Tuesday, September 21, 2010
It's All Part Of My Rock & Roll Fantasy
There were many comments on last week's Clapton post that got me thinking further about the subject of artists no longer living up to the expectations of the fans.
Here are some of them.
"Simply because these people are not living up to your standards doesn't mean they should head to the old folks home."
"I used to be a big Clapton fan, but he seems to be on a certain level of auto-pilot and now just feels the need to keep going back to the well. His inspiration (other than the already mentioned Robert Johnson album) seems long gone and he just keeps putting out variations on the same mediocre album."
"After a couple of decades on the job, do we still come to work with the wild eyed enthusiasm of the "new kid"?"
"One of the upcoming albums I'm looking forward to hearing is the Elton John/Leon Russell disk. I think more of those old-timers should probably do things like that more often. Maybe a Clapton/Beck album would kick a bit more ass on both sides?"
"I don't think any of these people (except Neil, who has a perverse streak) puts out a record as a fuck you to fans or record companies; but I do think their ear, their ability to find the magic, to be in sync with the times, is almost impossible to sustain."
Taking the last comment first, I don't think fans are necessarily looking for their favorite artists to duplicate the magic of yesteryear. The fans don't always need magic. They just don't want to feel abandoned. When an artist releases a soul crushing series of music over the course of 20 years, vaguely reminiscent of the music that built his fan base in the first place, who is he really playing for? If it's only about himself, then why should we care?
Robert Plant, Johnny Cash, Mavis Staples, Solomon Burke and Bettye Lavette, for starters, hooked up with the right producer, someone who also offered advice on material, and the results were as close to magic as it could get. All of these records, even if you don't love them as much as I do, were at least fresh and somewhat inspiring to other artists who have gone on to do the same, though admittedly, not all with the same magical results.
It seems as if Eric Clapton has been releasing the same records for too many years. And it is NOT as if they have been critically acclaimed, or fan favorites. Maybe he has been coming to the same job for too long.
As long as I'm shooting my mouth off about what Clapton should be doing, I thought I'd share this list.
In no particular order, here's a list of some fantasy projects I'd love to see. They must all be possible, if not probable, so dead people can't be involved.
1. Bill Withers with Joe Henry or Rick Rubin producing, an acoustic soul record with no gimmicks. (Though, some may think having Rick Rubin on board is a gimmick.
2. David Bowie dumps Tony Visconti as a producer, and strips everything down for a new record. Visconti and Bowie have been long time collaborators, and I happen to really like the last few Bowie records, especially "Heathen" and "Reality." But, I often wonder how much better those records would be if every inch of tape hadn't been utitlized. Visconti's production is so bombastic, it's hard to discern what's being played by which instrument.
3. The Jules Shear/Marshall Crenshaw record. In the early 90's these two wrote together and played a few rare live dates together. This really was magic. Their voices had an Everlys quality that worked perfectly over their pop tunes.
4. Speaking of duets, how about the Daryl Hall/Todd Rundgren record? Todd's appearance on Daryl's internet program, Live From Daryl's House was the perfect preview of the magic these two can make when in the same room.
5. A Paul McCartney acoustic/ballads record. When looking at the track lists of his last 10 records, it was all the rockers that sucked and all the piano or acoustic based mid-tempo songs that moved me.
6. Speaking of Macca, how about that McCartney/McManus record? Paul and Elvis already have a dozen demos in the can. And they are really good, so...
7. As a new Facebook friend from New Orleans just said, "When I die, don't let Don Was touch any of my records." Huzzah! How about Mick & Keith and Charlie and Darryl, if Bill won't do it, and maybe Mick T. along with Ronnie, just make a country/rock record with no outside producer and no special guests or female vocalists.
8. Roy Wood backed by Cheap Trick. They've covered Roy enough, and Roy's voice can still make you weep. But he needs to ditch the all-girl horn section, and really get the comeback on track.
9. Dwight Twilley backed by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. RIGHT? It's time for all involved to make this record.
10. Sadly, after all this, I can't find placement for Eric Clapton. Maybe that's it. Maybe he can't either. Maybe he's as bored as we are. I mean, collaborations with Babyface, Sheryl Crow, and Timbaland could suck the life out of anyone. This picture alone is making me yawn.