It seems odd that a man behind the board for some of our favorite albums (Reign in Blood, Liscensed to Ill, Danzig) should bear the brunt of our fists, but competent production of a handful of classic albums is only a small part of the bubble of praise that floats around Rick Rubin. On the list of artists he has produced there are very few, if any, obscure bands. Is this because of his celebrity or his unwillingness to show initiative and take chances? It is pretty easy to produce hit albums when you only work with proven hit machines such as that deplorable Floridian Tom Petty and the musical embodiment of tough metro-sexuality, Linkin Park. But has anyone heard that Mick Jagger record? Or the Dixie Chicks album after they cursed G.W. Bush? Or the latest Metallica abomination? Or the new Jakob Dylan? Or the one with the guy from Semisonic? Or those Weezer Albums that aren’t good? Or that Melanie C album?
You might ask, “And what of his highly touted work with Johnny Cash?” Please allow us to retort. Once the novelty of hearing Mr. Cash’s voice sing worn out grunge tunes has faded you are left with over-produced pap. Note the way in which he pumps the piano, drowning out Mr. Cash’s rasp on Trent Reznor’s teenage suicide poem “Hurt.” What about how Fiona Apple and Mr. Cash refuse to sing in harmony (or even the same key) on their Grammy nominated performance of a song not well suited to Mr. Cash’s voice, “Bridge over Troubled Water?” Is that really ‘genius’ production? The type of production that gets the producer named more often than the artist in reference to the album? It seems to us a man once famous for his stripped down style has become a joke by reducing himself into a shitty producer with very expensive toys.
But the aforementioned is only a minor annoyance relative to the single handed creation of the rap-rock genre and prolifigation of the funk/punk/rap genre. Mr. Rubin put metal guitars in the Beastie Boy’s single “No Sleep til Brooklyn.” He was behind the Aerosmith/Run-DMC collaboration and general annoyance, “Walk this Way.” (Doesn’t anyone connected with Aerosmith, however remotely, desereve a kick in the groin?) He also produced BloodSugarSexMagic which is a landmark in the ‘we don’t have the time or talent to write some actual funk but we will poorly rap/skat over the top of it’ genre. Can anyone imagine how sweet life would be without Limp Bizkit, Crazy Town, 311, Staind or Linkin Park? We can.