "The Jews do it on purpose," where does one even begin? Oh, wait -- Rick Rubin is Jewish. Never mind.

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Jason Heller
Contact: Jason Heller