Return to Glory: Rick Rubin's 5 Best Comeback Productions
Recently, Black Sabbath confirmed that record magnate and production auteur Rick Rubin would be twiddling the knobs on their new record, set to be released next year. It will be their first with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals since 1978, and a lot of their reputation is riding on this.
Not that it will matter in the grand scheme of things whether they launch a successful comeback or not, but nobody wants to end their legacy on a low note; they've still got Never Say Die hanging out there polluting it, after all.
Rubin is a master of orchestrating these sorts of comebacks, so the Sabs probably made the right choice to go to him. He's had some duds, but he's also managed to create some of the best albums in decades by long-established artists who had lost their way. So what might be in store for Sabbath? If these are any indication, one of their best records yet.
5. Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros, Streetcore
Joe Strummer had a difficult career following the break-up of the Clash. After the '80s, he took an extended break from music that lasted until 1999, when he formed the Mescaleros and began releasing albums again.
The first two albums with the Mescaleros received a mixed reception, but Streetcore, which Strummer recorded shortly before he tragically passed away in 2002, was the only one with Rick Rubin handling production and was seen a return to true Strummer form. For many, Streetcore ranks up with the best of the Clash's albums and is generally seen as a very high point to go out on for a legendary musician.
4. Neil Diamond, 12 Songs
Neil Diamond had been long forgotten as a '70s pop star by the time he met Rubin in the early '00s. For whatever reason, Rubin saw something in Diamond and realized he could make this guy famous again if they worked together.
The resulting album, 12 Songs, ended up not only being an artistic achievement for Diamond after years of toiling away on lesser works, but it also hit No. 4 on the Billboard 200, his biggest hit of original songs since 1980's soundtrack to The Jazz Singer.
How many years did Metallica go without making a good album? Depending on how you feel about it personally, and also how much of a thrash-metal purist you are, it was anywhere from nine years to a full 20. Then, in 2008, they got Rubin in to produce their latest effort and he kicked their asses into shape, reminding them of how their band got started to begin with.
Many don't like Death Magnetic, but few can deny it revived Metallica in the eyes of many thrash-metal fans and in the eyes of many young kids who had been hearing Metallica were "sellouts" as long as they had been alive.
2. Slayer, Christ Illusion
By 2006, many might have considered Slayer has-beens. I know that sounds crazy, but a long time of experimenting with newer forms of metal and punk, going several years between releasing albums, missing Dave Lombardo on drums, and having lackluster production had all worn away at their esteemed reputation. Lombardo came back, but the secret ingredient to their revival on Christ Illusion is that they looked back to Rick Rubin to produce it.
Rubin had been the producer of Slayer's successful early albums, and they asked him to come back and tell them where they had been going wrong the last decade or so. So he did, and Slayer promptly won a few Grammy Awards, had their highest chart performance in years, and won back universal acclaim from critics and fans alike.
Of course, we have to mention the wondrous revival of Johnny Cash's career in the mid-'90s. Your mileage may vary on how much you enjoy the American Recordings series, especially if you don't enjoy hearing Cash take on covers of contemporary artists. Still, Rubin's ideas pulled Cash out of relative obscurity and made him one of the hottest recording artists in America up until the time of his death in 2003.
Cash is still an American icon to teenagers around the country who were barely out of diapers when Cash was already an old man. Who knows if his legacy would have had such an impact had he not experienced such a late career revival.
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