Various Artists
Sound City - Reel To Reel

RCA/Roswell (2013) Kevin Fitzpatrick

Various Artists – Sound City - Reel To Reel cover artwork
Various Artists – Sound City - Reel To Reel — RCA/Roswell, 2013

Sound City Studios was a recording studio located in the industrial heart of the Van Nuys district of Los Angeles and was the recent subject of a love letter of a documentary produced and directed by by rock deity (and apparent expert multi-tasker) Dave Grohl. The documentary covers the history of the studio and more specifically, the custom Neve 8028 Console responsible for recording seminal albums from Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana, Neil Young, Slipknot and Queens of the Stone Age. It was an earnest and well-put together film that does a great job the viewer back to a time when, to be frank, music mattered more. It certainly mattered to Grohl. So much so, in fact that when Sound City closed in 2011, he bought the historical console and installed it in his own Studio 606. 

Sidenote: Of the many stories about Sound City, its Studio A was reportedly legendary for the huge drum sound it was able to produce but interestingly (and unfortunately the film doesn't touch on this), Grohl's Foo Fighters have never recorded there, save for "A320", a track recorded for the 1998 soundtrack of Godzilla. An underrated song in any case, which also marks the only original recording of the band with guitarist Franz Stahl.

While interviewing the numerous subjects for the film, Grohl seized the opportunity to put them in front of that Neve console once more to record the soundtrack for the film. Much like his 2004 Probot project, Grohl has a knack for writing in the style of whoever happens to be in the room and contrary to what's presented as perhaps an indulgent lark in the film, Grohl has produced a surprisingly well-written, cohesive group of songs featuring a revolving door of legends, both established and ascending. 

Heaven and All
Robert Levon Been, Dave Grohl & Peter Hayes

Hmm. Grohl and The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The mix never really occurred to me before, but now I want a whole album of this. There's a swagger in these rhythms that makes me want to go start a fight in the bar with a guy twice my size.

Time Slowing Down
Chris Goss, Tim Commerford, Dave Grohl & Brad Wilk

I'm not sure what I was expecting with this one - despite featuring the rhythm section of Rage Against the Machine, this one has Grohl and Goss all over it. Almost sounds like a new Goon Moon (Goss's project with Geordie White) track. Pass the peyote.

You Can't Fix This
Stevie Nicks, Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins & Rami Jaffee

An album highlight. I've heard Nicks do many things with her voice, but it's rare that she sounds angry. For exposure and popularity's sake I'd love to see this song featured in a movie where the young starlet is ripping up her apartment with this playing in the background and everybody leaves the theater humming it to themselves. For the artist's sake, I hope it manages to be popular on it's own merit without the misguided help of Kristen Stewart.

The Man That Never Was
Rick Springfield, Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel & Pat Smear

Say what you will about Springfield, the man's still got the pipes. It's a glaring reminder of how much Grohl's own vocal stylings are owed to that 80's guitar pop sound.

Your Wife Is Calling
Lee Ving, Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Alain Johannes & Pat Smear

Grohl takes us back to the "Wattershed" on this one. Controlled chaos with Fear's Lee Ving as the Master of Ceremonies. For those unaware, Fear was a huge part of the LA Punk sound of the early 80's perhaps unfairly forgotten amidst the likes of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks. This song makes me want to watch Repo Man again.

From Can To Can't
Corey Taylor, Dave Grohl, Rick Nielsen & Scott Reeder

This one really caught me by surprise. I will admit, I've always been dismissive of Corey Taylor, largely due to his work in Slipknot, a band that I loathe but freely admit my 12-year-old self would have fucking loved. Sure, he seems affable enough talking to Trunk on That Metal Show and I know he has a wider range through his work in Stone Sour, but nothing ever caught my ear enough to give him a second thought. With this track, he kills it. I wish he would do more of this. Corey, if you're reading this - I'm sorry. I misjudged you. Next time you're in Denver, I'm buying all the drinks. Just please don't play "Wait and Bleed" on the jukebox.

Joshua Homme, Chris Goss, Dave Grohl & Alain Johannes

Featuring Grohl's brother-from-another-mother Josh Homme, "Centipede" slows things down a bit. A quiet little interlude in the vein of Foo Fighters' "Razor", a track Homme also appears on. The synchronicity these two share is really something to marvel at. It's enough to make one salivate for the new, as-yet-untitled QOTSA album with Grohl finally back in the backline.

A Trick With No Sleeve
Alain Johannes, Dave Grohl & Joshua Homme

Makes me wistful for the days when Johannes' previous band Eleven, was all the cool kids' best kept secret. His voice works great with Grohl's riffs jangling riffs here.

Cut Me Some Slack
Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic & Pat Smear

Ok, this one's a bit of a puzzler. First played at the 12.12.12. Festival and then again on Saturday Night Live, Grohl somehow got McCartney down to the studio to record this "Nirvana Reunion". Near as i can tell, though…McCartney has no seeming connection to Sound City Studios. The Beatles didn't record there. The Wings didn't record there. Regardless, the man showed up, screamed into the mic for a few, and split. This is the song everybody talks about but could be the weakest track here. 

If I Were Me
Dave Grohl, Jessy Greene, Rami Jaffee & Jim Keltner

This sounds like it could like it could have very easily appeared on the Foo's Echoes, Patience, Silence and Grace. Grohl takes the mic on this one, accompanied by some great piano work from Jaffee. Thank christ the Foos have started work on a new album.

Dave Grohl, Joshua Homme & Trent Reznor

A suitable coda. Taking the history of recording music into the future with Trent Reznor. These kids play well together. They should have play dates more often. Great bass work from Homme

Look, I know soundtrack albums such as these can reek of self-indulgent twaddle and maybe Grohl is a tad self-indulgent by showing us that he could have Tom Petty, Paul McCartney and Stevie Nicks show up with just a phone call. He is a man fully aware that today's generation is not big on knowing or understanding their history and with the so much art that is now being created on laptops it good to get a reminder that the creation of something used to take effort. It used to take time. It used to take numerous people involved in a collaborative process for the greater good. The listener heard this and understood. And appreciated. And payed their money to hear it because it mattered more.

Various Artists – Sound City - Reel To Reel cover artwork
Various Artists – Sound City - Reel To Reel — RCA/Roswell, 2013

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