Top Ten Thursday: Top Ten Rick Rubin Produced Albums

rick rubin, portrait

No, that picture above is not Ernest Hemingway and Steve Earle’s love child.  It is in fact uber-producer Rick Rubin, the man who has successfully navigated alt-rock, hip-hop, country, and just about every other genre in music with startling success.  Currently on Rubin’s radar is helping Kanye fine-tune Yeezus, easily the most eagerly awaited hip-hop album of 2013.  This is interesting, because Kanye has always been a bit of a “do-it-your-selfer” which has served him very very well.  It makes sense though to bring in the man who produced some Public Enemy, Beastie Boys and Run D.MC. when Kanye is aiming for a more minimalist experience (explained more fully in the New York Times interview).  This minimalism Ye is going for highlights an overriding theme for the albums on our list:  Strip down artists to their most raw and basic qualities and build the album up from there.  Rubin may not have one musical style he can be attached to, but there does seem to be a way of making music that is very clear.

We tried to limit this list to albums Rubin had a large hand in producing, leaving off the likes of Jay-Z’s Black Album and JT’s FutureSex/LoveSounds where he only produced one track each.  We also left off sure top-5 Lucinda Williams album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road because Rubin only handled the mixing of the album.  The only other major qualm people might have with this list is the lack of a Slayer album.  Well, I personally just don’t like metal, and so even if Slayer is the cream of the crop, I’m not gonna listen to it.  Enjoy the list, and as always feel free to comment on albums you think we missed or erroneously included.

10. The Black Crowes – Shake Your Money Maker

shake your moneymaker

Interestingly, I read Rick Rubin wouldn’t allow his name to be put on as producer of Shake Your Money Maker until it sold one million copies.  Was he not happy with the outcome?  Did he think it was destined for commercial and/or critical failure?  I don’t know, but I do know The Black Crowes in 1990 did The Stones better than The Stones were doing themselves.  With the alternative scene blowing up at the time, Shake Your Money Maker was a nice respite from the uniformity of most everything else out there.
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Top Ten Thursday: Duets to Die For

duets 2

We decided it was finally time to make a list concerning the combination of kindred vocals.  Duets that is.  A guy and a girl is the most popular concoction, but there is certainly room to wiggle with that formula on this list.  For frame of reference, we attempted to stay away from two very specific types tracks that may be considered duets.  The first area is hip hop tracks.  R&B tracks are fine, as long as they don’t interfere with the next criteria, but it seems every hip-hop song has multiple rappers, or at the least one rapper and someone else for the hook.  Just seemed a little too muddled.  The second criteria we aimed to stay away from were artists that have two vocalists, where almost every one of their tracks might be able to be considered duets.  Sorry, but we were looking for duets where the source recording is at most part of a one-off album.  As always, I think we crafted a solid list, but am certain we missed something along the way.  Feel free to offer suggestions, and enjoy.

10.  The Postal Service & Jenny Lewis – “Nothing Better”

jenny lewis, postal service, nothing bettter

Ben Gibbard & Jenny Lewis combine for an electonic-infused back and forth on The Postal Service’s 2003 track “Nothing Better”.  The conversational tone of Gibbard and Lewis vocals is about as fun as it gets, and makes us thirst for more than just a Postal Service tour reunion.  Record a new album!
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Top Ten Thursday: Best Solo Careers

Han Solo, solo career

After dropping our Review Royale of the new Justin Timberlake album this week, we thought it would be a good idea to tackle artists that have gone solo for our list this week.  We already broke down the best albums released by an artist after going solo in honor of Jack White releasing his first solo record.  So we thought, “Why not just look at solo artists career as a whole, after leaving their band/group.”  Easy enough to find plenty to pick from, but exceedingly difficult to pick just ten for this particular list.  We had to axe a couple that simply didn’t have enough solo material to justify putting them above more established solo musicians (Dan Auerbach and Jack White).  We just can’t be sure which direction people with just one solo album will go.  Back to the band or keep going on their own.  Either way, there were some very tough cuts, but we think we came away with a list worthy of your attention.  Enjoy, and let us know who we missed, left off, or shouldn’t have included at all.

10. Justin Timberlake

jt

Following the “hiatus” of ‘N Sync in 2002, JT quickly released his solo debut Justified.  I know of at least a few sophomores and juniors in high school who couldn’t resist the former boy-bander’s cool pop sound.  Little did we all know, Justified would serve as merely a bridge to even more progressive and layered pop sounds.  FutureSex/LoveSounds and The 20/20 Experience have done more than show off JT’s love of the backslash, affirming Timberlake as pop icon.
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Top Ten Thursday: Top Ten Posthumous Albums

rip

With the posthumous release this week of Jimi Hendrix’s People, Hell and Angels, which admittedly none of us has really dug into yet, we decided to explore the strange wonderful world of albums released after an artist’s death.  Most of these artists died untimely deaths, but the albums on this list range from those completed (or nearly completed) while the artist was still alive to those compiled from unreleased catalogs years after.  These albums also vary between solo artists dying to just a singular (but irreplaceable) member of a band dying.  For our purposes, we decided to leave out live albums, because that would be opening an entire barrel of monkeys that we simply didn’t want to deal with.  Enjoy, and as always let us know what we excluded, missed, or exactly how stupid we are.

10. Johnny Cash – American V:  A Hundred Highways

cash

V may not be the finest of Johnny Cash’s American recordings, but it is still a fine album by the greatest country artist of all time.  Cash also holds the distinction as the only member of this list who lived his life to natural completion.  Highlights include “Four Strong Winds”, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”, and “Help Me”.
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Top Ten Thursday: LxL Comes Alive

We at LxL believe that a live performance is by far the best way to experience music, but if you can’t make it out to a show, why not try to experience it through a live album? In honor of the release of the Sigur Rós’s live double album, Inni, here are our top ten favorite live albums that best capture the non-stop energy, raw emotion, and incredible skill utilized in the most unforgettable shows.

James Brown, Live at the Apollo
Nice Ups!

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