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Sound City Players - Sound City: Real To Reel (Album Review)

Monday, 25 February 2013 Written by Graeme Marsh
Sound City Players – Sound City: Real To Reel (Album Review)

Unless you’ve been living on the moon recently, you will know that legendary LA studio Sound City is the subject of a must-see documentary devised and directed by Dave Grohl, which was subsequently released on the 1st February.

ImageSince 1969, artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty and Guns N’ Roses have worked here as well as numerous other highly acclaimed stars - including Grohl himself, when Nirvana visited to record the universally acclaimed 'Nevermind'. When the studio closed in 2011, the equipment was auctioned off and Grohl purchased several items, including the Neve 8028 analogue mixing desk. That very desk has now been used as part of this project to celebrate both the success of the studio as well as analogue recording itself. A huge cast of stars were recruited to either appear in the documentary or perform on the accompanying soundtrack, each of whom had some history inside these four walls.

It is, therefore, with much irony and even embarrassment that this review is being conducted on a digital download of the album when this project is focused on the stunning capabilities of the original analogue equipment...

The quality of the sound produced on this recording is superb; the clarity is as pure as can be and it is a joy to listen to, but does the content match the level of output?

Three tracks have now been released at monthly intervals; first came much publicised 'Cut Me Some Slack' featuring Sir Paul McCartney with surviving members of Nirvana. This track was the result of a jamming session when all parties first met, sat down and then played together. Special for personnel rather than the song quality, this early release drew worldwide attention to the project and therefore served an important purpose.

Second for release was 'From Can to Can’t' (Corey Taylor, Rick Neilsen, Scott Reeder and Grohl) in January, followed by most recent release 'You Can’t Fix This' – a song written by Grohl many years ago, with sublime vocals provided by Stevie Nicks and also featuring Grohl, Taylor Hawkins and Rami Jaffee. These two tracks raised the standard considerably and helped whet the appetite for the full album.

Depending on your own personal tastes there will be other highlights, but it is inevitable that with such a mix of performers you won’t like everything. For example, proceedings open with 'Heaven and All' - essentially a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club track that could have been lifted from any of their albums (bar 'Howl'), but BMRC are not to everybody’s taste. The same can be said for 'Your Wife is Calling' featuring Lee Ving amongst others – this probably won’t appeal to the masses like many of the other tracks so it is very much a mixed bag from whatever your perspective is.

'Centipede' bears the stamp of Queens of the Stone Age and drifts along casually before finally taking off after 3 minutes in typical QOTSA fashion – another very good track but it’s again unlikely to please all. 'A Trick With No Sleeve' follows with some of the same personnel and this is quite possibly the best track on the album, containing one of the most memorable choruses on the album with guitaring to match.

Closing track 'Mantra' sees Trent Reznor joining Grohl and Josh Homme on what is almost an epic. The track ticks along slowly with some delicious vocals complemented by building guitars; the climax is good but doesn’t quite match the promise that has gone before, with choppy, jagged guitars stabbing away and this unfortunately goes on a little too long, with every repeat of ‘and all of this will never be the same again’ diluting the strength of what went before.

As with all collaborations or compilations involving various artists, the flow of the album is somewhat compromised - the only constant is Grohl himself, usually present in a drumming capacity. All of the artists stamp their own unique mark on the material within and it is occasionally difficult to blend these elements together; indeed, a compilation usually has a distinct advantage over a collaboration in that it generally comprises the best that artists have to offer, whereas this effort contains a lot of great music but not much in the way of big songs – everyone here has recorded far better tracks, which is to be expected - that is not the point of this project.

As long as the listener is not expecting an epic full of the best songs in the history of music just because of the names involved then you won’t be disappointed, and all things considered this is an essential piece of listening and a milestone in the history of rock music, the like of which we are unlikely to ever see again.

For further information on Dave Grohl's Sound City documentary film, click here.

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