Sound — 9
It wasn't that long ago that Dave Grohl declared Foo Fighters on hiatus so that he could work on the documentary "Sound City". The documentary followed the story of Sound City Studios where the album "Nevermind" was recorded, as well as a host of other influential albums throughout the years. The documentary also focused on the custom-built Neve 8028 recording console which has been credited with giving the recordings from Sound City Studios their particular sound. Dave Grohl's purchase of the Neve console and the installation at his own 606 Studios is also covered in the documentary. After installing the Neve console at 606 Studios, Dave Grohl invited a group of other musicians, most of which had previously recorded on the Neve console at Sound City, to record a collection of new tracks to celebrate the analog console as well as act as a soundtrack for the documentary. The result is a very solid rock album. The album consists of 11 tracks with a run-time of about 55 minutes.
The artists involved include Dave Grohl, Stevie Nicks, Trent Reznor, Taylor Hawkins, Rick Springfield, Pat Smear, Lee Ving, Corey Taylor, Joshua Homme, Paul McCartney, Krist Novoselic and more. The album is a straight rock album, but I'm not talking about the disposable stuff that plays on the radio all day long but songs that are well crafted for the sake of the song instead of the hook (not to say there aren't a few tracks with some strong hooks). The songs range from acoustic to punk and a lot in between. Each artist involved in the recording has definitely left their mark on the album. The drum sound of the album from start to finish is really nice, crisp and organic I guess that is what is up with that Neve analog console everybody keeps talking about!
Lyrics — 8
There are several different vocalists used on the album and I have to say I was pretty pleased with each of them for the most part. My biggest disappointment in this category is while I love Stevie Nicks' previous work, I have to say her voice isn't what it used to be as you can hear on the track "You Can't Fix This". Since her last solo album a few years back to now there is seriously a pretty huge difference. Paul McCartney's vocals on "Cut Me Some Slack", however, were much more powerfully delivered than I thought he was capable of these days I was impressed. Other notable mentions on the album were Corey Taylor and Trent Reznor (he provides supporting vocals on "Mantra") who both gave tremendous performances.
The music and lyrics both were written as a collaboration on every single track by those musicians involved, with no song having a single contributor. These aren't throw away lyrics; each song strives to say something. The track "Mantra" reads like a mantra: "A vision of you there/ standing tall/ by the gate/ everything is new/ stare into/ what is not/ yet". The acoustic track "If I Were Me" takes a more melancholy perspective: "Whisper all your secrets/ tell me all your lies/ screaming your confessions/ show me where you lie/ long your roots are lying/ deep within the dirt/ love already dying/ long before its heard". The track "Your Wife Is Calling" is all punk bravado (and Lee Ving somehow manages to almost sound like Lemmy): "Your wife is calling/ tell her I'm not here/ your wife is calling/ just having one beer/ your wife is calling/ (I can't tell what he says here) / your wife is calling/ I'll be home in a half hour/ your wife is calling/ did you say something dear". Basically, you have songs written by a whole collection of songwriters in different collaborative groups and they differ greatly in subject matter and approach but they make it work.
Overall Impression — 9
After watching the documentary I was surprised that so many musicians that I liked from such a wide range of genres had all recorded at this small broke-down studio called Sound City. The fact that a lot of those same musicians had collaborated on an album of new material really got my pulse rate up. There were two ways this could have gone the album could have been a horrible mess or it could have been genius it turned out as genius. My favorite tracks from the album are "If I Were Me", "Centipede" and "Mantra". My least favorite track was "Cut Me Some Slack", which was the first single and not a bad track, but I think I was hoping that with the original living members of Nirvana together on a track they would do something more in line with Nirvana's previous work. I realize that there is some twisted sentimentality keeping me from enjoying "Cut Me Some Slack" for what it is, but what can you do.
One gripe I have is that while I love the artists included on the album, there was a pretty extensive pool of musicians to pull from that I would have liked to have seen take part as well like Tom Petty, Tom Morello, Zach De La Rocha, James Hetfield and Lindsey Buckingham to name a few. I don't know what went on behind the scenes as far as negotiating the collaborations for the album and it wouldn't have been possible to involve every well-known musician who recorded at Sound City but I still wish they were involved in this recording. So, my only gripe is some hypothetical daydreaming because the album is excellent.
You can stream album in full here.